NYCHA Sustainability Agenda: 2019 Progress Report

Cover of NYCHA Sustainability Agenda featuring a mother and daughter on a NYC playground

NYCHA’s Sustainability Agenda, released on Earth Day 2016, is both a roadmap toward 2025 and an invitation to residents, housing and environmental advocates, community-based organizations, sister agencies, and educational institutions to work together to create a sustainable and resilient city.

Sustainability Goals

For the latest updates on these sustainability objectives, visit each goal to explore our progress.

Goal 1: Achieve short-term financial stability and diversify funding for the long term

Strategy S1: Strategy S1: Attract investments for capital improvements Energy performance contracts (EPC) and private capital

NYCHA set a goal of securing $300 million in EPC funding by 2025 and is on track to exceed this goal as early as 2021.

Weatherization: NYCHA set a goal of securing $30 million in Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) incentives by 2025 and continues to meet its annual goals. To date, NYCHA’s WAP contracts total $9.7 million.

Strategy S2: Raise revenues through clean and distributed energy projects

NYCHA is well on its way toward meeting its Renew300 commitment of 25 MW of renewable energy capacity by 2025. In 2018 NYCHA awarded its first commercial-scale solar development sites, and also awarded sites for solar development on smaller buildings to five teams through its ACCESSolar program. These sites are currently undergoing design and will begin construction in late 2019. Combined, these projects will provide 12 MW of renewable capacity. Any associated revenues are dedicated to the developments hosting the solar installations.

Goal 2: Operate as an effective and efficient landlord

Strategy S3: Create healthy indoor environments

Implement a comprehensive mold response initiative: In April 2018, NYCHA agreed to a full rollout of the Mold Busters program Authority-wide to train NYCHA staff to find the root causes of mold and eliminate them. Since then, NYCHA has adopted a new standard procedure that requires the use of new tools (thermometer, borescope, anemometer, and protimeter) to determine root causes, and a new quality assurance process that verifies that the mold condition has been fixed. NYCHA has trained more than 1,000— out a planned 2,700— front line employees in building science, inspection, and remediation, and is on track to complete training all staff by the end of 2019.

Reduce exposure to secondhand smoke at home: Smoke-Free NYCHA was launched in 2018 with the goal of creating healthier homes for residents and healthier working environments for employees by reducing exposure to secondhand smoke and providing support to residents and employees who smoke and want to quit. Effective July 2018, smoking is not allowed in any indoor area (including apartments) and within 25 feet of NYCHA buildings. During implementation, NYCHA engaged over 21,000 residents, updated the leases of all households, and trained over 700 Property Management staff members. The Health Department produced and distributed NYCHA is Going Smoke-Free palm cards in four languages to promote awareness of the policy change, dangers of secondhand smoke exposure, and where to go for help. NYCHA has worked closely with young adult residents helping to lead the dialogue about the policy’s health goals. In 2019 NYCHA is installing approximately 8,000 Smoke-Free signs that also feature information on how smokers who want to quit can access support.

Strategy S4: Efficiently provide comfortable and reliable heat and hot water

Smart building technology: Ten developments currently have modernized Building Management Systems (BMS) that incorporate indoor temperature sensors to control heat based on indoor rather than outdoor temperatures. NYCHA is on track to provide modern BMS to 44 developments by December 2020. Also, the first four building technology firms selected through a 2017 NYCHA/MOTI Call for Innovations and the NYCHA Tech Pilot competition completed pilot installations of smart building technology in several NYCHA buildings. Findings are expected in 2019.

Thoroughly test and tune building systems regularly: NYCHA’s Heating Management Services Department performs an annual heating plant overhaul to avoid equipment failure. During the “summer overhaul” NYCHA staff cleans, lubricates, adjusts, repairs, and replaces components before they fail. NYCHA recently revised the overhaul process to improve documentation of the process (e.g. taking photographs of conditions pre and post), incorporate new tools such as a fire tube cleaning machine, and include a systematic quality assurance inspection that follows the NYC Local Law 87 retro-commissioning checklist. Between April and October 2018, 97% of NYCHA’s heating plants were overhauled.

Expand operational capacity: In 2018, NYCHA began exploring the use of third-party managers at several developments to reduce labor burden and improve heating reliability. As of April 2019, 42 developments have been transitioned to third-party management. NYCHA’s Heating Services Management Department has simultaneously reorganized to provide 24-hour coverage, which has reduced heating plant recovery time from an average of 29 hours in 2018 to 9 hours in 2019, and reduced the percentage of outages lasting longer than 24 hours from 39% to 5%.

Strategy S5: Improve water management

Install water meters in all developments: DEP has completed 90% of the planned meter installations at 500 NYCHA buildings. All buildings are expected to have water meters by May 2019.

Understand the patterns of water consumption: NYCHA will be conducting an end use study at South Jamaica Houses I and II using a portion of the NYSERDA Cleaner Greener Communities grant received in 2018. NYCHA plans to sample 142 apartments out of a total 1,048.

Install water-efficient fixtures: Through EPCs and WAP, NYCHA has installed over 3,800 low-flow shower heads and 6,200 faucet aerators since April 2018, for an estimated annual consumption savings of 39.6 million gallons (about as much water as 700 New Yorkers consume in a year). During that same time, NYCHA also purchased nearly 3,000 high efficiency toilets (1.28 gpf) and ultra-high efficiency (< 1 gpf) toilets for installation. An additional 472 low flush toilets were installed as part of DEP’s Toilet Replacement Program, which ends in May 2019. NYCHA will continue to focus on maximizing the naturally occurring unit turnovers to deploy additional water saving toilets.

Strategy S6: Adopt a comprehensive waste management plan

Waste Management Plan: In April 2019 NYCHA will release the NextGeneration NYCHA Waste Management Plan, a comprehensive plan to make NYCHA buildings and grounds visibly clean and free of pests by 2025. The plan is the result of more than two years of intensive outreach, planning, and consensus building within NYCHA and with DSNY and residents.

Expand recycling infrastructure: In support of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Zero Waste” initiative, which calls for the reduction of the City’s solid waste by 90% by 2030, NYCHA installed cardboard balers at four developments in 2018 to facilitate cardboard recycling. NYCHA has also enrolled four additional developments (total 13) in the Department of Sanitation’s e-cycleNYC program since April 2018. Finally, as part of its new Waste Management Plan, NYCHA will work to improve metal, glass, plastic, and paper diversion rates and explore textile and bulk waste recycling.

Goal 3: (Re)build, expand, and preserve public and affordable housing

Strategy S7: Adopt sustainability standards

In 2018, NYCHA began incorporating minimum sustainability requirements in its Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT) RFPs. The standards are designed to offer flexibility to PACT developers by providing several different compliance paths.

Strategy S8: Eliminate roof, façade, and plumbing leaks

In January 2017, Mayor de Blasio announced that the City will invest $1 billion to replace roofs at more than 700 NYCHA buildings.

As of 2019, roof improvements are currently planned for 952 buildings. Eighty-six roofs have been replaced, with another 26 developments in the construction or design phase. A total of $357 million is allocated for roof and leak repair in 2019.

Strategy S9: Retrofit master-planned developments

NYCHA has completed LED lighting upgrades across 27 developments. Over 55,000 LEDs were installed since April 2018. Construction is underway in 50 developments in four EPCs, all slated to complete by December 2020. In Spring 2019, NYCHA plans to issue the third solicitation to Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) to develop the next EPCs in the series of EPCs announced by the Mayor in 2015.

Additionally, boiler plant and tank room replacements for eleven developments are in progress under the $200 million Mayoral Heating Initiative of 2018. Designs were completed in 2018 and construction contracts are scheduled to be awarded in 2019. To improve reliability and efficiency, NYCHA will be separating domestic hot water from the heating boilers.

Strategy S10: Retrofit scattered-site developments

NYCHA continues to make progress leveraging WAP grants to retrofit its small multifamily buildings. In the April 2018- March 2019 program year, 820 apartments in eleven NYCHA developments received upgrades for a total value of $3.5 million.

Strategy S11: Build green infrastructure

Install green infrastructure (GI) at NYCHA developments in the combined sewershed: DEP completed the installation of GI at Edenwald Houses in spring 2018. Since then, preliminary or full designs have been completed for 30 additional developments. Construction is expected to begin on these projects in 2019. DEP’s NYCHA GI program (an approximately $100 million investment) will help prevent hazardous pollutants from entering New York City’s waterways.

Manage stormwater at developments affected by Hurricane Sandy: GI projects are underway at two Brooklyn developments impacted by Sandy. DEP is investing in several GI projects at NYCHA’s Gowanus Houses, including four underground stormwater storage and infiltration chambers, and one bio-retention area. At Red Hook, DEP has funded a green roof that will be built on a new heat and hot water plant. Construction on that plant will begin before the end of 2019.

Cloudburst climate adaptive green infrastructure: NYCHA and DEP completed the first year of work on a NYSERDA Cleaner Greener Communities grant-funded project at South Jamaica Houses I and II. The NYCHA project is the first pilot under DEP’s Cloudburst climate adaptation program targeting management of stormwater from high-intensity rains. NYCHA led community-based planning for the siting of a sunken basketball court that provides water retention during high intensity storms. The grant project also includes water conservation, food waste management, and a water end use study.

Strategy S12: Incorporate climate change resiliency into capital planning

In November 2018 and April 2019, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, and NYCHA hosted visioning charrettes to explore how NYCHA can respond to the climate challenges of 2050.

Anticipating the need to protect residents from the health effects of high heat, NYCHA also developed a pilot program to provide energy-efficient, smart AC units at one development, and is designing a test installation of air-source heat pumps to provide both heating and cooling in another.

Goal 4: Engage residents and connect them to best-in-class social services

Strategy S13: Support resident- and community-led sustainability

Promote healthy food access through resident-led urban agriculture: Farms at NYCHA was launched in 2016 and has spurred the creation of six new farms to expand healthy food access, provide youth workforce and leadership development, and promote sustainable and connected public housing communities. The most recent farm was built in spring 2018 at Mariner’s Harbor Houses, joining other farm sites: Red Hook Houses, Bay View Houses, Howard Houses, Wagner Houses, and Forest Houses. Over the past three seasons, farms have grown and distributed more than 56,700 pounds of organic produce to NYCHA residents and collected for composting over 13,800 pounds of food scraps from residents.

Support resident-driven sustainability projects: In September 2017, NYCHA launched the Ideas Marketplace in partnership with the Fund for Public Housing (FPH) and ioby, a non-profit crowdfunding platform. The Ideas Marketplace helps residents and community-based organizations showcase and fund projects in their communities. Since then, over forty-thousand dollars has been raised to support four community led projects. As of April 2019, a fifth project— the Millbrook Houses Garden Club— is fully funded and underway.

Strategy S14: Connect residents to green jobs

Since April 2018, NYCHA’s Energy Performance Contracts have employed 92 residents to work on energy efficiency projects. Solar developers have pledged to hire and train 34 residents.

Working towards 80 x 50

Strategy S15: Create an 80 x 50 roadmap

NYCHA has begun to move away from the mid-century heating technology of campus district steam. In recent heating plant replacement designs, NYCHA is decoupling hot water from space heating, which allows the heating boilers to be shut down during the summer for easier maintenance and improved efficiency.

In April 2019 NYCHA will release its first Clean Fleet Plan based on the assessment and proposal produced by two Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Fellows in summer 2018.

Strategy S16: Connect residents to green jobs

All proposals for new construction awarded under the 100% Affordable and NextGen Neighborhoods programs meet the New York City Overlay to the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria. In addition, two new housing developments go beyond the required energy performance criteria and aim to meet the Passive House standard: Betances V will be a certified Passive House. Casa Celina will be designed with “passive design strategies” and will meet LEED Gold standards.

Strategy S17: Test “deep” energy retrofit technologies

NYCHA is engaged in testing new technology to inform future capital investments toward meeting the City’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases 80% by 2050. In 2018 NYCHA prepared its participation in RetrofitNY, a deep-energy retrofit competition of NYSERDA. A NYCHA RetrofitNY RFP will be issued April 2019.