The New York League of Conservation Voters has released its latest environmental scorecard for New York City Council, and it appears Staten Island may need detention. While the City’s other boroughs scored well (with Manhattan taking the top score), two of Staten Island’s three council members voted against almost every environmental bill that was examined.
Must be something in the water. No seriously, there literally might be something in the water, considering they voted against a bill to control water pollution and sewage.
Breaking it Down
Each year, NYLCV chooses a selection of environmental bills and rates council members based on their votes and bill sponsorships. This year, NYCLV examined 12 pieces of legislation (detailed at the end of this post); three were classified as priority bills and council members’ actions were weighted doubly on these. Negative votes and absences counted against the final score.
Council members are graded individually; these scores are then averaged to form a grade for each borough. For the past year, Manhattan scored the highest, though Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens were very close behind.
Here’s how the borough scores break down:
Staten Island: 43
The following individual council members received perfect scores (100):
Bronx: Andrew Cohen, Fernando Cabrera, Ritchie Torres
Brooklyn: Stephen Levin, Antonio Reynoso, Rafael Espinal, Carlos Menchaca, Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams, Alan Maisel
Manhattan: Margaret Chin, Corey Johnson, Daniel Garodnick, Ben Kallos, Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez
Queens: – Costa Constantinides, Daniel Dromm, Jimmy Van Bramer, Elizabeth Crowley, Donovan Richards
Notably, no council member from Staten Island received a perfect score, and in fact, with average scores of just 27, Steven Matteo and Joe Borelli had the lowest scores of any council member (Brooklyn council member Darlene Mealy also scored a 27).
What gives, Staten Island?
What’s in a Grade
NYLCV, in consultation with more than thirty environmental, public health, transportation, parks and environmental justice organizations, selected twelve bills that would form the basis of the council members grades.
For the curious, here are the 12 bills:
- Single-Use Bag Bill – Intro 209: This bill places a five-cent fee on single use bags at retail, convenience and grocery stores with limited exceptions. Intro 209 passed on May 5, 2016 by a vote of 28-20.
- Community Commitments Tracker – Intro 1132: This bill would require an agency of the Mayor’s choosing to maintain a publicly accessible online database tracking all written Mayoral commitments as part of any city-sponsored application subject to the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP). It would also require such agencies to report, on June 30th of each year, the current status of all unfulfilled and fulfilled commitments made six months prior to such report. Intro 1132 passed on December 15, 2016 by a vote of 48-0. The Mayor signed it into law on December 22, 2016.
- Controlling Water Pollution and Sewage – Intro 1346: This bill is related to the operation of New York City’s municipal separate storm sewer systems, and would require management practices to reduce discharge of pollutants in stormwater runoff from all municipal operations and facilities in the MS4 Permit’s area. Intro 1136 was heard by the Committee on Environmental Protection on December 13, 2016.
- Identifying Environmental Justice Issues – Intro 886: This bill helps agencies identify the serious environmental issues that plague residents and communities of New York City. Intro 886 was heard by the Committee on Environmental Protection on January 28th, 2016.
- Clean Heating Oil – Intro 642: This bill mandates that heating oil used in any building in New York City must contain at least 5% biodiesel by volume after October 1, 2016, with a timeline for reaching 20% by October 1, 2030. Intro 642 passed on September 28, 2016, by a vote of 47-3. Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bill into law on October 18, 2016.
- Green Buildings Package – Intro 1160, Intro 1163, Intro 1165: These bills require energy and water benchmarking, lighting retrofitting, and sub-metering requirements for buildings 25,000 square feet or larger. Intros 1160, 1163 and 1165 all passed by votes of 50-0 and were signed into law by the Mayor on October 31, 2016. This package of three bills was scored as one vote.
- Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure – Intro 1124: This bill requires the Department of Transportation to establish a pilot program for the installation of street parking electric vehicle charging stations. Intro 1124 passed 50-0 on November 16th, 2016, and was signed by the Mayor on December 6, 2016.
- Creating a Solar Ombudsperson within the NYC Department of Buildings – Intro 739: This bill would create a Solar Ombudsperson position within the NYC Department of Buildings to respond to questions, complaints, and concerns about solar power systems. Intro 739 was introduced on March 31, 2015 and is awaiting a hearing in the Committee on Housing and Buildings.
- Indoor Asthma in Residential Dwellings – Intro 385: This bill would require building owners to inspect for and fix allergens that can lead to asthma, such as mold and pests. Intro 385 was introduced on June 11, 2014 and is awaiting a hearing in the Committee on Housing and Buildings.
- Barnes Dance Pedestrian Crossing Systems Study – Intro 1177: This bill would require a study on the feasibility of implementing the Barnes Dance pedestrian crossing system in certain dangerous intersections. Intro 1177 was heard by the Committee on Transportation on November 15, 2016.
- Car Sharing Access – Intro 873: This bill would allow for the reservation of designated parking spaces, including metered spaces, in public parking facilities for car sharing programs throughout New York City. Intro 873 was heard by the Committee on Transportation on December 12, 2016.
- Recycling Carpeting – Intro 201: This bill would require recycling or reusing discarded carpeting from commercial units or buildings. Intro 201 is scheduled to be heard by the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management on January 31st, 2017.
Photo credit: William Alatriste via New York City Council