As Mayor de Blasio prepares to give a major address at Cooper Union tonight about the future of New York City, environmental advocates and City Council members are urging him to speak to the dangers of climate change and present his strategy for developing a more sustainable city.
Last week, the U.N. released a stark new assessment of the growing impacts of climate change that are being felt across the globe.
“As a representative of the Rockaways, I witnessed how unprepared our city was during Hurricane Sandy,” said Donovan Richards, chair of the City Council’s Environmental Protection committee. “I relish the opportunity to work with this administration to ensure we never find ourselves in that position again.”
A number of other Council Members issued similar statements at a press conference this morning on the steps of City Hall. They also argued that New York City needs an updated, far-ranging sustainability plan that looks at issues like housing and renewable energy.
Mayor de Blasio has made the development of thousands of units of affordable housing one of the key objectives of his administration.
Council Member Antonio Reynoso said today that new housing must be “equally environmentally responsible.” And Reynoso, who represents Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which has seen a proliferation of large-scale housing development, pointed to the scarcity of “green and open space” in his district.
Council Members, along with advocacy groups like the New York League of Conservation Voters and Transportation Alternatives, were joined by some members of the development community.
“Superstorm Sandy exposed troublesome vulnerabilities in the City’s major energy, transportation and infrastructure systems,” stated Building Congress President Richard T. Anderson.
Those vulnerabilities can only be addressed, said Anderson, “by incorporating far greater standards for redundancy and sustainability in our capital programs.”
The coalition is calling on Mayor de Blasio to meet three “milestones” in the next one-hundred days, and to “put a healthy environment and climate resiliency…at the center of [his] vision” for New York City.
# 1: By May 1st, 2014, commit to building “affordably and sustainably.”
On May 1st, the de Blasio administration will announce its strategy to add and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years. “Every effort should be made to make that housing environmentally sustainable and climate resilient,” says the coalition.
# 2: By June 1st, 2014, “show us your resiliency plan.”
The groups acknowledged that under the de Blasio administration, there has been a “renewed focus on helping New Yorkers recover from the impacts of Superstorm Sandy.”
But, they added, “there is still much work to be done to prepare the city for future extreme weather events. We urge Mayor de Blasio to issue a comprehensive and concrete plan that will make sure New York is prepared for the next big storm and a changing climate.”
#3: By June 30th, 2014, commit to investing in infrastructure, in order to “invest in the future.”
New York City spent an average of $9.5 billion on infrastructure in each of the last five years, the coalition stated.
As the Mayor and the Council finalize the city’s budget for the next fiscal year, which will begin on July 1st, advocates and Council Members stated that Mayor de Blasio should “integrate sustainability and resiliency planning into the capital program.”
It was critical, they said, that the city “ensure roads, bridges, schools, parks and environmental facilities are in a good state of repair.”
Time is of the essence, the coalition added. Hurricane season starts on June 1st.