<< Back

Land Use, Housing & Zoning


WHEREAS, The Department of City Planning is proposing a Citywide zoning text amendment called Zone Green to remove zoning impediments to the construction and retrofitting of buildings to improve energy efficiency and environmental performance; and

WHEREAS, according to the Department of City Planning it costs New Yorkers $15 billion each year to heat and power buildings, and these buildings are responsible for 80% of the City's carbon emissions and it is expected that in 2030, 85% of our buildings will be buildings that exist today so their improved performance is critical to reducing New York City's energy use and carbon emissions; and

WHEREAS, Zone Green encompasses four major components -- high performance building envelope, sun control devices to reduce summer cooling needs, rooftop features, and other sustainable features such as solar energy generation and charging electric vehicles, all with the goal of empowering property owners to build or retrofit buildings to 21st century standards:   


WHEREAS, while the proposed text amendment would allowexisting buildings to add external insulation within the property line, exempting it from floor area, Community Board Five believes this provision will not address the zoning impediment of high performance building design in CB5's District primarily because most existing buildings in midtown and other areas with high density zoning are built out to the existing side and front lot lines and thus would not be able to benefit from the exemption; and

WHEREAS, under the proposed text amendment for new buildings whose walls are more efficient than required by the New York City Energy Conservation Code, up to eight inches of additional wall thickness could be exempted from floor area, encouraging higher performing buildings without changing the amount of usable space in the building and the Board believes this provision should apply to existing buildings as well; and




WHEREAS, sun control devices -- such as awnings -- can help reduce air-conditioning and lighting bills by providing natural light while also creating some additional detail and interest on a building façade, and the proposed text amendment would now permit sun control devices and awnings above the ground floor to project 2 feet 6 inches over required open areas such as rear yards but these sun control devices could cover no more than 30% of the façade; one prominent example of this kind of sun control scheme is the metal rods on the façade of The New York Times building on West 40th Street and 8th avenue; and 

WHEREAS, solar power can provide pollution-free energy for electricity or hot water, reducing utility bills and carbon emissions and the proposed text amendment would now allow solar panels on flat roofs anywhere below the parapet as long as they are not visible from the street, regardless of building height; the proposal would also allow portions of solar installations that are higher than 4 feet with additional restrictions; and


WHEREAS, although the proposal would also allow low-lying features such as green roofs, recreational decks, other storm water detention systems and skylights anywhere below the parapet, regardless of building height, it does not require elements like storm water detention systems which Community Board Five believes is a missed opportunity; and

WHEREAS, the Department of City Planning notes that greenhouses on industrial, commercial and school buildings can enable year-round local food production and provide valuable educational opportunities and thus will now permit, by Certification of the Chair of the City Planning Commission and with certain height, set back and water consumption rules, a greenhouse to be exempt from floor area and height limits, provided that it is located on top of a building that does not contain residences or sleeping accommodations; however this restriction will mean that many opportunities to promote local agriculture and education may be missed, such as dormitory buildings, nursing homes, and residential buildings that are over bulk and believes that there has not been a clear rationale presented for not including these uses and that every opportunity to support local agriculture should be embraced; in particular, we note that there are hundreds of residential buildings in CB5 that are built out to their maximum FAR and may want to construct a greenhouse which the proposed regulations will not permit; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five notes that a Certification from the Chair of the City Planning Commission can often be a process that takes upward of a year and recommends that the Department of City Planning draft clear application standards so as to simplify review of these proposed greenhouses; and

WHEREAS, the Department of City Planning notes that wind energy generation in New York City makes the most sense where winds are consistent - on taller buildings and near the waterfront -- and the proposed text would allow turbines up to 55' on buildings taller than 100' provided it is set back at least 10 feet from any property line and comply with requirements set forth by the Department of Buildings; and while Community Board Five believes that every possible renewable energy source needs to be explored and examined carefully to determine the potential in New York City, the Board nonetheless believes that a convincing argument has not been presented which would permit the construction of wind turbines 55' above a height of 100' which would have a profound impact on the visual character of many blocks in Midtown and may also present significant concerns with respect to overall safety, noise, bird safety, and ice during the winter months; and  


WHEREAS, Community Board Five recognizes that best practices and technology in green building are rapidly evolving and strongly urges the Department to carefully monitor these trends and prepare a report at least every four years that documents how well these proposed zoning changes have worked and whether further modifications or larger revisions are needed; Community Board Five notes that this reporting requirement will help the City better understand evolving trends and more quickly address outdated zoning provisions, new regulatory best practices, and keep the public informed; and 

WHEREAS, Community Board Five is deeply supportive of environmentally sensitive building practices and commends the Department of City Planning for examining impediments to these practices but we remain concerned that New York City is far from a leader in this field; and

WHEREAS, many other American cities have amended their zoning codes to reflect the best practices in green building and have gone much further than the proposed amendment by looking more carefully at requirements that can be put in place to improve the performance of new buildings as well as creative incentives for green building; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five believes New York City needs to be a leader in green building design and encourages the Department of City Planning to be bold and go beyond removing regulatory hurdles by setting high performance building design standards such as the Passive House Standard and sustainability standards such as the LEED standard so to require and/or give incentives to certain green building practices; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five is concerned about the interagency cooperation that is required for the enforcement and implementation of this text amendment and urges the Department of City Planning to work very carefully with Department of Buildings, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Economic Development Corporation, Department of Environmental Protection and other relevant agencies to implement and enforce these requirements as well as explore how the City may better incentivize higher performing buildings; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five recommends that approvals which require discretionary review such as Special Permits and authorizations be amended to include a finding requiring an applicant to demonstrate that they have, to the greatest extent feasible, incorporated green building and landscape design features; and

WHEREAS, while Community Board Five strongly endorses the goals and intentions of the proposed Zone Green revisions to the Zoning Resolution to remove regulatory barriers to green building practices, it objects specifically to a number of the elements of the proposed text amendment; and therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval with conditions of a proposed revision by the Department of City Planning to the Zoning Resolution to remove regulatory barriers to green building practices.  Those conditions are:


The above resolution passed by a vote of 33 in favor, 0 opposed, 2 abstaining.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter