CLCPA interventions – Green roofs and proactive incentive programs may offer a solution

Governor Cuomo’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) can bring meaningful change. This is one of four articles in Unbuilt Labs’ Research Package “New York’s Green New Deal” by Austin Law.

What are some possible CLCPA interventions? The CLCPA mandates that at least 35% of the spending, or benefits of spending, pursuant to the act be dedicated towards disadvantaged communities. Heat is a significant climate-related problem that disproportionately affects communities of lower income and increased vulnerability, such as Brownsville. One area that the act’s spending can focus on is infrastructure changes, as the act has already called for establishing renewable energy infrastructure such as solar panels and wind farms. The act can and should cater solutions to the needs of specific communities in order to shield them from the growing threat of climate change. For Brownsville, state agencies can look to changes such as green roofs and cool pavements. Agencies can also consider expanding programs that provide free air conditioners to residents of need. While existing programs are a good start, these programs sometimes do not consider communities like Brownsville when they only cater to those who live outside subsidized housing or are offered on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Tree canopies and green roofs are a sustainable and unique approach to this problem because they actually lower the surface temperatures of the area. Vegetation can effectively cool an area by providing shading and cooling through evapotranspiration, the process in which heat evaporates moisture in plants and soil. In a 2018 report by New Yorkers For Parks, . Moreover, increased vegetation density would mean that less sunlight, and therefore heat, is absorbed by the concrete roofs and asphalt grounds of Brownville. Furthermore, building roofs and be repainted into cool roofs or turned into green roofs. The former reflects sunlight, reducing heat due to absorption, while the latter operates in a similar fashion to tree canopies. In order to incentive green roofs, a tax abatement could be considered. In 2008, NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg issued an abatement for green roofs in NYC. While this abatement lasted 11 years, it was largely ineffective due to the insufficiency of the incentive program. [1] As a result, any abatement or incentive would have to be aggressive in order to truly spur action.

Browse the research package “New York’s Green New Deal” by Austin Law:


[1] The bill provided an abatement of $4.50 per square foot for green roofs that covered at least fifty- percent of the rooftop. However, this abatement was largely underutilized. Building owns who installed a green roof system that is less than one thousand square feet could have actually lost money applying for the abatement due to costs of installing a green roof and the modest incentive.

About the Author

Austin Law

Austin Law, Summer Policy Analyst


Austin is currently pursuing a J.D. and comes from a background in Business Management and Economics. As an undergraduate, he designed and conducted statistical research on the effectiveness of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a commercial bank bailout enacted in the 2008 financial crisis. At Unbuilt Labs, Austin’s project considers the New York State’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. He will be looking at how sustainability-focused funding and its legislation affect disadvantaged communities. Having worked in both a boutique firm and a top 60 firm in the National Law Journal 500, he has experience with asylum seeking policies and insurance litigation practices. His most recent overseas trip was to his birthplace, Hong Kong, where he spent time teaching children English. He has also helped Make-A-Wish foundation’s Suffolk County Chapter fundraiser for their holiday campaign.

  • Cornell Law School, J.D. Law ‘22
  • Stony Brook University, B.S. (Hons) Business Management and Economics ‘18