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Hunter's Point South waterfront (Thomas Balsley Associates / Weiss/Manfredi | Photo credit: Bill Tatham) Hunter's Point South waterfront (Thomas Balsley Associates / Weiss/Manfredi | Photo credit: Bill Tatham)
During this year’s United Nations General Assembly meeting, Secretary General Antonio Guterres described climate change as “an existential struggle.” President Joseph R. Biden pledged to double aid aimed at helping developing nations address climate change, a move that comes on the heels of his goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50-52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and strategy to shift Americans from gas-powered vehicles to electric.

This is good news for the nation, but in New York City, the fight against climate change never stopped. At a time when officials on the federal level were pulling out of the Paris Agreement and rolling back a host of other policies designed to fight climate change, New York City officials spent the Trump administration rolling out important climate change initiatives. Together, these initiatives, which include investment and divestment strategies, hope to achieve an ambitious goal—an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

Divesting in Fossil Fuels

Beyond changing how it designs capital projects and manages transportation, the City of New York has also begun to take important steps toward divesting in fossil fuels. Fossil fuels include crude oil, coal, and natural gas. Based on their historically high values, many retirement funds include investments in fossil fuels. But as the fight against climate change expands, there is now growing pressure on investors, including from union leaders, to divest.
In early 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, along with trustees from the City’s pension funds, responded to this pressure by announcing a plan to start divesting in fossil fuel companies. Three retirement plans are impacted by the policy change: the New York Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), New York City Board of Education Retirement System (BERS), and New York City Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS).

As Comptroller Stringer said at the time of the historic announcement, “Climate change is the most pressing challenge of our time, and we need to meet our climate emergency with every tool at our disposal to protect our children and our children’s children.” While the City of New York still has a long way to go to reach its 2050 goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80%, its recent policy changes on design, transportation, and investment certainly suggest it is heading in the right direction.

Investing in Resiliency Design

In 2018, the City of New York released detailed Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines. The guidelines, which apply to all capital projects, were developed to help planners, engineers, and architects design projects respond to climate change projections. Specifically, the guidelines offer guidance on how to interpret climate change data (e.g., on rising sea levels and temperatures) and design capital projects that respond to known risks of climate change (e.g., ensuring buildings aren’t placed in flood zones) and or reduce known causes of climate change (e.g., adding green roofs to lower energy use and decrease greenhouse gas emissions).
Thomas Balsley Associates / Weiss/Manfredi

Investing in Green Transportation

Fossil fuels, including the gasoline and diesel used to power most vehicles, are a major culprit of climate change. Both result in increased greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons. New York City continues to aggressively tackle transportation-related pollution on many levels.

Electric Buses

Over the next decade, the City will invest $1.1 billion to both modify depots for electric bus operations and purchase 500 new electric buses for the city’s fleet. If all goes as planned, by 2029, all buses purchased by the City will be all-electric with the goal of eventually having an all-electric fleet.

Congestion Pricing

Like it or not, congestion pricing is coming to New York City. Although the initiative has been temporarily delayed, public hearings will begin over the coming weeks, and it is expected to start around 2023. Once it does, anyone driving below 60th Street in Manhattan will pay a steep toll. In addition to helping reduce emissions in New York City, the plan has another upshot—the tolls are expected to generate $15 billion dollars, which will be diverted to the MTA’s $51.5 billion capital plan to modernize the city’s beleaguered public transit system.

Open Streets for Pedestrians

Pre-pandemic, the city started to introduce car-free streets on special occasions. In Summer 2020, as city dwellers started to overcrowd parks, the Open Streets initiative was expanded. Again, there is hope that post-pandemic, the city will maintain and expand Open Streets, handing more space back to pedestrians.

Bikes and Bike Paths

Between 2013 and 2018, the Department of Transportation expanded its on-street bike network by more than 330 miles. As of 2018, there were 82 protected bike lane miles in New York City. With more bike lanes being added every year and easier access to bikes thanks to the expansion of the Citi Bike program, roughly a quarter of the city’s adults now ride a bike, at least occasionally. As of 2019, nearly 800,000 New Yorkers were riding bikes on a regular basis. Since the pandemic, however, bike sales and cycling have surged as New Yorkers have turned away from the MTA. There is hope that post-pandemic, many of the people who started riding in 2020 will continue to do so, resulting in a permanent impact on the city’s fight against climate change.

Notable Green-Minded Listings in NYC

Building has Geothermal Climate System, Gardening Plots, and Composting Center

From the Listing: This massive, 2,000 sq. ft., duplex loft features 18 ft. double height ceilings, exposed brick, poured concrete floors, an enormous walk-in-closet, oversized windows, a Juliet balcony and stunning city and river views. The open floor plan allows for countless configurations. The open kitchen contains an industrial six burner chefs stove, a dishwasher and a brushed aluminum refrigerator. The apartment also features two full bathrooms with an open plan master that encompasses a bear clawed soaking tub. The apartment also features central air, a washer, dryer, and incredibly low common charges. Most importantly, it is clear that this space has preserved the industrial look and integrity of a true loft and it is truly one of a kind. See floor plan and full details here.

LEED Platinum with solar panels, in-building wastewater treatment system, and environmentally safe paints and finishes

From the Listing: As in any well-appointed and exquisite home, there is a large and gracious entry hall leading to the spacious and grand loft-like living and dining area adjacent to the open concept kitchen -- perfect for entertaining large parties (or people who just think big).

The custom-designed chef's kitchen features bamboo cabinetry, river-washed black granite countertops, gorgeous glass tile backsplash, custom paneled Sub Zero fridge and Asko dishwasher, and a stainless steel Wolf dual convection oven and gas cooktop with a sleek venting range hood. The large island with additional seating and under-counter ambient lighting completes this culinary paradise.<br><br>A split bedroom layout is ideal for privacy. The primary bedroom suite is large enough to accommodate a king-sized bed with an ensuite spa-like limestone and glass mosaic bathroom including a deep soaking jacuzzi tub and a separate glass-enclosed shower.
See floor plan and full details here.

LEED Gold with Geothermal Heating & Cooling of Common Areas

From the Listing: East Village Penthouse with an incredible roof deck, perfect for entertaining!!!<br> <br> Located on one of the most beautiful tree-lined blocks in the East Village, you can find the ultimate penthouse with two bedrooms, two and a half baths, featuring an enormous private roof deck that totals over 2000 square feet! The upper level offers a spacious open-kitchen, living and dining area with a powder room, creating the perfect setting for entertaining. The floor below features two private bedrooms and en suite baths with heated floors, Toto fixtures and a deep soak tub. See floor plan and full details here.

LEED Gold Certified with 100% Building's Energy coming from Green Power

From the Listing: Located on the High Line in a boutique building with only 11 private residences, arrive to the gracious foyer of this floor-through home directly from the keyed elevator. A spacious and open floor plan awaits, perfect for entertaining and loft-like living. Currently configured with a den off the foyer, the layout continuously flows from the dining room and kitchen to the south facing living room all set against serene views of the nature-filled High Line. Designed by the award-winning architect, Neil Denari, the building is perfectly framed by evergreen trees, lending a sense of both privacy and peace. If seeking a third bedroom or private home office, the den off the foyer can easily be converted. See floor plan and full details here.

Passive House and LEED Platinum

From the Listing: Designed by architects Thom & Wilson in 1889, 25 West 88th Street is one of the finest renovated single-family townhouses on the Upper West Side. This triple mint home is among the first in Manhattan to receive a national designation as a Platinum Certified LEED Home and Passive Energy Certification. Spread across over 8,000 square feet of interior living space and seven floors are six bedrooms plus several activity rooms leaving space for exercise, meditation and crafts. The recent renovation was the work of Baxt/Ingui Architects, the top NYC LEED and Passive home builders, Robert Taffera Inc., renowned builders of brownstone homes, as well as the owners. This collaboration resulted in a masterpiece of design, energy savings, and exquisite details. . See floor plan and full details here.

Green roof with rainwater retention system and solar panels that power the building's common areas

From the Listing: New to market: Amazing 2 bedroom/1 bath condo duplex in East Williamsburg. This spacious industrial loft-like duplex has a large balcony, an in-unit W/D, and high ceilings. The stylish kitchen has stainless steel appliances and backsplash, dishwasher, custom cabinets, Caesarstone countertops, and a center island with an overhang for seating. See floor plan and full details here.
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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.