A More Sustainable, Equitable, and Just New York
Climate change is a global issue, but cities are on the frontline of its impacts—and the response. The Donovan administration will have a laser-focus on achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century and protecting New Yorkers from climate threats like flooding, severe storms, and heatwaves. This shift to a green economy is an unprecedented opportunity to support longer-term growth and jobs for all New Yorkers—prioritizing the communities left behind. And throughout all of this is the prioritization of New York neighborhoods that have always borne the brunt of climate change, and its contributing pollutants, because of a history of discriminatory policies and practices.
Shaun is a visionary who understands the climate emergency, but will also act. He will match urgency with a deep focus on implementation and competent management to follow through on ambitious emissions goals and policies. Shaun will work with community leaders, local environmental groups, and the people of New York City to ensure that his climate policy will be just and effective in mitigating the impacts of climate change. He will work with those outside the city—with the Biden administration, Congress, the Cuomo administration, and State Legislators—because the solutions require collaboration by all levels of government. And he will embed climate into every single decision made by the city. He has been a public servant and leader on these issues for decades. After Hurricane Sandy hit his home town, President Obama asked him to lead the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, leaving a stronger, more resilient region than before the storm hit. He knows how to bring together community leaders and experts from around the world to build a New York for everyone.
For too long, underserved communities have dealt with disproportionate levels of pollution, poor housing quality, and a lack of access to clean air and clean water, leading to adverse health effects—and they’ve been further devastated by COVID-19. Climate change compounds injustice amongst historically disadvantaged and at-risk communities. Shaun will prioritize these communities in both preparing for the impacts of climate change and developing solutions to catalyzing the clean energy revolution in New York City.
Building upon the legacy of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City will return to the global stage in 2022 as a leading example of how to mitigate, adapt to and prepare for climate change. The next mayor’s term is critical to saving the planet and staying on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050, a target scientists say we cannot miss. Shaun is the only candidate with the vision, skills, and determination to get us there, with justice leading the way. No other candidate has the track record and management competence to tackle the challenges of a pandemic, economic recovery, and the climate crisis.
Our plan will focus on:
- Centering Environmental Justice
- Alleviating Public Health Disparities
- Establishing Permanent and Equitable Public Space
- Building a Green Economy for Everyone
- Taking Real Steps to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Empowering and Preparing the Next Generation
- Strengthening Climate Resilience and Disaster Response
- Achieving Zero Waste
Centering Environmental Justice
The Donovan administration will work to eliminate the legacy of environmental racism across the five boroughs through community- and data-driven policy. In order to reinforce and elevate this work, we will—within the first 100 days of taking office—issue an all-of-government Environmental Justice Executive Order. Shaun will then expand and complete the audit of city policies, including OneNYC 2050, through a climate and equity lens, begin a collaborative process with the city’s Environmental Justice interagency working group to define climate equity checklists and scorecards, and ensure key mayoral appointments have climate justice expertise.
Your zip code should not determine the quality of your life and its surrounding environment. It is imperative to restore, strengthen, and protect all communities, prioritizing historically underserved communities, as we combat the climate crisis. Climate change and equity are inseparable. These issues must be thought of in an integrated manner so that New York supports long-term health and sustainability in an equitable way—one that strives to redress past harms to our communities and creates new power structures accountable to their future, committing us irreversibly to a just transition. And that is what the Donovan administration will do.
From pollution exposure, to public land access, to training for clean good jobs of the future, Black and Brown communities are often left out of both the policy discussions and the very rooms they are being discussed in. For example, using EPA data and local mortality figures, researchers ranked the Bronx as the worst for COVID-19 death rates and respiratory hazards compared to the more than 3,100 other counties in the country. Yet, targeted efforts to address the borough’s plight have not been made. We will work tirelessly to correct decades of inequity that have seen low-income and communities of color disproportionately impacted by environmental issues that arose from a broad spectrum of private sector and public policy decisions.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
Empower neighborhoods to reimagine their communities and hold government accountable
Change should occur with and for the community—not to the community. That is why we are committed to working with local leaders and their residents to reimagine their own communities—because community issues are best understood by those who experience their burdens on a day-to-day basis. Following the issuance of the Mayoral Environmental Justice Executive Order, Shaun will work to implement the following priorities:
- Expand the use of physical and social vulnerability screening and mapping to better identify these environmental justice communities – neighborhoods that have historically and are presently bearing the brunt of climate change and its contributing pollutants – taking lessons learned from California’s CalEnviroScreen, working with the Biden administration as they improve EPA’s EJScreen, and making sure these tools are complementary to those being developed by New York State as they implement the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).
- Create a climate equity scorecard and public-facing transparency platforms for all policies and projects, including setting agency-by-agency environmental justice goals, tying metrics to measure success, and presenting these results on a regular basis to the public and the communities affected. Read more about our plans to improve our use of data in our Innovation Platform, and about our plans to promote equity, including the naming of the city’s first Chief Equity Officer, in our Racial Equity Platform.
- Rigorously review all existing policies to better understand the systemic blindspots in low-income and historically disadvantaged communities and address them thoughtfully, quickly, and competently—and work with key community leaders on how to improve and hold ourselves accountable.
- Listen to and partner as equal collaborators with local residents to identify environmental priorities in those communities and offer resources and the power of city government to improve quality of life and opportunity.
- Hold Albany accountable for the environmental justice goals set by New York State as part of the landmark CLCPA. This includes that disadvantaged communities receive 35-40% of overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects or investments, with the goal of achieving 40%. Many of these communities are in New York City, and we will work with the state legislature, the New York State Public Utility Commission, the Governor’s office, and the federal government – as the Biden administration may have a similar goal in place – to ensure that our communities receive their fair share and are involved in the allocation process.
Turn Rikers Island into a Physical Manifestation of Environmental Justice
The closure of the notorious Rikers jail complex is a much-needed and long-awaited step towards a more fair and equitable city. As the jails close, it is time to plan for the island’s future as a resource for public good, particularly to benefit communities that have been most impacted by mass incarceration. Shaun believes New York City’s new green economy must not replicate the low-wage, low-benefit, low-unionized, discriminatory past and he is committed to turning the island into a physical manifestation of environmental justice. The Donovan administration will work with stakeholders citywide to ensure it becomes a cornerstone of community development and Just Transition for uses like green energy, a 21st century wastewater treatment facility to clean our water, composting, and possibly even new public space. Achieving this could help find creative, win-win-win solutions for communities, the economy, and the environment in places where it facilitates permanently dismantling carbon or waste infrastructure. Read more about our plans to close Rikers in our Criminal Justice Platform.
Alleviating Public Health Disparities
These past several years, we have seen just how “public” public health is. What affects one of us, can quickly affect all of us. Public health is largely influenced by environmental factors, and climate mitigation and adaptation is intimately tied to public health. Public health disparities in New York City are divided along racial, neighborhood, and income levels. The Donovan administration will ensure that public health disparities in New York City will be reduced with the goal that no New Yorker faces disproportionate health burden as a result of environmental factors, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or zipcode.
We will work to address the underlying causes of health disparities and ensure that these causes are front of mind when fighting climate change. Reducing air pollution and mitigating the impacts of extreme heat are examples of strategies a Donovan administration will take in the battle for our climate that have immense public health benefits.
These public health disparities and how they will be measured and addressed by the Donovan administration will be part of the environmental justice scorecard and planning process outlined above.
Reducing air pollution from peaker plants
Over 1.2 million New Yorkers live within a one-mile radius of a fossil-fuel powered “peaker” plant, or power plant that only runs for a few days per year to meet periods of high electricity demand. These plants emit exhaust and pollution that can lead to illnesses and poor health outcomes, such as asthma and heart conditions. This problem is now even more urgent, as asthma, hypertension, and other air pollution-induced health conditions are associated with more severe cases of COVID-19. Historically disadvantaged communities often bear the brunt of these conditions, including the South Bronx – which is referred to as “asthma alley,” and whose rate is 8-12 times higher than the national average.
We will work with and support local community-based organizations and elected officials advocating for the expedited closure of all “peaker plants” currently located in all five boroughs. The steps taken by NYPA and key environmental justice groups to study the replacement of NYPA’s natural gas peaker plants are a needed and important step to do so.
Additionally, we will work in close collaboration with state policymakers in Albany to achieve this. This strategy will leverage the legal grounds of state policy including New York State’s CLCPA, DEC’s new and updated nitrogen oxide (NOx) regulations, and Title V air permits to replace fossil fuels.
Mitigating the impacts of extreme heat
Our city’s inequality is exacerbated during the hottest days of the year, because extreme heat disproportionately impacts the same communities that have been most affected by the pandemic: the economically disadvantaged, people of color, and the elderly. We will invest in more green infrastructure like parks, green roofs, and street trees to tackle the health effects of extreme heat. This includes:
- Expanding New York City’s current CoolRoofs program, which coats building rooftops with light-colored and reflective materials.
- Working with the Departments of Parks, Transportation, and other land use agencies to increase green space, green infrastructure, and cool roads, and make a joint effort to reduce the urban heat island effect. More of our equitable public space policies are detailed below.
- Subsidizing air-conditioners to environmental justice communities to prevent heat-related illnesses. We will establish an air conditioner rebate program that allows people to trade-in old air conditioners for new, efficient models.
Read more about our plans to address environmental determinants of health in our Health Platform.
Establishing Permanent and Equitable Public Space
New York City has the least amount of green space per person of any city in the United States, and the pandemic has laid bare the equity dimensions of public space access. A Donovan administration will protect and maintain existing green space, while continuing to support the development of new green space in disadvantaged and high-density neighborhoods. Looking beyond what New Yorkers might be familiar with in terms of traditional green space and public space, a Donovan administration will take action to create new open space by establishing permanent, long-term Open Streets that put people, and not cars, first.
Public spaces are critical for sustainability and resilience, and have been proven to be crucial to public health, safety, and improved quality of life. Investing in new public space has great value but is harder to accomplish given the high density of New York City’s built environment, so we must look for new solutions. A permanent Open Streets policy presents the opportunity to transform our streets and sidewalks into livable public spaces, with places to sit, play, and gather. We must rethink how we approach public spaces, not as just an amenity, but as a necessity to address historical environmental inequities. To create a healthy and safe New York for all, we must strive to improve the accessibility, availability, and quality of public spaces.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
Create a permanent Open Streets policy that is centered around environmental justice and equity
Streets and sidewalks make up more than 80% of a city’s public space. They provide opportunities for business activity, serve as a gathering space, and provide a space for people to safely commute and move about the city. They are the embodiment of the complex web of economic and social relationships that is a city. Although Mayor de Blasio’s COVID-19 Open Streets initiative has been executed imperfectly, it has shown potential to foster a new urban space policy that is centered around environmental justice and equity, and creates a strong sense of community, aids the service industry, and brings new purpose to the streets of New York. Already, the Department of Transportation is working to make 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights and Corona a permanent Open Street, a decision that was encouraged by local residents. We will commit to expanding permanent Open Streets that reflect input from residents and maintain the unique character of each neighborhood across all of New York City.
Using a framework rooted in data, we will work with agencies, small business owners, and community leaders to evaluate where Open Streets need to be prioritized, to develop Open Streets and to help community leaders and organizations manage this new public space. We will develop strong grassroots efforts and public-private partnerships to coordinate the creation, development, and maintenance of such a network.
Use short-term solutions to create long-term Open Streets
We will develop interim-use projects and pilot programs to allow communities to visualize and actively participate in changes that take shape in their neighborhood before they become long term. This also ensures that a space is not left unusable or empty during maintenance periods.
Additionally, we will look to make quick fixes (such as signage improvements or streetlight repairs), providing valuable change alongside more extensive upgrades.
And, we will develop outdoor toolkits and other resources to assist the service industry, to create a more sustainable and long-term development of Open Streets.
Develop economic and educational programs that coincide with a broader Open Streets policy
We will couple permanent Open Streets with educational, stewardship, and job-creation programs:
- We will establish a Youth Horticulture Corps—inspired by the Civilian Conservation Corps—that will help to maintain public spaces while serving as a jobs creation and education program for young people. This Corps was inspired by the New Deal, and may also be revived by the incoming Biden administration—we will look to partner with them, or stand up New York City’s own program.
- We will also partner with New York City public schools, to incorporate an environmentally-focused curriculum within the existing policy of outdoor learning, which will also contribute to stewardship and educational opportunities.
Increase connectivity and accessibility to public spaces by expanding corridors and connections
New York City has approximately 2,300 parks; yet, 1.1 million New Yorkers are not within a 10 minute walk.
We will develop permanent Open Streets to ensure safe passage for pedestrians and cyclists alike while simultaneously creating new public spaces and new corridors to access the city’s parks. Our Open Streets policies will connect neighborhoods, parks, and plazas to create a network of corridors that serve pedestrians and micro-mobility users.
Equity and accessibility will underlie all funding and development decisions, which will be made with the consensus of community members, partners and city agencies.
Read more about our plans for Open Streets in our Transportation Platform.
Expand funding and staffing for public space maintenance and capital projects
In New York, the Department of Parks and Recreation maintains 14% of the city’s land, and their services have been undeniable for physical, mental, and social health during this pandemic. However, parks receive less than 0.5% of the city’s total budget every year despite seeing their highest usage in decades during COVID-19. This is unacceptable, and we plan to make New York City Parks an essential service in order to safeguard a minimum level of public funding. This includes:
- Restructuring funding to ensure equitable quality, maintenance, and access to open spaces across all five boroughs.
- Decentralizing private funding pools by distributing funds raised through parks conservancies and foundations (with funds specifically targeting neglected parks and spaces) – while prioritizing environmental justice communities first.
- Prioritizing funding for neighborhoods and spaces that have less open space, fewer investment opportunities, and that face disproportionately negative impacts of environmental and public health conditions.
- Initiating direct stewardship of spaces, which will lead to the creation of new jobs.
- Fostering strong public-private partnerships within public spaces in order to localize stewardship.
Building a Green Economy for Everyone
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented job loss in the city. The pandemic came at a time when we were already facing a growing chasm in income inequality, housing uncertainty, and skill gaps in our city’s economy. While the first priority is putting New Yorkers back to work, our efforts will also focus on supporting longer-term job growth for New Yorkers.
We see potential in the issues New York City faces and the local workforce that can be employed to remedy them. New York is on a pathway to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions citywide by 2050. This requires making all sectors of our economy cleaner, from increasing energy efficiency in buildings to shifting our industrial facility practices to making our public transit more sustainable and accessible. We will need New Yorkers to achieve these goals.
This shift to a green economy presents an unprecedented economic opportunity for New York City workers to lead the world in building a clean energy future. The workers creating and maintaining our buildings will need to be equipped with new design and construction techniques; the operators of our public transportation system will need to be thinking about sustainability; and those generating the energy that fuels our homes will be using renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, and geothermal. This transition will require careful attention and investment, while positioning New Yorkers for stable, good jobs of the future.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
We will prepare New York City residents for our net zero economy, with a focus on the skills required for building retrofits and offshore wind production
We will spearhead a new New York City Climate Corps, a citywide initiative built off the Clean Energy Service Corps program, an AmeriCorps program initially set up under President Obama to employ young Americans on clean energy and resilience projects through nonprofit and local government grants. This will build on local service and educational programs, such as the CUNY Service Corps and CUNY’s existing, high-quality environmental, sustainability, and energy management degree and credentialing programs. Adequate funding and thoughtful program design will ensure that the Corps can fully include and support diverse participants who reflect the communities they serve.
Additionally, we will conduct a full audit on the jobs required for Local Law 97 compliance. We will partner with external stakeholders to publish an understanding of the jobs most needed, so that training programs can be developed accordingly. City Hall will look to replicate successful programs, like the “1,000 Green Supers Program,” in the context of critical roles needed for this transition to a green economy.
Ensure that the jobs are good quality
Building on the successful process to increase the minimum wage in New York State, this administration will explore establishing a wage board to set fair terms for compensation for climate adaptation workers, integrating rates of pay, work rules, and scope regarding private and public projects. We must make sure that our clean economy jobs are well-paying and accessible, while maintaining an eye towards keeping costs down.
Work to make NYC the center of clean tech innovation
This will include efforts like creating a Clean Power Generator Jobs Accelerator that can align zoning, regulatory, and tax incentives to support private investments in the wind-power generation sector and create jobs in areas such as harbor services, information technology, and power transmission. Read more about our plans to create pathways toward opportunity for all New Yorkers in our Economic Development Platform.
Taking Real Steps to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Despite sizable reductions to New York City’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 2005, there have been more recent emissions spikes. The city must focus on policy implementation to reach the current greenhouse gas mitigation goal of a 40% reduction by 2030 and an 80% reduction by 2050, as well as achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. We will rigorously and transparently track progress toward this goal and further make up for lost ground with even deeper reductions.
Since the majority of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions can be sourced to buildings and transportation, our strategies lead with these sectors. We will work closely with the state to create optimal conditions for clean energy development locally, including offshore wind and solar energy, to generate maximum renewable power feeding into the state’s grid, and ensure disadvantaged communities are not disproportionately burdened with the costs of transitioning to a clean economy.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
Leverage our buildings as tools to reduce GHG emissions
We envision a future where all public and private buildings in NYC run on pollution-free electricity, phasing out the use of fossil fuels, including gas and oil, in all buildings. This transition must be paired with policies and programs to make sure the poorest communities aren’t the last to transition off fossil fuel systems.
In a post-COVID NYC, there will be a potential shift in commercial real estate away from office space; the need to repurpose buildings given this reality presents additional opportunity to ensure sustainability and affordability. Both our residential and commercial buildings can make measurable progress toward New York City’s emissions reduction goals.
To get there, we will work with building owners, experts, and solution providers to further refine and implement NYC’s landmark existing building emissions law, Local Law 97 of 2019. A part of the Climate Mobilization Act, this is one of the most ambitious local policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions globally, requiring the city’s largest buildings to meet increasingly stringent carbon reduction standards over the next decade. As one strategy, City Hall can help building owners comply through full implementation of the city’s new Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program in partnership with lenders, owners, and mortgage insurers, and accompanied by industry-wide education.
We will plan to enact a zero-carbon building code for new buildings by 2030 and eliminate fossil fuels from new building construction and operation even sooner. More than 50,000 buildings are built or renovated annually. Without more stringent codes, emissions from new buildings will be “locked in” for decades.
Additionally, we must lead by example by ensuring all of New York City’s public buildings, including New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings, are healthy and pollution-free, through energy audits or retrofits, as fast as possible. These efforts will improve health outcomes for residents and occupants; research shows that cooking with gas stoves pollutes indoor air and increases the risks of asthma, especially among children and disadvantaged populations. Given that the city’s public housing residents may have higher asthma rates than other New Yorkers, environmental justice demands we center a sustainable NYCHA in our climate strategy. Read more about our plans to make public housing greener in our Housing Platform.
The City will incentivize efficiency measures for smaller buildings that are not currently required to meet the carbon performance standards of Local Law 97 through policies like time-of-sale transparency requirements.
Additionally, we will collaborate with industry leaders to accommodate energy storage in the building code in a way that both streamlines installation and fire safety concerns. This will help expedite the replacement of New York City’s remaining fossil-fired “peaker” power plants, which disproportionately burden low-income communities and people of color, with cleaner energy.
And, we must support stronger building code enforcement by investing in the enforcement workforce, training them to enforce an advanced energy code, and expanding the use of new code checking technologies. In New York City, energy code compliance failures were previously found to occur in 20% of projects, and staffing levels were deemed inadequate to fully enforce the energy code in new buildings and some alterations. Research suggests that each $1 spent on code enforcement can yield $6 in energy savings. Read more in our Economic Development Platform.
Invest in more efficient transportation
Vehicle congestion is expensive, dangerous, and polluting, and is estimated to cost New York City up to $15 billion annually. Our goal to create safer, more equitable, and just open streets for pedestrians and bikers will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers. While ambitious and challenging, we hope to significantly reduce GHG emissions in New York City’s transportation sector and facilitate the use of sustainable modes by all New Yorkers to truly deliver on the current administration’s goal that 80% of trips be made using sustainable modes by 2050. We will implement efficient, equitable, safe, and clean mobility policies and programs and ensure that the MTA bus system is entirely electric by 2040.
Our commitment to implement this includes:
- Expanding bicycle infrastructure and creating connected, protected bike lanes and pedestrian corridors across all boroughs. By reallocating street space to pedestrians, we can create safer streets and reduce the need for privately owned vehicles.
- Expanding bus service in New York City to reach traditionally underserved neighborhoods by launching true Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) with fully separated and dedicated busways, platform-grade “stations,” and intelligent technology—with a goal of an eventual all-electric fleet. Separately, when we work to speed up regular bus service and expand bus lanes in transit deserts, we will provide New Yorkers with additional and quicker options to travel without a personal automobile. On-road emissions account for almost all greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in New York City; national averages show that public transit including buses produces fewer emissions than do private vehicles.
- Increasing the availability of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations to ensure that all residents, in every borough and neighborhood, live within a quick drive of on-street EV charging stations or fast-charging EV stations. Since many New Yorkers still may need access to a car, the city should do everything in its power to support pollution-free options, while also working with the state to ensure that electric vehicles are accessible across all income levels.
- Facilitating partnerships between NYC’s public school districts and utilities to convert a portion of yellow diesel busses to electric models, starting with pilot programs and prioritizing buses serving environmental justice communities. With the ultimate goal of electrifying the city’s school buses by 2040, this will both help reduce neighborhood pollution, which disproportionately harms historically disadvantaged communities, and send stored electricity back to the grid (V2G).
- Supporting implementation of congestion pricing for Manhattan’s central business district, while insisting on transit improvements first. This will reduce both traffic and air pollution, increase public safety, and generate revenue that can then be reinvested into clean transportation alternatives.
Read more about these efforts in our Transportation Platform.
Empowering and Preparing the Next Generation
Sustainability education will be a hallmark of K-12 public education, and young New Yorkers—beginning in high school and continuing through post-secondary opportunities—will have accessible and robust pathways to careers in the environmental and clean energy fields.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
Take a comprehensive approach to educating and training our young people
The Donovan administration will improve K-12 public education by including instruction about the climate crisis and environmental justice across content areas, and we will pair this with expanded community-based sustainability projects, such as school gardens, green roofs, and environmental restoration.
We will incentivize partnerships among community environmental science and advocacy groups and schools to create long-term education programs that integrate key science, technology, engineering, math, and social studies, and we will establish New York City’s K-12 teachers as climate ambassadors for their students, families, and communities. We can accomplish the latter through incentives and partnerships with schools of teacher education, the teachers’ union, and other stakeholders to support a robust and high-level teacher education program emphasizing climate education strategies across all disciplines and with real-world applications.
Additionally, we will institute rigorous high school coursework, internship experience, and certification programs in partnership with relevant industries, nonprofits, and community-based organizations, and establish a larger cohort of new, focused high-schools—building off the model of Energy Tech—in the city’s most environmentally burdened communities.
At the post-secondary level, we will form a CUNY Opportunity Lab Task Force with faculty and key outside partners to identify and rapidly develop new short-term credentials and new or modified degree programs with a required work-based learning component to prepare for a range of environmental sustainability occupations. By expanding the model provided by the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay, housed at Brooklyn College and founded in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, working to create real-time solutions for communities most at risk from climate change. Read more about our plans to empower New York City students in our Education Platform.
Strengthening Climate Resilience and Disaster Response
New Yorkers have experienced firsthand the type of devastation that climate change can cause. When Hurricane Sandy swept the region in 2012, it killed 44 New Yorkers, destroyed approximately 300 homes, left hundreds of thousands of residents without power, and cost the city $19 billion in direct damages and lost economic activity.
The mayor’s responsibility is to prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change—which we already experience today. Sea level rise, extreme heat, coastal flooding, and severe storms endanger our city’s health, security, and economic well-being. As with COVID-19, these hazards disproportionately affect historically disadvantaged communities.
The next administration must take a proactive approach to climate resilience that prioritizes equitable, community-based, and innovative solutions. While cultivating a world-class city of opportunity for all New Yorkers, we will promote an inclusive and just adaptation strategy and enhance social and economic resilience in the face of climate change.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
Properly invest in understanding, tracking, and planning for resilience
We must begin by developing a dynamic, comprehensive five borough resilience plan that considers cross-boundary impacts across the region, responds to real-time data and climate science, and is rooted in community-driven engagement. Our approach will give special attention to frontline and environmental justice communities and promote cooperation with New York State, New Jersey, and Connecticut to strengthen regional resilience.
This will require expanding the use of physical and social vulnerability mapping to better identify and protect at-risk communities. We recognize that numerous social factors—such as income, age, race, health care, access and functional needs, documentation status, and education level—may influence an individual’s ability to prepare for and recover from climate impacts. By overlaying physical climate projection models with advanced socio-economic and demographic data, we can improve our understanding of risk and make informed investment decisions.
Properly invest in the efforts and individuals that will help the city achieve its resilience goals
We will rethink traditionally-used cost-benefit analysis to prioritize investment in historically disadvantaged communities and those most at risk from climate change, and take into account the long-term benefits and cost savings associated with resilience and risk reduction, which are often left out of this analysis. At the same time, we will evaluate city investments through a resilience lens and ensure that city officials working on climate resilience have the operational, budgetary, decision-making, and convening authority to move projects quickly and effectively.
We must establish a resilience commission composed of community, business, and civic leaders focused on making visionary, achievable, and pragmatic recommendations to improve resilience in New York City. This advisory group, modeled off of Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission, will foster partnership across sectors and provide an avenue for sharing best practices.
And, we must conduct a comprehensive assessment of the city’s ability to respond to and recover from climate-related disasters, such as major flooding events and severe storms, to minimize disruption to essential services like public transport, the power grid, food distribution, drinking water, health care, and educational and cultural institutions. Read more about our plans to improve our tracking and use of data in our Innovation Platform.
It is vital that the City protect public housing residents and their homes from the impacts of climate change by taking necessary and important measures to enhance resilience and proper maintenance. In doing so, we will create jobs for tenants by hiring from within NYCHA and from Minority- and Women- Owned Enterprises, and will include robust community outreach to ensure that tenant voices are not only heard but are a driving force behind this work. Read more in our Housing Platform.
Achieving Zero Waste
While Mayor de Blasio committed New York City to an important zero waste by 2030 goal, we are not on track to meet this target. The city recycles less than one-fifth of its garbage, placing it behind other major cities like San Francisco and Seattle, which recycle at approximately three times that rate. New York City trucks the waste we do not recycle outside of the five boroughs to methane-producing landfills and toxin-emitting incinerators as far away as South Carolina and Ohio, costing over $400 million per year and undermining the city’s carbon-reduction goals.
A Donovan administration believes that New York City can not only get its trash problem under control but emerge as a global leader in waste management. We will make meaningful progress toward the city’s zero waste goal, reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste transport and processing, and advance equitable waste practices that alleviate trash and health disparities in overburdened communities.
We are committed to the following policies and programs:
Restore, expand, and improve upon New York City’s curbside organics program
The de Blasio administration suspended the curbside organics program due to COVID-19 budget cuts. Organics, like food scraps and yard waste, make up about one-third of the city’s waste stream and present profitable opportunities to convert trash into compost and clean energy. By extending organics recycling to all residents, mandating waste separation for homes and schools, and supporting community compost programs, we can divert waste from landfills while saving taxpayer dollars over the long-term.
Address waste at school, in housing, and at businesses
We will enhance recycling education programs within New York City schools and support the development of related curriculum. By doing so, we can help our children form strong recycling habits and invest in a zero waste future. We must also improve waste and recycling infrastructure in public housing. For too long, NYCHA residents have lacked adequate and convenient access to waste and recycling bins. By investing in equipment and outreach, we can provide residents with equitable recycling opportunities.
A Donovan administration will introduce recycling requirements for construction and demolition materials, which account for nearly half of all waste generated in the city. By working with City Council and local businesses, we can advance the city’s earlier, unfulfilled promises to tackle this important source of waste.
And, we can reduce single-use plastic by requiring restaurants and food vendors to offer plastic utensils to takeout customers only when specially requested. This policy, which recognizes that many New Yorkers who order delivery already have utensils at home, aims to cut back on unnecessary waste and serve as a model for other cities.