NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a mandate Thursday that would force some of the city's most inefficient buildings to curb their greenhouse gas emissions.
The initiative would require owners of buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to invest in improvements, including retrofitting heating and cooling systems, roofs and windows in order to reach energy-efficiency targets by 2030.
"This change to our buildings is equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road in this city each year,” de Blasio said at a news conference. "It's clear that this is the motherlode and where we need to focus."
If the City Council approves the requirements, they would apply to 14,500 private and municipal buildings, which the mayor's office says accounts for nearly a quarter of the city’s greenhouse emissions.
The initiative would go toward de Blasio's “80×50” plan with the goal of reducing New York City's emissions 80 percent by the year 2050. It comes after the mayor reaffirmed the city’s commitment to the Paris climate accord by signing a June executive order days after President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw the U.S. from the international agreement.
"We need to go even farther especially because of the actions of President Trump," said de Blasio. "We have to go faster and we have to achieve more earlier. This will put us on a faster timeline."
The city's Retrofit Accelerator program would offer guidance to landlords on what repairs are appropriate for their buildings and would go toward cutting the city's greenhouse emissions 7 percent by 2035.
Upgrade costs would vary per property, but at a minimum, owners of 25,000-square-foot properties would have to cough up $15,000 in improvements. The city will offer low-interest loans to those who need a financial boost toward making improvements a reality.
Those who do not comply with the city's mandates would face hefty annual penalties that increase with a building’s size and fossil fuel usage. For instance, the owner of a 1 million-square-foot building could pay $2 million in fines per year if they do not conform to the new standards by 2030.
But an unintended consequence of the mandates could be landlords passing along those upgrading costs to tenants.
The mayor vowed to work with Albany to ensure protections for residents of affordable housing, but feels landlords will reap long-term financial benefits that makes raising rents unnecessary.
"This is an improvement that is not only good for the earth and is a matter of law, it also ultimately pays for itself so there’s no reason to burden tenants," said de Blasio. "Landlords will get their money back one way or another.”