City of Yes – Carbon Neutrality
Typographical Graphic reading "yes no"

Carbon Neutrality – What is it? 

With the goal of decarbonizing New York City, a number of regulation amendments have been proposed and adopted in recent years to meet ambitious climate goals. The city seeks to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, with a focus on making our existing building stock more sustainable. 

City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality, adopted in late 2023, seeks to meet these climate goals by removing barriers to make greener energy and transportation and retrofitting our buildings. LANDMARK WEST! supports a ‘greener’ city and agree we all must play a part, however, we remain concerned about proposals to eliminate any and all impediments to reducing carbon emissions which don’t take into account the preservation of our cultural heritage.

The zoning amendments will roll out 100% permitted obstruction for rooftops. The increased rooftop coverage and height allowances have the potential to inflate the volume allowed on rooftops by up to 170%. New mechanical equipment could reach three or four floors in height, rooftop greenhouses would be exempt from FAR height limitations, and solar panel canopies could cover 100% of the roof, reaching all the way to the street wall. These additions would be fully visible and contribute to increased bulk and volume already present in many historic districts. It is unclear how this will affect smaller buildings when implemented. It is also unclear how the City plans to regulate the use of rooftop greenhouses in an effort to discourage use for other purposes, such as commercial outdoor spaces. 

Further cluttering the roofs and yards of historic districts detracts from the quintessential Upper West Side asset of the rear yard doughnut and green space and leads to the production of further bulk, construction, and obstruction. While we cautiously advocate for adapting historic buildings to energy efficient ones (acknowledging that almost one-third (32%) of the built floor area of Manhattan is energy code-exempt due to historic status), we don’t believe the adopted zoning for decarbonization of existing buildings pays mind to the preservation of the character of historic buildings

Adopted zoning eliminated two clauses defining unused Floor Area, or “floor space that is or becomes unused or inaccessible within a building” and “floor space that has been eliminated from the volume of an existing building in conjunction with the development of a new building or the case of a major enlargement…of another building on the same zoning lot.” We caution against any and all redefinition of Floor Area and don’t see how this zoning change benefits building retrofitting.



Typographical Graphic reading "Carbon Neutrality"

Click HERE to read our Testimony on City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality

Are you still curious for a better understanding?  Watch our program, Understanding City of Yes with George Janes, co-hosted by LANDMARK WEST! and FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, by clicking the IMAGE BELOW.

LANDMARK WEST and FRIENDS of the Upper East Side City of Yes Event Poster
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