Posted by Leonard Steinberg on November 27th, 2013

Thankfully under Mayor Bloomberg’s outstanding leadership New York City has been a shining light in green initiatives to save energy, protect the environment, and build green jobs for our economy. Bill de Blasio intends to build on that history and expand sustainability initiatives throughout the five boroughs. Here is his vision, and its something to be thankful for:

Build an Alliance for a Sustainable New York. New York City has all of the critical components in place to become the most sustainable city in the world: dense public-sector resources and infrastructure, private capital, innovators in science and technology, strong labor unions, and a committed citizenry. We can and must build on the successes of PlaNYC and convene all stakeholders to build the most sustainable city in the world. As mayor, Bill de Blasio promises to convene public and private sector actors to expand and deepen PlaNYC, and he will update the plan every year on Earth Day.

Commit to Renewable Energy The green collar economy begins with a clear commitment to alternative energy sources. Bloomberg’s recent announcement for a Solar Farm on Staten Island is great. As mayor, Bill de Blasio promised to expand the city’s investment in large-scale clean energy production, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and biofuels. Not only would such a transition reduce New York City’s carbon footprint, it would expand economic opportunities — from entrepreneurs to production and installation jobs. Bill de Blasio will also advocate at the state level for the New York Solar Act, which will provide additional incentives to support the adoption of solar energy production…..hopefully what Bloomberg started on Staten Island can be a model for the future?

Retrofit and Green New York City Buildings Bill de Blasio promised to make every government-owned building as green as is financially viable by 2020. For the private sector, Bill de Blasio will continue the commitment to the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation. He will also replicate Chicago’s public-private partnership model to create more funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. This includes direct loans for energy efficiency in buildings and “Energy Services Agreements (ESA),” where energy efficiency work is packaged as a service that building owners pay for through savings with limited upfront cost to the owner. De Blasio should also over-rule the Landmark’s commission that prevents so many buildings from replacing those horrible, inefficient window unit AC units with more efficient central air systems. Central is only efficient when on a timer, but Window units left in the window through the winter are HUGE sources of lost heat. They are also ugly and dangerous. Good insulation is the #1 energy saver and should be the focus.

Help Every Business Reduce its Energy Use At economic development hubs around the city, Bill de Blasio will have city workers provide technical assistance to local business owners with an emphasis on greater efficiency. This technical support will provide information on ways to increase energy efficiency in their buildings and better manage waste, which will help reduce transit and logistic energy costs while improving industrial processes. The city will also help small businesses identify the government and private resources that can help them green their businesses and use the energy savings to grow their businesses. De Blasio should also insist on all waiting cars to turn off their engines while waiting.

Set a Goal of Zero Waste in New York New York City is behind in recycling and reducing waste, at great cost to the budget and the environment. The city spent $320 million in 2011 on disposal, while sanitation trucks drove 40 million miles, spewing huge amounts of greenhouse gases. Our garbage collection system is hugely inefficient and terribly noisy. The cost of Zero Waste may sound unattainable, but it is actually a practical program and goal. Since adopting Zero Waste, San Francisco recycles 80 percent, compared to 15 percent in New York City. Seattle and Oakland and states like Minnesota, Oregon and California are striving for Zero Waste. Companies like Xerox, Sony and Hewlett-Packard are finding that adhering to Zero Waste principles results in significant cost savings. Bill de Blasio will institute a Zero Waste program: strengthening and expanding existing recycling, instituting composting programs, and establishing waste reduction programs, including, for example, bans on plastic bags and requiring more materials to be recyclable or compostable. Instead of a focus on disposing and exporting waste, Bill de Blasio will look for opportunities for economic development, building industries, and creating jobs from materials that can be recovered. Every day when I see the amount of stuff thrown out of my office, I shudder. Recently we have been recycling paper. But that is the tip of the iceberg. The amount of waste in the food industry is truly bad, and morally wrong.

Integrate Green Skills into Workforce Development Training on ways to reduce energy costs effectively should be integrated into industry sector workforce development in all schools, apprenticeships and training programs. Bill de Blasio will model its green workforce initiatives on the Green Professional Building Skills Training model, which brings together labor unions, government officials, business leaders, environmentalists and CUNY educators to train workers and credential them for career advancement in green building management.

Focus on Resilience and Preparedness With many neighborhoods across our city still reeling from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, and with severe weather on the rise, Bill de Blasio will invest in infrastructure upgrades that improve our resilience and ability to respond to an emergency. Permeable surfaces and natural infrastructure, for example, do more than help keep our waterways clean — they protect our homes and neighborhoods from natural disasters, increase home values, and create new construction jobs. He will also implement many of the recommendations made by the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Recovery, including safeguarding utilities and hospitals, and improving protective infrastructure with assets like surge barriers and sand dunes. Bloomberg has been very effective at re-writing the building codes to prevent future losses from storms: this needs to be expanded.

Restoring Our Waterways and Investing in Soft Infrastructure By restoring our coastal ecosystems — such as our wetlands, dunes, and rivers — New York City can renew our long-neglected waterways while making important strides in protecting against future storm surges. In the same way that the High Line has been transformed from an urban blight to a rich community space, New York City can renew our waterways — such as the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, and Jamaica Bay — to improve our water ecosystems and expand locations for urban ecotourism. As mayor, Bill de Blasio promises to restore our waterways and implement a five-borough bioswales initiative to minimize the pressure on our water and sewer system.

Expand Municipal Composting Citywide Composting is environmentally progressive, helps reduce waste streams, and mitigates harmful byproducts from decomposition. It also means less money spent on carting and fertilizer. The city has conducted successful pilot programs, and recently called for a major expansion. Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boulder, Colorado all have curbside composting pickup programs. As mayor, Bill de Blasio promises to expand the city’s program and create a mandatory citywide municipal composting system within five years.

Promote Transit-Oriented Development As mayor, Bill de Blasio promises to target rezonings and development of additional housing to locations with strong transit connections, encouraging higher-density development at and around transit hubs, while preserving lower density neighborhoods located further from mass transit. He needs to also upgrade the transit system to accommodate the masses of people moving to the boroughs. Maybe a trip on the L train at 8am on a weekday will convince him how urgent this is.

Support Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan For many years, New York City’s trash was disproportionately shipped to poor communities in the outer boroughs. Bill de Blasio understands we need a fair, five-borough plan to handle New York’s garbage. De Blasio promises to implement the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan, including opening the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station. Here he needs to be careful that the political correctness of this move does not cost him a sharp reduction in property values and real estate taxes: Bloomberg failed miserably in his support of the facility being built at Spring Street and the West Side Highway: this site, had it been developed as apartments, would be delivering millions of real estate taxes EVERY year to pay for all these wonderful programs: now as a government building (built on PRIME land) it produces nothing and costs lots to maintain. Political correctness can cost all way too much and should be avoided. Lets be SMART.

Establish Gateless Tolling Even with EZ Pass, tollbooths still mean congestion and delay for thousands of drivers every day. The MTA has successfully experimented with gateless tolls on the Henry Hudson Bridge, proving that new technology can allow us to remove tollbooths and let motorists make toll crossings without reducing speed, saving time and reducing congestion. Bill de Blasio promises to work with the MTA to introduce gateless tolling on existing toll bridges that are notoriously traffic-choked, like the Verraza- no-Narrows Bridge.

Support Smart Grid and Smart Meter Deployment To cut electricity consumption and reduce power outages, Bill de Blasio knows we need a long-term vision to upgrade the grid that delivers electricity to New York City homes. This means developing a comprehensive strategy to deploy smart meters that allow consumers to better manage consumption, and enable utilities to better manage peak energy loads. Bill de Blasio promises to work with Albany to establish real-time pricing options for electricity to decrease energy consumption and energy bills for participating New Yorkers. He will also support increasing the size of solar and alternative energy installations that can use net metering, which allows homes and businesses to feed energy that hasn’t been used back into the grid.

Uphold Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracturing In 2009, Bill de Blasio sponsored the resolution calling on federal and state agencies to assess the risks posed by hydrofracking to drinking water, and to apply appropriate regulations. He supports the two-year fracking moratorium recently passed by the Assembly, and hopes the Senate will also approve the measure. Questions about health and environmental safety remain unanswered, and we can’t afford to get this wrong. Fracking could be an economic windfall for New York, but if it impacts the quality of our water supply, its a non-starter.

A green city should also be less noisy: encouraging electrical vehicles (AND providing charging stations around the City) could help. Noise ordinances are in place: ENFORCE them! It could produce lots of revenue to pay for all of this.