Bloomberg Sustainability Announcement

As we reported this morning, Mayor Bloomberg is in California with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to make a major policy announcement on a major, long-term, environmental sustainability initiative. The key components of the Mayor’s plan include:

  • The creation of the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Here are some of the more interesting snippets from the City’s press release:

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.

"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," Bloomberg said (Editor: Clearly the Mayor here is referring to this morning’s Park(ing) Squat in Midtown).

The Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability is led by Director Rohit T. Aggarwala the Office’s mission is three-fold: to help develop a plan for the City’s long-term growth and development, to integrate sustainability goals and practices into every aspect of that plan; and to make New York City government a "green" organization.

The Mayor announced the launch of an unprecedented effort to measure the entire carbon emissions of New York 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.

Members of the Sustainability Advisory Board include:

  • Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council
  • James F. Gennaro, Council Member and Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection
  • Carlton Brown, COO and Founder, Full Spectrum
  • Marcia Bystryn, Executive Director, New York League of Conservation Voters
  • Robert Fox, Partner, Cook + Fox Architects
  • Ester Fuchs, Professor of Public Affairs and Political Science at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs
  • Peter Goldmark, Program Director of NYC Office, Environmental Defense
  • Ashok Gupta, Program Director of Air and Energy, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Michael Northrop, Program Officer of Sustainable Development, Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  • Ed Ott, Executive Director, NYC Central Labor Council
  • Elizabeth Girardi Schoen, Senior Director of Environmental Affairs, Pfizer, Inc.
  • Peggy Sheppard, Executive and Co-Founder, West Harlem Environmental Action Coalition (WE ACT)
  • Daniel Tishman, Chairman and CEO, Tishman Construction Corporation
  • Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO, Partnership for New York City
  • Robert Yaro, President, Regional Plan Association
  • Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director, UPROSE
  • The mayor’s sustainability initiative could be a positive development on the energy front, but it looks like a big yawn for transportation and the urban streetscape.

    The 16-member Sustainability Advisory Board is broadly based, with representation from environmental justice (Shepard and Yeampierre), labor (Ott), affordable housing (Brown), and mainstream enviro groups (Bystryn, Goldmark, Gupta, Northrop, Yaro). And new mayoral advisor Doug Foy is a lifelong high-achieving and principled environmentalist. (We assume that in calling NYC “a model of urban sustainability nationally,” Foy was referring to the energy-saving facets of our urban form — proximity, low car ownership, high transit use, shared building walls, high rises — and not to energy-conscious public policy, which has mostly been missing-in-action.)

    But with the exception of the Regional Plan Association’s Bob Yaro, none of the members is an experienced advocate for transit, walking or bicycling. None is identified with the resurgent movement to reclaim the streets from cars. None has been a public proponent of congestion pricing plans to prioritize the city’s precious street space and expand the revenue stream for transit.

    A cheer-and-a-half, then, for this first step in making New York a worldwide leader in reducing carbon emissions. But no cheers, yet, in liberating the city from the tyranny of the auto.

  • Daniel Millstone

    This could be yet one more dead end blue-ribbon group which will meet, report and never be heard from again. The Sustainability Board’s heavy-duty political membership bodes will, in my view, for the possibility that it’s work will not be just file and forget.

    If transit advocates want to make the case for another Board member who is expereinced in transportation planning, who should we suggest? We do not have to be limited to cheerleading. We can and should take an active part.

  • Yeah, this is very light on transportation except for Yaro from Regional plan.

    I’ve heard good things about the Earth Institute. I do hope they factor in transportation into their Carbon calculations…it would be crazy to just focus on electricity production.

    Tischman Construction..hmmm… Welcome to the party man. We need some good green buildings and green renovations.

    I look forward to seeing the kick-off next week.

  • Very little press coverage about this announcement so far. Maybe that’s because they did the soft launch in California. I hope next week’s kick-off meeting gets more coverage.

    The Earth Institute of Columbia University is led by Jeffery Sachs, a great innovative thinker on sustainable development.

    I guess my only concern is that he didn’t annouce some quick hit initiatives (maybe that’s for next week as well).

    One easy place to find some good off the shelf common sense sustainability proposals is the NYC Council Report on Sustainability that was prepared by former City Council Speaker Gifford Miller’s legislative director, Marcel Van Ooyen, now the president of the Council on the Environment of NYC and co-signed by current City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and CM Gennaro.

  • Do City officials really need six months to inventory greenhouse gas emissions?

    In early 2005, I calculated carbon dioxide emissions from mechanical transport — cars, trucks, buses, rail and ferries — in NYC, as a data consultant to a six-city project at the London School of Economics. It took me a couple of days.

    True, I didn’t do planes, helicopters, heating, electricity (except for transit and street lighting), and industrial fuel use, but these are readily available and could be number-crunched in just a day or two.

    So why is the City budgeting six months, particularly when the need to reduce carbon emissions is so pressing?

    BTW, when I last checked, earlier this year, the LSE study was expected to be out in late 2006.

  • Sorry New Yorkers, I don’t think NYC will ever take on being a “sustainability champion”…it’s just not in New Yorkers’ spirits to think that way. The City’s current sustainability is not intentional – it is based on historical land use and transportation patterns – which, ironically, does make it the most sustainable city in this country.

    Oregon, Portland in particular, is clearly a sustainability model in the sense that their sustainability is deliberate.

    When I lived in NY, I couldn’t understand why OR became the first state to place a recycling redemption on beverage containers (how long ago was that?) and no others followed.

    When I go out for coffee here in the Bay Area, I always bring my coffee mug, and the retailers invariably offer a discount. I tried doing that in NYC, and the clerks gave me a “Forgetabout it” response.

    When I try to recycle my water bottles in the City, the markets won’t even accept them – “put it in the trash”, is the response.

    And how long did it take for NY to ban smoking in restaurants and work places? (incredibly CA beat OR in this all-important aspect of sustainability).

    Sorry to be such a skeptic, but I don’t think New Yorkers really think “sustainably” (and I can’t even define the term for this posting…it’s really meant to be a ‘mentality’ of being eco-conscious).

    A former Bayside resident now living in Palo Alto.

  • someguy

    Talk about throwing a wet blanket, Irvin!

    Keep in mind: NYC is more diverse than Portland, and the populace is probably more environmentally conservative, especially in its outer areas. We are also more separated from nature. NYC gets more immigration, and probably has more poverty. There’s less outdoorsy, middle-class whites, which tend to be the big pushers for sustainability as we know it at this point in time. That’s just a fact – look at other “sustainable” leaders in the country – Burlington, VT; Boulder, CO may be? Berkeley? NYC also happens to be a huge city with plenty of other problems to worry about — crime, schools, poverty, etc. Sustainability just doesn’t rank up there with the average New Yorker trying to make a living and live the American Dream.

  • Hey Irwin,
    My Coffee shop gives a discount for reusable mugs. Oren’s daily Roast. Times change.

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