NYCHA Sustainability Agenda: 2020 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 & diversify funding for the long term

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. As of April 2020, NYCHA has received HUD approval of $271.8 million. NYCHA has procured 4 ESCOs to implement additional EPC for the remaining portfolio.

Weatherization: NYCHA set a goal of securing $30 million in Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) by 2025 and continues to meet its annual goals. To date, NYCHA’s WAP contracts total $13.9 million.

Strategy S2: Raise revenues through clean and distributed energy projects

NYCHA is on its way towards 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. In late 2019, NYCHA signed its first solar lease for 2 MW worth of solar power on 27 roofs at Queensbridge North and South, and construction is expected to begin in mid-2020.  Combined, NYCHA currently has projects that will provide 11 MW of renewable energy capacity in its pipeline. 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 over 3,000 front line employees in building science, inspection, and remediation, and rolled out the “Mold Busters” program ahead of the Revised Baez Consent Decree deadline. NYCHA began the roll-out of the Ombudsperson Call Center in November 2019 and adopted the Phase I Mold Action Plan in March of 2020.

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. As part of NYCHA’s resident lease, smoking is not allowed in any indoor area and within 25 feet of NYCHA buildings. In 2019, NYCHA staff and resident leaders conducted 47 engagement activities to advance dialogue about the goals of the policy. NYC Health Department survey data indicate resident awareness of the health effects of secondhand smoke has increased since the policy was introduced.

In 2020, NYCHA is completing installation of approximately 8,000 smoke-free signs that also feature information on how smokers can access support. In May NYCHA is also introducing the Smoke-Free NYCHA Liaison program to promote adherence to the policy and connect residents who smoke and want to quit to available resources. This is particularly important as smoking may increase the risk of serious illness for those infected by COVID-19.

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 100% of the planned meter installations at 500 NYCHA buildings.

Understand the patterns of water consumption: NYCHA will be conducting an end use water study at Brevoort Houses using a portion of the NYSERDA Cleaner Greener Communities grant received in 2018. 

Install water-efficient fixtures: Through EPCs and WAP, NYCHA has installed over 44,400 low-flow shower heads, 46,100 faucet aerators and over 1,200 ultra-high efficiency (< 1 gpf) toilets since April 2019, for an overall total of over 48,200 low-flow shower heads, 52,300 faucet aerators and 1,200 ultra-high efficiency (< 1 gpf) toilets.

Strategy S6: Adopt a comprehensive waste management plan

Waste Management Plan: The NYCHA 2.0 Waste Management Plan proposes a comprehensive approach to make NYCHA buildings and grounds visibly clean and free of pests by 2025. Key initiatives of the plan are to improve waste management infrastructure and implement new strategies that affect the way waste is disposed to achieve a cleaner environment for NYCHA residents.

Recycling: In July 2019, NYCHA partnered with The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and GrowNYC to help implement a holistic approach to improve waste management at 12 NYCHA developments. NYCHA focused on infrastructural improvements while, with GrowNYC’s assistance, residents and development staff received hands-on training on recycling information. In coordination with DSNY, NYCHA successfully reinitiated recycling at those locations.

From November 2018 to April 2019, NYCHA piloted a mattress recycling program at 9 developments. In 2020, NYCHA will issue an RFP for qualified firms to participate in a long-term Mattress Recycling Program. The Program will provide the collection infrastructure and services to keep NYCHA campuses free of improperly disposed mattresses and box springs. An added benefit of this program is that it will keep mattresses from overwhelming bulk waste management.

In February 2020, NYCHA issued an RFP for the provision and installation of, and training on cardboard balers. Cardboard balers save  development staff hours of time spent manually breaking down cardboard and tying bundles by mechanically compressing and securing cardboard for easy storage and collection. Cardboard baler installations will be focused on small to medium sized sites. At larger sites with enough compactor capacity, NYCHA is piloting the use of a hydraulic compactor and clustering sites for paper and cardboard recycling. The pilot is taking place at Morris I, with paper/cardboard being collected from Morris I, Morris II, Butler, Webster, and Morrisania Houses. After a month of successful pilot operations, NYCHA is discussing additional potential compactor conversions and clusters with DSNY.

Waste Management Infrastructure Upgrades: NYCHA installed 676 in-sink food waste disposals at three developments in 2019. Food waste is ground into tiny pieces by the disposal and is flushed into the sewer system. The food waste gets processed at water resource recovery facilities and converted into energy. The disposals divert food waste from landfill-bound trash, where it would break down and generate methane gas, and eliminate pests’ food source. NYCHA intends on installing disposals at one additional development in 2020.

Where physically practical based on building design, NYCHA is working to enlarge ground-floor trash chute doors to encourage tenants to dispose of larger trash bags for compaction into existing interior compactors rather than dumping bags outside at locations. To date,  NYCHA installed 147 enlarged trash chute doors at 40 sites, with another 100 installations planned at various developments in 2020.

In March 2020, NYCHA released a Design-Build RFQ for a pneumatic waste collection system at Polo Grounds Towers in East Harlem. The system will provide residents with convenient disposal access for waste and recycling. Waste sent through the system will collect at a single location, making it convenient for DSNY pickup and eliminating the need for caretakers to transport trash.

In March 2020, NYCHA also released a Design-Build RFQ for the design and construction of enhanced, centralized waste and recycling facilities at 7 developments. The re-envisioning of NYCHA’s waste yards with a focus on design excellence and stakeholder engagement provides the opportunity to transform these facilities with sustainability and innovation at the forefront. Waste and recycling facilities have the potential to improve the quality of life for residents while increasing the ability of staff to manage and store waste and recyclables for collection.

In late 2019, NYCHA issued an RFP for the development of a behavioral change campaign to promote a positive waste management culture among NYCHA residents. The campaign will apply public awareness and behavioral change techniques, including updating outdated waste management and recycling signage and replacing it with standard up-to-date signage.

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

Strategy S7: Adopt sustainability standards

In 2019 NYCHA updated its Health and Sustainability Requirements for the Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT) RFPs. The updates include energy efficiency guidelines aligned with new LL97 emissions targets as well as electrification goals. The standards are designed to offer flexibility to PACT developers by providing several different compliance paths. In 2019, NYCHA converted over 1,900 units through the PACT program and in 2020 NYCHA expects to award another 9 contracts, totaling over 10,500 units.  These developments will undergo extensive HVAC upgrades, including heating system conversions that will result in significant GHG reductions to meet the LL97 targets.

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 2020, roof improvements are currently planned for 127 developments under the City Roof program. 118 roofs have been replaced, with another 29 developments in the construction or design phase. Over the last four reporting quarters of the Baez consent agreement, 261,536 leak work orders have been created and 259,182 leak work orders have been closed; additionally, 46,557 mold work orders have been created and 35,435 mold work orders have been closed.

Strategy S9: Retrofit master-planned developments

NYCHA has completed LED lighting upgrades across 70 developments. Over 720,000 LED lighting fixtures have been installed. Construction is underway in 70 developments in four EPCs, all slated to complete by December 2020. In Spring 2019, NYCHA issued a third solicitation to Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) to develop the next EPCs in the series of EPCs announced by the Mayor in 2015. Four ESCOs were procured.

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 has commenced at all 11 developments 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 2019-2020 program year, 909 apartments in nine NYCHA developments received upgrades for a total value of $4.2 million.

Strategy S11: Build green infrastructure

Install green infrastructure (GI) at NYCHA developments in the combined sewershed: DEP has completed the installation of subsurface, porous or vegetative green infrastructure at Bronx River, Edenwald, Hope Gardens and Seth Low Houses. Those assets are currently in the maintenance phase.  A community stewardship project, which will provide supplemental maintenance for vegetative practices at Bronx River and Seth Low Houses is being developed jointly by DEP and NYCHA in collaboration with multiple development-based partners.  

Full designs have been completed for 18 phase II sites and preliminary work has begun on 28 additional phase III projects. Construction is expected to begin on all phase II assets throughout 2020. DEP’s NYCHA GI program (an approximate investment of $100 million ) will help prevent hazardous pollutants from entering New York City’s waterways and improve onsite stormwater drainage conditions.

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. This project is anticipated to be completed in the summer of 2020. 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 began at the end of 2019. Once the new building is finished being constructed, the green roof will be installed with a projected completion date of 2022.

Cloudburst climate adaptive green infrastructure: NYCHA and DEP continue to collaborate 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 a community-based planning effort for the siting of a sunken basketball court that provides stormwater retention during high intensity storms and community amenities on all other days. NYCHA is seeking funding for community amenities from elected officials and private foundations. The NYSERDA grant project also includes, a food waste management system, which was moved to Meltzer Houses and a water end use study that has been transferred to Brevoort Houses.  The possibility for a second Cloudburst project is being studied at Clinton Houses in Manhattan.  The study, which includes a cost-benefit analysis and final report, is being funded by FEMA with a local match from DEP. 

Strategy S12: Incorporate climate change resiliency into capital planning

In 2019, NYCHA installed the first ever agency-owned and operated window A/C units in resident apartments at Meltzer Tower, a senior building in downtown Manhattan. The new A/Cs are energy efficient and WiFi enabled. This will allow them to be networked for demand management control to reduce the building peak Summer demand. As of October 2019, NYCHA has installed 179 new A/Cs with more expected to be installed in 2020.

NYCHA has begun to pilot solar-powered lighting on its campus grounds.  The first installation, at Howard Houses, was completed in April 2020.  In January of 2020, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and staff from the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency came to NYCHA’s Capital Projects Division for a workshop with NYCHA’s Design, Energy, Sustainability, and Recovery & Resilience Departments. The workshop resulted in concepts for resiliency strategies at NYCHA, one of which was selected as the subject of a resilience Technical Assistance Panel by the Urban Land Institute. In March of 2020, NYCHA released a Request for Proposals that will allow us to engage residents in setting Climate Adaptation priorities and make use of technical assistance in developing strategies for incorporating resilience into capital work across the authority.

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 aims to expand healthy food access, provide youth workforce and leadership development, and promote sustainable and connected public housing communities. The six farms serve residents at Red Hook, Bay View, Howard, Wagner, Forest, and Mariner’s Harbor Houses. In 2019, the farms produced and distributed more than 37,500 pounds of organic produce and hosted 6,700 visitors at 306 events. Last year five of the six farms became official NYC Compost drop off sites, further deepening their activation as sites at the forefront of NYCHA’s organic waste collection. Over 5,700 pounds of food scraps were collected from residents. NYCHA’s lead partner, Green City Force, trained 50 young adult NYCHA resident AmeriCorps Members who performed six and eight month service terms, the largest cohort in the organization’s ten year history.  

Support resident-driven sustainability projects: In April 2019, the Mill Brook Houses Garden Club was fully funded and underway. The money raised was used to buy supplies, paint, construction of a tool shed, gazebos, benches, tables, and other items. Solar panels were bought to teach about renewable energy, and a compost station is being constructed in order to start a composting program. A logo has been created and the group is now called Guardians of the Garden. The garden has won 2 grants from the Citizens Committee. With the support of The Open Space Institute, a wheelchair path was constructed to improve accessibility to the garden. Next steps include construction of gazebos, installation of solar panels, and preparing raise beds for planting.

In 2020, NYCHA issued a RFP for Stakeholder Engagement Services related to the NYCHA Sustainability Agenda. This procurement seeks to help NYCHA ensure that resident and stakeholder needs and priorities are integrated into future program design, implementation and assessment. 

Strategy S14: Connect residents to green jobs

Since April 2019, NYCHA’s Energy Performance Contracts have employed 161 residents to work on energy efficiency projects for an overall total of 253 residents. A cohort of NYCHA residents is currently being trained for ten solar installation positions in connection with the solar lease at Queensbridge North and South, and an additional 34 hires are expected from projects in the pipeline.

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 accordance with NYCHA’s 2019 Clean Fleet Plan, NYCHA now has 16 Chevy Bolt electric sedans and 10 electric tilt trucks in its fleet, with an additional 24 electric sedans on order for 2020. NYCHA has several charging stations for these vehicles’ use, including a solar-powered charging station at the Manhattan property management office.

In December 2019 NYCHA issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for design-build firms to propose heating system conversions at eight developments. The new systems will provide heat and hot water utilizing new, low-emissions technologies such as high efficiency gas boilers and electric heat pumps.  In 2020, NYCHA will issue an RFP to the short-listed firms who will compete for most innovative and constructible design solutions.

Strategy S16: Create incentives to encourage new low-energy buildings

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, some new housing developments, including a new senior housing development in the Bronx at Betances V Houses, are designed to passive 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 by 80% by 2050. In January 2020 NYCHA released an RFP to procure a design team for its participation in RetrofitNY, a deep-energy retrofit program of NYSERDA.  Proposals are due April 24.

In 2019 NYCHA received a grant from NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities program to install a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system in a sample of apartments in the Bronx. The new system will provide both heating and cooling using high-efficient air source heat pumps.  The installation is expected to be completed by Fall 2020 and can provide a template for electrifying NYCHA’s heating systems going forward.