The Economist last week had a piece lauding New York City's effort to make itself into a "Sustainable City".
As reported here in October, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed a new director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, a move auguring well for Gotham's org chart in terms of inculcating sustainability across budgets, functions and 15 city agencies. Now Bloomberg is turning it up a notch.
"New Yorkers needed a long-term plan for sustainability," Bloomberg told an audience last week at the Queens Art Museum. "...doing nothing has its costs, too – economic and environmental, costs that will only escalate with the passing years."
Mayor Bloomberg has begun casting a city-wide sustainability plan with multiple actors, guided on policy by a Sustainability Advisory Board. On point, besides Sustainability Director Rohit Aggarwala, is Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, leading community-based land-use planning. The board's ten program goals Aggarwala and Doctoroff will shepard include:
- Turning Fresh Kills Landfill (yes, that of the famous 1988 Mobro 4000 "Garbage Barge" incident) into the largest city park developed in more than a century.
- An expanded Number 7 subway line to complement the nation's already highest rate of public transit use (more than 50 percent of New Yawkers ride public transit). Forecasts have been made on all the cities subway lines through 2030 to determine congestion based on demographic and ridership trends.
- Launching a public outreach effort to get citizen and community input on developing plans and projects, or what Bloomberg calls "a citywide conversation."
- Having an inventory of more than 1,300 neighborhood playgrounds to see where more are needed.
- Developing power plant efficiency forecasts for next 25 years.
- Creating and preserving affordable housing for 500,000 residents by 2013
- Phasing out pollution-causing heavy-diesel fuel using trucks in the city fleet
- Lowering global warming carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.
- Developing a new tunnel and filtration plant for water delivery to city from its protected Upstate sources.
It's encouraging to see the largest North American city outside of Mexico develop a detailed sustainability plan, something its country cousins in Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco have had for up to ten years.
Bloomberg and the city will need to do much more to develop renewable energy, as it accounts for none of the City's current mix of energy. Some California cities, including Los Angeles, get more than 10 percent of their energy from renewables--partially because of California utility purchasing mandates. But cities such as Chicago, San Francisco and Oakland have renewable energy generation and purchasing requirements.
Takeaway: New York is on its way to having a significant sustainability plan with key public-private players involved, which will make sustainability so much more real for city departments, citizens and the regional economy.