A correction was made to this story on Monday, March 23rd regarding how New York City Council Members’ support of environmental legislation is tracked.


Queens is New York City’s “Greenest Borough” when it comes to supporting environment-friendly legislation in the City Council. So says the 2014 Environmental Scorecard for the City Council, which was just released by the New York League of Conservation Voters.

The NYLCV looked at votes and other types of support, such as co-sponsorship, for nine key environmental bills in 2014 as a way to score Council Members. The bills, culled from an initial group of more than three dozen, were selected in consultation with the city’s leading environmental, transportation, public health, parks and environmental justice organizations, says the League.

Three of the bills were designated as “priority” and were weighted twice in the final score. Some of the bills are awaiting a full Council vote.

Battle of the Boroughs

Queens led the way with a score of 86 in 2014, but was closely followed by Manhattan.

Queens: 86
Manhattan: 82
Brooklyn: 76
Bronx: 75
Staten Island: 61

Staten Island’s representatives in the City Council scored the lowest of any borough due to their collective lack of support -to date- for legislation such as the plastic bag bill.

Two of Staten Island’s three Council Members -Vincent Ignizio and Steven Matteo- have also not joined colleagues in supporting a bill requiring the city’s ferries, including the Staten Island Ferry, to switch to less polluting forms of diesel fuel.

The Bills

1. Plastic Bags (priority)
Council Members Brad Lander and Margaret Chin sponsored Intro 209, which would reduce the use of non biodegradable carryout bags in New York City. The bill would impose a ten-cent fee on single-use plastic or paper bags. Awaiting a vote in the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management.

2. “80-by-50” Climate Change Pledge (priority)
Council Member Costa Constantinides sponsored Intro 378, which mandates a 30 percent reduction in citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, relative to 2005 emission levels, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Signed into law by Mayor de Blasio on December 14, 2014.

3. Pre-tax Transit Benefits (priority)
Council Member Dan Garodnick sponsored Intro 295, which requires that every employer in New York City with 20 or more full-time employees offer the opportunity to use pre-tax earnings to purchase qualified mass-transit commuter benefits. Signed into law by Mayor de Blasio on October 20, 2014.

4. NYC Energy Conservation Code
Intro 550, introduced by Councilmember Jumaane Williams by request of Mayor de Blasio, conforms New York City’s Energy Conservation Code to the State’s energy code. Buildings covered by the new code will be 10 to 30 percent more efficient than presently required. The bill mandates higher efficiency standards for boilers, commercial lighting, and electrical meters. Signed into law by Mayor De Blasio on January 8, 2015.

5. Biodiesel-powered Ferry Fleet
Intro 54, sponsored by Councilmember Costa Constantinides, would require that every diesel fuel-powered city ferry, including the Staten Island Ferry, switch to an ultra low sulfur diesel fuel blend with at least 5 percent biodiesel by volume. A minimum twenty percent biodiesel by volume would be required by 2020. Awaiting a vote in the Committee on Environmental Protection.

6. Mold Resistant Building Materials
Council Member Steven Matteo sponsored Intro 93, which requires that a mold resistant gypsum or cement board be used in mold-prone environments such as walls of basements, cellars, below grade rooms, rooms containing water tanks, kitchens, and bathrooms. Signed into law by Mayor de Blasio on May 19, 2014.

7. Safe, Energy-Efficient Construction Site Lighting
Intro 263, sponsored by Council Member Stephen Levin, amends the New York City building code to require energy-efficient, high-energy temporary lighting on construction sites. Enacted on May 19, 2014.

8. Heating and Cooling Efficient Buildings
Intro 14, sponsored by Council Member Stephen Levin, would correct for oversized heating and cooling equipment. Unnecessarily large systems result in operating inefficiencies. This bill would require the submission of the results of peak heating and cooling load calculations in construction documents submitted to the Department of Buildings. Awaiting a vote in the Committee on Housing and Buildings.

9. Bus Rapid Transit for All Boroughs
Intro 211, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would require that the New York City Department of Transportation, in consultation with the MTA and with input from the public, submit a plan to create a citywide network of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines connecting New York’s five boroughs. The legislation would also require the development of strategies to integrate current and future rapid transit and ferry lines in the region. Awaiting a vote in the Transportation Committee.

[Descriptions of legislation based on more lengthy explanations provided by NYLCV.] 

The Dream Team

According to the NYLCV, New York City Council Members with a perfect record of supporting the nine key bills in 2014 were:

  1. BRONX – Andrew Cohen, and Ritchie Torres;
  2. BROOKLYN – Brad Lander, Steve Levin, and Antonio Reynoso;
  3. MANHATTAN- Margaret Chin, Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos, Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Helen Rosenthal;
  4. QUEENS – Costa Constantinides, Elizabeth Crowley, Danny Dromm, Peter Koo, Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards, Paul Vallone, and Jimmy Van Bramer;
  5. STATEN ISLAND – none

Sitting Out the Climate Vote

According to the NYLCV, the two lowest scoring City Council Members in 2014 -both with scores of 42- were Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island, and Andrew King of the Bronx.

Ignizio and King have not indicated support for the plastic bag and rapid bus transit bills, which are awaiting a Council vote. They also both sat out the Council’s vote on mandating an 80 percent reduction in New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.