The New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) has just released its 2021 NYC Council Environmental Scorecard. NYLCV is the only organization that releases a scorecard evaluating NYC Council Members on their support of environmental issues. Its assessment of the Council’s record is important for determining which Council Members are working to protect New York City’s environment and which are not.
Council Members are scored by evaluating their support of key environmental bills. NYLCV selects the most important bills to use based on the priorities discussed by the Green Group—a coalition of New York City’s leading environmental organizations. Council Members earn points by casting pro-environment votes on bills that passed, or by co-sponsoring pro-environment bills that have not yet passed. Negative votes and abstentions count against the score, however votes missed due to excused absences are not factored in.
Of the thirteen bills, used to evaluate each Council Member in 2021, eight were passed. The Plastic Straw Ban, sponsored by Councilmember Rosenthal that passed in May 2021, reduces single-use plastics in our waste stream and helps save small businesses millions. Councilmember Constantinides sponsored two resiliency-focused bills to study wastewater treatment and renewable energy opportunities on Rikers Island—both of which passed in February of 2021. Councilmember Dromm’s diesel school bus phase out, a long term NYLCV priority that requires all city school buses be fully electric by 2035, finally passed in October 2021.
NYLCV and their partners will continue to advocate for the important bills that remain unpassed—many of which would provide crucial reform to the City’s waste system. Skip The Stuff, sponsored by Councilmember Van Bramer, prohibits food establishments from providing single-use plastic utensils unless requested. Councilmember Powers and Councilmember Reynoso respectively introduced bills expanding the amount of operating organic waste drop off sites and community recycling centers across the city. With this new leadership, NYLCV hopes to see increased support for these bills to ensure they are reintroduced and passed in 2022.
The average score of the City fell slightly from 85 to 84. As the last year in office for a majority of the Council, some members were focused on their legacy, some were fixated on ensuring comprehensive and thoughtful legislation, and some were focused on what could still be accomplished in the next council. With numerous motivations, and more than half of our enacted scorecard bills being passed in the last few months of the year, it is no surprise that many environmentally conscious bills didn’t receive the support they should have. However, there were some long-time NYLCV priority bills that the Council did pass—mustering the political will to accomplish long standing environmental legislation when it came down to the wire.
Despite the very minor setback on a Citywide scale, there were some positive changes at the borough level. We are excited to see that The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island all increased their average scores this year, to 79, 88, and 62. This increase has set a bold example of advocacy for other boroughs to follow. Though Manhattan was not able to achieve its perfect score of 100 again, it still carries the highest average score of 90.
This year, sixteen Council Members scored a perfect 100. Included in this number are committee chairs Jim Gennaro (Committee on Environmental Protection), Peter A. Koo (Committee on Parks and Recreation), Mark Levine (Committee on Health), and Ydanis A. Rodriguez (Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure).
As Speaker, Corey Johnson is not scored. However, the citywide average of 84, which the Speaker has substantial influence over, is a reflection of his commitment to the environment. Current Speaker Adrienne Adams has scored a perfect 100 for the last four years, and we are optimistic that this dedication will spread to the rest of City Council in the coming years.
Now that the new Council Members, committee chairs, and Speaker have settled into their roles, NYLCV has begun working with legislators to pinpoint bills that are crucial for environmental protection and conservation. We hope to continue making strides at the borough level and get the Citywide average back up next year. We are confident that, as long as Council Members are willing to commit to bold, sustainable decisions, we can make significant forward progress to conserve our environment and the prosperity of our community.
We urge you to let your Council Member know why protecting the environment should continue to be a top priority for NYC throughout 2022.