NYC Greener Now Than 3 Years Ago?

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Mayor Bloomberg released a self-congratulatory progress report yesterday on PlaNYC, the city’s initiative to create a more environmentally sustainable New York by the year 2030.

Three years into the plan, the Administration gives itself high marks for implementation, noting that 57% of last year’s milestones had been achieved or mostly achieved, and that significant progress had been made on many more.

“For three years, PlaNYC has changed the way New Yorkers think about their city and the future,” said Mayor Bloomberg in a press release. “We must continue to tackle the challenges we face and dream big.”

Some members of the city’s environmental justice community disagree with Bloomberg’s assessment of his results.

“We see real gaps in PlaNYC for communities that have historically been under-resourced and over-polluted,” says Miquela Craytor, the executive director of Sustainable South Bronx.

In particular, she points to missed opportunities to connect greening efforts like tree planting and building construction to job creation programs for city residents living at the margins of the workforce. “These initiatives have potential to create career ladders out of poverty,” she says. “Equity is one piece of the sustainability pie. If there’s a plan that doesn’t think about that in an intentional way, it’s missing something.”

The mayor’s report lists the following as achievements:

Open Space
• Over 322,000 trees planted as part of MillionTreesNYC
• 113 schoolyards to playgrounds opened
• Construction begun at Calvert Vaux Park and McCarren Pool
• 224 Greenstreets constructed

• All 14 wastewater treatment plants now able to meet Clean Water Act’s 85% pollutant removal requirement harbor-wide
• $115 million in new investments to improve the overall water quality and mitigate marshland loss in Jamaica Bay
• Over 28,600 acres of land acquired to protect our upstate water supply

• Greener, Greater Buildings Plan enacted—the most comprehensive green building legislation in the country
• 84 energy efficiency projects completed as part of our plan to reduce City government energy use 30% by 2017. These projects will result in over $2.3 million in annual energy savings
• Federal stimulus funding secured to help property owners finance energy-saving retrofits in existing buildings
• Green Codes Task Force report released
• Entered into Offshore Wind Collaborative to build a wind farm off the coast of New York

Air Quality
• 25% of the yellow taxi fleet converted to hybrid vehicles
• Clean air school bus law enacted, requiring installation of interior air quality controls on entire fleet and lowering the retirement age of buses
• New York City Clean Air Survey winter report released, the most detailed ground-level survey of air quality undertaken by a major city
• 40 hybrid patrol cars added to NYPD fleet
• Released report on electric vehicles

Climate Change
• 9% decrease in citywide carbon emissions
• First ever official New York City-specific climate change projections created

PlaNYC is a smokescreen for New York’s litany of environmental problems, said Joel Kupferrman, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project. Too many new Yorkers are living in toxic housing, without adequate park space, he said, and too many environmental laws are being broken without consequence.

The city’s own firehouses and police stations are still contaminated with toxic September 11 debris, he said. “We were and are continuing to be critics of the city’s plan,” he said. “Model plans help, but they don’t help people who get the short end of the stick.”

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