September 21, 2006New Office and Advisory Board to Create Agenda to Make New York City an Environmental Leader and Guide City Efforts Towards Environmentally Sound Future
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced a series of initiatives to move forward the Administration’s plans to create an ambitious environmental agenda for New York City and its municipal government. The key components of the plan include the creation of the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability within the Mayor’s Office of Operations; the undertaking of a major greenhouse gas inventory for City government and the City overall; the appointment of a Sustainability Advisory Board to advise the City on environmentally sound policies and practices; that Douglas I. Foy, former Massachusetts Secretary for Commonwealth Development, will serve as a special advisor on sustainability; and the creation of a new partnership with the Earth Institute of Columbia University to provide the City with scientific research and advice on environmental and climate change-related issues.
The announcement took place during a visit with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Bloom Energy in Sunnyvale, California, where the Mayor and Governor talked about the State of California’s groundbreaking sustainability initiatives. Prior to the announcement, the Mayor and Governor toured the facility, which manufactures fuel cells that generate power by converting hydrogen into electricity and produce only water as exhaust.
“Sustainability is all about ensuring that economic growth and development today is compatible with the ability of our children and grandchildren to meet their needs in the future,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “To that end, in May I made a pledge to the New York League of Conservation Voters to establish the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, and create an advisory board comprised of New York’s leading experts, activists, and businesspeople in this field to set goals, and help shape and guide the City’s sustainability agenda.
“Like California, New York City has a long tradition of leadership in environmental protection - from creating the largest municipal park system in the nation, to pioneering water conservation, to banning second-hand smoke in public places. Now, we intend to make New York City a national leader in meeting the challenge of making ours an environmentally sustainable city. To make New York a truly sustainable city, we need a bold plan to use our land in the smartest way possible – not only by developing areas ripe for growth, but also by cleaning up brownfields so that no piece of New York City is too contaminated to be used for employment, housing, or recreation. The water along our shoreline is cleaner than it has been in generations – but we want it cleaner still, so that we can fish, swim, and enjoy the rivers that have always been the City’s most distinctive feature. We’ve made great strides in cleaning up our air but we still have too much pollution. And the constant threat of global warming means that we have to think about the urban heat island effect that makes our summer days even hotter than the greener areas around our City.”
The Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability is led by Director Rohit T. Aggarwala – within the Mayor’s Office of Operations, headed by Director Jeffrey A. Kay – and the Office’s mission is three-fold: to help develop a plan for the City’s long-term growth and development, as the Mayor announced in his State of the City address; to integrate sustainability goals and practices into every aspect of that plan; and to make New York City government a “green” organization. In addition, on an on-going basis, the Office will coordinate the City’s various efforts that contribute to a cleaner environment and make more efficient use of our resources. Finally, once a long-term sustainability plan is established, the Office will be responsible for tracking, measuring, and reporting the City’s performance against the targets set in the plan.
As a first step, the City has been undertaking a greenhouse gas inventory to measure the total climate change impact of the municipal government’s operations since a key element in achieving sustainability is reducing the volume of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we discharge into the air. The inventory seeks to measure the carbon emissions from all City government operations – from electricity consumption in City buildings to the tailpipe exhaust of City-owned ambulances – and the results will be released this Fall. Further, the Mayor announced the launch of an unprecedented effort to measure the entire carbon emissions of throughout the City. This much broader effort, with a target completion date within six months, will give us the first picture of the total carbon impact of everyone who lives in, works in, or visits New York City.
The Sustainability Advisory Board will be chaired by Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding Daniel L. Doctoroff, and its kick-off meeting will take place on Wednesday, September 27th. The objectives of the Sustainability Advisory Board will be to assist the new Office in identifying the highest-priority issues the new sustainability agenda should address; setting the targets the City should aim to achieve; and choosing the best methods of achieving those goals. The members of the Sustainability Advisory Board are:
“I am very pleased to see that the Mayor has made such a strong commitment to developing a sustainability plan for New York,” said Bystryn. “We were enthusiastic about the Mayor’s announcement at our dinner in May, and we are even more enthusiastic to see it come to reality. I look forward to being part of the Board and working with the new Office towards a sustainable New York City.”
Reflecting the City Council’s role in setting the City’s sustainability agenda, the Board’s membership includes both New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Member James F. Gennaro, chair of the City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, who had currently been working on a bill to address the issue. Last year, the Mayor and the City Council worked in partnership to develop Local Law 86 – which established “green building” practices for municipal construction. This year, the Mayor and Council worked to pass a landmark, 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan that will improve the environment by switching solid waste export from trucks to barge and rail transportation, increasing recycling and reducing waste and pollution.
“Together with environmental and business leaders, the Council and the Mayor’s office are engaging in a real long term planning process that will ensure New York City continues to lead the way in green business and development,” said City Council Speaker Quinn. “Following Council Member Gennaro’s leadership, we will work to make this office relevant and permanent. We are committed to taking real steps that will lead to a protected environment, a stronger economy, and a better City overall.”
“The New York City Council has passed a host of progressive legislation that has helped move the City towards environmental sustainability,” said Council Member Gennaro. “Speaker Quinn and I are delighted to be working with the Bloomberg Administration and the Sustainability Advisory Board in this extraordinary effort to create an environmentally sustainable City for successive generations of New Yorkers. Mayor Bloomberg is to be congratulated for his deep commitment to this vital issue.”
During his visit to California, the Mayor also announced that Douglas I. Foy, formerly Massachusetts Secretary for Commonwealth Development and, prior to that, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, has agreed to advise the City on sustainability issues. Foy brings to the effort the unique perspective of someone who has worked in government with a portfolio that explicitly included economic development and environmental stewardship. His advice will ensure that New York’s sustainability agenda is at once ambitious and pragmatic.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this monumental and crucial effort,” said Foy. “New York City has the capacity to play a leading role in the global effort to prevent climate change. The City is already a model of urban sustainability nationally and can become an international model of a low carbon city.”
Finally, the Mayor also announced an agreement with the Earth Institute at Columbia University to work with the new Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability as scientific advisors. The Earth Institute will provide pro bono academic and scientific expertise to the Office and participate in Advisory Board discussions. The scholars of the Earth Institute will help the new Office ensure that the City’s sustainability agenda is grounded in hard science, and informed by the most up-to-date research on climate change, environmental impacts, and the health impacts of the environment being done in New York City and around the world.
“Columbia University is delighted to support Mayor Bloomberg in this important effort,” said Sachs. “The Earth Institute looks forward to working with the Mayor’s Office to provide the academic and scientific expertise necessary to build a solid foundation for New York’s sustainability agenda.”
“New York’s premier global university is home to an unparalleled collection of scientists, health experts, planners, and thinkers who can provide the solid scientific advice on which any responsible sustainability plan must be based,” concluded Mayor Bloomberg. “I thank Doug Foy, Columbia University and Jeffrey Sachs, the Director of the Earth Institute, for their willingness to support the City’s efforts in this way.”
Stu Loeser/Jennifer Falk