Mayoral Roadmap

On May 29, 2013, Urban Green Council released the Green Building Roadmap for NYC's Next Mayor in conjunction with an unprecedented coalition from across the real estate industry: SEIU 32BJREBNYBOMA/NYNY Building CongressAIA NY, and ASHRAE-NY.

The group, representing diverse interests and members, provides a cohesive, authoritative sustainability message and gives the new mayor an implementable plan.  

All see green building as part of New York's global leadership, as an engine of economic growth and opportunity, and as fundamental to the health and well-being of city residents. For some of these organizations, including Urban Green, this is the first election where they have endorsed policy positions. 

You can download the Roadmap here.

We spend almost all of our time in buildings; well-designed ones not only shelter us comfortably but protect us during extreme weather events like Sandy. Buildings account for about 75% of carbon emissions, 85% of water use, and 95% of electricity consumption in New York City. Most of us spend more money on housing than anything else. For these reasons, improving buildings is the most effective way to improve human health, help the environment, increase resiliency, and protect our pocketbooks.

What follows are the recommendations of New York City’s leaders in green building, labor, real estate, design, and construction for making new and existing buildings sustainable. The ability of the next mayor to implement an agenda like the one proposed here will significantly depend on the staffing decisions he or she makes. This is why we have one fundamental recommendation above all others:

Appoint a Deputy Mayor for Infrastructure & Sustainability and require green building experience for commissioners or the first deputy commissioner at key city agencies.

Key agencies include the Department of Buildings, Design and Construction, City Planning, Housing Preservation & Development, School Construction Authority, and New York City Housing Development Corporation, Department of Environmental Protection as well as members of agency commissions such as code development committees. With the commitment of the next mayor and the right personnel in place, New York will continue as an international environmental leader and innovator.


  • Take New York schools past their basic green building requirements created in 2005 and make them even greener, improving student performance and lowering operating costs.
    • Update the School Construction Authority’s standard construction specs, incorporating lessons from the Staten Island net zero school.
    • Ensure schools have the operational budget to take advantage of low cost and high impact maintenance improvements.
    • Proactively identify and eliminate health and safety hazards, and continue existing efforts to remove PCBs from schools.
    • Promote sustainable waste management practices, such as recycling and composting. Ensure every New York City classroom has a recycling bin.
    • Engage students and parents in these initiatives to expand community support.
  • Build on the success of the Clean Heat program in improving indoor and outdoor air quality by reducing pollution from boilers.
    • Modernize boiler regulations to account for new technology and improve the standards for boiler testing and tuning.
    • Require efficiency improvements in boilers and heating distribution systems.


  • Simplify the city’s regulatory structures and permitting process after studying alternative approaches, including computer-based permit review used in other jurisdictions. This will encourage more high-performance new construction and renovations.
  • Redirect the Landmarks Preservation Commission to provide more objective standards, simplify compliance, and remove barriers to green retrofits consistent with historic preservation.
  • Engage real estate brokerage firms in a voluntary program to treat residential energy costs like property taxes, by disclosing them at the time of listing and incorporating into mortgage calculators, as well as promote commercial energy-aligned leases.
  • Increase city partnerships with the private sector, utilities and NYSERDA, and NYCEEC to facilitate financing of building retrofits and ease access to existing incentives.
  • Train and certify building operators, superintendents, and service personnel (cleaners, porters, and handypersons) in energy efficiency and sustainable building operations. Expand Department of Education green training efforts to include cleaners and handypersons, and train relevant staff on operating net zero buildings.
  • Require contractors to receive training on the energy code, particularly standards on insulation and air sealing.
  • Promote high school, undergraduate, and adult education programs in energy retrofits to provide a deeper resource pool to fill the need for green jobs.
  • Promote smart grid and distributed generation to improve the resiliency of the city’s energy infrastructure.


  • Mitigate climate change by implementing recommendations from the Building Resiliency Task Force and at least 75% of the Green Codes Task Force.
  • Develop policies to address buildings under 50,000 square feet, including:
    • Decreasing the threshold for compliance with the Greener Greater Buildings Plan (benchmarking energy use; retuning building systems; and improving tenant lighting and measuring tenant energy use) from 50,000 sf to 25,000 sf by 2016 or earlier.
    • Requiring one or more of benchmarking, audits, and/or simple building energy upgrades at time of sale (point-of-sale ordinance) for buildings under 25,000 sf.
  • Reinforce New York’s position as a competitive business center and leader in energy efficiency and high-performance building by adopting policies that reflect the latest thinking on the future of sustainability in New York City, including recommendations from:
    • 90 by 50: A Path to Deep CO2 Emissions in NYC (February 2013);
    • City of New York study on 80% GHG reduction by 2050 (2013);
    • Urban Green study on the next generation high-rise (2014).
  • Demonstrate leadership within New York by constructing 50 Net-Zero, Passive House, LEED Platinum, or A+ Building Energy Quotient city buildings by 2018. Develop city standards for small-scale renovations and office build-outs, including office systems and furniture. Include green training and high-performance building practices in specifications for City building service contracts.
  • Ensure Department of Buildings has the staff and resources, including revenue from submission fees, to enforce and implement the Energy Code and Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. Continue to fund the energy efficiency program run by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, particularly for schools.