City Council passes its own Green New Deal-like legislation, but not everybody is pleased

LOWER MANHATTAN — The Green New Deal is a proposed series of legislation that's been the subject of a lot of discussion in Washington, DC, and has helped Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's profile there grow even larger. However, on Thursday, her hometown of New York, passed a Green New Deal of its own, that's expected to go into effect later this year.

Even though it's intended to reduce greenhouse emissions by 40%, not everyone is pleased, including some New Yorkers who say they support the new measure's goal.

Called the Climate Mobilization Act, or CMA, it's a collection of legislative bills that require more green roofs, more wind and solar power, more airtight windows and better insulation, among other changes, designed to reduce emissions. Buildings produce two-thirds of New York City's emissions, according to a variety of environmental professionals.

"When it's February and 20 degrees outside, having our windows open and the heat blasting," said Benjamin Prosky, executive director of the American Institute of Architects New York, "that is where the great carbon emissions are coming from."

The organization which he leads is a strong endorser of the CMA, but is also calling for the expected $4 billion expense of retrofitting buildings to be borne by landlords, not tenants.

Also, the CMA applies to buildings larger than 25,000 square feet. That's only about 2% of city buildings. Nonetheless, their compliance is expected to play a major role in reducing greenhouse gas by 40%.

Buildings that do not comply will be subject to a significant fine.

The Real Estate Board of New York, or REBNY, has expressed concerns with the CMA, whose bills passed by significant majorities in a full session of the City Council on Thursday afternoon.

Among REBNY's concerns is that high-energy use buildings — such as ones housing, or trying to house, electronics companies, biotech firms, or media entities — may choose to locate elsewhere to avoid the new regulations.

REBNY also said that while it supports reducing emissions by 40% by 2030, CMA is not the way to achieve that. The organization instead favors having new regulations apply to more buildings.

"In order to address a threat like climate change," said Carl Hum, REBNY general counsel, "we've all got to be part of the solution."

PIX11 News asked City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to respond to the real estate lobbying group's criticism.

"REBNY should not be Chicken Little," said the council speaker, referring to the folk tale character who believes that the sky is falling and disaster is imminent. Johnson referred to "the existential threat that is facing our planet" as being the issue that city legislators need to handle, "and that is what the City Council is doing today," the speaker said.

Leading the legislation to passage was the head of the City Council Environmental Committee, Councilmember Costa Constantinides. Upon passage of the CMA measures, Constantinides received a standing ovation by his City Council colleagues, as well as from activists and observers in the gallery.

One part of the CMA legislative slate that passed, but with the highest number of "no" votes was a measure that will require stores to charge 5 cents per bag for paper bags. The measure comes shortly after New York state passed a ban on single-use plastic bags, set to go into effect in March 2020. The idea of the paper bag fee is to help ensure that shoppers use reusable bags.

Mayor Bill De Blasio is expected to sign the Climate Mobilization Act into law next week.

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