financing stormwater management
We cannot make our waters fishable or swimmable if we are managing stormwater only on public land. Stormwater must be managed on private properties as well. To do this, both incentives and regulations are necessary.
New York City currently has two incentive-based programs for green infrastructure: Green Roof Tax Abatement and Green Infrastructure Grant Program. In addition, the NYC Building Code was amended several years ago with a new performance standard to reduce peak flow into the sewer system from new construction and redevelopment projects.
Green Roof Tax Abatement and GI Grants
In 2008, SWIM successfully campaigned for a green roof tax abatement, which now provides a $5.23 per square foot property-tax abatement up to $100,000 for most private building owners. The abatement law was renewed in 2013 with some amendments. Unfortunately, some of the more significant recommendations for amendments (such as much higher abatement value, amortizing the incentives over multiple years, etc.) put forth by SWIM were not adopted. To date, participation rates in the program are very low.
Another financial incentive for New Yorkers to install stormwater management infrastructure is through the NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program. Private property owners in the combined sewer service area may apply for a grant to install GI on their property if they meet other necessary requirements, such as a 20-year commitment* and a design and construction minimum of $35,000.
Much of New York City is made up of smaller residential buildings that are renter-occupied rather than owner-occupied. Owners and residents may be looking for small-scale opportunities to invest in green infrastructure. But for these buildings and properties, there are currently no incentives.
To maximize the benefit of green infrastructure for stormwater management, urban heat island mitigation, air quality improvement and biodiversity, an integrated, distributed greening approach is essential. That's why SWIM Coalition advocates for better stormwater management incentives for properties of all sizes and all types of ownership.
In particular, SWIM Coalition is interested in restructuring the way we pay for drinking, waste and stormwater. New Yorkers currently pay a single fee that is based on water consumption. For every $1.00 of potable water consumed, ratepayers are charged $1.59 for sewer service - waste and stormwater - regardless of how much stormwater is generated. This means a parking lot with one bathroom pays less than a typical household, even if the site generates hundreds of thousands of gallons of stormwater runoff every year.
SWIM Coalition advocates for an equitable rate structure that ensures affordability for the City’s most vulnerable ratepayers and distributes the burden of stormwater management in a fair manner. SWIM Coalition recommends separating the stormwater and the wastewater in the current sewer charge. The wastewater charge would still be based on water consumption, but the stormwater charge would be based on the impervious area on the property. Properties with higher ratios of impervious surfaces would be charged more than properties with more permeable surfaces that manage stormwater runoff. These surfaces would include green roofs, rain gardens, permeable pavers, and other green infrastructure techniques that capture stormwater onsite.
*The 20 year commitment is a “Declaration of Restrictive Covenant”. The owner of the property must sign this contract to ensure that the green infrastructure will be maintained on the property for 20 years. If the property is sold within the 20 year commitment, the new property owner must agree to maintain the green infrastructure for the remainder of the contract.
SWIM Coalition Advocates for
better stormwater management incentives for properties of all sizes and tenants
a stormwater fee that splits the sewer portion of the bill into stormwater and wastewater charges
a stormwater charge based on a property's impervious area, incentivizing stormwater management