New York City is at a critical juncture when it comes to how we respond to the climate crisis. The decisions we make now will affect all of us, determining the future of the city we love and the health and wellbeing of New Yorkers for generations.
It is an urgent and ever-mounting question. Yet, we can take bold and immediate action against the serial polluters actively endangering our environment; we can better prepare for future storms; and we can support and fight alongside longtime neighborhood activists to ensure that our environmental priorities are equitable and fully realized in our communities.
We have a responsibility to ensure our environmental policies and our climate action plan occur within the frameworks of racial and social justice. Our city’s marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change, and if we fail to secure a greener, more just future for all of us, then we have failed in our mission to rehabilitate our environment.
Together, we can take the necessary steps to curb the effects of climate change in New York. This is what we have to do:
Citywide Resiliency Planning
- Implement comprehensive citywide resiliency planning. District 33 is a waterfront district that requires extensive planning along the waterfront, with much of it in a flood zone that faces consequences from rising waters.
- Invest in ‘sponge city infrastructure’ of permeable pavements, green roofs, underground stormwater basins, and bioswales in flood prone areas to absorb stormwater and reduce carbon emissions.
- Enact CEQR reform before starting any new flood plain development, exploring ways to rezone heavy flood areas as open spaces, resiliency projects, or wetland restoration centers.
- Work with the federal government to utilize and green our ports for resiliency planning, and establish storm protections along the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Public Power + divestment from fossil fuels
- Halt the North Brooklyn fracked gas pipeline and stop the expansion of the LNG facility in Greenpoint: National Grid’s fracked gas proposal in North Brooklyn is an attack on the wellbeing of our communities and benefits shareholders, not ratepayers. North Brooklyn has been under attack from these corporations for 150 years; Brooklyn Union Gas’ site is 100 years old and is just one of many facilities that divide the community from Newtown Creek.
- Implement a publicly owned energy system for New York. The time has come for public power and I’d support providing a home rule request if needed for any state approved action.
- Deepen our investment in renewable energy, including geothermal heat pumps and wind and solar energy locally.
- Ramp up our NYC Solar implementation on city-owned buildings — which is significantly behind requirements as per NYC law.
- Require green roofs on all publicly-owned buildings in New York City, prioritizing schools buildings and public housing. Provide incentives for large buildings in industrial areas that want to install green roofs because of their scale and size.
- End the reliance on peaker plants in New York City, by building neighborhood energy hubs for smart grid battery storage and enacting controls on peak energy demand by commercial buildings.
- Pass the NYC Council plan for a Renewable Rikers, and ensure the communities harmed by incarceration and environmental racism are central to the planning of the island’s future. Solar developed on the Island needs to be used for community solar projects and support neighborhoods that have been impacted by the carceral system.
Green Space for District 33 and Beyond:
- Complete the connection of the Brooklyn Greenway to bring together the waterfront and build out fully protected bike path infrastructure
- Significantly increase investment in our parks and work with other agencies to expand public access to open space where parks are not available, such as through the Design for Public Space. More than ever we need open green space and expanded waterfront access.
- Create community planning around public space and seize opportunities for expanded access through parks under bridges at the Pulaski, and Williamsburg bridges, as well as street end parks and the acquisition of land on Newtown Creek.
- Use community-led partnerships to implement Make Meeker Move and BQGreen. Build a network of connection between green spaces in the District and safe corridors.
- Invest in a permanent open streets program and expand the NYC Parks budget. While other major cities fund parks well over 1%, New York City’s Parks budget is just .5%, and even saw a decrease when New Yorkers need parks most.
- Fully fund Bushwick Inlet Park as promised by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Address Sewage Overflow in our waterways
- Eliminate combined sewer overflows (CSOs), reducing sewage overflows into the New York Bay 100%. We are in the midst of a climate crisis and need to fully address the pollution in our waterways. CSO reduction plans must take into account projected changes in sewer overflow when projects will be completed. Current plans are using rainfall totals from 2008 as projection for infrastructure that is supposed to address stormwater capture in the 2040s.
- Utilize public land along Newtown creek for permeable surfaces, public parks, creek access, and environmental restoration in some of the areas most damaged by industry and most inaccessible historically to the public. Public land is our frontline infrastructure and should be the proving ground to the community that this can work.
- Expand green and blue roof production citywide to assist with sewage overflow reduction and provide greater grant incentives for green roofs.
- Invest in permeable surfaces in areas that are flood prone, and have combined sewage overflow issues, to absorb stormwater.
- Create bioswales on streets along the waterfront, which are cost-effective measures to absorb runoff and mitigate flooding and create maintenance agreements with existing waterfront developers.
Meet New York City’s goal of zero waste by 2030
- Enact a citywide mandatory organics waste program. A comprehensive organic recycling program is cost effective and more efficient for the city overall. Piecemeal solutions don’t work and have failed to reach many lower-income communities of color in the city.
- Protect current community composting sites and identify additional spaces for the future, utilizing city owned land for community composting and processing.
- Fund mutual aid efforts for community gardens and develop a local food network to reduce food waste from local businesses with sustainable community-led programs that support waste reduction. Community gardens and urban agriculture are essential infrastructure and need to be protected from harassment and land alienation.
- Enact restrictions on recycling programs and mandate businesses move to more reusable ‘no waste’ practices. The over-reliance on plastics can be curbed and we need to enact policy that prioritizes more sustainable measures in NYC.