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Bigger Tax Break for NYC Green Roofs

Green roofs lower heating and cooling costs by increasing a building's energy efficiency. (victor217/Adobe Stock)
Green roofs lower heating and cooling costs by increasing a building's energy efficiency. (victor217/Adobe Stock)
August 14, 2019

NEW YORK – Some building owners in New York City now have added incentive to create a green space on their roof.

A green-roof tax abatement has been available in the city for several years, but few owners have taken advantage of it. In an effort to change that, a new state law tripled the tax break from $5 to $15 per square foot in community districts where sewers overflow during rainstorms and that lack green spaces.

It also extends the existing tax abatement through July 2024, said Emily Nobel Maxwell, director of The Nature Conservancy's New York City program.

"The green-roof tax abatement offers an opportunity for landowners to install green roofs," she said, "which will in turn help make our city more flood resistant, more heat resistant and more biodiverse."

Maxwell said putting a green roof on a building can be expensive, but the tax abatement can help defray the cost of installation and maintenance. She noted that green roofs not only absorb stormwater but also have insulating properties that increase a building's energy efficiency and cut down on heating and cooling costs.

"Green roofs do show a return on investment over time," she said, "so if that investment is made, there are certainly benefits to the property owner."

Maxwell added that the increased energy efficiency also helps reduce carbon emissions. Other environmentally beneficial roof treatments include solar-panel installations or reflective coatings, and Maxwell said having a green roof doesn't rule out other options.

"If you combine a green roof with solar," she said, "you can get the benefits of a green roof; and the solar panels will run more efficiently because of the cooling benefit of the green roof."

Maxwell said the next step will be for the city to determine which neighborhoods will be eligible for the new, higher green-roof tax abatements.

The text of the green-roofs bill is online at nysenate.gov.

Disclosure: The Nature Conservancy in New York - Long Island contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Andrea Sears/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - NY