‘Editor’s Notebook’ with Diana Mosher: New York City’s Got Green Game

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stirred cont...

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stirred controversy when he proposed banning large sugary beverages in an effort to fight the obesity epidemic. If enacted, this ban would be the first in the country.

Now, in his final State of the City address, he has raised some eyebrows by proposing a ban on styrofoam food packaging. Not sure why this would surprise any constituents, since we already know the material isn’t biodegradable, and as the mayor’s office reminds us, plastic foam packaging makes up an estimated 20,000 tons of the city’s annual waste. The ban would require approval by the City Council.

While some New Yorkers think the mayor is out of line for legislating behavior, this ani-styrofoam initiative sounds like a no brainer especially since other cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, OR. and Seattle) have already made it happen.

During his last State of the City address, the mayor also shared some other ambitious ideas like wiring one-fifth of all new city parking spaces for electric cars, which would create 10,000 spots over the next seven years. And a new recycling plant scheduled to open this spring will enable New Yorkers to recycle more types of plastic such as yogurt cups and takeout containers.

New York City has really been trying to reduce its carbon footprint, and hopefully the next mayor will continue these initiatives. New York hasn’t made it to Top 10 Green Cities, but still the Mayor has gotten the sustainability dialogue started and even accomplished a thing or two since he took office in 2002.

His ambitious PlanNYC2030, a 202-page manifesto that’s a must for multifamily developers, investors and design professionals looking to do business here, outlines a range of familiar initiatives from reducing energy consumption and cleaning up brownfields to some more challenging projects like achieving the cleanest air quality of any big U.S. City, diverting 75 percent of solid waste from landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30 percent and ensuring all New Yorkers live within a 10-minute walk to a park (Queens residents currently voicing opposition to the city’s proposal to redevelop portions of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park might be skeptical about this last action item).

PlanNYC2030 describes an array of development opportunities and upcoming zoning changes of interest to the apartment industry and also reveals exciting thinking about urban rooftops. The mayor’s office points out that in a crowded city, rooftops represent “the last big frontier” and this underutilized space equals an entire extra borough.

The mayor’s sustainability advisors are encouraging building owners to coat roofs white (“cool roofs”) to moderate temperatures, install collars around drains (“blue roofs”) to help retain stormwater, and add extensive rooftop plantings to help cool roofs while also retaining stormwater. Also expect to see more solar panels, wind turbines, urban farms, and recreational spaces on New York City rooftops.

The NYC Green Infrastructure Plan has information about changes to local codes that will enable building owners to do more with their rooftop spaces.

The fact that New York is committed to reducing its carbon footprint is positive news for investors seeking to trade multifamily assets.

Do you credit Mayor Mike Bloomberg with the greening of New York City, or are these initiatives just a sign of the times? Do you think the work he started will be continued by his successor?