NYC tenants sue landlord, city over installation of giant roof battery


Aggrieved renters in Brooklyn have taken an unusual case to court — one that involves battery storage.

At Williamsburg’s 315 Berry St., residents have filed a suit against the City of New York and their building owner over a plan to let a private company install an enormous lithium ion power bank on their roof.

If constructed, the substation would be the first on a residential rooftop in the US, and possibly the world.

The Post reported on the situation last year, when a single city agency, the Board of Standards and Appeals, stood between MicroGrid Networks and their plan to install a 2.5-megawatt storage bank on the roof of the seven-story loft building.

In August, the Board gave MicroGrid their blessing via a special use permit, a decision residents are seeking a reversal of, calling the power bank a “highly dangerous lithium battery storage system,” which it was an “abuse of the Board’s discretion” to approve, according to a suit filed in New York State Supreme Court this week, the Real Deal first reported.

Additionally, the suit claims that, since the building is rent-stabilized, the Division of Homes and Community Renewal needed to also sign off before giving MicroGrid the go ahead for the battery, which they further allege would increase the property’s fire risk.

Landlord Richard Herbst, however, tells The Post that, even before the suit was filed, MicroGrid’s plan was already off the table.

“[The] fact is that we have long abandoned the idea of placing the battery storage system on our building,” he told The Post in an email, adding that he hasn’t yet seen the suit. “There was a window of opportunity over the past year, while other construction was going on in the building anyway, to get the battery project done with minimal inconvenience to the residents. That opportunity is now gone.”

To Herbst, the “losers” of the situation “are the residents of the Williamsburg waterfront area who would have benefitted from a more robust and cleaner energy supply.”

In response, tenants say they were unaware the battery project was now dead in the water, but that they consider the issue to be far bigger than their building.

“This isn’t just us, it’s the whole city,” one resident commented.

MicroGrid did not return The Post’s request for comment, and the BSA replied to say that they do not comment on matters that are pending litigation.

Such lithium ion phosphate banks — which are an order of magnitude larger but notably different from the batteries used in e-bikes — have indeed been heralded as the future of green energy in the city, and similar ones are currently installed atop the Barclays Center and JFK Airport’s popular TWA Hotel. But Herbst now believes in order to get them on top of residential roofs, it will be necessary for the city to “mandate that owners retrofit their buildings to support the electric grid.”

Indeed, Herbst warns other landlords against allowing batteries to be installed on their roofs in the current climate.

“I understand that the city has since changed the zoning laws, making it easier to have battery storage systems installed in residential zones,” he said. “But unless they include a provision for immunizing owners against lawsuits, similar to what cell towers now enjoy, I would advise owners to think twice before proceeding.”

Real Estate – Latest NYC, US & Celebrity News

Sandstone Group