A Framework for a Sustainable City

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Climate change, a fast-changing economy, and new pressures to preserve our environment combine to make urban sustainability an urgent priority. At the same time, sustainability offers tremendous opportunities to improve public health and our environment, deliver real savings and efficiency for tax- payers, and open new doors to good-paying jobs particularly for low-income New Yorkers.

New York City is uniquely positioned to become the most sustainable big city in the world. With significant public infrastructure and a robust mass transit system, dense living patterns, and capacity for civic innovation, Bill de Blasio recognizes this is a transformational moment for our city.


The De Blasio Record on Sustainability and the Environment

Bill de Blasio is a committed protector of the environment and a strong advocate for urban sustainability. Throughout his public service life, he has pushed forward a far-thinking sustainability agenda and championed legislation that would mitigate negative environmental impacts. These initiatives have helped preserve our environment while increasing city efficiency.

  • Promoting Green Buildings. One of the best ways to bolster sustainability is to use green standards in the renovation and construction of buildings. As a City Council member, Bill de Blasio co-sponsored legislation to offer incentives to implement green building standards. He also supported mandates for all city construction and repairs to ensure they earn at least a LEED Silver certification.
  • Improving Air Quality. Bill de Blasio has worked to reduce toxic emissions and improve air quality. He has pushed the New York State Legislature to implement the same motor vehicle emissions standards used by California, and introduced legislation to crack down on emissions from idling vehicles and sanitation trucks.
  • Reducing the Negative Impact of E-Waste. The rapid rise of technology has produced a proliferation of e-waste – faulty or outdated computers, phones, monitors and other similar electronic products. Often, these devices contain toxins, lead or chemicals that pose serious health and environmental risks. Bill de Blasio led the fight in creating a comprehensive e-waste management plan for New York City. As a result of his efforts, manufacturers and waste handlers are now required to comply with strict standards for collection and recovery of harmful e-waste.
  • Harnessing the Power of the Purse to Promote Energy Efficiency. The City of New York has enormous leverage through its purchasing power to promote the use of green products and increase energy efficiency. As a City Council member, Bill de Blasio pushed the city to change its purchasing to ensure New York’s power of the purse obtained economies of scale.
  • Ending Government Use of Styrofoam. Landfilling garbage incurs high costs and does tremendous damage to our environment, and Styrofoam is one of the most dangerous contributors because of how long it takes to biodegrade. Bill de Blasio initiated the SPARE pledge — Stop Polystyrene and Revitalize the Environment — to ban government use of Styrofoam, and he backed separate legislation to end Department of Education use of Styrofoam in food packaging.
  • Creating a Culture of Recycling in Our Schools. Recycling should be a way of life for all New Yorkers, and Bill de Blasio knows the best way to nurture that culture is by teaching our children to be good environmental stewards. That’s why he has pushed for better waste management and recycling in New York City schools.

A Vision For a Sustainable New York City

New York City has been a leader in green initiatives to save energy, protect the environment, and build green jobs for our economy. Bill de Blasio intends to build on that history and expand sustainability initiatives throughout the five boroughs.

Build an Alliance for a Sustainable New York

New York City has all of the critical components in place to become the most sustainable city in the world: dense public-sector resources and infrastructure, private capital, innovators in science and technology, strong labor unions, and a committed citizenry. We can and must build on the successes of PlaNYC and convene all stakeholders to build the most sustainable city in the world. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will convene public and private sector actors to expand and deepen PlaNYC, and he will update the plan every year on Earth Day.

Commit to Renewable Energy

The green collar economy begins with a clear commitment to alternative energy sources. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will expand the city’s investment in large-scale clean energy production, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and biofuels. Not only would such a transition reduce New York City’s carbon footprint, it would expand economic opportunities — from entrepreneurs to production and installation jobs. Bill de Blasio will also advocate at the state level for the New York Solar Act, which will provide additional incentives to sup- port the adoption of solar energy production.

Retrofit and Green New York City Buildings

Bill de Blasio will make every government-owned building as green as is financially viable by 2020. For the private sector, Bill de Blasio will continue the commitment to the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation. He will also replicate Chicago’s public-private partnership model to create more funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. This includes direct loans for energy efficiency in buildings and “Energy Services Agreements (ESA),” where energy efficiency work is packaged as a service that building owners pay for through savings with limited upfront cost to the owner.

Help Every Business Reduce its Energy Use

At economic development hubs around the city, Bill de Blasio will have city workers provide technical assistance to local business owners with an emphasis on greater efficiency. This technical support will provide information on ways to increase energy efficiency in their buildings and better manage waste, which will help reduce transit and logistic energy costs while improving industrial processes. The city will also help small businesses identify the government and private resources that can help them green their businesses and use the energy savings to grow their businesses.

Set a Goal of Zero Waste in New York

New York City is behind in recycling and reducing waste, at great cost to the budget and the environment. The city spent $320 million in 2011 on disposal, while sanitation trucks drove 40 million miles, spewing huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

The cost of Zero Waste may sound unattainable, but it is actually a practical program and goal. Since adopting Zero Waste, San Francisco recycles 80 percent, compared to 15 percent in New York City. Seattle and Oakland and states like Minnesota, Oregon and California are striving for Zero Waste. Companies like Xerox, Sony and Hewlett-Packard are finding that adhering to Zero Waste principles results in significant cost savings. Bill de Blasio will institute a Zero Waste program: strengthening and expanding existing recycling, instituting composting programs, and establishing waste reduction programs, including, for example, bans on plastic bags and requiring more materials to be recyclable or compostable. Instead of a focus on disposing and exporting waste, Bill de Blasio will look for opportunities for economic development, building industries, and creating jobs from materials that can be recovered.

Integrate Green Skills into Workforce Development

Training on ways to reduce energy costs effectively should be integrated into industry sector workforce development in all schools, apprenticeships and training programs. Bill de Blasio will model its green workforce initiatives on the Green Professional Building Skills Training model, which brings together labor unions, government officials, business leaders, environmentalists and CUNY educators to train workers and credential them for career advancement in green building management.

Focus on Resilience and Preparedness

With many neighborhoods across our city still reeling from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, and with severe weather on the rise, Bill de Blasio will invest in infrastructure upgrades that improve our resilience and ability to respond to an emergency. Permeable surfaces and natural infrastructure, for example, do more than help keep our waterways clean — they protect our homes and neighborhoods from natural disasters, increase home values, and create new construction jobs. He will also implement many of the recommendations made by the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Recovery, including safeguarding utilities and hospitals, and improving protective infrastructure with assets like surge barriers and sand dunes.

Restoring Our Waterways and Investing in Soft Infrastructure

By restoring our coastal ecosystems — such as our wetlands, dunes, and rivers — New York City can renew our long-neglected waterways while making important strides in protecting against future storm surges. In the same way that the High Line has been transformed from an urban blight to a rich community space, New York City can renew our waterways — such as the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, and Jamaica Bay — to improve our water ecosystems and expand locations for urban ecotourism.

As mayor, Bill de Blasio will work to restore our waterways and will implement a five-borough bioswales initiative to minimize the pressure on our water and sewer system.

Expand Municipal Composting Citywide

Composting is environmentally progressive, helps reduce waste streams, and mitigates harmful byproducts from decomposition. It also means less money spent on carting and fertilizer. The city has conducted successful pilot programs, and recently called for a major expansion. Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boulder, Colorado all have curbside composting pickup programs. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will expand the city’s program and create a mandatory citywide municipal composting system within five years.

Promote Transit-Oriented Development

As mayor, Bill de Blasio will target rezonings and development of additional housing to locations with strong transit connections, encouraging higher-density development at and around transit hubs, while preserving lower density neighborhoods located further from mass transit.

Support Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan

For many years, New York City’s trash was disproportionately shipped to poor communities in the outer boroughs. Bill de Blasio understands we need a fair, five-borough plan to handle New York’s garbage. De Blasio will implement the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan, including opening the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station.

Establish Gateless Tolling

Even with EZ Pass, tollbooths still mean congestion and delay for thousands of drivers every day. The MTA has successfully experimented with gateless tolls on the Henry Hudson Bridge, proving that new technology can allow us to remove tollbooths and let motorists make toll crossings without reducing speed, saving time and reducing congestion. Bill de Blasio will work with the MTA to introduce gateless tolling on existing toll bridges that are notoriously traffic-choked, like the Verraza- no-Narrows Bridge.

Support Smart Grid and Smart Meter Deployment

To cut electricity consumption and reduce power outages, Bill de Blasio knows we need a long-term vision to upgrade the grid that delivers electricity to New York City homes. This means developing a comprehensive strategy to deploy smart meters that allow consumers to better manage consumption, and enable utilities to better manage peak energy loads. Bill de Blasio will work with Albany to establish real-time pricing options for electricity to decrease energy consumption and energy bills for participating New Yorkers. He will also support increasing the size of solar and alternative energy installations that can use net metering, which allows homes and businesses to feed energy that hasn’t been used back into the grid.

Uphold Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracturing

In 2009, Bill de Blasio sponsored the resolution calling on federal and state agencies to assess the risks posed by hydrofracking to drinking water, and to apply appropriate regulations. He supports the two-year fracking moratorium recently passed by the Assembly, and hopes the Senate will also approve the measure. Questions about health and environmental safety remain unanswered, and we can’t afford to get this wrong.


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