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Adams 2021: In-depth - A Greener City, A Brighter Future

A Greener City, A Brighter Future
More than 50 years since the first Eart
h Day, our planet is in greater peril than ever, with climate change endangering coastal populations like New York City due to intensifying storms and rising seas. Yet, we are also presented with incredible possibilities to reverse the tide, thanks to the advancement of clean energy technologies and the potential of employing a new generation in a growing green economy. As a city that prides itself on its resilience and innovation, New Yorkers are primed to be global leaders at this critical moment, shrinking our carbon footprint and living more sustainably.

We also know that our city has long ignored the impacts of environmental injustice, and the impacts have been most severe in historically disenfranchised neighborhoods. From dirty “peaker plants” and underinvestments in open space to communities suffering from out-of-control waste, I am determined to once and for all tackle these upstream feeders of poor public health and unacceptable quality of life.
Here’s how I would do it.

Lead By Example On Climate Change
While the City has placed a number of regulations on industries to meet necessary  climate goals, our municipal government remains behind on achieving its goals for itself,  particularly goals related to renewable energy use and emissions. Climate change  requires the transformation of multiple sectors, including energy, transportation, and  food — and these sectors will be publicly tracked and included in further measures to  reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We will decrease our City agency procurement of  meat to reduce consumption — in favor of more plant-forward options — and the  accompanying climate impact; according to the United Nations, meat and dairy  products account for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. To that end, we  will lead a push for all corporate and government entities operating in our city to divest  from agricultural industries that benefit from deforestation and the acceleration of  global warming. Additionally, we will invest significantly to lead by example as a  government, generating our own green energy at wastewater treatment plants as well  as placing solar panels on City buildings and bus/rail yards. Further, we will invest in our  ability to store energy and use it more efficiently, retrofitting City buildings to reduce  greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality. 

Invest In Green Infrastructure Through The City’s Capital Program
New Yorkers spend roughly $19 billion per year on energy through the city’s highly  interdependent electricity, natural gas, and steam networks. This infrastructure is  considered some of the oldest and most concentrated in the nation. By upgrading our  electrical grid, transitioning our power source to wind and away from natural gas, and  implementing traffic controls to reduce idling, we can improve the quality of life of New  Yorkers and create thousands of new jobs, especially those in low-income communities  facing environmental injustice. These investments are not only the moral path to take,  they also make common economic sense because they will create good-paying jobs for  New Yorkers and businesses will be able to rely on resilient infrastructure in the face of a  rapidly changing climate. 

Prepare The Next Generation of Green Workers
The green revolution is not just about saving our planet — it’s about creating new,  good-paying jobs. We will create a green economy curriculum for our high school  students, connect them to internships in this industry, and build a new career and  technical education (CTE) school that will focus solely on green technologies and  

training for the jobs of the future. We will also create a Youth Climate Corps to offer City  fellowships in green job training, real-world opportunities supporting local  environmental non-profits, and an opportunity to develop and present new policy  solutions to City leaders. 

Make Community Solar a Citywide Reality
In recent years, successful community solar projects in communities from Parkchester  to Park Slope have shown the potential of a distributed model. It reduces greenhouse  gas emissions through clean, locally-generated electricity that has little to no upfront  costs, plus it generates monthly savings. We will expand education to tenants and  property owners on the benefits of investing in these projects, and we will support  incentives for private buildings that serve as offsite locations for panel arrays. 

Make New York City The Wind  Power Hub Of The Eastern Seaboard
With waterfront assets like South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, the Red Hook Container  Terminal, Port Richmond, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and others, we have an opportunity to  corner the market on wind power manufacturing and other green technologies. We  must create a pipeline of education training from middle school, high school, college to  educate our young people in this field using K-12 institutions like the forthcoming Harbor  School Middle School and Harbor School on Governors Island, as well as universities like  Kingsborough Community College. 

Charge Up Battery Storage,
De-Power “Peaker Plants”
Fossil fuel-powered “peaker plants,” which operate when city energy demands spike,  impact more than 1.2 million New Yorkers. These decades-old plants release harmful  emissions into communities long burdened by air pollution and other environmental  

health hazards, leading to serious respiratory illnesses. We will expand our investment in  battery storage to reduce emissions and reduce our reliance on “peaker plants,” which  we will systematically decommission. 

Pay For A Citywide Organics Program By Partnering With Private Processors
The City cut its organics collection program as part of its deficit reduction measures for  the current fiscal year. That was a mistake. The methane released from organic waste in  landfills is destroying our environment and speeding climate change. And the cost of  sending that waste to states far away increases in cost every year. To offset the cost of  the collection program now while we face a budget crunch, we will guarantee private  processors long-term contracts in exchange for picking up the cost of picking up the  waste now. A citywide organics program will also go a long way to addressing one of the  leading feeders of the overproliferation of vermin in many neighborhoods. 

Champion Recycling At Nycha To  Achieve Bold Citywide Goals
A landmark Politico investigation in early 2020 shone a light on the terrible failures to  achieve recycling in our NYCHA complexes, with minimal separation of food scraps, cans,  bottles, and other recyclable materials. Not only are these waste challenges an  environmental imperative, they represent a quality-of-life crisis to residents who endure  unsanitary conditions that impact the health and safety of their development. We will  champion recycling at NYCHA not as a back-burner issue, but as a well-funded  campaign of civic education and greater investment in modern waste infrastructure.  This will help achieve our goal to double both residential and business recycling rates in  the next five years. 

Tax Credits For Innovative Waste  Management And Energy Efficient Design
Volunteer-driven neighborhood groups across the five boroughs are stepping up all the  time to clean up their streets and parks, without proper support and appreciation from  their city. The “Love Your Block” grant program through NYC Service is an ideal initiative  

to robustly expand to 200 awards citywide to spread civic pride, build community  bonds, and incentivize grassroots beautification that makes for safer places to raise  healthy children and families. We will also establish stipends to fund sustainability  coordinators in our public schools, educating students on green practices and  improving school-wide recycling efforts. 

Support Grassroots Cleanups
Volunteer-driven neighborhood groups across the five boroughs are stepping up all the  time to clean up their streets and parks, without proper support and appreciation from  their city. The “Love Your Block” grant program through NYC Service is an ideal initiative  

to robustly expand to 200 awards citywide to spread civic pride, build community  bonds, and incentivize grassroots beautification that makes for safer places to raise  healthy children and families. We will also establish stipends to fund sustainability  coordinators in our public schools, educating students on green practices and  improving school-wide recycling efforts. 

Return To Urban Agriculture
Centuries ago, New York made its own food and the agriculture industry was one of its  largest employers. Today, we rely almost entirely on out-of-town, out-of-state, and  out-of-country producers for everything from the apple we buy at the bodega to the  meals served to our kids in school; among other environmental costs, this adds  significant truck traffic and exhaust to our streets. By creating a new set of building  codes, business rules, and tax programs for urban farmers — and supporting local  producers with guaranteed City contracts — we will create jobs by building vast in-city  sites that produce food for restaurants, schools, and food-insecurity programs through  cutting-edge techniques such as vertical farming and hydroponics, often sharing space  with renewable energy plants and other sustainability infrastructure. Additionally, we will  establish new farms on Governors Island and Roosevelt Island, as well as greenhouses  on NYCHA complexes, as educational, career development, and innovation hubs. 

Step Up On Resiliency, Especially In  Outer Boroughs
It is only a matter of time until the next major superstorm overwhelms our coastal  communities, threatening the homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure of countless  New Yorkers. We need to move boldly forward on resiliency projects across our city, with  a particular focus on communities in the outer boroughs that are vulnerable to flooding.  We will also seek to bury overhead power lines and utilities where feasible to reduce outages. 

Make Open Streets Permanent,  Equitable, And Sustainable
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how essential open space in our city is to so many  New Yorkers. The Open Streets program proved to be popular with residents and  businesses alike in the neighborhoods that applied for it last year, and we must deepen  our commitment to equity this year and going forward, ensuring all communities who  want to participate are able to do so. Particular attention will be paid to expansion in  communities of color and lower-income areas — particularly those that face  environmental health challenges as well as are underserved by spaces for active and  passive recreation. We will also establish a dedicated maintenance funding stream for  Open Streets to ensure the program is sustainable and does not solely rely on volunteers. 

Double Down On Green Modes Of Transportation
Focusing on the infrastructure that New York City controls, namely our street network,  we will act quickly to improve the commutes, quality of life, and environmental health for  millions of New Yorkers through re-envisioning our streetscape and investing in green  modes of transportation. This means striping more bus lanes, building an  interconnected Bus Rapid Transit system starting on roadways with service roads in  transit deserts, and creating more busways throughout New York City. We will increase  the number of electric vehicle charging stations in every borough, including redesigns of  City street furniture, wayfinding signs, LinkNYC kiosks, muni-meters, and street lamps to  incorporate electric charging capacity.  

We are also home to the only bike share system that does not receive public subsidy, so  to quickly expand our bike and scooter share system to neighborhoods across New York  City that are transit deprived, we will upfront capital costs for private providers. In  addition to building out protected bike lanes throughout the city, we will also find  unused space such as road space under elevated highways and railways that can  become bicycle superhighways. 

Speed Up Our Conversion To All-Electric Buses
To both protect the environment and make an investment that will save the City money  on fuel and maintenance savings, we will significantly speed up our conversion to an  entirely electric bus fleet. This can be achieved by raising money through the City’s  capital program to pay for the higher up-front cost of the vehicles against the long-term  benefits. The deployment of electric buses will be prioritized for communities facing the  most serious environmental health risk. 

Commit To “Percent For Parks”
Considering that parks cover 14 percent of New York City’s land, it just does not add up  for the Department of Parks and Recreation’s allocation to be less than one percent of  the total City budget. A “Percent for Parks” would ensure we can fund long-deferred  maintenance projects while achieving vital goals identified by the Trust for Public Land  and other open space advocates, including making sure 100 percent of New Yorkers live  within a 10-minute walk of a park by opening dozens of new public spaces, closing the  park equity gap in high-need, underserved neighborhoods, and transforming 100  asphalt schoolyards into new green community playgrounds. Also, in partnership with  the Department of Transportation, our “Safe Routes to Parks” program will build out  protected bike and pedestrian infrastructure to safely connect neighborhoods far from  large open spaces or destination parks; initiatives like these have been successfully  implemented in cities such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. 

Commission Green Art
We will commission artists to paint murals with paint that turns pollutants and harmful  compounds into harmless nitrates and carbonates in the atmosphere, beautifying our  city as we rejuvenate it. As an example, one public mural created with photocatalytic paint in Warsaw, Poland has the air pollution-cleaning power of 780 trees.

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