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New York City’s Anti-Pollution Law Comes Under Fire

New York City’s Local Law 97, which was initially passed in 2019 as a part of the Climate Mobilization Act, was a massive first step towards reducing the emissions of NYC buildings. Now, it is at the center of heated debates among city officials, building owners, and residents alike.

A picture of New York City with smog, featuring the Empire State Building and parts of Midtown.
Local Law 97 aims to cut emissions from large buildings in New York City. Meeting compliance standards challenges building owners, who are facing multi-million dollar upgrades to their properties. (Zack Miles/Unsplash)

Local Law 97 established strict emissions reduction reforms for NYC buildings in order to achieve a 40 percent reduction by 2030, eventually reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. It set a series of check-in deadlines to reduce emissions by certain amounts, starting in 2024. Building owners can comply with regulations by upgrading certain aspects of their properties to become more energy efficient.

It is important that all building owners comply with this law, as large buildings contribute to a whopping 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in NYC. Although the majority of buildings are set to be in compliance by the 2024 deadline, there is still a significant portion not on track to meet that deadline.

In a statement about Local Law 97, Mayor Adams said, “Every part of the ‘Getting 97 Done’ plan builds towards one core goal: reversing the effects of climate change. The data shows that our administration’s efforts are already working, and we’re going to continue moving forward. Building owners are learning every day that complying with Local Law 97 and going green will save green, and we are addressing climate change from all angles in New York City.”

One side of the opposition comes from building owners, as many will have to take out multi-million dollar loans to fund these projects or face large fines for non-compliance. Many feel as though they have not had enough time to tackle the large task. According to The New York Times, upgrades like these are extremely costly. “Large co-ops like Glen Oaks Village in Queens will have to spend millions to comply with the emissions targets of Local Law 97, or face stiff fees,” the Times reported. With costly measures such as these, there may be a possibility of a rent increase as building owners attempt to recoup their losses.

Surprisingly, those who are in favor of the law also have their reservations about it — many feel that the restrictions are not harsh enough. The law allows for owners who demonstrate good faith (by beginning the necessary upgrades to buildings), to get a two-year extension past 2024. Activists complain such an extension is unnecessary and will delay important reforms.

Local Law 97 remains a critical step towards NYC becoming carbon neutral and combating climate change. Beyond the city-wide impact, this law may become a model for other cities or countries to base their own reforms on. As NYC continues to pass more “pro-green” legislation, it will build a more sustainable future for all of its residents.

How can you help?

Extra readings:

Informing yourself is the most essential step in becoming an activist and fighting for what you believe is right. Along with these articles, feel free to check out the articles in the citation section of this article.

Extra steps you can take:

  1. Writing for Kids Fight Climate Change: If you are interested in making climate change news more accessible, you should consider joining us! Check out this link: Join the Team | Kids Fight Climate Change: Youth Climate Education

  2. Volunteering at advocacy groups. VolunteerMatch is a great resource to find volunteer opportunities, virtual and in-person. Check out this link: VolunteerMatch

  3. If neither of those options applies to you, there are still ways to raise awareness! Simply by sharing articles such as this one, you are doing your part to spread important climate information. That is activism.


Howard, Hilary. “Local Law 97, Which Limits Pollution from NYC Buildings, Faces Backlash.” The New York Times, September 15, 2023.

Kvetenadze, Téa. “NYC Climate Law Rule Proposal Would Give Building Owners Leeway in Emissions Compliance — Environmental Groups Angered.” New York Daily News, September 14, 2023.

The Official Website of the City of New York. “Mayor Adams Launches ‘Getting 97 Done,’ Comprehensive Mobilization Strategy To Reduce Building Emiss,” September 12, 2023.


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