The Big Apple is turning green

By Mary Elizabeth Williams-Villano

The Climate Mobilization Act will require green roofs or solar panels on any new NYC construction.

The New York City Council has passed the Climate Mobilization Act, part of a suite of measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The new law will require all newly constructed buildings, both commercial and residential, to have green roofs and/or solar panels installed going forward. This could be a boon to local landscape contractors who build or maintain green roofs.

In a press release, the nonprofit organization Green Roofs for Healthy Cities called this “an historic win for all New Yorkers as well as the larger green infrastructure community.”

“For the past two years Green Roofs for Healthy Cities has been advocating for new measures to grow the green roof market in New York City, and we are very pleased with the passage of this new legislation,” says Steven W. Peck, GRP, honorary ASLA member and founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. "New York now joins cities like Denver, San Francisco, Toronto and Portland, Oregon in making green roofs a requirement."

“Through direct lobbying efforts from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities members and other partners, New York City will quickly become a leader in reducing the effects of climate change from its buildings,” continues Peck. “Thanks to all of the individuals involved!”

Upon the bills’ passage, Rafael Espinal, NYC Council Member, 37th District, said, “Today, we are passing a bill that won’t just make our skyline prettier — it will also improve the quality of life for New Yorkers for generations to come.” Espinal has been at the forefront of the push for a greener New York City.

“My legislation … makes New York the largest city in the nation to pass such a law,” Espinal continued. “We’ve already seen the revolutionary benefits of green roofs in action thanks to places around the city like Brooklyn Steel, the Barclays Center, the Javits Center, the USPS Morgan Processing and Distribution Center and many others. They cool down cities by mitigating the urban heat island effect, cut energy costs, absorb air pollution, reduce stormwater runoff, promote biodiversity, provide soundproofing and make our cities more livable for all.”

The council member then thanked the advocates who were instrumental in pushing the measure forward. “These bills show that New York will not be idle in the face of an existential threat like climate change,” he added. “At a time when the federal government is taking us backward, it is up to cities to lead us into a sustainable future. The time to act is now.”

In their press release, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities stated that “the Climate Mobilization Act is the largest single act to cut climate pollution of any city. In a densely packed metropolitan of over seven million residents, commercial and residential buildings are the largest source of emissions and sit at the center of the policy change. The Act will set emissions caps with the goal of reducing emissions by 2030. Depending on the size and property assessments of the buildings, owners will be able to meet targets ranging from a cut of emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 for larger buildings. Smaller buildings will reduce emissions in more modest measures.”