Councilman proposes to limit commercial lighting
Councilman Donovan Richards wants the city to turn out the lights.
In legislation that will be introduced today, Richards will seek to limit the number of lights kept on in commercial buildings at night. The bill has a series of exceptions for security reasons, seasonal displays and occupancy.
But Richards, chairman of the Council's environmental protection committee, said the millions of lights kept on in the city that never sleeps are wasting energy and exacerbating a global emissions crisis.
"The primary focus of the Lights Out Bill is energy conservation," Richards said in an email to Capital. "With a focus on unnecessary lighting, particularly in non-residential, retail and other similarly used buildings, this is an integral part of the effort to reduce carbon emissions city-wide."
That effort—an 80 percent reduction in city emissions by 2050—will require deep cuts in the city's buildings emissions, which account for up to 80 percent of New York's carbon profile.
Richards' office could not provide specific numbers on how much energy his plan would save, but the councilman pointed to another iconic city that has taken action. In 2012, Paris enacted similar legislation, and Richards says that it was on a trip to the City of Light that he got his idea.
"While in Paris, I had the opportunity to connect with my counterparts in local government," Richards said. "During our conversations, I learned that the city made this important change in 2012 and witnessed firsthand what an iconic but somewhat darker city might look like."
Paris, which has roughly a quarter of New York City's population, estimates it is saving 250,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, or the equivalent use of 750,000 households.
The type of space targeted by Richards' legislation is Class B office buildings, New York's more modest, older commercial buildings. The city estimates there are about 150 million square feet of office space in that category, representing about a third of the city's office space.
The Paris legislation did not come without protest and New York is likely to be no different.
"I imagine that some members of the tourist and retail industry and, to a certain extent, public safety may raise some concerns," Richards said. "Iconic landmark locations and buildings and zoned areas will be provided with exemptions in the bill. Additionally, small stores and businesses will be excluded from the provisions and waivers are also available where needed to address safety concerns."
The legislation is set to be introduced at today's 1:30 p.m. stated meeting.