Tom Esposito and Joseph Novella are just two of the contractors currently helping New York City buildings make the transition from fossil fuels to electricity.  

With Local Law 97 mandating drastic reductions in carbon emissions in the next few years, heat pumps are being installed to replace old boilers and air conditioning units.

“I definitely think that the city can do this. It’s not beyond our capabilities. We are the greatest city in the world. This is not something that is not overcome for sure,” said Esposito, president of VRF Solutions.

What You Need To Know

  • The Adams’ administration is offering free guidance in a process that could be daunting for some building owners

  • Contractors all over the city are already installing energy-efficiency systems, including heat pumps

  • “There’s a whole host of incentives that are available. Building owners have to act,” said DEP Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala

“Look, the technology is there, there’s no technological barriers to electrifying New York City,” added Novella, partner at VRF Solutions.

Local Law 97 covers about 50,000 commercial and residential buildings over 25,000 square feet. Starting next year, carbon caps will go into effect and grow stricter through 2049 with the goal of zero emissions by mid-century.

“The reality is that if everybody doesn’t do their part, we’ll never get anywhere near where we need to be,” said Paul Reale, director at CUNY’s Building Performance Lab.

Some New Yorkers are being proactive and have started to work on their properties.

“You really need to talk to somebody who understands your building and understands the way forward for you that would be the cheapest for you to implement all of these new regulations,” said Eric Einstein, president of the board at 111 4th Avenue in Manhattan.

The city is providing assistance through NYC Accelerator and a website that allows building owners to check whether their properties will be facing fines under the new regulations.

Some of these climate-friendly improvements can qualify for federal and state programs, through grants and rebates.

“Grants for NYSERDA allowed us to electrify most of the heat using heat pumps, and that really almost paid for the entire cost of that switch,” Einstein said.

Though costly upfront, experts believe these updates will pay off in the long run.

“Many or most buildings are going to save money under what is required under this law, because increased energy efficiency cuts bills,” said Pete Sikora, director of climate campaigns at New York Communities for Change.

It’s still unclear how the city will be enforcing these new regulations, and what kind of leniency will be offered if owners show good-faith efforts or purchase renewable energy credits.

“There’s a whole host of incentives that are available. Building owners have to act. If they are acting, our intention is to take that into account. Our goal is not to penalize but our goal is very much to see climate mobilization,” said Rit Aggarwala, commissioner at the Department of Environmental Protection.

Scientists agree that massive reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are needed as quickly as possible in order to avoid a climate catastrophe before the end of this century.

Cities like New York are especially vulnerable.

“If worldwide we don’t deal with this level of pollution, places like New York City will become nonviable. Ten feet of sea level is not something the city can survive. That’s total flooding, that’s heat waves, extreme weather, burying the city in a climate catastrophe,” Sikora said.