Hundreds of New Yorkers Demand Mayor Adams Strengthen Local Law 97 Rules At Public Hearing

NYC residents overwhelm Department of Buildings hearing on Local Law 97, accusing Adams of jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs, massive pollution reductions and lower energy bills at the behest of the real estate lobby

Published Oct 24, 2023


Climate and Energy

NYC residents overwhelm Department of Buildings hearing on Local Law 97, accusing Adams of jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs, massive pollution reductions and lower energy bills at the behest of the real estate lobby

NYC residents overwhelm Department of Buildings hearing on Local Law 97, accusing Adams of jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs, massive pollution reductions and lower energy bills at the behest of the real estate lobby

New York, NY — Today, hundreds of New Yorkers testified and submitted written public comment at a Department of Buildings hearing on Local Law 97, making the hearing hours long as they demanded Mayor Adams modify his proposed rules to fully implement and enforce the landmark city-level climate and jobs law, known as New York City’s “Green New Deal” for buildings. At the behest of the real estate lobby, Mayor Adams is proposing two large loopholes in the law’s implementation.

“New Yorkers want good jobs, affordable energy, and a livable future — Local Law 97 is on track to deliver just that, by moving off fossil fuels in our largest buildings. Mayor Adams must abandon his foolhardy crusade to gut this critical climate law at the behest of the real estate lobby,” said Food & Water Watch Senior New York Organizer Eric Weltman. “Instead of handing his corporate donors a pass to pollute, Mayor Adams must side with his constituents demanding full enforcement and implementation of Local Law 97 by strengthening his proposed rules immediately.”

Passed in 2019, Local Law 97 requires buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to begin limiting carbon emissions by January 2024, driving toward net zero emissions by 2050. New city data released this summer found that 89% of the city’s buildings are on track to meet the law’s 2024 requirements. The law is also on track to create tens of thousands of jobs, and is projected to lower energy bills.

Advocates are criticizing Mayor Adams’ proposed rules for two key issues that jeopardize its intent: a two year delay and an unlimited corporate “buyout” loophole that trades renewable energy credits for actual emissions reductions. If adopted and unchanged, these rules reflect the demands of a well-financed real estate industry campaign seeking to gut the law.

“Exactly a year ago, we sent a letter to the Mayor, DEP, and DOB expressing concerns about rulemaking that would water down Local Law 97. We called for a REC purchasing limit, pollution limit enforcement, and support for NYCHA and working-class owners in the transition process. Since then, New Yorkers have felt more devastating effects of climate change, emphasizing the need for drastic, bold action. We have had an opportunity since 2019 to lead emissions reduction goals, and this is not the moment to slow down,” said Councilmember Carmen De La Rosa.

“If Mayor Adams had some shame left after mishandling multiple climate disasters, including the devastating flood three weeks ago, he would withdraw his proposal and propose rules that ensure the full, uncompromising enforcement of Local Law 97,” said Pete Sikora, Climate and Inequality Campaign Director at New York Communities for Change. “New Yorkers deserve pollution reductions, good jobs, and lower energy bills. As showcased at today’s hearing, we will continue sounding a loud alarm: if Adams is bought by the real estate lobby, working New Yorkers are in deep trouble. We will not rest until we’ve secured a better future for our city, especially our members in low-income communities of color.”

“In the last few weeks, New York City has experienced flood after flood, devastating our roads, highways, subways, and homes for our residents. The climate crisis is here –– and we cannot accept Mayor Adams’ attempts to gut NYC’s landmark climate legislation,” said Shiv Soin, Co-Executive Director of TREEage. “Students testifying at today’s hearing are making it clear that anything less than immediate implementation and enforcement of Local Law 97 is unacceptable.”

“New York City is leading national climate policy with Local Law 97. We know this law is necessary to improve the health of our communities, create tens of thousands of jobs, lower energy costs, and decrease pollution throughout the city,” said Megan Ahearn, NYPIRG Program Director. “Mayor Adams must not endanger this critical law with half-measures and compliance loopholes that serve the real estate and fossil fuel industries at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.”

“Local Law 97 only allows building owners to delay compliance with annual emissions limits under very limited circumstances. Under the law, to avoid penalties building owners must show they attempted to comply with emissions limits but it was not reasonably possible. The Proposed Rules allow basically any building owner to delay compliance with the law, even if they have failed to make any efforts to reduce their building emissions. For this reason, the rules are unlawful and send a troubling signal that the City is not willing to hold building owners accountable – even in the face of a climate crisis,” said Michael Youhana, Senior Associate Attorney with Earthjustice.

“It is outrageous, shameful, and reeks of cronyism that Eric Adams, at the behest of his real estate donors, would gut Local Law 97,” said Cherie Acierno with Rise and Resist. “This climate law, crafted after NYC declared a climate emergency in 2019, fights climate pollution at the scale and speed science demands and is an example for the rest of the world. The law would provide thousands of jobs in design, renovation, and construction, upgrade our city’s polluting infrastructure, lower utility costs, and be especially beneficial to low-income communities most impacted by the floods, toxic air, and heatwaves we are all experiencing now.  A grassroots multiracial coalition of New Yorkers fought for this law, and we are still here – now demanding the Mayor enforce and implement LL97 as the law requires and as the LL97 advisory board recommended. The law is fair and achievable, despite what the real estate industry wants people to think. It would provide massive benefits to the health of New Yorkers, and to a city and world facing global catastrophe. Adams must enforce and implement Local Law 97 without loopholes and without delays.”

“Rabbi Elimelech, an 18th century commentator, criticized Noah for failing to act on the most important message of his generation: to save the world and its creatures from a devastating flood by warning the world of its corruption. Because saving the world and its creatures is the most important message for our generation, JCAN-NY supports Local Law 97. That law will benefit all New Yorkers with its promise of reduced building emissions, good green jobs, reduced energy bills, and help for the most impacted communities. Mayor Adams, like Noah, you are failing to act on that message by proposing rules that weaken that law and endanger the City and its residents. Mayor Adams, the time to act is now. The water is already rising!,” said Mary Krieger, Jewish Climate Action Network NYC Steering Committee Member.

“We have the solutions,” said Kim Fraczek, Director of Sane Energy Project. “We stand prepared to transform gas pipelines into cutting-edge Thermal Energy Networks. It is utterly intolerable to witness Mayor Adams exploiting his authority with an attempt to alter our law in order to shackle us to outdated 19th-century technology, solely to serve the insatiable profits of the real estate and fossil fuel industries.”

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Press Contact: Phoebe Galt [email protected]