New York’s green roof program needs reform

Despite incentives, few owners add vegetative roofs.

August 28, 2018 |

A property tax abatement of $100,000 hasn’t enticed many New York City building owners to green up their roofs.

Only seven roofs have been granted the abatement in the program's nine years. Today, green roofs cover only 1 in 1,000 buildings across the city’s five boroughs.

The benefits of green roofs—insulative qualities and the ability to soak up stormwater, reducing runoff by more than 50%—make the city’s failed policy worth reforming, advocates say. The program offers just a $5.23 abatement for each square foot of vegetation, about half the minimum that experts say would spur property owners to act.

Few owners have applied for the credit, so the city has spent nowhere near the $1 million per year authorized by state regulators. Thus, raising the incentive may be worthwhile.

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