The New York City Council has a revamped Environmental Protection Committee with new leadership, and an entirely new committee that will focus on climate resiliency and rebuilding issues.

The leadership and makeup of the two committees were announced this week. Much of the Council’s new environmental leadership hails from New York City communities battered by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, like the Rockaways, South Brooklyn and South-East Queens, large sections of Manhattan’s waterfront, and the Eastern Shore of Staten Island.

Building on the Council’s Efforts to Address Climate Change

The Environmental Protection Committee was highly active under the leadership of outgoing Member James Gennaro, a trained geologist from Queens, who has now joined the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Gennaro will serve as the DEC’s Deputy Commissioner for New York City Sustainability and Resiliency.

During Gennaro’s tenure, the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee developed numerous pieces of legislation which helped to lock-in and expand Bloomberg-administration sustainability initiatives.

One of the Committee’s arguably greatest achievements during that period was crafting legislation that required the city to take the needs of its most vulnerable residents into account as it planned for climate change.

The Committee will now be chaired by Donovan Richards, who represents Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens and Rosedale, Queens. Before joining the Council, Richards served as chief of staff for former Council Member James Sanders, Jr. Richards won Sanders’ seat in a special election last February.

Richards co-sponsored legislation last fall with Brad Lander and other Council Members to create a public online database tracking how federal Sandy relief funds are distributed and used. And, with local residents, he helped to lead a public tour last May of mold infested homes in the Rockaways to demand more immediate assistance for Sandy victims.

Richards has also called “for the Department of Environmental Protection to fund a $14 million dollar project in Rosedale’s Brookville Triangle to alleviate flooding.”

Connection to Past Leadership

Richards will be joined on the Environmental Protection Committee by:

  • Stephen Levin, who represents Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, parts of Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Boerum Hill, Brooklyn;
  • Costa Constantinides, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Council Member Gennaro and represents Astoria and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights, Queens;
  • Rory Lancman, who served as a state assembly member and will be representing Hillcrest, Queens; and
  • Eric Ulrich, who represents most of the Rockaways and several neighborhoods in South Queens.

Levin and Ulrich are incumbents; the rest of the Committee’s members are new to the Council.

Special Focus on Preparing for the Next Storm

The City Council has also created a Recovery and Resiliency Committee, which will be chaired by newly-elected Mark Treyger, representing Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Sea Gate, Brooklyn neighborhoods hard hit by Sandy.

Treyger’s Council biography states that before his election, he formed STRONG (Sandy Task-Force Recovery Organized by Neighborhood Groups) “to help spearhead the fight against the opening of a dangerous garbage station in Southwest Brooklyn and fight for federal recovery dollars to improve Coney Island and Sea Gate’s sewer system, beaches, and other vital infrastructure”.

Treyger will be joined on the Recovery and Resiliency Committee by Donovan Richards and Eric Ulrich, along with:

  • Incumbent Rosie Mendez, representing neighborhoods along the East River in Manhattan;
  • Incumbent Margaret Chin, representing Lower Manhattan;
  • Newly-elected Carlos Menchaca, representing Sunset Park and a section of the Brooklyn waterfront; and
  • Newcomer Steven Matteo, representing Staten Island’s “mid-Island” district.

Matteo served as chief of staff for outgoing Member James Oddo, who is now Staten Island’s borough president.

Matteo’s district includes communities such as New Dorp and Ocean Breeze, which suffered some of the greatest physical devastation and loss of life during Sandy.

After his appointment, Matteo, one of three Republicans on the Council, declared in a statement, “Sandy will be my number one priority. I am honored to be part of the team of Council Members that will look to make the City more resilient in the face of future storms.”