Comptroller Stringer, State Senator Liu, and Assemblymember Rozic Hail Newly Signed Legislation Reforming and Modernizing Green Roof Tax Abatement

Green roofs only cover 1 in 1,000 buildings across the five boroughs, with only seven roofs citywide participating in the current abatement program

Legislation stems from Comptroller Stringer recommendations to boost the credit from $5.25 to $15 per square foot in areas in the city that most need green space

New York, NY – Today, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, State Senator John Liu, and Assemblymember Nily Rozic hailed newly signed legislation that reforms and modernizes the existing green roof tax abatement to boost enrollment in the program citywide. The bill, which stems from recommendations issued by Comptroller Stringer in 2018, was sponsored by Senator Liu and Assemblymember Rozic and signed into law by Governor Cuomo. The legislation dramatically increases a tax break for property owners that choose to install a green roof in neighborhoods that struggle with regular sewer overflows or a lack of green space. Green roofs only cover one in 1,000 buildings in the five boroughs, and every dollar invested in green roofs generates an estimated $2 in benefits by mitigating storm water runoff and providing green space.

The bill reforms an existing tax abatement program from 2009 which has largely failed to catalyze the growth of green roofs, with only seven roofs receiving the abatement during the program’s decade-long run. Because the program’s tax abatement was dismal and undercut by broadly unrealistic regulatory standards, property owners saw little incentive in greening their roofs. The new law aims to boost these meager results by scaling up the tax abatement and incentivizing the construction of green roofs in the areas of the City most in need of green space and the many benefits green roofs provide. The City will select priority areas for the newly enhanced credit under the new law on a rolling basis.

“New York City should be at the forefront of urban sustainability and green innovation, and our barren roofs offer an ideal opportunity to improve air quality, reduce energy use, ease storm related flooding, and increase the amount of green spaces in communities that need it the most,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “I want to thank Senator Liu, Assemblymember Rozic, and Governor Cuomo for their commitment to greening our city. This bill is just the start. It’s time we used the 62 square miles of available space on top of our buildings to truly create a green oasis in the skies in every corner of the city.”

“The aggressive measures contained in the climate protection law we passed last month ensures that New York leads the way in keeping our planet inhabitable,” said State Senator John Liu. “This Green Roof bill incentivizes individual homeowners to contribute meaningfully to that global effort and significantly reduce our local emissions. We are grateful to Assemblymember Rozic and Comptroller Stringer “44” for their leadership in this critical matter.”

“Renewing the City's Green Roof Tax Abatement Program was integral to investing in green infrastructure programs and addressing the realities of climate change in our communities – particularly in our most vulnerable neighborhoods,” said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic. “I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation into law and will continue working with Senator Liu and environmental advocates to expand this benefit even further.”

The legislation drew heavily from a proposal outlined by Comptroller Stringer and Danielle Spiegel-Feld, a professor at New York University Law School, to reauthorize the citywide green roof tax credit and target an enhanced $15 per square foot credit to areas most at need of green space.

“This bill marks an important first step towards converting New York City's rooftops to more sustainable uses and I applaud Assemblymember Rozic, Senator Liu and Comptroller Stringer for their leadership in pushing this legislation forward. The bill, which directs the City to prioritize funding for green roofs in the neighborhoods where they provide greatest societal value, is exactly the kind of smart policy we need to advance our environmental goals through cost-effective means. It's now up to the City to designate priority areas in a timely manner and help remove the red tape that has inhibited growth of green roofs in NYC to date,” said Danielle Spiegel-Feld, Executive Director, Guarini Center on Environmental, Energy and Land Use Law at NYU Law.

Rebecca Pryor, Program Coordinator for Riverkeeper and Guardians of Flushing Bay said, “We hope that New Yorkers will reap the many benefits of vegetated green roofs including cleaner air and waterways as a result of this legislation. Riverkeeper and Guardians of Flushing Bay look forward to continuing work with Assemblymember Nily Rozic, Senator John Liu, and Comptroller Scott Stringer to advance the installation of green roofs in our City.”

“Renewing and expanding the green roof tax abatement is an important step in addressing climate change. Green roofs provide a suite of benefits; they help improve our energy efficiency, cool our communities, provide much-needed green space for people and wildlife, and absorb stormwater,” said Emily Nobel Maxwell, New York Cities Program Director of The Nature Conservancy. “Less than 750 of New York City’s million buildings currently have green roofs and increasing their use is crucial in our climate changing world.”

The passage of this legislation is a significant step toward increasing the installation of vegetated rooftops on New York City’s buildings,” said Julie Welch, Program Manager for the SWIM Coalition. “Green roofs are an important tool in improving water quality in NYC waterways. We thank Assembly Member Nily Rozic, Senator John Liu, and Comptroller Scott Stringer and the many individuals who took part in the robust stakeholder dialogue over many months to ensure the renewal and improvement of NY’s Green Roof Tax Abatement.”

"Not only is green infrastructure a critical way to keep our waterways clean, it can also bolster resiliency and air quality at the same time,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. "That's why we were glad to support the expanded green roof tax abatement this session. This program is designed to benefit the communities most impacted by CSOs and flash floods, and we hope it will lead to a significant expansion of green infrastructure on private property. We thank Comptroller Stringer, State Senator Liu, and Assembly Member Rozic for their leadership on this issue."

To read Comptroller Stringer and Professor Spiegel-Feld’s op-ed on the green roof tax abatement, click here.