Explaining New York City's "City of Yes" Initiative: A Path to Carbon Neutrality

Explaining New York City's "City of Yes" Initiative: A Path to Carbon Neutrality

On December 11, 2023, New York City implemented the "City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality" initiative, which included 17 policies aimed at transforming the city’s energy use, building electrification, and sustainable infrastructure.

These changes are designed to facilitate the installation of solar panels, expand electric vehicle (EV) charging facilities, and modernize buildings to be more energy efficient.

The Statue of Liberty and New York City skyline.
New York City’s “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality” initiative is designed to facilitate the installation of solar panels, expand electric vehicle (EV) charging facilities, and modernize buildings to be more energy efficient.

“New York City is a ‘City of Yes,’ and this historic proposal will pave the way for a more sustainable future,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a press release. “By modernizing our city’s zoning code, we have taken a bold step forward in fighting climate change, while delivering cleaner air, lower energy costs, smarter waste management, and better access to EV technologies to New Yorkers across the city. We are grateful to our partners in the New York City Council for their support on this once-in-a-generation initiative and look forward to working together to advance our next two ‘City of Yes’ proposals to build a more equitable economy and combat the housing crisis.”

Solar Energy Expansion

A significant aspect of the initiative is the expansion of solar energy use. New zoning changes will open up over 8,500 acres of parking lots across the city for potential solar panel installations. This includes allowing solar parking canopies up to 15 feet high over all parking areas. Additionally, building owners will be able to add solar energy systems on roofs, even if a building exceeds the permitted height in its respective zoning district.

These changes affect both sloped and flat roofs. The height allowance for sloped roofs will increase by 60 inches to accommodate a broader range of solar panel orientations, while flat-roof solar energy systems can now be installed up to 15 feet high. These adjustments aim to maximize the potential for solar energy capture across the city.

Building Electrification and Retrofits

The initiative also addresses restrictions that have hindered building electrification and retrofit efforts. By expanding rooftop and yard allowances, the city aims to meet the increased need for outdoor electrified equipment such as heat pumps. This will facilitate the installation of components necessary for building modernization, ensuring that properties can meet current energy efficiency standards.

Updates to the "Zone Green" floor area exemptions are included to ensure better-than-code performance. The framework for accessory mechanical equipment, including HVAC units and fire protection systems, has been revised to allow equipment to cover up to 50% of buildings to a height of 15 feet. These changes support electric retrofits and other energy infrastructure upgrades.

EV Charging Infrastructure

Another component of the "City of Yes" initiative is the expansion of EV charging infrastructure. The zoning changes will more than double the commercially zoned land available for EV charging facilities, making over 400 million extra square feet of space available for these installations. This expansion aims to accelerate the deployment of EV charging stations throughout the city.

Energy Storage Systems

The initiative also includes zoning updates for energy storage systems. Previously classified as electricity utility substations, energy storage systems were limited in implementation and size within commercial and manufacturing districts. The new zoning categorizes these systems under the broader "energy infrastructure equipment" use case, allowing them to be used in residential districts on sites up to 10,000 square feet and without size limits in commercial and manufacturing districts.

“Our city – and our world – is facing a climate emergency, and these urgent reforms show that the city is rising to meet the moment,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce, Maria Torres-Springer. “New York is a ‘City of Yes,’ and that means yes to solar panels, energy storage, and green infrastructure in every neighborhood…”

Energy storage systems will now be subject to screening requirements on roofs and certain open areas. These systems are marked as an accessory use if the energy storage system does not exceed 24 hours of the primary use’s peak electrical load.

A GPRS Project Manager holding a tablet while looking at a Matterport device.
GPRS’ 3D laser scanning services combined with the abilities of our in-house Mapping & Modeling Department allow us to visualize your below and aboveground data in whatever way best suits your needs.

Expected Impact

The "City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality" initiative is expected to facilitate environmentally friendly retrofits for over 50,000 buildings and create more than 400 million extra square feet of space for EV chargers. These policies are designed to expand access to solar and energy storage, accelerate building modernization, and deploy EV charging stations across New York City.

Implementation and Future Steps

The "City of Yes" initiative sets a framework for integrating advanced energy solutions into urban planning. By addressing barriers to clean energy adoption and infrastructure modernization, the initiative aims to contribute to the city's carbon neutrality goals.

As these policies take effect, they will serve as a model for other urban areas looking to address climate change and promote sustainability through strategic zoning changes and regulatory updates. The initiative illustrates how urban planning can support significant progress towards carbon neutrality and sustainable development.

Prevent Subsurface Damage During All Projects

Whether you’re installing an EV charger in a grocery store parking lot or converting an apartment complex in New York City to solar power, successful infrastructure projects of all shapes and sizes begin with proper planning.

GPRS offers a suite of subsurface damage prevention, existing condition documentation, and construction & facilities project management services designed to help ensure the success of your next project. From utility locating and precision concrete scanning & imaging, to video pipe inspections and pinpoint leak detection, our SIM and NASSCO-certified Project Managers have the training, knowledge, and experience to help you mitigate the risk of subsurface damage. And our 3D laser scanning services combined with the abilities of our in-house Mapping & Modeling Department allow us to visualize your below and aboveground data in whatever way best suits your needs.

All this field-verified data is at your fingertips 24/7 thanks to SiteMap® (patent pending), GPRS’ proprietary project & facility management application that provides accurate existing condition documentation to protect your assets and people.

From skyscrapers to sewer lines, GPRS Intelligently Visualizes The Built World® to keep your projects on time, on budget, and safe.

What can we help you visualize?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is GPRS able to distinguish between each type of underground utility which is located?

In most situations, we can identify the utility in question without any problems, although it is not always possible to determine what type of utility is present. When this happens, we attempt to trace the utility to a valve, meter, control box, or other signifying markers to determine the type of utility buried.

How is GPR used to identify tendons vs. rebar in a post-tensioned slab?

In post-tensioned structures, we typically find one mat of support rebar near the base of the slab. This mat is generally consistently spaced and remains at a constant elevation. Post tension cables are generally found above this support mat and “draped” throughout the rest of the structure. The elevation of the cable is usually high near the beams and column lines and drapes lower through the span between beams and column lines. Knowledge of these structural differences allow us to accurately differentiate between components. Our Project Managers will leave you feeling confident in our findings and in your ability to drill or cut without issue.

What are the Benefits of Underground Utility Mapping?

Having an updated and accurate map of your subsurface infrastructure reduces accidents, budget overruns, change orders, and project downtime caused by dangerous and costly subsurface damage.