Remembering New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio’s Sustainability Promises

Bill de Blasio won a landslide victory to become NYC's next mayor.  Can he lead the city in a more sustainable direction?

Bill de Blasio won a landslide victory to become NYC’s next mayor. Can he make his sustainability promises policy?

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio won a landslide victory to become the next mayor.  In his campaign, Mayor-elect de Blasio ran on a platform of reducing inequality and enhancing sustainability in the city.

As the transition from Mayor Bloomberg to Mayor-elect de Blasio officially begins, remembering this platform will be useful in evaluating the future direction of the city.  Here, in full, is the candidate’s platform on sustainability (as found on his campaign website).

A Vision For a Sustainable New York City

New York City has been a leader in green initiatives to save energy, protect the environment, and build green jobs for our economy. Bill de Blasio intends to build on that history and expand sustainability initiatives throughout the five boroughs.

Build an Alliance for a Sustainable New York

New York City has all of the critical components in place to become the most sustainable city in the world: dense public-sector resources and infrastructure, private capital, innovators in science and technology, strong labor unions, and a committed citizenry. We can and must build on the successes of PlaNYC and convene all stakeholders to build the most sustainable city in the world. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will convene public and private sector actors to expand and deepen PlaNYC, and he will update the plan every year on Earth Day.

Commit to Renewable Energy

The green collar economy begins with a clear commitment to alternative energy sources. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will expand the city’s investment in large-scale clean energy production, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and biofuels. Not only would such a transition reduce New York City’s carbon footprint, it would expand economic opportunities — from entrepreneurs to production and installation jobs. Bill de Blasio will also advocate at the state level for the New York Solar Act, which will provide additional incentives to sup- port the adoption of solar energy production.

Retrofit and Green New York City Buildings

Bill de Blasio will make every government-owned building as green as is financially viable by 2020. For the private sector, Bill de Blasio will continue the commitment to the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation. He will also replicate Chicago’s public-private partnership model to create more funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. This includes direct loans for energy efficiency in buildings and “Energy Services Agreements (ESA),” where energy efficiency work is packaged as a service that building owners pay for through savings with limited upfront cost to the owner. (Ed Note: It will be interesting to see if Mayor-Elect de Blasio adopts the Urban Green Council’s 90 by 50 recommendations on reducing the city’s carbon footprint. While the city has begun to reduce carbon emissions under the PlaNYC program, that plan’s targets will not get the city below 350 ppm of carbon emissions by midcentury. Aggressive investments now in insulation, energy efficiency, and developing alternative energy sources in the 90 by 50 plan — which we teach at Pratt — will make New York City the leader in combating climate change.)

Help Every Business Reduce its Energy Use

At economic development hubs around the city, Bill de Blasio will have city workers provide technical assistance to local business owners with an emphasis on greater efficiency. This technical support will provide information on ways to increase energy efficiency in their buildings and better manage waste, which will help reduce transit and logistic energy costs while improving industrial processes. The city will also help small businesses identify the government and private resources that can help them green their businesses and use the energy savings to grow their businesses.

Set a Goal of Zero Waste in New York

New York City is behind in recycling and reducing waste, at great cost to the budget and the environment. The city spent $320 million in 2011 on disposal, while sanitation trucks drove 40 million miles, spewing huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

The cost of Zero Waste may sound unattainable, but it is actually a practical program and goal. Since adopting Zero Waste, San Francisco recycles 80 percent, compared to 15 percent in New York City. Seattle and Oakland and states like Minnesota, Oregon and California are striving for Zero Waste. Companies like Xerox, Sony and Hewlett-Packard are finding that adhering to Zero Waste principles results in significant cost savings. Bill de Blasio will institute a Zero Waste program: strengthening and expanding existing recycling, instituting composting programs, and establishing waste reduction programs, including, for example, bans on plastic bags and requiring more materials to be recyclable or compostable. Instead of a focus on disposing and exporting waste, Bill de Blasio will look for opportunities for economic development, building industries, and creating jobs from materials that can be recovered. (Ed Note: I look forward to seeing if Mayor-Elect de Blasio will push for a tax or ban on plastic bags, develop Pay As You Throw (PAYT) caps on garbage disposal, require restaurants to use compostable takeout containers, and develop other Zetcompostable takeout containers, and develop other Zero Waste policies. Building on the methane-capture modernization of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant will be a constructive continuity from the current administration.)

Integrate Green Skills into Workforce Development

Training on ways to reduce energy costs effectively should be integrated into industry sector workforce development in all schools, apprenticeships and training programs. Bill de Blasio will model its green workforce initiatives on the Green Professional Building Skills Training model, which brings together labor unions, government officials, business leaders, environmentalists and CUNY educators to train workers and credential them for career advancement in green building management.

Focus on Resilience and Preparedness

With many neighborhoods across our city still reeling from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, and with severe weather on the rise, Bill de Blasio will invest in infrastructure upgrades that improve our resilience and ability to respond to an emergency. Permeable surfaces and natural infrastructure, for example, do more than help keep our waterways clean — they protect our homes and neighborhoods from natural disasters, increase home values, and create new construction jobs. He will also implement many of the recommendations made by the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Recovery, including safeguarding utilities and hospitals, and improving protective infrastructure with assets like surge barriers and sand dunes.

Restoring Our Waterways and Investing in Soft Infrastructure

By restoring our coastal ecosystems — such as our wetlands, dunes, and rivers — New York City can renew our long-neglected waterways while making important strides in protecting against future storm surges. In the same way that the High Line has been transformed from an urban blight to a rich community space, New York City can renew our waterways — such as the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, and Jamaica Bay — to improve our water ecosystems and expand locations for urban ecotourism.
he methane-capture modernization of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant will be constructive continuities from the current administration.)

Integrate Green Skills into Workforce Development

Training on ways to reduce energy costs effectively should be integrated into industry sector workforce development in all schools, apprenticeships and training programs. Bill de Blasio will model its green workforce initiatives on the Green Professional Building Skills Training model, which brings together labor unions, government officials, business leaders, environmentalists and CUNY educators to train workers and credential them for career advancement in green building management.

Focus on Resilience and Preparedness

With many neighborhoods across our city still reeling from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, and with severe weather on the rise, Bill de Blasio will invest in infrastructure upgrades that improve our resilience and ability to respond to an emergency. Permeable surfaces and natural infrastructure, for example, do more than help keep our waterways clean — they protect our homes and neighborhoods from natural disasters, increase home values, and create new construction jobs. He will also implement many of the recommendations made by the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Recovery, including safeguarding utilities and hospitals, and improving protective infrastructure with assets like surge barriers and sand dunes.

Restoring Our Waterways and Investing in Soft Infrastructure

By restoring our coastal ecosystems — such as our wetlands, dunes, and rivers — New York City can renew our long-neglected waterways while making important strides in protecting against future storm surges. In the same way that the High Line has been transformed from an urban blight to a rich community space, New York City can renew our waterways — such as the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, and Jamaica Bay — to improve our water ecosystems and expand locations for urban ecotourism.

As mayor, Bill de Blasio will work to restore our waterways and will implement a five-borough bioswales initiative to minimize the pressure on our water and sewer system.

Expand Municipal Composting Citywide

Composting is environmentally progressive, helps reduce waste streams, and mitigates harmful byproducts from decomposition. It also means less money spent on carting and fertilizer. The city has conducted successful pilot programs, and recently called for a major expansion. Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boulder, Colorado all have curbside composting pickup programs. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will expand the city’s program and create a mandatory citywide municipal composting system within five years. (Ed note: Following through on this promise would be a constructive continuity from the Bloomberg administration’s efforts to develop pilot composting programs.)

Promote Transit-Oriented Development

As mayor, Bill de Blasio will target rezonings and development of additional housing to locations with strong transit connections, encouraging higher-density development at and around transit hubs, while preserving lower density neighborhoods located further from mass transit.

Support Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan

For many years, New York City’s trash was disproportionately shipped to poor communities in the outer boroughs. Bill de Blasio understands we need a fair, five-borough plan to handle New York’s garbage. De Blasio will implement the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan, including opening the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station.

Establish Gateless Tolling

Even with EZ Pass, tollbooths still mean congestion and delay for thousands of drivers every day. The MTA has successfully experimented with gateless tolls on the Henry Hudson Bridge, proving that new technology can allow us to remove tollbooths and let motorists make toll crossings without reducing speed, saving time and reducing congestion. Bill de Blasio will work with the MTA to introduce gateless tolling on existing toll bridges that are notoriously traffic-choked, like the Verraza- no-Narrows Bridge.

Support Smart Grid and Smart Meter Deployment

To cut electricity consumption and reduce power outages, Bill de Blasio knows we need a long-term vision to upgrade the grid that delivers electricity to New York City homes. This means developing a comprehensive strategy to deploy smart meters that allow consumers to better manage consumption, and enable utilities to better manage peak energy loads. Bill de Blasio will work with Albany to establish real-time pricing options for electricity to decrease energy consumption and energy bills for participating New Yorkers. He will also support increasing the size of solar and alternative energy installations that can use net metering, which allows homes and businesses to feed energy that hasn’t been used back into the grid.

Uphold Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracturing

In 2009, Bill de Blasio sponsored the resolution calling on federal and state agencies to assess the risks posed by hydrofracking to drinking water, and to apply appropriate regulations. He supports the two-year fracking moratorium recently passed by the Assembly, and hopes the Senate will also approve the measure. Questions about health and environmental safety remain unanswered, and we can’t afford to get this wrong.

Several of these promises reflect continuities with the Bloomberg administration. Some are departures. A few raise questions about the details of implementation. This is an ambitious platform, and sustainability advocates are curious to see how and how much of it becomes policy for the United States’ largest city under Mayor de Blasio over the next four years.

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