Bloomberg goes green on Earth Day

April 22, 2009 3:36:02 PM PDT
Mayor Michael Bloomberg celebrated the 39th annual Earth Day with some dramatic environmental proposals. It turns out that buildings account for 80 percent of New York's carbon emissions. And making them green is now the mayor's top priority. But is that possible in a recession?

On this Earth Day, in a garden atop a Midtown high-rise, Bloomberg unveiled an ambitious plan forcing thousands and thousands of old buildings to green up to get newer efficient boilers, to better insulate pipes, to weatherize windows and to replace old, wasteful lights.

"Look, either we want to have less dependence on on foreign energy and we want to have cleaner air or we don't," Bloomberg said.

The plan is not voluntary. Every building in the city over 50,000 square feet will eventually face an audit.

If it's proven those old lights or better windows can be paid for with lower energy bills over a five-year period, then changes must be made.

A lot of building owners are worried. And so are rent-regulated apartments dwellers. When improvements are made, landlords can hike the rent by about $300 a year.

"We believe in green," said Judith Goldiner, of the Legal Aide Society. "We think it's good to have energy efficiency, but we just think people who are least able to afford it shouldn't be the ones paying for it."

The mayor is hoping his plan will make New York the world headquarters for how to make old cities green. Texas and Iowa have wind and turbines. California and Arizona have capitalized on solar. New York has buildings, lots of them, and these new requirements could lead to thousands of new jobs.

"People who are in California, they're not in New York, right?" Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope said. "Now, they're going to hear about this announcement, and they're going to look for space to open facilities in New York tomorrow."


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