Queens Lawmaker Proposes 7-Year Delay on Local Law 97 Implementation

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Some more environmentally conscious lawmakers may believe Local Law 97 couldn’t be implemented fast enough, but Queens Councilmember Vickie Paladino is trying to slam the brakes.

Paladino, a Republican whose District 19 covers Bayside, Queens, announced plans Thursday to introduce legislation in the New York City Council that aims to delay the law — which will fine business owners who fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — by seven years.

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From her district in the proverbial outer rim of New York City, Paladino’s office has collected feedback on the bill from constituents and said the holdup was needed to help small landlords as well as co-op and condo owners.

“The fines dictated by Local Law 97 are excessive and arbitrary and [have] the potential to bury the buildings [in debt] and force them into bankruptcy and possible foreclosure,” Paladino said during a Wednesday press conference in her district. 

Passed in May 2019, Local Law 97 requires owners of buildings 25,000 square feet or larger to reduce emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050 through more efficient use of building systems or total refits. Landlords who don’t comply will face fines.

Paladino’s legislation aims to set these goal posts back to 2037 and 2057.

Local Law 97 is set to take effect next year, and if the buildings that fall under its purview make no changes, they could pay a collective $213 million in fines, according to a report by the Real Estate Board of New York. And even with the law’s start date fast approaching, the final rules aren’t set and some landlords don’t even know about it.

“The study’s findings demonstrate that even if buildings take meaningful steps to comply and use the tools provided by the law, owners will still be unable to meet the emissions limits and will instead pay hundreds of millions of dollars in annual penalties,” REBNY said in the statement regarding the report last week. “We hope the City will take action over the next 12 months to avoid damage to our local economy and unfair penalties to property owners in 2024.”

Aside from the delayed start, Paladino wants the City Council to amend the law, including extending the J-51 tax abatement to help property owners make capital improvements to comply. The last iteration of that tax break expired in June 2022, Commercial Observer previously reported

“What is even more disheartening are the exemptions. Among those exempt from implementing Local Law 97 regulations are government buildings, hospitals and public housing,” the statement from Paladino continued. “This fact lends credence to concerns that this law is yet another blatant attack on the middle class, and part of a concerted effort to price small property owners out of their homes.”

Brooklyn Councilman Ari Kagan — who raised the ire of Democrats in December when he switched his party affiliation to Republican — backed Paladino’s legislation, but it is unclear how the bill will fare in a City Council dominated by Democratic elected officials.

While Paladino believes her proposals should have bipartisan support, she expects Democrats in the council will work against the bill.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.