New York Mayor Unveils Multi-Billion Dollar Green City Plan
NEW YORK, New York, April 23, 2007 (ENS) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Sunday presented a plan to cope with climate change and a fast-growing population in a sweeping policy speech containing 127 separate initiatives. PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York, has been in the works since December but the mayor chose to issue it on Earth Day to underline his goal of making America's largest city also the greenest by 2030.
Covering land, air, water, energy, and transportation, PlaNYC is the result of thousands of hours of work, informed by public meetings and feedback from New Yorkers. It establishes goals that include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030, although the mayor says even that goal is not set high enough.
"Climate change is a national challenge, and meeting it requires strong and united national leadership," said Mayor Bloomberg, announcing the plan at the American Museum of Natural History. "The fact is, the emerging consensus among scientists is that, to avoid serious harm, we must reduce our emissions by 60 to 80 percent by 2050."
To start planning for the sea-level rise that melting glaciers and ice sheets are expected to bring, the mayor of this low-lying city proposes to create an interagency task force. The new body would "protect our city’s vital infrastructure and expand our adaptation strategies beyond the protection of our water supply, sewer, and wastewater treatment systems to include all essential city infrastructure," the mayor said.
The plan calls for a citywide strategic planning process for climate change adaptation. The mayor would work with costal neighborhoods to develop site-specific protection strategies by creating a community planning process.
The city would document all floodplain management strategies to secure discounted flood insurance for New Yorkers, and create a strategic planning process for climate change adaptation that will ensure that New York's Federal Emergency Management Administration 100-year floodplain maps are updated.
The city would also amend the building code to address the impacts of climate change.
The United Nations, with headquarters on New York City's East River, applauded the mayor's plan. "This is exactly the type of initiative that we would like more cities and communities to undertake," said UN Director of Sustainable Development JoAnne DiSano. "Real development has to allow for economic growth and social development in an environmentally balanced way. We are strongly encouraged by this proposal."
Environmental Defense, a national nongovernmental organization headquartered in New York, praised Bloomberg for his initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2030. Environmental Defense advised the Mayor's team creating the plan for a sustainable New York.
"Mayor Bloomberg's extraordinary plan will bring benefits to all New Yorkers," said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense and member of the environmental commissions established by President Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. "The mayor has shown global leadership by transcending politics to act now on climate change. I hope Washington follows the mayor's example so we can solve this problem for our children and generations to come."
Brownfield Remediation and Open Space
"We propose to speed the clean-up of all 7,600 acres of brownfields still in our city – while also ensuring public health protections by developing new time-saving strategies, new city-specific remediation guidelines, and a new city brownfields office to oversee the initiatives and encourage community involvement," said Mayor Bloomberg.
PlaNYC calls for a new $15 million fund to support brownfield redevelopment and a new city office to increase resources dedicated to brownfield planning, testing and cleanups.
The mayor would create a database of historic uses across New York City to identify potential brownfields, and also create an insurance program and legal protections to limit the liability of developers willing to clean up land they did not pollute.
"Some of our brownfields may also become open space and parkland, which bind communities together," said Bloomberg. "In the past five years alone, we’ve added more than 300 acres to the biggest and best parks system in the nation. But still, nearly two million New Yorkers live too far from parks and playing fields."
To enhance open space and create recreational opportunities, PlaNYC would open schoolyards across the city as public playgrounds, and complete underutilized destination parks – at least one in each of the city's five boroughs.
The plan calls for reforestation of 2,000 targeted acres of parkland and a partnership with stakeholders to help plant one million trees over the next decade in vacant lots.
$50 Billion for Transportation
To streamline public transportation and reduce its environmental impacts, the mayor plans to establish a new Sustainable Mobility and Regional Transportation, SMART, Financing Authority "to advance new projects and achieve a state of good repair in the subway and on the roads."
Transportation infrastructure has been underfunded for the past 50 years, the mayor says, calling for new funding of more than $50 billion.
"Building the new transit we need - and our entire region needs - and achieving a full state of good repair will require over $50 billion," the plan states.
"Only $13.4 billion is already committed to these projects; we can reasonably expect another $6.3 billion from Federal sources. That means that if we want to see those projects built, the region will have to raise an additional $31 billion between now and 2030," it says.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, MTA, which stands to gain financially, today voiced its support of the plan.
"Mayor Bloomberg deserves tremendous credit for taking on two longstanding problems - traffic congestion and limited funding for mass transit," the MTA said in a statement. "We applaud the mayor’s commitment to the transit system and will carefully analyze the city’s proposal to understand its impact on the MTA."
The most controversial part of PlaNYC's transport section would establish pilot congestion pricing to manage traffic in the Central Business District. On weekdays from 6 am to 6 pm, trucks would be charged $21 a day and cars would be charged $8 in addition to premium parking fees charged by city and private lots.
"In analyzing congestion pricing, we studied commuting patterns across the city, and we arrived at an astounding finding. Of the New Yorkers who work in Manhattan but live outside it, only five percent commute by car," said Mayor Bloomberg.
Congressman Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from Queens and Brooklyn calls the congestion pricing proposal "a regressive tax on working middle-class families and small-business owners."
Weiner praised many reported elements of PlaNYC, including plans to expand affordable housing tax incentives, provide energy-efficiency rebates, claim city control of public authorities, speed the brownfields cleanup, construct a tunnel under the Hudson River and create new zoning to expand affordable housing.
Weiner says the city’s most under-utilized asset is its waterfront. He secured $15 million for fast ferry service for the city, which he envisions being linked to the mass transit system by the Metrocard.
The mayor's plan also would expand ferry service and better integrate it with the city's existing mass transit system.
Clean Energy, Clean Air, and Clean Water
PlaNYC would develop backup systems for the city's aging water network; provide additional reliable power sources and upgrade existing power plants; and reduce water pollution so the city can open waterways for recreation.
"As we grow, and if summers continue to get warmer, the strain will increase, resulting in more breakdowns, more polluted air, and rising energy bills," said Mayor Bloomberg.
"In fact, if we do nothing, the city’s total energy bill will increase by $3 billion by 2015," he said. "We can’t afford to wait and we can’t afford to continue to be held hostage to heat waves. That’s why we are proposing ways to provide cleaner, more reliable power and ways to use it more efficiently."
The plan would establish a New York City Energy Planning Board to centralize planning for the city's supply and demand initiatives and create an energy efficiency authority for New York City responsible for reaching the city's demand reduction targets.
The city would commit 10 percent of the city's annual energy bill to fund energy-saving investments in city operations.
To bring more electricity to the city, the plan would facilitate the construction of 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts of supply capacity by repowering old plants, constructing new ones, and building dedicated transmission lines.
The initiatives include more power from solar and landfill methane gas, and construction of the city's first carbon neutral building, primarily powered by solar electricity.
"In parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Harlem, children are hospitalized for asthma at nearly four times the national average," said the mayor. "We cannot turn a blind eye to this outrage. All of our children deserve a healthy start in life. Many people call that environmental justice; I simply call it the right thing to do."
To improve air quality, the plan would promote hydrogen and plug-in hybrid vehicles, introduce biodiesel into the city’s truck fleet, enforce anti-idling laws, and lower the maximum sulfur content in heating fuel.
"About a week ago," said the mayor, "the [U.S.] EPA recognized our success in keeping our reservoirs clean saving us from building a second filtration plant that would cost several billion dollars. That’s the good news. But the system is showing its age, with some parts more than a century old. And as development upstate continues our water supply system will require new investments."
In addition to the ultraviolet disinfection plant for the Catskill/Delaware systems, a water filtration plant to protect the Croton supply and other projects already in the works, the plan would implement a water conservation program to reduce citywide consumption by 60 million gallons a day.
"New York is fortunate to have not only a vast supply of fresh water, but also a wealth of rivers, creeks and coastal waters. From time immemorial, they nurtured an incredible diversity of marine life, but for too long, the city polluted these waters and as our population grew, that contamination increased. We can change that," said Mayor Bloomberg.
PlaNYC would reduce Combined Sewage Overflow discharges during heavy rains, and convert combined sewers into High Level Storm Sewers which would be integrated into major new developments.
Through a new incentive program, the plan would encourage the installation of green roofs that absorb stormwater runoff.
One Million More New Yorkers by 2030
New York City is now home to 8.2 million people, a number that is projected to increase by nearly one million between now and 2030.
"To accommodate nearly a million more New Yorkers, we are going to have to create hundreds of thousands of new homes – even on top of our existing affordable housing plan, the largest ever undertaken by any city," says Mayor Bloomberg. "To do it, and to build those new homes at lower costs, we have to make more land available for new housing, which will help ease pressure on land prices."
The mayor's plan would use transit extensions to spark growth, as subways did more than a century ago, and explore opportunities to create new land by constructing decks over transportation infrastructure such as rail yards, rail lines and highways.
The city would continue restoring underused or vacant waterfront land across the city, and seek to adapt unused schools, hospitals, and other outdated municipal sites for productive use as new housing.
"Today is just the beginning – day one if you will. In the weeks and months to come, the dialogue about PlaNYC will continue across our city – and with our partners in the City Council and in Albany," concluded Mayor Bloomberg. "Together, through PlaNYC, we can build a Greater, Greener New York."
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