Greening A Block An urban showcase of energy efficiency, pollution reduction, job development and community sustainability.
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Project Approach

Greening A Block will focus on a single city block (or the two facing sides along adjacent streets) to demonstrate the gains in air quality, public health and economics possible through community-based energy-efficiency measures because a single block:

  1. is large enough to encompass a broad sample of buildings and residents and provide a reasonable cross-section of the entire Lower East Side.
  2. is large enough to create the economies in project administration that can make large-scale energy efficiency cost-effective.
  3. fits the funds available from the power plant settlement with Con Edison.
  4. allows for “co-operative competition” between neighboring buildings that will help maximize participation and savings rates.
  5. circumvents concerns over “cherry-picking” — pushing up the numbers by choosing easy-to-retrofit buildings.

Primary Elements of the Project

Energy-Efficiency Improvements:

  • Energy Surveys (audits) to determine improvements to be made on each building.
  • Reducing the consumption of heating fuel and electricity by at least 30%, through measures such as:
    • replacing power-hogging equipment and appliances with energy-efficient ones.
    • weatherizing or insulating windows and other parts of building “envelopes.”
    • upgrading and adding boilers, thermostats and other elements of state-of-the-art heat- and hot-water-delivery systems.
  • Installing completely non-polluting renewable energy systems (e.g. solar electric or solar water heating systems) on selected buildings.
  • Stimulating community-based energy awareness, with neighbors educating and encouraging each other in more efficient energy usage.

Other Air Quality Improvement Measures to be Considered:

  • Planting Street Trees
  • Green (Planted) roofs on select buildings

Financial Strategy Development:

  • Payment structures for the systems that include funds from the Con Edison East River Power Plant settlement fund, federal and state weatherization and energy-efficiency programs, and from the tenants and building owners themselves.
  • Partnerships with local banks and credit unions to offer loans for energy-efficiency improvements.
  • Partnership with NYSERDA, which has ongoing programs that can cover the costs of some of this work.

Additional benefits:

  • Creation of a template for maximizing state and federal incentive-program benefits.
  • Establishment of a model for other neighborhoods to use in urban energy-efficiency improvements and non-polluting renewable energy installation.
  • Creation of new jobs.

Project Funding

Con Edison / East River Project Settlement Fund

In 2002, as part of a settlement permitting it to expand electricity production at the East River Power Plant, Con Edison set aside $3.75 million for environmental mitigation projects. Most of this fund has been earmarked to subsidize Con Edison’s purchases of cleaner natural gas to displace fuel oil burned in older East River boilers during the fall and winter heating season.1 The environmental benefits of this expenditure will disappear once the fund is spent.

Fortunately, the settlement provides that the monies may be used for other purposes that “relate to local air quality improvement, health improvement, or amenities programs in the vicinity of the East River [Power Plant] Complex.” 2 We believe that our Comprehensive Energy Target Zone proposal provides a compelling alternative to the natural gas displacement plan.

Our intent is to leverage the settlement fund money to maximize investments in energy efficiency. The exact mechanisms for funding the projects will be worked out in the feasibility study, in conjunction with NYSERDA and others with experience in energy project financing. We will leverage all available state, federal and other funding sources in addition to the settlement fund money. Our goal is to minimize the costs to the tenants and landlords, thereby maximizing participation and avoiding Major Capital Improvement (MCI) claims by landlords.

Ongoing Benefits

Based on a preliminary analysis, we believe our demonstration project can deliver these benefits:

  • A one-third reduction in energy use (36% for heat and hot water, 30% for electricity)
  • Total energy savings of 175,000 gallons of petroleum products — equivalent to removing 300 cars off the road
  • Total reduction of $270,000 in annual energy bills ($700 per participating apartment)

Using a preliminary model for a sample block near the East River power plant, we estimate that the air quality improvement from Greening A Block will far exceed the likely improvement from the natural gas purchase plan.3 Furthermore, we expect this demonstration project to serve as both a model and a catalyst for follow-on projects covering much of Community Board 3. The enactment of follow-on projects will see CB3 and all of NYC benefiting from cleaner air through improved energy efficiency for many years to come. Contrast this to the transient air quality improvement from burning up the settlement fund in Con Ed’s boilers over just several years.

1 One million dollars from the fund has been committed to installing smokestack nozzles to increase the “exit velocity” of exhaust gases from the East River Plant, and to connect a handful of large apartment buildings to the Con Ed steam system.

2 From Section VI.E.7 of the Settlement. Download it here.

3 Particulate matter (soot) in the air on the Lower East Side averages 15,000 nanograms per cubic meter over the course of the year. The Con Ed “gas burn” alternative would reduce this by 20 nanograms for four years, assuming that is the period over which the funds are drawn down, at Village East Towers, several blocks from the East River plant. The Energy Target Zone project would reduce particulates by eight as much, 165 nanograms, on the model block, and this reduction would persist over the lifetimes of the energy-saving measures. If the savings persist as we expect, the pollution reduction from the energy efficiency project will be at least a dozen times greater than the reduction from the Con Ed gas burn.

2005, Greening A Block