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New York's Green Roof Tax Abatement Program: Next Steps

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

The city's ~39,680 acres of rooftops pose a unique opportunity for getting NYC closer to the goal of managing the first inch of stormwater on 10% of the impervious surface within the City's combined sewer area with green infrastructure by 2030.* Nearly half of the impervious area the city has targeted for the 2030 goal is on private property. The Green Roof Tax Abatement program incentivizes the installation of green roofs on privately owned property.

The latest iteration of the green roof tax abatement now includes a higher abatement amount of $15 per sq. foot for properties in designated priority zones and $5.23 per sq. foot in all other areas of the city. **

In January 2021, the NYC Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability designated priority community districts for the July 19, 2019 - June 30, 2024 period of the Green Roof Tax Abatement program. Here is a link to the details about the priority areas. Criteria for the priority districts are based on the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Heat Vulnerability Index, analysis of heat-related mortality based on neighborhood characteristics, such as but not limited to green space, poverty, daytime summer surface temperature, and households reporting air conditioning. Selection criteria also include percent of land area within a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Priority Area as designated by The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

SWIM is part of a Green Roof Tax Abatement working group, coordinated by the Nature Conservancy, that has informed the most recent renewal and revisions for the program when it expired in 2018 . We submitted written and oral testimony for a January public hearing to inform the priority district rule making. You can find our testimony here. The working group still has another round of recommendations to convey to State lawmakers. Stay tuned to SWIM's website and e-blasts for updates on our actions.

Ideally, over the next decade, greening NYC's rooftops will be easier to accomplish now that we have two new sustainable roof laws and an improved green roof tax abatement incentive. As we move forward it will be very important to have a comprehensive inventory of:

  • all of the city’s rooftops: our friends at The Nature Conservancy have started the ball rolling with an initial inventory of rooftops in their recent Green Roof mapping report! ;

  • a count of how many of the city's rooftops would be required, under the new sustainable roof laws, to install either a vegetated or solar system or a combination of the two;

  • a tally of how many rooftop retrofits applications are typically submitted per year;

  • and a running list of how many new buildings are slated to be built

  • a clear and consistent monitoring system of the vegetated rooftops so that the benefits of each roof can be measured and documented

___________________________________________ *Under the current CSO consent order between the City and the State, the NY State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has mandated that NYC manage the 1st inch of rainfall on 10 % of the impervious surfaces (~8,000 acres) in the combined sewer area of the city with Green Infrastructure practices by 2030. SWIM was instrumental in encouraging the inclusion of GI solutions in the Consent Order.

**While the latest revision to the program is a positive step forward, we hope that, in the future, the abatement amount for properties citywide will be higher. Here is a link to our full blog post on the proposed program renewal in 2019. SWIM has long called for a higher abatement amount that would truly cover the cost of installing a green roof in NYC. See our historical timeline of involvement with the program here.

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Jul 09, 2021

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