NYLCV Calls For Robust Environmental Funding in NYC Budget

By Peter Aronson

It’s budget time in New York City, and we are urging Mayor Adams and the City Council to come together on a budget that is bold in fighting climate change and invests the necessary resources to ensure a healthy, just and equitable green future for all New Yorkers.

This has never been more imperative. Last year was the hottest year on record, and based on the first few months of 2024, this year may very well be worse.

The New York City Council just concluded its annual round of Preliminary Budget hearings and Alia Soomro, NYLCV’s Deputy Director for NYC Policy, was front and center urging the body to reverse the mayor’s budget cuts and fund environmental agencies and programs to the fullest amount possible. 

The City Council’s Preliminary Budget response due April 1. We need a strong environmental and climate budget so the city is prepared for the impacts of climate change that are already here, and also to fund the programs and policies required if we are going to avoid the worst outcomes in the years and decades ahead. This includes funding for City agencies to carry out key environmental programs and laws and the following topics:


Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Buildings

A top NYLCV priority is for the city to fully fund the agencies that play an important role in helping buildings reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Buildings are the largest source of GHG emissions  in the city and when the City Council passed Local Law 97 (LL97) in 2019, it was designed to address this problem. 

The first year of mandated compliance is now upon us. That’s why it is imperative that the city provide transparent and robust funding for the NYC Department of Buildings’ (DOB) Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance to provide enough staffing to ensure the speedy, effective and equitable implementation and enforcement of LL97. We also hope to see funding go towards educational and technical assistance for building owners and the community to comply with this law.

Additionally, we urge the City not to reduce funding for its own compliance with LL97. By doing this, we risk falling further behind schedule than we already are and the city will be signaling to building owners that the rules are “for thee and not for we.” The city must lead by example and get back on track to getting our buildings into compliance—whether privately- or publicly-owned.


Fund DEP Infrastructure Projects

We urge the city to robustly fund the city’s lead agency in fighting climate change, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), plus the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice.

Part of this plan would include reversing a policy, so that the huge sums of money collected by the DEP as water payment revenue stay with the DEP, instead of the funds ($145 million in FY24 and $295 million in FY 25) being handed over to the city’s general fund.

As we stated in our 2024 NYC Policy Agenda, the city must adequately fund the DEP’s Green Infrastructure and Bluebelt Program, as well as all other infrastructure, sewer and wastewater projects to protect the city against storm water flooding and unregulated contaminants in our waterways.

We also urge the city to provide the necessary funds to eliminate all lead pipes in the city, so that every New Yorker has clean drinking water.


Invest in Our Transportation System

The trucks, school buses and cars being driven through the five boroughs produce the second highest amount of GHG emissions in the city. Private vehicles account for 90 percent of that, so it’s key that we reduce the number of cars on our streets to improve air quality, a longstanding environmental justice issue. 

We urge the city to prioritize and fully fund the NYC Streets Master Plan, an extensive five-year plan mandated by law that would expand and improve public transportation options and transition NYC’s streets away from being entirely car-dominated, focusing on equity and safety; the 25×25 Plan, which calls for the conversion of 25 percent of current parking and driving space in the five boroughs into usable space for people by 2025; and the Vision Zero Plan, which launched in 2014 and called for the elimination of all traffic deaths in the five boroughs by this year. With approximately 250 traffic deaths – approximately the same as when the program began – this goal is far from achieved


Electrify the School Bus Fleet and School Buildings

Another priority is the full electrification of all 11,000 NYC school buses. The city (and the state) has mandated that the entire fleet be all electric by 2035, but we need to move at a faster pace to achieve that goal. 

“Electrifying school buses is important not only to help combat climate change, but to combat toxic air pollution, a longstanding environmental justice issue,” Soomro told the City Council in her testimony. “New York City students, many with disabilities or from disadvantaged communities, are exposed to dangerous diesel fumes every time they take the bus.”

We congratulate the city for receiving a $61.1 million federal grant from the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program, which will provide 180 new ESBs, quadrupling the city’s current total. We urge the city to continue applying for federal funds as well as funding from the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act, $500 million of which is dedicated to funding ESBs and charging infrastructure.

In addition, the City Council must provide adequate funding so that the Department of Education can retrofit older school buildings so they can reduce emissions by converting to electric. This includes the implementation of green technology, such as solar panels, thermal energy networks and an upgrading so that buildings are more energy efficient.


Prioritize NYC Parks and Parks Workers

Parks and green spaces make up 14 percent of the city’s land. NYC Parks manages 53.5 percent of the total urban forest tree canopy in the city. Yet, NYC Parks receive less than 1 percent of the city’s budget at a crucial time. NYLCV, along with the Play Fair for Parks Coalition and the Forest For All NYC Coalition, urges the city to reverse the proposed budget cuts for the Parks Department and find a long-term strategy for investing at least 1 percent of the City budget in parks . 

“We cannot maintain our parks system, increase our tree canopy, or prepare our open spaces for climate change if we cut our parks budget,” Soomro told the City Council during her testimony. 

In November, Mayor Adams announced a $25 million cut to parks and, with the Mayor’s Preliminary Budget in January, announced an additional $55 million reduction in funding. This comes at a time when the health, environmental and financial benefits to the city from a fully-funded Parks Department clearly outweighs the short-sighted savings from these draconian cuts. And these funding shortfalls would have the greatest negative impact on park works and low-income and communities of color, the very people who maintain and need the parks the most.

“Parks serving primarily non-white populations are already half the size of parks that serve majority white populations and are five times more crowded,” Soomro said. “We support the renewal and full funding for the city’s Community Parks Initiative, part of an equity plan to invest in public parks in neighborhoods that are densely populated, growing, and contain higher-than-average concentrations of poverty.”


Invest in Public Housing

Protecting the city against climate change means the city must equally protect all residents. To achieve that goal, the city must increase funding for the long-neglected New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

“Chronic issues such as lack of heating and hot water, mold, lead paint, rats and other pests, and little to no recycling access have plagued NYCHA residents for years,” Soomro told the City Council.

Compounding this, NYCHA residents are disproportionately impacted by climate change because many NYCHA complexes are located in flood zones, lack air conditioning and are far distances from the city’s largest and best-maintained parks.

In addition, removing lead paint from these communities must be a funding priority for the city. Likewise, we urge the city and state to work together to insure an increase in capital contribution for NYCHA restoration and maintenance, so that the projected $80 billion needed for the next 20 years is met.


Achieve Zero Waste by 2030  

Food waste is the third highest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, after buildings and transportation. When food waste is sent to landfills, which are disproportionately located in low income and communities of color, organic waste decomposes to create methane gas, a GHG 20 times more powerful that carbon dioxide.

For New York City to meet its 2030 goal of having zero waste go to landfills, the city must first restore $7 million in funding for the community composting program, plus there must be additional capital funding for composting facilities. Curbside composting programs scheduled for rollout citywide – next on Staten Island and in the Bronx – must keep to its original March 2024 schedule.

The city must also fund compost collection at every DOE school by the end of this school year, equitably site city composting facilities and programs, and roll out the waste containerization program while also electrifying the city’s sanitation trucks.

Our budget asks are bold because they have to be. The climate crisis demands nothing less. We urge Mayor Adams and the City Council to fund the agencies and programs needed so the city can successfully prepare for the impacts of climate change and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions so we can finally stem the tide of a warming planet. 

03.29.24 // AUTHOR: admin //