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The future of green development in NYC: Cannot be limited to luxury developments and class A office buildings

Steven Schleider, Metropolitan Valuation Services
Steven Schleider, Metropolitan Valuation Services

Green development has gained significant ground in New York City, especially in the last five years, but to lay the foundation for a city with a sustainable future, green cannot be limited to luxury residential developments nor class A office buildings.

The future of green development in New York City must also embrace, encourage and fund sustainable new construction and retrofits in lower income areas of New York. With Brooklyn now the center of the hip universe; Queens maintaining its many quality residential neighborhoods; and Staten Island separated by geography from the other boroughs, the Bronx may well become the proving ground for determining whether sustainability can flourish in lower income areas with a large volume of older buildings.

Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. is currently overseeing the Bronx program funded with $2.5 million to retrofit apartment buildings with 50 or more units. Eventually smaller buildings will be included. These retrofits will bring direct energy savings to those most in need, help avert future rent increases, improve conditions in affordable properties and serve to fuel economic activity from increased spending opportunity.

Among the sustainable building projects currently being overseen by the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) is the Bronx Metro-North Corridor which will connect residents to job centers in the region and maximize access to existing and proposed commuter rail stations in the Bronx.

A bright spot for green is Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx), an educational program focused on the construction and building industry that addresses economic and environmental issues in the South Bronx - and New York City - through green job training, community greening programs and social enterprise. SSBx is even working with local high school students on an air quality study in Hunts Point.

A larger plan announced by mayor Bill de Blasio is for an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, with 3,000 buildings to be retrofitted in the next 10 years. The Bronx program aims to cut the high greenhouse gas emission percentage of multifamily residential buildings which account for about 35% of all greenhouse gas emissions. In the Bronx, the significant percentage of multifamily residential buildings were built before 1980; which account for 70% of building greenhouse gas emissions.

New York City is also reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the New York City carbon challenge, a goal that forces contributors to commit to reducing emissions by 30% or more in just 10 years. In the last year, 17 universities, 11 hospital organizations (41 individual hospitals), 12 global companies, and 15 residential property management companies have joined the challenge from the mayor's office of sustainability.

In the last decade, sustainability has been at the forefront of considerations for the real estate industry and government when it comes to development and renovation, economic feasibility for lower income residents, and, protecting the environment. While going green began as something people felt they should do, then gained considerable traction as the benefits of going green from both the property owner and tenant points of view became clear and compelling, there is a now an even greater and crucial call for sustainability.

The year 2015 has been recorded as the hottest one on earth. This summer wildfires are raging in the western states and the traditional fire season doesn't even start until September. Winter forecasts indicate very wet, snowy, frigid weather for much of the country. To assure its future for all residents, New York City must be resilient in the face of climate change and global issues and continue to be a leader in environmental best practices.

Steven Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C, is the president of Metropolitan Valuation Services, New York, N.Y.