Bill’s costly re­hab job

New York Daily News - - OPINION -

In­vok­ing ris­ing seas and a Pres­i­dent so in cli­mate de­nial that he stormed off from the Paris ac­cord, Mayor de Bla­sio says he’ll force big­build­ing own­ers to sharply cut their build­ings’ planet-warm­ing emis­sions for the good of the city and globe. You could say New York’s mayor is tak­ing a game-chang­ing stand, as the first in the na­tion and likely the world to set such a sweep­ing man­date on pri­vate prop­erty hold­ers — if only there ex­isted yet a fea­si­ble or fair pro­gram to dis­cuss.

He hauls out a sledge­ham­mer to de­liver on his im­por­tant goal of re­duc­ing New York City’s green­house gas emis­sions 80% by 2050 — tar­get­ing build­ings as the source of most of the city’s out­put — with a great many de­tails yet to be de­cided.

To the City Coun­cil mem­bers who will have to sign off and are al­ready com­plain­ing de Bla­sio isn’t man­dat­ing enough: be very, very care­ful what you wish for.

Was only yes­ter­day that de Bla­sio reck­oned vol­un­tary ac­tions would get the job done — like re­plac­ing dirty old boil­ers with high-tech new ones when their time came due, sav­ing enough on en­ergy bills to pay for the up­grades.

Why the change? “Time was up,” pro­claimed de Bla­sio in an­nounc­ing the mea­sures Thurs­day. Strong words, and strange ones, from a mayor who had never set a dead­line sooner than 35 years hence.

Now, he in­tends to sic his sus­tain­abil­ity shop on all build­ings larger than 25,000 square feet, re­quir­ing the half of them that spew the most green­house gases to re­duce emis­sions un­til they’re as clean as the typ­i­cal build­ing in the greener half. If they fail, they’ll be on the hook for hefty fines.

That’s 14,500 build­ings in all, from hos­pi­tals to high-rise tow­ers, on the whole less well main­tained and more fi­nan­cially rick­ety than build­ings with the where­withal to have al­ready in­vested in state-of-the-art sys­tems.

That in­cludes oo­dles of af­ford­able hous­ing and low-mar­gin co-ops that can scarcely with­stand higher costs — bur­dened sud­denly with a new obli­ga­tion that just slightly greener build­ings need not shoul­der. Nei­ther will home­own­ers — in­clud­ing the mayor him­self — who hardly live lightly on this Earth.

Lo! De Bla­sio in­tends to roll out long-term, low­in­ter­est loans to help strapped prop­erty own­ers pay for the im­prove­ments — new win­dows, new in­su­la­tion, new heaters — to be paid back on prop­erty tax bills, while they make back the money in­vested in up­grades as they spend less money on fuel.

He could have and should have rolled out the fi­nanc­ing first, to iron out com­pli­ca­tions. With sav­ings in store, many own­ers will seize them vol­un­tar­ily.

Un­der a man­date, what’s more, noth­ing stops land­lords from pass­ing costs on to ten­ants in the form of rent in­creases — some­thing de Bla­sio says he’ll ask Albany to block for reg­u­lated units af­ter the next leg­isla­tive elec­tion, so con­fi­dent is he that Democrats will seize con­trol.

An ed­i­fice built of hopes upon wishes upon the very best of in­ten­tions.

The science of cli­mate change and ur­gency to act are un­de­ni­able. The case de Bla­sio has made so far for his re­sponse, bod­ing high cost to oth­ers, is still far from proven.

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