Community Board 2 is all for energy-saving “green” buildings in Greenwich Village, but the board balked at the prospect of 55-foot-tall wind turbines on neighborhood rooftops.
The board included several conditions in its Feb. 23 endorsement of a City Planning Department proposal to amend the existing zoning text to reduce some impediments to green technology.
The proposed amendment on which C.B. 2 withheld approval calls for allowing wind turbines up to 55 feet tall on all buildings more than 100 feet tall provided they are set back 10 feet.
The board resolution said the proposed 55 feet of additional height above the zoned height limit was “excessive,” and noted that there were no limits in the proposal on the number of wind turbines allowed on a single rooftop.
The rejected amendment also proposed that atop all buildings on waterfront blocks in commercial and manufacturing zones, wind turbines would be allowed up to half the height of the building, or 55 feet, whichever is less.
The C.B. 2 resolution called for dropping provisions allowing wind turbines on rooftops.
Despite the C.B. 2 assertion that it supports the goal of making the city more energy efficient, the board was concerned about unintended consequences. The board was also worried that the proposal does not have “sufficient provisions to protect the character and quality of life of our neighborhoods.”
The proposed wind turbine setback of 10 feet was not enough to reduce visibility of the turbines from the street, the resolution said.
The resolution also called on City Planning to include community board review into the approval process for specific substantial projects. Although all “zone green” projects would be subject to existing city Landmarks Preservation Commission and Department of Buildings review and regulation, the board was concerned that the amendment lacked guidelines to “ensure that the built fabric of the city is not compromised as we try to move toward energy efficiency.”
The C.B. 2 resolution questioned whether there was sufficient Buildings Department resources and funds for review and enforcement of the department’s rules. Noise from wind turbines was another concern, the resolution said.
David Reck, chairperson of the C.B. 2 Land Use and Business Development Committee and an architect who favors green buildings, said later that he agreed with much of the C.B 2 response to the proposed green zone text amendment.
“But the parts concerned with aesthetics don’t belong in the resolution because the city zoning text doesn’t address such things,” Reck said.
Nevertheless, aesthetics were on the minds of many community board members on Feb. 23.
Other parts of the proposed amendment – including up to 16 inches of added exterior insulation, sun control slats, awnings, solar panels and air conditioning condenser units – would likely have very negative aesthetic impacts, obscuring details of building facades, according to Doris Diether, a longtime C.B. 2 member.
Despite the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s jurisdiction over designated buildings and historic districts, the green amendments could change buildings on blocks adjacent to historic districts, Diether said.
“What about areas that we’ve been trying to get designated, like the South Village?” she added.
Diether also criticized an amendment proposal that would allow greenhouses up to 25 feet tall on existing buildings. “Greenhouses might be O.K., but 25 feet is much too high. That’s like a two-and-a-half-story building,” Diether said.
The Historic Districts Council, a citywide advocate for historic neighborhoods, has similar concerns.
“It’s hard to argue with motherhood, apple pie or green buildings,” the council’s statement said. “But it should be noted that New York City is already one of the most energy-efficient places on the planet. Preservationists don’t disagree with the intent of the amendments, but find it incomplete, with an odd bias against simple, time-tested, low-tech solutions,” the statement said.
H.D.C. said it was concerned that retrofitting existing buildings with external insulation creates the potential for massive alterations of building exteriors that could negatively alter the nature of such buildings.
The council’s statement said that applying exterior insulation “is probably the MOST expensive and inefficient way to improve thermal performance.”
The amendments go next to City Planning for a hearing and final draft, but there is no timetable on the City Planning phase of the review. The City Council has the final decision.
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