January 28, 2019 was an exciting day for green infrastructure advocates! SWIM (Stormwater Infrastructure Matters Coalition) testified at the NYC City Council public hearing on a legislative package proposed by several members of the City Council Committee for Environmental Protection.
Proposed NYC Green Roof Legislation
Some of the the bills mandate the installation of vegetated systems on rooftops of certain types of buildings in New York City. See the package of bills on the NYC City Council website.
“Since our founding in 2007, SWIM has advocated for green infrastructure solutions in every borough to capture, filter and slow the stormwater runoff that can overload the NYC sewer system (even when it only rains as little as a tenth of an inch) causing the combined sewer system to discharge untreated sewage and polluted stormwater into our waterways. Green infrastructure, or vegetated systems that manage stormwater at the source, is a cost-effective and sustainable approach to reduce water pollution.
…We commend the City Council Members for introducing legislation to require green roofs on certain buildings on both private and public properties citywide. This package of bills moves the city in the right direction towards making our city healthier and more sustainable by requiring private property owners and city owned buildings to install more green infrastructure.
Before fully supporting these bills ( Intro 276,1032,141 ), we need more details, and suggest that the City Council review existing green roof legislation in other cities. There are several cities in North America that have green roof laws and incentives that could provide a framework to further develop NYC’s green roof laws. Toronto had the first green roof law in 2009, and may have some lessons to share from their ten years of green roof policy experience. A table of green roof policies in San Francisco, Toronto, Denver and Chicago is included at the end of this testimony for your reference.” ~ Testimony from Julie Welch, SWIM Program Manager
See the complete Testimony of Stormwater Infrastructure Matters (SWIM) Coalition before the New York City Council on January 28th, 2019.
NY Green Roof Tax Abatement
Also up for review at the public hearing was the NY Green Roof Tax Abatement program, which expired in March 2018. The proposed resolution for the renewal of the program recommends an increase from the current $5.23 per square foot to $15 per square foot in order to provide more incentive for property owners to install a green roof on their building.
See the proposed resolution. Several groups who testified at the hearing suggested that the abatement be multi-year in order to further incentivize installation and maintenance of green roof solutions.
The City’s rooftops are ripe with potential for green infrastructure investments. It was noted at the hearing that we need a full inventory of all the viable rooftops in the City so that we know exactly how much stormwater could be managed by green roofs, how much energy savings they’d produce, how many green jobs they’d create, how much greenhouse gas they’d reduce, etc. The statement was made, in regards to the need for a rooftop inventory, that we can’t manage what we don’t measure! The proposed legislative bills and resolution will help get the ball rolling.
Incentivizing Green Infrastructure
It was also noted at the hearing that, in addition to policy, there is also a need for incentive programs to catalyze green infrastructure investments. In NYC there are three incentive programs: the State’s green roof tax abatement, and two programs under the purview of NYC DEP, a current grant program that was initiated in 2012, and a new program that is going to be introduced within the the next year.
Learn about the DEP incentives for the NYC Green Infrastructure Program.
Support and Resources
We’ll provide updates on any developments with the legislation and the resolution and fully support the City Council’s efforts to move NYC forward in our environmental goals.
Read the February 5, 2019 opinion piece New York City should require green roofs by NYC City Council member Rafael Espinal, Jr. in City and State New York about the benefits of green roofs and why he is sponsoring a legislative bill that will require many new buildings throughout the five boroughs to cover 100 percent of available rooftop space in a green roof system, small wind turbines, solar panels, or all three.
“We cannot continue to sit on our hands. Inaction would be devastating, especially to our low-income and communities of color. My district has some of the highest asthma rates in the city due to the poor air quality that has persisted for decades. While green roofs would not undo the decades of environmental racism that created this public health crisis, they can mitigate air pollution, absorb climate change-causing carbon pollution and provide much-needed green space in these underserved communities.” ~ Rafael Espinal, Jr., 2019
And if you haven’t already, watch this great video produced by National Public Radio about the importance and many benefits of green roofs in NYC:
~ Stormwater Infrastructure Matters (SWIM) Coalition
Stormwater Infrastructure Matters (SWIM) is a coalition of 70+ organizations citywide dedicated to ensuring swimmable and fishable waters around New York City through natural, sustainable stormwater management practices – called green infrastructure – in our neighborhoods. This approach is environmentally and fiscally responsible because it utilizes stormwater, currently viewed as waste, as a resource.
SWIM Coalition member organizations endorse a truly sustainable view of watershed management, one that restores ecological systems, creates local economic opportunities and equitably distributes the benefits of green infrastructure (GI).