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City Has a Skeleton Staff to Enforce Compliance With Local Law 97

Local Law 97, Department of Buildings inspectors, co-op and condo boards, building carbon emissions.

The Department of Buildings has 11 inspectors to review carbon-emission reports from 50,000 buildings.

Feb. 5, 2024

Some 50,000 large New York City buildings, including thousands of co-ops and condos, will be required to comply with the city's sweeping climate law, Local Law 97, which went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year. And how many inspectors does the Department of Buildings (DOB) have on staff to make sure those buildings are meeting their carbon-emission caps?


Watchdogs and experts say that's not nearly enough to implement the rules, Gothamist reports. The 11 staffers have a daunting workload that will only grow as Local Law 97’s requirements are phased in over the coming years. The bulk of the work done by the DOB team dedicated to Local Law 97 involves reviewing and auditing reports filed by co-op and condo boards and landlords, then pursuing enforcement when necessary.

The good news: under the carbon emission caps that went into effect on Jan. 1, only 10% of large buildings are out of compliance, according to the DOB. But analysis by the city found that the majority of buildings are not in compliance with benchmarks that go into effect in 2030, when the rules become more stringent.

“When you look at the number of buildings and all the paperwork and substantive work that needs to be done, it could take a small army to make sure that we get this done,” says Raya Salter, an environmental lawyer on the state's Climate Action Council. “We've got a climate bomb that's ticking, and we've got billions of dollars coming out of the federal government and that clock is ticking too. We need for our local officials to be focused on this."

Don't hold your breath. The DOB has been understaffed for years, and there are currently seven unfilled positions on the squad dedicated to carrying out Local Law 97, according to a DOB spokesperson. But the agency says competition from the private sector has made it difficult to fill certain positions requiring architects and engineers with backgrounds in sustainability.

Pete Sikora, climate and inequality campaigns director at New York Communities for Change, is not feeling optimistic. “I don’t know how they seriously plan to evaluate, judge and then watchdog the implementation of all of those [decarbonization] plans that would also take a lot of talented staffing and follow up,” Sikora says. “I think they’ll just rubber stamp the plans they get and not be able to seriously evaluate them.”

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