To the editor:
New York City recently celebrated Earth Week by powering up new rooftop solar panels in Brooklyn, cleaning up parks in Queens, and releasing PlaNYC: Getting Sustainability Done, our new plan to create a more climate-resilient city for all.
This strategic climate plan builds on our city’s ongoing efforts to protect New Yorkers from extreme weather, improve quality of life, and support our new green economy. Most importantly, these new initiatives are not happening in some far-off future, but right now. In your neighborhood.
The plan includes a new public solar program that will help everyday New Yorkers afford the cost of installing rooftop solar panels, heat pumps, and other energy efficiency retrofits. The plan also includes provisions to advocate for Home Energy Assistance Program reform — reforms that will help people afford new air conditioners and assist with their utility costs to keep cool during increasingly hot weather.
Thanks to our robust public transit system, New Yorkers already have some of the lowest carbon emissions per capita in this country. But we can go further. We’re going to help more New Yorkers join the clean energy revolution by expanding our electric vehicle charging network across the five boroughs, so every New Yorker who chooses to drive can drive electric — especially our for-hire vehicle drivers.
We are already electrifying our schools and our entire school bus fleet, and working to reduce our emissions from every major source — buildings, transportation and food.
The city will install solar energy, electric building infrastructure, green roofs, and other renewable energy on as much city-owned property as possible, including our schools and our New York City Housing Authority buildings.
We will also phase out capital spending on new fossil fuel equipment and infrastructure, and update our zoning practices to facilitate building retrofits and eliminate barriers to electrification. This is not only good news for our environment, but a path to more jobs and opportunity for New Yorkers working in the building trades.
Building a renewable energy future will bring down emissions and mitigate climate damage in the years to come. And it will also drive down pollution and improve air quality. We’re going to amplify that effort by getting polluting trucks off our streets, creating new low-emissions zones in neighborhoods that have seen far too much traffic and congestion in the past.
And plans are already in motion to expand New York City’s tree canopy by 30 percent, planting thousands of new trees and improving our green spaces, parks, and recreation areas as well.
We’ve already seen what climate-driven storms can do to our city. From Hurricane Sandy to Tropical Storm Ida, we know that lives are at stake, and our homes and our infrastructure are at risk. This plan expands our efforts to prevent flooding and sewage problems — from building new overflow tanks along the Gowanus Canal, to improving drainage in flood-prone neighborhoods.
All of these efforts will protect and sustain our environment, as well as lay the foundation for a new green economy. That’s why a big part of this new plan is about providing education, training and opportunity for New Yorkers to acquire the skills and training they need to succeed in this new job market — one that will protect our future, and support a new generation of workers.
New York City has always been a leader when it comes to climate solutions and environmental justice. We have so much to be proud of, and so much to protect. This new plan is a positive and practical roadmap to creating a cleaner, greener and more just city for all.
The author is mayor of New York City