NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste

New York City Councilmember Costa Constantinides, chair of the committee on the environment

The New York City Council was to vote Thursday on a package of legislation aimed at reducing the city’s carbon footprint, with the anchor bill taking aim at the most significant source of carbon pollution in the city: its buildings.

The Climate Mobilization Act includes requirements for buildings of 25,000 square feet or larger to meet new standards for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Council, those 50,000 buildings (rent-stabilized residences will be exempted) “account for an overwhelming 30% of building emissions.”

The package also includes a study of the feasibility of shutting down the city’s fossil fuel-powered energy plants, a resolution opposing approval of the Williams pipeline, a new retrofit loan program and new requirements for greening roofs.

The head of the Council’s committee on environmental protection, Costa Constantinides, author of some of the measures, discussed the new building requirements Wednesday on the WBAI Max & Murphy Show.

“This has been two-year process. We’ve been deliberate in working on this bill. We’ve worked with stakeholders to come to a good place. We want to make sure these are attainable goals,” he said. “We need to treat the disease, which is carbon. We need to make sure our hospitals are still able to function and to stay in our communities, which this does. We need to protect our affordable housing, which is a huge component to this bill, and make sure affordable housing can still participate but in a way that doesn’t cause [Major Capital Improvements] and makes New York City even less affordable than it is now.”

Constantinides argued that recent scientific reports on global warming made the urgency of the situation clear: the world has but a few years to take dramatic action to stave off the worst effects of climate change. Of course, New York City can’t alter world temperature on its own. But the Queens Democrat argues that other cities and states will follow New York’s example.

“Where Donald Trump has dropped the ball, we’re going to lead. We’re going to send a message to the rest of the world that this is attainable. And other cities can take this legislation and implement it elsewhere. We expect other cities to follow New York, as they always do. This can be major movement on climate that we can all contribute to.”

Listen below as we discuss the bills and the question of whether the city should do more to address the likely unavoidable impacts of climate change. Or hear the full show, which also features a chat with State Sen. Jessica Ramos about progress so far and tasks ahead in Albany.

Councilmember Costa Constantinides

Max & Murphy, April 17, 2019