In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio laid out his plan for a sustainable future in New York City. His visionary plan has put New York on the right path toward renewable energy and smart growth, but crucial work still remains. In order to defend and improve the quality of life in New York City, the NYLCV has identified three key categories in need of action – public health, strong neighborhoods and a vibrant economy.
To protect the public health of New Yorkers, the municipality must pursue resource preservation. All the activity in the city can damage the environment, particularly the air and water on which New Yorkers depend. To that end, policy makers must invest in green infrastructure, to avoid causing harm to waterways. Bioswales, green roofs and rain gardens can help to keep the water supply clean, and promote flood mitigation across the city. New York City must shield watersheds from the impact of natural gas drilling, and expand water-conservation initiatives laid out by the Department of Environmental Protection.
All New Yorkers, further, should have access to healthy and local food. As such, policy makers should extend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to a wider range of farmer’s markets and food providers. The City must establish a Wholesale Farmer’s Market, and establish a short-term goal of making 25 percent of all purchased food locally grown or produced.
In terms of infrastructure, buildings in NYC should move from dirty heating oils to natural gas in order to cut down on air pollution. Policy maker should further invest in mass transit, in order to reduce transportation emissions, and promote policies that encourage electric vehicle use. In addition, the municipality should launch a comprehensive indoor air quality and mold remediation monitoring program in city-owned properties. Indoor air quality issues disproportionately impact low-income residents.
Green infrastructure will help to create a vibrant economy, as well. Renewable energy projects will create jobs, all while reducing gate city’s environmental footprint. Greater investment in waste management systems will not only cut down on the cost of exporting waste, but will reduce the impact on underserved communities. But green infrastructure alone can’t protect the city’s constructions.
In order to create strong neighborhoods, policy makers must upgrade infrastructure for a changing climate. Building and zoning codes must reflect the potential for flooding in vulnerable areas, and coastal and riverine properties require protections such as wetland barriers and natural shoreline restoration. Beyond the building material, the municipality must invest in parks, waterfronts and transportation, in order that city residents can easily access these resources. NYLCV has long argued for a policy under which all New Yorkers live within a ten-minute walk of a well-maintained park. The NYC transit system requires attention, as well. 20 new Select Bus Service routes would compensate for those New Yorkers underserved by the subway system.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan has New Yorker’s thinking about their impact on the environment, and how this city might look in the coming decades. Now, we must take action to ensure that the coming generations can live healthy, rich and productive lifestyles. As the impact of climate change grows, New Yorkers must take care to lessen their environmental footprint, and manage the city’s resources properly. With the right action plan, we can galvanize NYC into a comprehensive, environmentally conscious vision of growth.