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Council passes bill to protect birds from glass skyscrapers

Council member Rafael Espinal

The City Council has passed legislation that would force developers to use bird-friendly glass in new properties.

The legislation will affect all new development by requiring that 90 percent of wall surfaces below 75 feet are bird-safe.

The bill, sponsored by Rafael Espinal Jr., would also require the installation of bird friendly materials where an exterior wall envelope is adjacent to a green roof system, and on certain installations that create hazards for birds, such as glass awnings, handrails, windbreak panels, acoustic barriers and parallel glass panels.

It’s estimated that as many as 230,000 birds die each year in New York City alone because of building collisions. In the United States, the figure is an estimated 330 million.

“Every year, over two billion birds die from window collisions in this country,” said Espinal. “And since New York City is along the bird migration route, between 90,000 and 230,000 birds, from hawks to hummingbirds, die from flying into buildings in our city. This is a staggering statistic especially when we have a solution ready to go that can save the many lives of this vital part of our ecosystem. New York City has taken many historic and extraordinary steps to reduce our carbon footprint. This bill will add to our environmental legacy as we are taking responsibility for our role in the ecosystem that lasted long before towering skyscrapers.”

Several well-known New York City building already have bird friendly glass, including the Javits Center, Statue of Liberty Museum and the New York Times building.

The city legislation comes following a decision by Governor Andrew Cuomo last month to veto a statewide bill aimed at reducing bird fatalities.

That bill would have created commission to study bird deaths from buildings and develop design standards to help prevent collisions within an 18-month period.

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