NY GREEN ROOF TAX ABATEMENT TIMELINE
New York has had a green roof tax abatement program since 2008.
The program provides a property tax abatement for property owners who install vegetated systems on their rooftops. SWIM Coalition has informed and encouraged the abatement program from its inception.
In 2007, as one of our first green infrastructure advocacy initiatives, SWIM Coalition organized green roof professionals, policy makers, environmental justice organizations and environmental groups to develop a shared vision for a Green Roof Tax Abatement program.
Due to SWIM's coalition building throughout 2007, as well as significant research, analysis and work with elected officials, the NY Green Roof Tax Abatement was originally passed in June 2008. The program, which gets renewed every five years, has evolved over time with input from green infrastructure advocates across NYC.
Over the past three years SWIM has been part of a Green Roof Tax Abatement (GRTA) working group, convened by The Nature Conservancy, that has collectively developed recommendations and provided important input on the program. We work closely with municipal agencies, city and state legislators, and the Mayor's office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. Below is a timeline of the program's evolution from the most recent details back to 2007:
Appointing an NYC agency to designate priority areas for the revised program:
In early 2020, the matter of which agency (appointed by the Mayor) would be designated to identify the priority zones, and what the selection criteria would be, was a topic of much discussion amongst key stakeholders. In August 2020, it was decided that the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS) would be the entity to identify the priority areas.
As of mid-November, 2020, an Executive Order on the Mayor's desk granting the MOS authority to begin the rule making is still pending signature. A green roof tax abatement (GRTA) working group, coordinated by the Nature Conservancy, sent a letter to the Mayor in September 2020 encouraging him to sign the Executive Order.
The GRTA working group has advised the MOS that the priority area selection criteria will need to include environmental and social justice concerns as well as stormwater volume and other environmental concerns.
Because there are other unresolved issues with the legislation, we will submit another round of recommendations for the program in January 2021 for legislator consideration.
After working together since early 2019, the GRTA working group submitted a set of recommended revisions for the program to legislators in Albany that sponsored the renewal of the program.
Several of our recommendations were included in the July 2019 revisions to the program at the end of the 2019 legislation session. The program now includes:
A higher abatement rate of $15 per square foot for priority areas (These rates are still too low: an unofficial survey of green roof professionals in NYC indicates that the average green roof cost in NYC is $26 per square foot)
The priority areas will be selected, by an agency appointed by the NYC Mayor, and will be based on environmental justice concerns as well as stormwater and other environmental concerns
There is no limit to the number of priority areas to be selected, priority areas will be selected on a rolling basis over a three year period
The abatement rate for all other areas of the city is slated to remain at $5.23 (we think it should be at least $10 -$ 15 per square foot)
There is a minimum 4” soil depth requirement for the high priority areas (we think this will be too prohibitive and are recommending it be 2” citywide so as to make more sites eligible for a green roof)
The abatement can now be applied to multiple years if the abatement amount exceeds the $200,000 project cap
The annual program cap remains at $1,000,000 which is low and will need to be addressed when economic recovery is underway post-pandemic
In early 2019, a Green Roof Tax Abatement stakeholder working group was formed and coordinated by the NYC office of The Nature Conservancy.
The working group consists of Green Roof Research Alliance, NYC Audubon, NY League of Conservation Voters, Green Roof designers and installers, NYC Soil and Water Conservation District, SWIM Coalition, Guarini Center at NYU School of Law, Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Riverkeeper and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
The stakeholder group met monthly throughout 2019 to collaborate and come to a consensus on a set of recommended revisions for the program that we could share with local agencies and lawmakers in Albany just before the final 2019 legislative session ended and the vote to renew and revise the program took place.
When the program expired at the end of 2018, the New York City Council issued a resolution calling for the program to be renewed. SWIM Coalition immediately met with legislators in Albany along with our partners at Riverkeeper to garner support for the renewal and to make recommendations for vital revisions to the program.
Unbeknownst to SWIM, concurrently, other stakeholder groups from NYC also pursued a dialogue with the lawmakers regarding their recommendations for revisions.
We were all recommending an increase in the abatement amount, and a group of GI researchers from NYU submitted recommendations for a tiered system with a higher abatement amount for priority zones where vegetated roofs were most needed.
The Department of Environmental Protection, the municipal agency responsible for managing NYC's stormwater runoff and Green Infrastructure program,
recommended the inclusion of a requirement for a 4" soil level for the vegetated roofs based on the premise that more stormwater capture would be accomplished. Many stakeholders felt that this soil level was going to lessen the number of green roofs that could be built in the city.
Legislative sponsors of the bill to renew the program asked that all stakeholders connect with one another and develop a consolidated set of recommendations for the program. We set about organizing what would become a very effective GRTA working group coordinated by the Nature Conservancy which continues to meet regularly as of late 2020.
In October of 2019, New York City passed Local Laws 92 and 94 as part of the Climate Mobilization act. Together, the laws require solar panels and/or vegetated roof systems on all new construction as well as buildings undertaking major roof renovations. This is a big win for green roofs in NYC and will ensure that the green roof tax abatement program is well-utilized.
In early 2021, the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability (MOS) was tasked with rulemaking for the designation of priority areas in the city where green roofs are needed most and where a higher abatement amount would be available.
MOS held a public hearing in late January to obtain input on their rulemaking. The Green Roof Tax Abatement Working Group submitted oral and written testimony on the rulemaking (you can view the full testimony here).
As part of our testimony, we asked for:
The use of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Heat Vulnerability Index definitions to inform the designation criteria related to poverty and heat vulnerability.
That the criteria consider race and equity when determining priority zones, as heat vulnerability disproportionately affects BIPOC in NYC
We also called for more transparency on how the criteria would be applied to determine which neighborhoods would be receiving the priority designation.
The priority zones were designated in February 2021: See link to the announcement underneath the priority zones map on the right for details on the zones and how they were selected. Much of the input our working group provided was used in the city's selection criteria!
The Green Roof Tax Abatement working group is currently in active dialogue with the NY State Assembly and Senate on a bill to address some of the revisions we requested back in 2019:
Remove the soil depth requirement completely so that more buildings will quality for the program
Increase the abatement rate to $10 per square foot in all of NYC outside of the priority zones
The legislative session ends in June and the Senate has not yet adapted a bill for these revisions, we are reaching out to various legislative offices to encourage forward momentum so that the bill can voted on before the end of the seesion
2013 - 2018
Because the tax abatement amount remained too low to truly cover the cost to install a green roof in NYC, participation in the program remained low through 2018. While there are some ~700 green roofs across the city, most were built without taking advantage of the abatement program.
The Department of Buildings, the agency that issued the abatements and permits, never even updated the abatement amount on their website to reflect the 2013 revisions. According to DOB only 7 projects were approved and completed under the program from 2013-2018.
In October of 2018, the NYC City Council proposed new sustainable rooftop legislation that would require new and retrofit roofs on most buildings in NYC to explore and pursue if deemed feasible, the installation of vegetated roof systems or solar panel or both. The proposed bill became part of a legislative package called the Climate Mobilization Act that was passed by the City Council in early 2019. The sustainable roof laws will likely incentivize more exploration and use of the Green Roof Tax Abatement in the years ahead.
In late 2012 as the GRTA program was nearing it's first renewal date for 2013, SWIM Program Manager, Rob Crauderoff, conducted extensive research in partnership with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities and several organizations and agencies in NYC to develop recommendations for a higher abatement rate and other important revisions that would help incentivize a higher participation rate in the program.
The 2012/13 research included many interviews with focus groups of green roof contractors to study the financial barriers that had, thus far, limited robust participation in the program. The research was shared widely with stakeholders and lawmakers, and an article on the topic was published in the Living Architecture Monitor along with a set of recommendations from SWIM Coalition for the 2013 revised and renewed program.
The program was renewed in 2013 for another 5 years (through 2018) and reflected some of our recommendations but not all:
The abatement amount increased from $4.50 to $5.23 (not the $9-14 we’d recommended)
The per project cap was increased to $200,000
Native plantings and urban ag on rooftops were included in the program
The abatement length remained at one year
The Dept. of Finance capped the annual program budget at $750,000 for 2013, 2014 and 2015 and $1,000,000 for 2016 -2018
In 2007, SWIM Coalition organized green roof professionals, policy makers,environmental justice organizations and environmental groups to develop a shared vision for a Green Roof Tax Abatement program in New York City.
The NYC Green Roof Tax Abatement was originally passed in June 2008. Although the value ($4.50/sf) supported by the NYS legislature was lower than the value recommended ($6.75/sf), the coalition supported this incentive to gain political traction with the City.