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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality text amendments to the Zoning Resolution

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, June 08, 2023, the following resolution passed with a vote of 32 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, the Department of City Planning (DCP) is proposing a series of changes to the Zoning Resolution (ZR) over the next year and a half under Mayor Eric Adams’ “City of Yes” initiative; and

WHEREAS, the first set of ZR text amendments under this initiative is called “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality”, which includes many individual text amendments that are hoped to be helpful in the city’s efforts to achieve goals set by law by New York State (NYS) and New York City (NYC); and  

WHEREAS, in 2012, NYC enacted “Zone Green” zoning text amendments which allowed voluntary, experimental building features that would reduce greenhouse gas production; and 

WHEREAS, in 2019, NYC enacted Local Law 97 “Climate Mobilization Act” which requires, 60% of all existing buildings (those over 25,000 square feet) and all new development to 

WHEREAS, in 2021, NYC enacted Local Law 154 which, starting in 2027, prohibits any new construction from installing equipment that burns fossil fuels; and

WHEREAS, NYS has set goals for itself, through the 2019 Climate Act and subsequent amendments, which include:

  1. reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the entire state economy by at least 40% by 2030 and by at least 85% by 2050 based on 1990 levels,
  2. requires all new passenger vehicles sold in NYS to be zero-emissions by 2035, and
  3. requires by 2030 for:       
    1. the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to generate electricity only from renewable sources,
    2. close the six NYPA “peaker” natural gas-fueled power plants in Harlem, the Bronx, and Queens that generate electricity at peak times during the summer, and
  1.   for all power utility companies in the state to generate at least 70% of their

electricity from renewable sources; and

WHEREAS, NYC and NYS have both pledged to meet the 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement on Climate Change to limit greenhouse gas emissions and the global rise in average temperature to a maximum of two degrees Celsius; and

WHEREAS, According to DCP, up to 71% of all NYC’s greenhouse gas emissions come from building operations and up to 4% come from our waste stream; and

WHEREAS, DCP has jurisdiction over zoning regulations that cover allowances for private property uses and DCP believes these proposed actions within their jurisdiction will help the city meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals set by NYC and NYS laws; and

WHEREAS, The “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality” package of text amendments are grouped under 17 topics that are aimed to help NYC reach 4 goals: 

WHEREAS, to reach the goal in decarbonizing our energy grid, the first five of DCP’s amendment topics are for allowing greater solar and wind energy production and energy storage, and include:



WHEREAS, Building owners are not required to have ESS systems to store the energy that is produced on their lot and may have “net metering” with or without an ESS, where excess electricity production is sold to the electric utility company as a credit against the building’s utility bill (akin to the electric meter running backwards); and 

WHEREAS, To reach the goal of decarbonizing our buildings, DCP’s proposal includes text amendments that are aimed at supporting buildings to become more energy efficient and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions:

  1. Electrification Retrofits: Rooftop, Side Yard, and Rear Yard regulations to accommodate retrofitted heat pumps and other outdoor protrusions that facilitate electric heating and cooling by:
  1. extending citywide the current floodplain zone regulations for permitted mechanical obstructions, which allow up to 50% of the roof space for retrofitted mechanical equipment, with a maximum height of 15 feet for at least 70% of rooftop retrofitted mechanical equipment and up to 55 feet in height for a maximum of 30% of rooftop retrofitted mechanical equipment for buildings over 120 feet in height and in high-density districts, while there are lower height limits for shorter buildings and for buildings in lower-density districts,
  2. when buildings have pitched roofs allowances are made for retrofitted mechanical equipment to be in the rear yard, side yards or other required open spaces,
  3. amending Floor Area Ratio (FAR) rules for retrofitted mechanical equipment and no longer penalizing existing buildings for prior mechanical spaces that are no longer housing energy-inefficient mechanical equipment because of a retrofit (for example spaces that used to house oil-burning boilers or furnaces),
  4. the current required screening of mechanical equipment of 15 feet or greater in height will be expanded to include all mechanical equipment, no matter the height or outdoor location, and
  5. allowing a new BSA permit for buildings that need greater relief in undertaking an electrical retrofit (including relief for ultra-low-energy retrofits); and
  1. Building Envelope Retrofits: amend FAR rules for only existing buildings in order for them to not be penalized for installing retrofitted, thicker exterior-wall and roof insulation, adding interior insulation, installing thicker windows, weatherproofing enclosures, or entirely recladding a building, as long as the building meets the current energy code requirements and does not expand the previous thickness of their exterior walls and roof by more than an additional 12 inches; and
  2. Fix Zone Green: Update and improve the Zone Green “bonus” FAR exemption to ensure that it promotes better-than code performance by replacing the current 8 inches of wall thickness exemption for wall insulation retrofits with a flat 5% FAR exemption for existing building if they become fully “electrified” and no longer depend on fossil fuels as outlined in Local Law 157 and a 5% FAR exemption for future buildings that fall under Local 157 mandates if those future buildings also meet ultra-low-energy standards, like Passive House standards, as outlined in Local Laws 31 and 32 (residential buildings three-stories or less have to be net-zero and all other buildings would have to outperform

WHEREAS, a FAR exemption is not a FAR bonus, and so, any additional height, bulk, and/or obstructions are only for retrofitted mechanical equipment and retrofitted insulation (or for ultra-low-energy buildings’ mechanical equipment and insulation) and it does not create any additional floor area; and

WHEREAS, DCP says zoning regulations can contribute to decarbonizing our vehicles by using their jurisdiction over off-street parking and off-street vehicle charging to allow for greater infrastructure for biking and electric vehicles (EV) through the following five topics of text amendments:

  1. Vehicle Charging: allow open to the public electric vehicle charging facilities/ “EV fuel stations” within all Commercial and Manufacturing districts, thus doubling the current allowable areas for these facilities; 
  2. Charge-Sharing: Remove the allowance for motor fuel pumps at Accessory parking and expand existing Car Share regulations to be citywide which would allow any Accessory parking to also have up to 20% or 5 spaces (whichever is greater) as public EV charging, car sharing, or both as an Accessory use (all public parking lots and garages are currently allowed the Accessory use of 100% of spaces for public EV charging and 50% of spaces for car sharing, car rental, commercial vehicle storage);
  3. Parking Flex: Streamline car sharing, car rental, and commercial vehicle parking rules by expanding current Manhattan Core (Manhattan Community Districts 1-8) and Long Island City Accessory uses of Accessory parking for car sharing, car rental, and commercial vehicle parking to most Commercial districts and all Manufacturing districts citywide;
  4. Automated Parking: expand current Manhattan Core and Long Island City automated parking rules to be allowed citywide for all Accessory and public parking facilities; and
  5. Bike Parking: new rules for bicycle storage and electric micro-mobility charging that would allow the use of public bicycle and electric micro-mobility parking/storage and charging in all Commercial and Manufacturing districts and allows the use of storage racks and lockers for bicycles and electric micro-mobility in any required open areas citywide; and

WHEREAS, the final four of the 17 topics of DCP’s City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality text amendments are to help reach the goal of decarbonizing our waste stream by allowing composting and rainwater collection through:

  1. Porous Paving: clarify ZR to allow citywide permeable pavement surfaces for parking areas, driveways, and curb cuts in order to reduce rainwater runoff into the storm water collection and sewer water treatment system, and dropping the current requirement for DOB to “investigate” each permeable pavement site;
  2. Street Trees: update curb and sidewalk rules to allow for connected street tree beds and rain-garden designs that are compliant with rules set by both the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) and allow the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) more flexibility with the use of above-ground planters if typical street tree pits, connected street tree beds, and rain gardens are all infeasible;
  3. Organics: add new use regulations to clarify how and where composting and recycling are allowed by maintaining their use in Manufacturing districts, but also adding composting and recycling use is allowed in up to 5,000 square feet in a storefront in a Commercial district, and allow “small-scale” composting and recycling as an Accessory use in all districts; and,
  4. Rooftop Greenhouses: simplify the process to allow Asof Right rooftop greenhouses under certain regulations that will be administered by the DOB and will no longer require a City Planning Commission Chair Certification; and lastly 

WHEREAS, under an “18th” miscellaneous/administrative grouping, DCP also proposes to eliminate redundancies within the text of the ZR that were added by amendments over the past 60 years and are scattered throughout the ZR by consolidating lists for easier understanding and administration and would include:

  1. consolidate the many lists of permitted obstructions for required Yards and required Open Areas rules into one list;
  2. consolidate the many lists of permitted obstruction for Height and Setback rules into one list; 
  3. revise all text sections that refer to or list Permitted Obstructions in Yards, Open Areas, Height, and Setback to now refer to these two new consolidated lists; and 
  4. adding text that clarifies that within Special Purpose Districts that include height limits, accessory mechanical equipment and energy infrastructure equipment are permitted obstructions; and

WHEREAS, Manhattan Community Board Five has been supportive of the four stated goals of “City of Yes Carbon Neutrality” by our long history of advocacy for

WHEREAS Manhattan Community Board Five applauds DCP’s efforts to make the Zoning Resolution less unwieldy and more understandable; and

WHEREAS, Manhattan Community Board Five continues to have concerns about:

WHEREAS, Manhattan Community Board Five continues to have questions regarding:

WHEREAS, the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice has created the NYC Accelerator to help building owners and industry professionals understand compliance with energy efficiency laws and regulations, while also assisting building owners to connect to any federal, state, or local programs that will aid them in upgrading their building; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Manhattan Community Board Five recommends the approval of the Department of City Planning’s “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality” text amendments to the Zoning Resolution; and be it further

RESOLVED, Manhattan Community Board Five asks the Department of City Planning to reform the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) Technical Manual both generally, for all sections of the manual, and more specifically, for including as within scope the environmental impact of any new development on a neighborhood’s solar panel installations.

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