As New York City begins strategizing for the new year, our new administration and Council Members have the opportunity to start making transformative investments in our environmental infrastructure and resiliency. NYLCV’s newest Policy Agenda lists what issues should be made top priority in the transportation, energy, public health, conservation, and environmental justice sectors, and highlights the legislative opportunities that will get us there. We hope to build upon our progress made last year and continue making bold policy decisions for the good of our community. Below are some of the main points made in this year’s Policy Agenda.
Improvements in our transportation system are of utmost importance to the safety and prosperity of New Yorkers. Not only is the transportation sector a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s also responsible for respiratory and other public health issues due to the amount of air pollution it causes. The main reform needed to combat these issues includes reclaiming pedestrian street space, increasing bike and scooter infrastructure, and improving bus transit technology to incentivize the shift away from gas-driven, single-occupancy vehicles. It is vital that the City implements the NYC Streets Plan and 25×25 so that there is adequate infrastructure in place to allow for more efficient public transit and micro-mobility programs.
To further combat emissions, the City should focus more of its efforts on clean energy usage and expansion. By supporting projects such as property assessed clean energy (PACE), offshore wind development, battery storage and microgrid implementation, we reduce fossil fuel usage and promote the stewardship of our valuable resources for future generations. We must also push efforts to restructure energy usage in our smaller buildings, such as by retrofitting schools with solar panels. Not only do these actions put us on track to meet emissions reduction targets, but they also reinvigorate the economy by creating green jobs and employing more community members.
Another sector in need of reform and improvements is the current waste system. As the City moves toward reaching its Zero Waste goal by 2030, it is imperative that we implement programs to promote waste reduction and sustainable waste management tactics. Investing in an accessible composting system for organic waste helps to divert methane from landfills, thus decreasing the amount of greenhouse gas emitted. Implementing recycling education programs would reduce non-reusable packaging and single-use plastics, mitigating negative externalities on the environment and our community. We need to start adopting the necessary legislation to kickstart behavioral change amongst the community and decrease the City’s carbon footprint.
The removal of lead-based must also be a priority this year. Lead poisoning is an extremely harmful and even lethal disease, with its number one source being lead-based paint that still exists on the interior walls of buildings. Children under the age of six are much more susceptible to lead poisoning, which puts them at a higher risk for severe mental and physical development issues. These issues are easily preventable with the swift removal and replacement of all existing lead-based paint. By establishing higher standards for lead testing and abatement, we’d reduce the number of children afflicted by these toxins.
The City must also start investing more in its green spaces and parks. New Yorkers crave access to the great outdoors and fresh air, and many neighborhoods still do not have access to it. These natural areas serve more purposes than just an escape from the concrete – nature helps to mitigate climate change by reducing the urban heat island effect, absorbing stormwater, and providing clean air and habitats for wildlife. Actions such as implementing a forest management framework, expanding trails and parkland extensions, protecting public access to the waterfront, and other coastal resiliency efforts are key steps in this process. It is crucial that we commit at least one percent of our budget to parks to preserve our ecosystem before climate hazards worsen.
We must also acknowledge that many of these issues fall disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color due to years of environmental racism. These communities are often the most harshly impacted by climate hazards, and lack the resources to adequately protect themselves. We must prioritize these communities in our fight for climate resilience by strengthening zoning codes to protect homes in vulnerable areas, and focusing on construction and maintenance of parks in communities underserved by parkland. It is critical that Environmental Justice is at the forefront of our agenda as we strategize for our future.
Mayor Eric Adams has already committed to implementing many of these policies, such as expediting the electric bus rollout, expanding bike lane infrastructure, allocating one percent of the budget for parks, and building out a composting program. We look forward to working with the new administration and Council Members to ensure these promises come to fruition, and continue making forward progress in environmental advocacy.
By Sabrina Pangione