City Council Votes to Approve the City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality Zoning Text Amendment

The Carbon Neutrality amendment will help address obstacles and restrictions that currently limit the installation of green technology and infrastructure like solar panels. Credit: NYC DEP

On December 6, 2023, the City Council voted to approve the City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality zoning text amendment. The amendment, the first of three proposed by the Adams administration last year, fixes outdated provisions within the zoning text that inhibit the growth and use of green infrastructure and technology in New York City. The zoning text, as is, could not accommodate many types of modern green infrastructure and technology, which did not exist at the time the zoning text was originally created in the early 1960’s. The zoning text had no mention of solar panels until an amendment was made in 2012; through this City of Yes amendment, the City examined multiple facets of the zoning text that needed to be amended to allow the City to advance its sustainability goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

The amendment contains 17 policy changes including changes to building out a renewable energy grid, creating cleaner and greener buildings, supporting electric vehicles and micromobility options, and updating recycling, compost and water regulations. Through the new changes, more rooftop space can be used for solar panels and it will be easier to install battery storage systems for solar grid networks in residential areas. Over 8,500 acres of parking lots citywide may also be used to host solar panels. 

In addition, previous restrictions on building heights and thickness will be lightened to make room for building electrification and environmentally-supportive retrofits. Through this amendment, the amount of commercially-zoned land where electric-vehicle charging facilities can be located has been more than doubled. The amendment expands the use of permeable pavement and rain gardens and reduces red tape to encourage rooftop food production, among other changes. The full details of the amendment can be found here.

Through the review process, the amendment received positive support from 25 community boards, and the Borough Presidents of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. The City Council voted to approve the amendment by 38 to eight. Council Members Joann Ariola, Joseph C. Borelli, David Carr, Robert Holden, Ari Kagan, Vickie Paladino, Inna Vernikov and Kalman Yeger voted against. Council Member Charles Barron abstained, Council Member Christopher Marte was marked as “non-voting,” and Council Members Darlene Mealy, Linda Lee, and Marjorie Velazquez were not present for the vote. The changes will go into effect within four days. 

The other two City of Yes amendments are currently in earlier stages of review. The City of Yes for Economic Opportunity amendment is currently in front of community boards, borough boards and Borough Presidents. The City of Yes for Housing Opportunity amendment is undergoing environmental review and is expected to enter the public review process in spring 2024. 

Mayor Eric Adams stated, “New York City is a ‘City of Yes,’ and this historic proposal will pave the way for a more sustainable future. By modernizing our city’s zoning code, we have taken a bold step forward in fighting climate change, while delivering cleaner air, lower energy costs, smarter waste management, and better access to EV technologies to New Yorkers across the city. We are grateful to our partners in the New York City Council for their support on this once-in-a-generation initiative and look forward to working together to advance our next two ‘City of Yes’ proposals to build a more equitable economy and combat the housing crisis.”

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams stated, “Removing barriers to creating a greener, more sustainable city is vital to fighting climate change and preparing our city for the long-term future. By approving citywide zoning changes that facilitate more energy efficient buildings, transportation, and green infrastructure, the Council is equipping our city and New Yorkers with the tools to create lasting change for our communities. This initiative is critical to New York City’s success, and I thank my colleagues and the administration for their partnership.”

Department of City Planning Director and Chair of the City Planning Commission Dan Garodnick stated, “This is the most ambitious, far-reaching initiative in the history of New York’s zoning to combat climate change. From solar panels to energy storage and EV charging to building retrofits, these changes will unlock a massive increase in green infrastructure in all corners of our city. This puts us on a path for a more sustainable future for ourselves, our children, and generations to come.”

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the Editor of CityLand and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)



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