New York

New York panorama
New York panorama. Credit:

New York City, credit B.KERR

New York City has set an ambitious plan to go green. It’s called PLANYC 2020.

In December 2006, Mayor Michael R. Bloombert challenged New Yorkers to generate ideas of achieving 10 key goals for the city’s sustainable future. New Yorkers in all five boroughs responded, with the result being the release of PLANYC in 2007, the most sweeping plan to enhance New York’s urban environment in the city’s modern history.

Focusing on five key dimensions of the city’s environment – land, air, water, energy and transportation – this plan can become a model for all cities in the 21st century. When implemented, this plan will ensure higher quality of life for generations of New Yorkers to come, and will also contribute to a 30% reduction in global warming emissions.

The main sections of the plan are:


  • Housing
  • Open Space
  • Brownfields


  • Water Quality
  • Water Network


  • Congestion
  • State of good repair


Air quality

Climate Change – with a goal to reduce global warming emissions by more than 30%

Climate Protection Act legislation

The New York City Council passed legislation known as the Climate Protection Act to require the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the city on November 28, 2007.

The bill establishes benchmarks that the city must reach, including:

  • a 30 percent reduction in emissions made by city operations by 2017, and
  • a 30 percent reduction in emissions citywide by 2030.

The bill requires annual emission inventories and reports, as well as public education and outreach programs.

Property-related components of PLANYC

Several components of PLANYC, including property tax abatement for certain green elements, have direct implications to home owners in the city.

Energy efficiency

New York City is completing its first major revision to the building code in nearly 40 years, with adoption expected in this summer. The new code will include a number of green elements, including rebates for some green building features, requirements for cool (white) roofs and energy code certification, and more stringent ventilation standards. The City also plans to create a property tax abatement for solar panel installations.

Green roof incentives

Also starting in late 2007, New York City will also begin providing incentives for green roofs. The City is enacting a property tax abatement to off-set 35% of the installation cost of a green roof. Through this program, the City expects to reduce energy use (green roofs are insulating) as well as storm-water runoff. The pilot incentive will sunset in five years.

Green retrofits to buildings, waste water treatment and micro generation

New York City’s mayor’s office is planning to make an announcement in June 2008 to encourage green retrofits of existing buildings with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2017 as part of policy developed by New York City’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.

Part of the program will include waste water treatment and distributed generation, potentially through micro-wind turbines.

Air quality

In late 2007, the City plans to waive its sales tax on the cleanest, most efficient vehicles as part of an initiative to reduce the emissions of greenhouse and other harmful gases. It will also lower the maximum sulphur content in heating fuel from 2000 ppm (parts per million) to 500 ppm.


New York City has launched MillionTreesNYC, a public-private initiative that aims to plant 1 million new trees over the next decade. MillionTreesNYC is part of the PlaNYC program.

Trees are being planted to beautify neighbourhoods, provide cooling with their canopy and improve air quality in an urban environment where asthma is a serious public health concern.


By 2030, New York is expected to have gained 1 million more people, adding to the existing population of 8.25 million.

Empire State Building goes green

New York’s Empire State Building is undergoing a green retrofit in 2010 to improve its energy efficiency and other sustainability measures.‎

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