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NYC’s Greenhouse Gas Caps Are Coming: How Coop and Condo Boards Should Prepare

NYC, Real Estate Developments

Condominium and cooperative boards have just one more year to prepare for strict new greenhouse gas emissions caps required under New York City’s Local Law 97.

The law aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent starting in 2024 and then becomes more stringent over time, with the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050. The caps are the centerpiece of the Climate Mobilization Act, a 2019 package of legislation that aimed to dramatically cut emissions and promote renewable energy in New York. As the city comptroller’s office recently noted, the law requires “property owners to invest in and complete building improvements to reduce emissions—fundamentally transforming NYC’s building stock.” 

Condo boards and coop boards of buildings covered by the law should be working closely with their lawyers to assess their readiness for the emissions caps and related reporting requirements. The first cap takes effect in January 2024 and affects some 40,000 buildings in the city, or roughly 60 percent of New York’s building stock, according to city data.

Buildings Covered and Potential Penalties

With a few exceptions, Local Law 97 covers:

  • Buildings 25,000 gross square feet or larger.
  • Two or more buildings on the same tax lot that together exceed 50,000 square feet.
  • Two or more condominium buildings governed by the same board of managers and that together exceed 50,000 square feet.
  • Buildings owned by cooperative corporations meeting the criteria listed above.

Starting in 2025, an owner of a covered building who submits a report indicating that their building exceeded its annual building emissions limit will be liable for a civil penalty, the city says. The penalty could run as high as $268 for each ton of CO2 over the cap, as we have previously reported. In addition to civil penalties, the Buildings Department may also issue violations for non-compliance with the law.

New York City officials estimate that about 20-25 percent of buildings will exceed their emissions limits in 2024, if they take no action to improve their building’s performance. Those numbers rise to 75-80 percent in 2030, if owners take no action. 

Next Steps for Condo and Coop Boards

If a covered building currently exceeds the NYC greenhouse gas caps, the coop or condo board will likely need to retrofit the building to lower emissions. Solutions often include adding renewable energy sources such as solar panels, overhauling heating and air conditioning systems, installing new, energy-efficient windows and lighting fixtures, among other changes.

First, however, condo and coop boards should determine whether their building is covered and, if it is, the city’s carbon emissions limit for the building. Under the law, covered buildings fall into one of 10 categories, each of which has its own emissions limits. However, determining an individual building’s actual classification can be complex. A building with retail and residential units, for example, will have a unique limit based upon its mix of categories. 

If the building is covered, the board should engage an auditor to conduct an audit of energy use in the building. An energy audit also identifies opportunities to reduce the amount of energy consumed.

Cooperative and condominium boards would be well-advised to engage counsel specializing in New York City condominium and cooperative law. Specialists, like those at Guzov LLC, can assist the boards, managers, and owners in creating a plan to comply with Local Law 97 and other aspects of the Climate Mobilization Act. Counsel also can help determine if the building is covered by the law and whether it is currently meeting or exceeding the city’s greenhouse emissions limits. 

Boards may also need to review building governance and bylaws and make significant changes and obtain financing to make building improvements. Among other issues, attorneys can help: 

• review and draft documents and help guide board actions to ensure compliance.

• assist in negotiating financing and navigating rebates, tax incentives and grants that are available for retrofits.

• retain professionals—such as energy auditors—to help prepare for the caps.

To learn more about how our condo and coop board lawyers can assist with meeting Local Law 97’s requirements, contact us for a consultation, or visit our Condominium & Cooperative Law Firm practice page.

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