Mar 8 2017
NYC Public Housing to Reduce Carbon Emissions by 30 Percent
Alfred E. Smith Houses is a NYCHA development located in the Lower East Side.
Photo credit: Manuel Menal  via Creative Commons
March 8, 2017
NYC Public Housing to Reduce Carbon Emissions by 30 Percent

The nation’s largest landlord—the New York City Housing Authority—has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings by 30% over the next 10 years. This is the equivalent to approximately 330,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

If this sounds big and complicated, that’s because it is. NYCHA manages nearly 178,000 apartments across 2,547 buildings and throughout 328 developments. All together, the agency houses more than 400,000 New Yorkers.

“As the nation’s largest housing authority and residential landlord, we can have a major impact on curbing the effects of climate change, which affects us all,” NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye said in a statement.

The carbon cuts are part of New York City’s Carbon Challenge—a program started under Bloomberg and continued under de Blasio—which sets an ambitious goal of reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. A number of universities, hospitals, hotels and other commercial tenants have signed on.

The Nuts and Bolts

Queensbridge Houses, located in Long Island City, is the largest public housing development in North America. Photo credit: Wikimedia.

Most of the carbon cuts will come in the form of retrofits and upgrades to increase energy efficiency. Work is already underway to improve heating, hot water, interior and exterior lighting, and ventilation systems in buildings across the city. NYCHA is also evaluating more substantial building retrofits such as replacing building systems, which could help reduce energy costs and carbon emissions even further.

The big focus will be on getting brighter lighting into homes and more comfortable and reliable heating, Bomee Jung, NYCHA vice president of Energy and Sustainability, told DNAinfo.

Despite the agency’s capital repair deficit of nearly $17 billion, officials remain optimistic about the large-scale upgrades. Most of the funding for the projects is provided by federally-funded Energy Performance Contracts that end up paying for themselves.

For example, a previous $18 million contract funded energy efficient lighting upgrades at 16 developments—the energy savings then subsidized heating plant upgrades at six developments, Jung said.

Could Federal Cuts Derail Progress?

All optimism aside, federal cuts to NYCHA funding could put all of these planned upgrades in peril. Earlier this week, the Trump Administration rolled out the first of several major budget cuts to the authority.

The Wall Street Journal reports that NYCHA will receive $35 million less in federal aid this year, the first of several anticipated cuts that could total $150 million.

Shola Olatoye, the Chair and CEO of NYCHA, says a reduction in funding of that magnitude would “evaporate” the progress made by the housing authority in the past three years.

Alfred E. Smith Houses is a NYCHA development located in the Lower East Side.
Photo credit: Manuel Menal  via Creative Commons