Oct 13 2014
Staten Island Lawmakers Among Worst in City on Environment
Staten Island in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy
Photo credit: Rob Gross  via Creative Commons
October 13, 2014
Staten Island Lawmakers Among Worst in City on Environment

A review of the voting records of New York State Senators and Assemblymembers on environmental issues bestowed a dubious honor on Staten Island: the island’s lawmakers performed among the worst in the city.

Released last week, the 2014 Environmental Scorecard, was prepared by EPL/Environmental Advocates, the accountability arm of Environmental Advocates of New York, a watchdog group in Albany.

The Scorecard is a fascinating read. Take the case of Assemblymember Joseph Borelli (R), who represents Staten Island, the New York City borough which suffered the greatest loss of life during Hurricane Sandy.

According to the EPL Scorecard, Borelli voted against the Climate Protection Act, the Community Risk Reduction and Resiliency Act (to incorporate planning for climate change into state infrastructure projects), the NY Sun Initiative (to promote solar energy), the Environmental Justice for All Act, and a statewide ban on fracking.

Generally Positive Performance from NYC’s State Legislators

Despite the performance of Joseph Borelli and a handful of other representatives in the legislature, the New York City delegation generally supports sound environmental policies, said EPL.

“There are elected officials in both houses who recognize that some of the biggest issues facing us today – climate change, clean water, our energy infrastructure – are environmental, and they step up to bring people together to implement solutions,” Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of EPL/Environmental Advocates, said in a statement.

“With the exception of a few outliers who perform poorly each year, and a couple otherwise dependable lawmakers dropping the ball on key votes, New York City residents can be proud of their legislators’ environmental records,” Iwanowicz added.

A Window on Albany

Here’s what the Scorecard has to say about the Environmental Conservation committee in the infamous New York State Senate:

“The…Committee has rapidly become a place where the environmental community’s priorities hit a brick wall. Current Senate rules provide wide discretion to committee chairs on what does and does not come up on committee agendas for a vote. The Child Safe Products Act lingered far too long this year before being released, but other priorities were also held by [committee chair] Senator Gristanti.

Among the bills on the Environmental Scorecard that died in committee were #1 Fracking Moratorium, #6 Climate Protection Act, #7 Environmental Justice for All, #17 Reduce Toxic Mercury in Lightbulbs, #19 Cadmium Free Toys, #9 Keeping Recyclables Out of Landfills, #11 Microbead-Free Waters Act, and #12 Cover Your Crude. The latter three were even sponsored by Senator Grisanti, and though they passed the Assembly, he never brought them to the Committee for a vote.”

The Best and the Worst

Eleven Senators and Assemblymembers from the five boroughs earned high scores from the EPL this year:

• Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan)
• Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn)
• Senator Tony Avella (D-Bayside)
• Senator Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria)
• Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan)
• Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan)
• Senator Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan)
• Senator Gustavo River (D-Bronx)
• Senator Jose Serrano (D-Manhattan)
• Senator Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan)
• Senator Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing)

EPL singled out Senators Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) and Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), who was last year’s recipient of the “Oil Slick Award”, because they “significantly increased their scores in 2014 to 81 and 83, respectively. Savino is honored in this year’s Scorecard for her leadership in passing the Community Risk Reduction and Resiliency Act, which was recently signed into law.”

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan) is also honored “for his leadership is urging the federal government to adopt carbon pollution caps on dirty power producers to help fight climate change.”

In the Senate, Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) saw her “traditionally high score” drop this year as a result of two “bad” environmental votes, while Assemblymembers Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan) and Richard Gottfriend (D-Manhattan) also saw their scores drop due to unexcused absences, according to EPL. Nine area lawmakers earned incompletes, due to several excused absences.

In addition to Kellner’s score of 38, the “worst performing” local legislators include:

  • Senator Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) – 67 points
  • Senator Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) – 67 points
  • Senator John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) – 67 points
  • Assemblyman Joseph Borelli (R-Staten Island) – 47 points
  • Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Brooklyn/Staten Island) – 60 points

EPL/Environmental Advocates says that the 2014 Environmental Scorecard is the only record of New York State lawmakers’ votes on legislation that impacts the environment. The scorecard has been produced and distributed statewide for more than 40 years.

Staten Island in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy
Photo credit: Rob Gross  via Creative Commons