Following a record high level of turnover among City Council seats in addition to the Mayor, Comptroller, and four borough president seats being up for grabs since the implementation of term limits in 2001, there are new opportunities to make sustainability and environmental justice key priorities in the City. To ensure council members maintain their campaign promises of delivering crucial environmental policy, NYLCVEF, WE ACT and South Bronx Unite formed the Green Our City Now coalition. This coalition will hold elected officials accountable on their promises, by providing information and guidance on environmental policy priorities and tracking their environmental commitments.
As climate change becomes an increasingly pressing issue in all regions, it is especially impacting communities of color and lower-income areas. Green Our City Now is attempting to combat this issue through an array of methods including policy implementation and advocacy as well as ensuring equal distribution of environmental benefits. Recent local laws in New York City including Local Law 60 and Local Law 64 are examples of legal efforts already taken by the city to ensure an equitable future for all areas of the city vulnerable to climate injustice.
Each borough maintains its own set of environmental issues that urgently need to be addressed.
In the Bronx, some neighborhoods have the poorest recorded air quality not just in the city, but in the country. This is largely due to an abundance of power plants and heavy manufacturing centers that contribute to poor public health, especially increased rates of asthma that in some areas of the Bronx are 21 times higher than any other neighborhood in NYC. To combat these issues, elected officials are promising to reduce emissions, increase public transport accessibility, and implement green infrastructure.
Brooklyn has relatively poor green infrastructure, with few subway stations being accessible and possessing only 15% of NYC bike lanes. There are also poor resiliency efforts in coastal areas already beginning to bear the effects of climate change from major weather events, and lead poisoning rates are among the highest in the city. To address these major issues, elected officials are promising to address coastal resiliency, increase city bike lanes, and make transportation greener.
Queens houses the largest power plant in the city, contributing to high rates of asthma in the area. The borough is also especially vulnerable to major storms such as shown in Hurricanes Sandy and Ida, and lacks the necessary resilient infrastructure to withstand these increasingly devastating weather events. Environmental priorities for elected officials include investing in parks and open spaces, reducing local emissions, and improving resiliency infrastructure.
Manhattan has especially poor waste management and high emission rates of from buildings running on fossil fuel energy. A lack of green spaces and infrastructure is contributing to a high heat vulnerability index, as is city-wide dependence on fuel oil and natural gas in city buildings. Council members intend to address these issues by reducing building emissions, improving green infrastructure, and utilizing renewable energy.
Staten Island houses the most green space in the entire city, offsetting city-wide greenhouse gas emissions. However, transportation accessibility is a major issue for the island, with only one train in the entire borough. As a result, elected officials intend to make transportation, and particularly green transportation, a key priority in their upcoming term.
Green Our City also plans to release a Green Pact, another document that will build on Green Promises and outline environmental issues which should be prioritized in NYC. It will offer possible solutions to the issues and ask elected officials to commit to improving environmental justice and sustainability.
By Michaela Stones