‘Mayor Adams can make New York City a global leader in the fight against climate change and transition to a green economy. His administration must advance environmental priorities that will make our city more sustainable, resilient, and equitable for future generations.’

Adi Talwar

The waterfront at Coney Island. 

Recent extreme climate events in New York City have made it clear that our city is at risk. Extreme flooding, intense heat, and devastating storms are unfortunately the new normal, and we must act urgently to make sure that New York City can withstand the threats of climate change. The Adams administration can set the tone in its first 100 days and “Get Stuff Done” to create a greener, more resilient future for our city.

Mayor Eric Adams must prioritize a transition to a clean transportation system. Transportation is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. This causes public health issues citywide, such as Asthma Alley, and especially impacts low-income communities and communities of color that have historically been exposed to high levels of pollution. To build a sustainable transportation system, the administration must follow through on electrifying the city’s fleet of vehicles and school buses, work with the state to implement congestion pricing, and ultimately uphold commitments to reduce emissions.

Reducing emissions from transportation also requires us to reimagine how we use our street space. From implementing the NYC Streets Plan and 25×25 to expanding protected busways, bus lanes, e-scooters and bike lanes, Mayor Adams should embrace new multimodal strategies that promote micromobility and sustainability. We need to build a city for our people, instead of our cars.

Efforts to cut emissions must be paired with investments in our green spaces, which mitigate climate change and connect us with nature, especially during COVID times. New York City parks and natural areas are critical infrastructure that provide numerous environmental and public health benefits, yet remain underfunded. By committing to increase parks funding to 1 percent of the city budget, Mayor Adams can invest in the health and sustainability of parks and green spaces plus expand access for all to enjoy, especially communities underserved by parkland.

Waste piling up in city streets and landfills not only affects our health and makes streets unattractive to residents and tourists alike (yet too attractive to rats!), it also harms our environment. Common sense waste management is key to mitigating climate change and reaching the city’s sustainability goals. Mayor Adams can act now by expanding curbside composting, stop shipping garbage hundreds of miles, and create green jobs. Longer term, achieving the City’s Zero Waste goal by 2030 will require collaboration between City Hall, private industry, and the public. The administration can lead the way by supporting citywide programs that promote the circular economy, waste reduction, and investing in zero-waste public education campaigns.

Last year’s extreme weather events also demonstrated that our outdated infrastructure cannot protect us from the worsening threats of climate change. Expanding green infrastructure can make our city more resilient against storms, rising sea levels and heat while providing public health benefits for our communities. Mayor Adams must move boldly on resiliency projects to protect our city before it is too late. 

Finally, the administration must center equity in all its efforts to fight climate change. Low-income communities and communities of color have suffered years of environmental racism and as a result have been disproportionately impacted by climate disasters, pollution and adverse health outcomes. As Mayor Adams invests in green spaces, resilient infrastructure, transportation, and emissions reduction, he must prioritize environmental justice communities in these efforts to ensure a just transition.

Mayor Adams can make New York City a global leader in the fight against climate change and transition to a green economy. His administration must advance environmental priorities that will make our city more sustainable, resilient, and equitable for future generations. New York City cannot afford any more delays; we know the Adams administration can show us how to stop talking about it and get stuff done on climate.

Julie Tighe is the president of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

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