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Number Six Sludge: Now Available in Manhattan’s Greenest Neighborhood, Somehow?

Battery Park City RegattaWell, this is kind of surprising. Last week’s post on the continued use — and impending legislation to curtail said use — of mega-nasty heating sludge Number Six heating oil pinpointed upper Manhattan and the South Bronx as the neighborhoods in which ol’ Number Six was most commonly used. And while that’s still true, the Downtown Express reports that six buildings in Battery Park City, Manhattan’s most ostentatiously green residential neighborhood, are using Number Four or Number Six oil to heat their buildings. This isn’t in violation of BPC’s vaunted green building code (and isn’t mentioned in LEED’s guidelines, either), mostly because it seems like no one really thought about it until recently. Presumably, that’s going to be changing soon.

The preponderance of Number Six burners in New York City are all still uptown — there are thousands of buildings using the stuff in upper Manhattan and the Bronx, and just dozens in the greater Battery Park/Financial District area. But the airborne nastiness of Number Four and Number Six oil is everyone’s problem, given that all New Yorkers have the whole breathing-in-air thing in common, and given that these two types of heating sludge account for 87 percent of the city’s heating oil-related pollution despite being used in just one percent of the city’s buildings. And while some of the violators in the Financial District include newer buildings — most surprising is the luxury rental tower at 2 Gold Street* — the Battery Park City violators all pre-date BPC’s reimagining as a green building oasis. Five of the Battery Park Six — The Regatta (shown, which is the only one that burns the slightly cleaner Number Four), Liberty View, Liberty House, Liberty Court and Liberty Terrace — are managed by Milford Management, and none of them were built after Bill Clinton’s first term. For the same reason that these buildings are using Number Six oil — that is, it’s notably cheaper than cleaner heating oils or natural gas — Julie Shapiro reports that it will be difficult for the Battery Park City Authority to get them to swap out for newer boilers. Deprived access to coercive sticks under the neighborhood’s green building regs, the BPCA is left searching for a carrot.

“Jim Cavanaugh, president of the B.P.C. Authority, said in a statement that the authority cannot force buildings to change to a different type of fuel, but the authority hopes to help owners who want to retrofit their buildings,” Shapiro writes. “One opportunity for an incentive could be in the upcoming ground rent renewals, when many B.P.C. buildings will face sharp increases in the fees they pay the authority each year. The authority could offer to mitigate those increases if buildings add green features.”

At the risk of rewriting Shapiro’s eye-opening piece, let’s leave it there. But the article is well worth reading, and if only from a brand-sensitivity standpoint (if also, obviously, from a green/breathing-person’s perspective), the upgrade to a newer and cleaner boiler is clearly money well spent on these buildings’ part.

*UPDATE: On February 24, Tiffany Iwankiw of Quinn and Co. — 2 Gold Street’s PR firm — emailed gbNYC, writing that 2 Gold Street does not use number six heating oil, as the report cited above claimed. Iwankiw writes that, “the EDF is modifying their report to remove this error.” Consider this us doing the same.

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