Round Three of Challenge Now Open to Advance Replicable Low-Carbon Retrofit Solutions for Multifamily Buildings

September 14, 2023

Governor Kathy Hochul announced today six leading real estate groups were selected in the second round of the $50 million Empire Buildings Challenge to advance climate-friendly buildings in New York State. Today’s announcement also included the launch of a third round calling for a new cohort of real estate teams to join the Challenge to advance replicable energy-efficient and low-carbon retrofit solutions for multifamily buildings. New York’s Empire Building Challenge is integral to accelerating the State’s progress toward the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 85% by 2050 and the Governor’s goal to develop two million climate-friendly homes.

“Transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy means taking bold steps today that will have significant impact tomorrow,” Governor Hochul said. “Groundbreaking investments through the Empire Building Challenge are transforming how the building industry develops and implements climate-friendly solutions – a crucial part of our efforts to modernize our buildings, improve air quality, and provide more energy-efficient living and workspaces for the next generation of New Yorkers.”

Round Two Partners Announced Today
Through Round Two of the Challenge, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), six real estate partners were selected to implement a replicable, low-carbon retrofit demonstration project addressing one or more barriers to decarbonizing their building(s). The newly awarded partners collectively own more than 108 million square feet of real estate and 18,000 residential units throughout New York State, including 1,500 affordable housing units. These awards also unlock over $57 million in private investment from Challenge real estate partners while attracting solution providers globally to bring innovation and business investment to New York State.
The six projects include:

Amalgamated Housing Corporation (AHC)

  •  Awarded: $3 million
  • Team includes: En-Power Group and Egg Geo
  • Buildings: Tower 1 and Tower 2, 3965 – 3975 Sedgwick Avenue, Bronx, NY 10463
  • Affordable housing properties, 316 units, 20 stories, 425,000 square feet


  •  Awarded: $1.1 million
  • Team includes: Jaros, Baum & Bolles and Norges Bank Investment Management
  • Building: 601 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY
  • Commercial office building, 59 stories, 1.5 million square feet

Brookfield Properties

  •  Awarded: $3 million
  • Team includes: Cosentini Associates
  • Building:660 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10022
  • Commercial office building, 41 stories, 1.4 million square feet

LeFrak Organization

  •  Awarded: $3 million
  • Team includes: Steven Winters Associates, Inc. and Ryan Soames Engineering
  • Buildings: 59-17 Junction Boulevard, Queens, NY 11371
  • Commercial office building, 20 stories, 396,000 square feet

Tishman Speyer

  •  Awarded: $3 million
  • Team includes: Jaros, Baum & Bolles Consulting Engineers, LLP, and Brightcore
  • Building: 520 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022
  • Commercial office building, 43 stories, 1 million square feet


  •  Awarded: $1 million
  • Team includes: Jaros, Baum & Bolles Consulting Engineers
  • Building: PENN 1 Plaza, New York, NY
  • Commercial office building, 57 stories, 2.5 million square feet

NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “The Empire Building Challenge is spurring economic growth and renewal in New York by attracting best-in-class manufacturers, solution providers, and entrepreneurs from around the world to team up with the state’s leading real estate leaders to help convert our existing building stock into the buildings of the future. These new partnerships are bringing forward promising, novel and scalable solutions for our high-rise buildings that set new design standards, directly enhance conditions for occupants, and reduce energy costs –while helping make New York the epicenter for low carbon retrofit industry.”

NYSERDA evaluated proposals based on a project’s scalability and feasibility in addressing the major challenges of decarbonizing high-rise buildings, as well as the building owner’s willingness and ability to implement solutions across their portfolio of buildings. Additional details can be found on all retrofit projects on NYSERDA’s Empire Building Challenge website.

Amalgamated Housing Corporation Treasurer Ed Yaker said, “Exciting things are happening today in carbon reduction technology. Through the Empire Building Challenge, Amalgamated is delighted that our cooperators will be among the first to benefit, enjoying greater comfort and lower costs as we move toward climate neutrality. We are proud that other buildings will be able to follow our path and learn from our experience as they reduce their carbon emissions. Together we can help achieve New York State's climate goals.”

BXP New York Region Executive Vice President Hiliary Spann said, “This is an important opportunity to lead a new era of thermal energy decarbonization in New York City with NYSERDA and our partners at Norges Bank Investment Management. The project aligns with our portfolio-wide commitment to achieve carbon-neutral operations by 2025. NYSERDA’s Empire Building Challenge and this project will provide a valuable proof of concept for BXP, other commercial owners in New York City, and the broader real estate industry.”

Brookfield Properties Sustainability SVP Michael Daschle said, “We are excited to partner with NYSERDA in the Empire Building Challenge for our newly redeveloped property at 660 Fifth Avenue. This project is a major step in our commitment to achieving net zero carbon and promote the efficient use of resources. We believe this project will serve as a model for scalable decarbonization solutions that will prove beneficial for our tenants, investors, and our community."

Jonathan Flaherty, Managing Director, Global Head of Sustainability and Buildings Technologies, Tishman Speyer said, “Tishman Speyer is dedicated to the health and well-being of our customers and to minimizing our environmental impact throughout the communities we serve. Our participation in NYSERDA’s Empire Building Challenge demonstrates our determination to create a roadmap for the gradual decarbonization of our entire global portfolio, which we’ve committed to complete by 2050 or sooner. We expect that the innovations we are pursuing at 520 Madison, including drilling for geothermal energy, will yield important insights not just for Tishman Speyer but for the entire real estate community.”

Vornado Realty Trust President and Chief Financial Officer Michael Franco said, “Vornado is focused on the next frontier of sustainable real estate through technology, resiliency in performance, and total tenant health which anchors our commitment to achieving carbon neutral operations at PENN 1. This project, in partnership with NYSERDA, allows us to move forward with our goals and then apply the same solutions throughout our 25 million square feet of premier assets, amplifying our impact and furthering decarbonization throughout the New York City.”

Christopher D. Colasanti, PE, LEED AP, CEA, Associate Partner, JB&B said, “The JB&B Deep Carbon Reduction Group is proud to participate in the Empire Building Challenge with forward-thinking developers. It’s bringing the right people together in the service of a great—and essential—cause that, at the end of the day, makes all the difference.”

Round Three of The Challenge
Under the third round of the Challenge, NYSERDA is seeking teams to submit applications on retrofit approaches that can identify replicable technical and economic pathways to phase out on-site fossil fuel use while also increasing comfort and performance for those living in multifamily buildings, one of the hardest-to-decarbonize building types. Selected partners will receive up to $100,000 in technical assistance support and be eligible to submit low carbon retrofit proposals to a competitive funding round, anticipated in summer of 2024.

Eligibility criteria for applicants includes:

  • The building owner must have a decarbonization project proposal ready for implementation before the end of 2025;
  • The building owner must apply to the program in partnership with a technical lead, such as a Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) engineering firm;
  • The building owner must advance buildings for participation in this program that contain at least 50 housing units;
  • The building owner’s public commitment to carbon reduction within their New York State building portfolio is one of the key scoring criteria.

Applications are due by 3:00 p.m. on November 16, 2023, and the selection of winners is expected in January 2024.

The Empire Building Challenge, announced in September 2020, created a public-private partnership with leading real estate developers who collectively control over 220 million square feet of real estate in New York State, including more than 250 buildings that contain affordable housing. These partners have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality in one or more of their buildings and in nearly 800 units of affordable housing collectively with the potential to scale across their portfolios to more than 25,000 units of affordable housing. A full list of the Empire Building Challenge Partners and more information about the properties they have committed to carbon neutrality can be found at on NYSERDA’s website Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page.. Building owners, solution providers, manufacturers, and other interested stakeholders are encouraged to visit Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. for additional details on the Empire Building Challenge and to learn how to partner with NYSERDA, reduce carbon emissions, and get involved in the clean energy economy.

Buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New York State, responsible for one third of annual emissions statewide. Integrating energy efficiency and electrification measures in new and existing buildings will reduce carbon pollution and help achieve more sustainable, healthy, and comfortable buildings in support of the state's ambitious goal to achieve 2 million climate-friendly homes by 2030. Through NYSERDA and utility programs, over $6.8 billion is being invested to decarbonize buildings to achieve the State's decarbonization goals. By improving energy efficiency in buildings and including onsite storage, renewables, and electric vehicle charging equipment, the State will reduce carbon pollution and advance the target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs by 2025, the equivalent of powering 1.8 million homes.

New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan

New York State's nation-leading climate agenda calls for an orderly and just transition that creates family-sustaining jobs, continues to foster a green economy across all sectors and ensures that at least 35%, with a goal of 40%, of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities. Guided by some of the nation’s most aggressive climate and clean energy initiatives, New York is on a path to achieving a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70% renewable energy generation by 2030, and economywide carbon neutrality by mid-century. A cornerstone of this transition is New York's unprecedented clean energy investments, including more than $35 billion in 120 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce building emissions, $3.3 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $2 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. These and other investments are supporting more than 165,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector in 2021 and over 3,000% growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, New York also adopted zero-emission vehicle regulations, including requiring all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold in the State be zero emission by 2035. Partnerships are continuing to advance New York’s climate action with nearly 400 registered and more than 100 certified Climate Smart Communities, nearly 500 Clean Energy Communities, and the State’s largest community air monitoring initiative in 10 disadvantaged communities across the state to help target air pollution and combat climate change.