NYC Neglects Key Climate Initiatives

Earlier this year, NYLCVEF released the NYC Climate Action Tracker, a tool for the public, elected officials, and others to see how the City has made environmental progress since Mayor de Blasio launched OneNYC in 2015. The tracker highlights 13 initiatives that are important to the City’s commitment to combat climate change. Of these initiatives, some were completed and others were well behind schedule when the tracker was published. Sadly, the economic impact of COVID-19 has led New York City to delay or abandon key aspects of its plan to fight climate change.

For instance, the City made significant cuts to its organic waste collection programs, stalling progress toward two OneNYC goals: to expand the organics program to serve all New Yorkers, and to eliminate waste sent to landfills by 2030. Last year, 3.25 million tons of waste was sent to landfills, which is just under a 10% reduction from the 2005 benchmark. While the City has 10 more years to achieve its goal, it would have to reduce waste by 8% each year to hit the mark. On its own, this is not an easily achievable number, but with the suspension of the organics program in this year’s budget, that goal is now even harder to reach. Organic waste encompasses more than a third of all trash in NYC, so this program is critical for the City to send zero waste to landfills.

Other cuts that indirectly affect goals in our tracker include reduced funding to Vision Zero and the Parks Department. OneNYC aimed to double the number of cyclists and create 200 new miles of bike lanes, both of which were completed. However, recent cuts to Vision Zero have hindered the protective program that worked in tandem with these initiatives to keep bikers safe on the road. We need to reinstate this funding so that all cyclists are protected. OneNYC also sought to increase the percentage of New Yorkers living within walking distance of a park to 85%, a goal that has still not been reached. The recent budget cuts slashed Parks Department funding, which will reduce maintenance and workers. Increasing park access is essential, but we also need to ensure that parks can be properly maintained.

This year’s OneNYC progress report has been delayed, so we have not yet seen how the Mayor plans to build upon and achieve his major climate-related goals.