While the next Speaker of the New York City Council is not officially solidified, Adrienne Adams of District 28 in Queens confirmed that she has enough votes to secure her victory. She is set to be the first Black Woman to be speaker of the 51 member body and will bring unique viewpoints and priorities to the office coming from an outer borough district.
As speaker, Adams will have an extremely influential role in budget negotiations and on movement of legislation through the body. Decisions she makes and priorities she sets as speaker will have multiple ramifications for the environment. As the effects of climate change worsen and many legislators at the federal level refuse to take action, New York City is at the forefront of the issue and has a responsibility to take bold action in the face of this threat.
We need to be making massive investments in our parks and natural areas, not only to ensure that all of our green spaces are clean, safe and accessible, but also to build out our resilient green infrastructure to reduce the effects of flooding and urban heat, with a focus on environmental justice communities too often underserved by greenspace.
The City also must make massive overhauls to its transportation network and prioritize investments in public transit, micro-mobility options, and streetspace to better serve the public. Waste management needs to be reimagined, a robust and citywide recycling program that includes organics will keep our streets clean and reduce emissions. We need to keep moving forward to reduce pollution from buildings, decarbonize our schools and invest in clean energy. And we must do all this in a way that will create a just transition for workers and communities as we move off fossil fuels.
So with a lot of work to be done, what can we expect from Adams’ speakership?
There is no question that Councilmember Adams has been an environmental champion during her NYC Council tenure. She has had a perfect score of 100 on our past three environmental scorecards, one of only four councilmembers to do so. She has led on important bills such as Intro 1650, the farmers market and health bucks awareness bill, and has been a leader on preserving and expanding the budget for parks every year.
We still have challenges with the future of open streets, a high priority for NYLCV. In order to drastically reduce our carbon emissions we must be taking people out of their cars and making greener alternatives such as mass transit and micro-mobility options more accessible, affordable, and available. Open streets prioritizes pedestrians and micro mobility users, and it provides open spaces for residents where cars would normally have priority.
We know that Councilmembers Adrienne Adams’s district is a transportation desert and taking space away from cars would be challenging for her constituents. Adams has expressed support for the need for more parks, but notes that the current model of open streets does not work for all districts.
So what does this mean for the future of open space and car culture in NYC? Adams had made it clear through her voting record that she will fight to reduce emissions and take steps to fight climate change, but her district is reliant on automobiles which can be a challenge given the climate pollution associated with cars. Many environmental justice neighborhoods that suffer the most from emissions are also transportation deserts where public options are few and other alternatives, such as cycling, lack the infrastructure needed to make them safe alternatives.
Having a speaker that considers barriers such as this when it comes to tackling car culture will be valuable as we fight to make our transit system work for all New Yorkers. The notion is simple enough, if we are going to make it harder to have a car, then we must make it easier and safer to take other forms of transit
We have faith that with her strong voting record and commitment to green spaces, Adams will be a voice for reasonable transportation reform that doesn’t just take space away from cars, it gives people a reason to not need them.
We look forward to working with Adams as speaker to address climate change and prioritize the environment policies that help us reduce emissions, create green jobs and focus on fighting the inequalities that still exist in our city.