New York City released its 2013 Mayor’s Management Report this week (link opens PDF), with over 240 pages of data on a wide variety of city services and systems, ranging from police to housing to small business administration to several measures of sustainability. Browsing through the report, I came away with a few quick takeaways:
1) The city’s recycling rate has fallen steadily the past five years. From 2009 to 2013, the rate has declined from 16.2% to 15.7% to 15.4% to 15.1%, holding steady at that figure in 2012 and 2013. In Fiscal Year 2001, the recycling rate was 20.1%, indicating a concerted decline despite significant efforts to achieve a 25% recycling rate. I would be curious to learn if the amount of material scavenged by canners from curbside collections might be affecting the reported rate; if so, that would mask a sizable amount of material that is being diverted from landfills, but is not collected by the city. The recycling rate may be affected in the future by the advent of composting pickup and the opening of the new MRF in Sunset Park. For now, however, we must consider why the city’s reported recycling rate has fallen over the past decade.
2) If the recycling rate is falling, happily so too is the number of air quality complaints. The City received 7,628 air complaints in FY2013, down from 11,692 complaints in FY2009, with the figure dropping every year in between. Another promising atmospheric trend is the claim that the City reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 16.7% between 2007 and 2012, covering more than half of the PlaNYC goal of reducing such emissions by 30% of 2007 levels by 2030 in just five years.
3) Other environmental factors, unsurprisingly, were affected by disasters in various ways. Fecal coliform concentrations in area waters were significantly up in 2011 and 2012, years when hurricanes hit the city. Despite weather-related problems, because the city treats its wastewater, the city’s compliance with federal wastewater standards was essentially unchanged from earlier years.
4) The number of new cases of children younger than 6 years of age with blood lead levels greater than or equal to 10 micrograms per deciliter decreased by 19 percent from Fiscal 2012 to Fiscal 2013. Whether that is due to better oversight by the city of older structures or the astonishingly vigorous performance of the local housing market (which, in a troubling but unsurprising part of the report noted that 43% of local renters pay at least 35% of their income on housing) leading to renovations, lead abatement, and new construction is not immediately apparent from the report.
This is but a small preview of the report, and I encourage those curious about the economy, crime, infrastructure, education, and other important measures of the quality of life in the city to read through the full report. This data is available six weeks before New York City citizens pick a replacement for Mayor Michael Bloomberg from a field including Democrat Bill de Blasio, Republican Joe Llota, and Independent Adolfo Carrión, Jr. The report provides metrics on the condition of the city that will be valuable for assessing the next mayor’s priorities and accomplishments in 2014, and to focus the priorities to make the city more sustainable going forward.