KATHRYN GARCIA RESPONSES
1) What are your top environmental and climate-related priorities?
We have an obligation to our children and to future generations of New Yorkers to protect this city and to be a leader for the world in fighting climate change. That means a comprehensive 5 borough approach with the right climate and resiliency strategies for every community, not just for Lower Manhattan. Rather than just set lofty goals with no plan to implement them, we will deliver real, tangible, and lasting results and take steps to move NYC to a fully renewable energy economy starting on day 1. The core components of our plan are: expanding renewable energy generation and transmission, cutting building emissions from residential and commercial heating, electrifying vehicles, expanding green infrastructure and community resiliency solutions, and achieving our zero waste goal.
2) How would you prioritize the creation of climate jobs in New York City and investment in communities of color, if at all?
Creating good jobs starts with investing in our communities. We will prepare our kids for success in the 21st century economy with a focus on youth talent development in high school, and create talent pipelines from our trade schools and community colleges to employment in modern industries like renewable energy and clean technology. We will focus investment in green job training and employment opportunities in the very neighborhoods who have borne the greatest environmental burden for decades, putting these communities at the vanguard of our fight against climate change and empowering people of color to benefit most from substantial public and private investment. I will also expand broadband internet access so it is available -- and affordable -- for all New Yorkers.
3) How would you advance the City’s goal of implementing 100% clean, affordable energy and maximizing greenhouse gas and co-pollutant reductions, if at all?
We must take an all-in approach to renewable energy. We will invest in large-scale renewable energy production through Renewable Rikers, at our wastewater treatment plants and on every City building. We will work with state authorities and utility companies to build new transmission lines to bring in renewable energy from Canada and upstate New York and integrated battery storage to reduce reliance on peaker plants. And we will incentivize all New Yorkers and property owners to invest in distributed solar power and reap the financial and climate benefits for the long-term.
4) How would you support the affordable and low-income housing sector in improving energy efficiency, enhancing residents’ comfort and living conditions, and meeting the City’s emissions reductions goals, if at all?
More than 40% of NYC’s carbon emissions come from burning fossil fuels for heat and hot water in our buildings, and we will incentivize electrifying those systems to transform oil and gas to highly-efficient heat pump technologies. This work must include our affordable and public housing stock, and we will leverage City capital to allow NYCHA and affordable housing providers to finance smart investments in building systems that achieve long-term savings in maintenance and operations. We will expand our free air-conditioner program for families and seniors to mitigate the health effects of extreme heat, and ensure that every new NYCHA roof incorporates green roof, blue roof or solar power technology.
5) How would you support the expansion of clean public transportation in the City, if at all?
New York City has one of the most robust public transportation systems in the world, but it has suffered from underinvestment and fails to serve many transit-starved communities. Work with state and federal governments to fully fund the Fast Forward program and press for real reform at the MTA. We will work with MTA to create a one-swipe in-city transportation network that integrates LIRR and MetroNorth service to expand affordable transportation options in the Bronx, Eastern Queens and Brooklyn.
We will electrify 10,000 school buses to protect our youngest lungs, and ensure that MTA buses are fully electrified by 2040. Create new dedicated busways and bus lanes, expand offboard payment and all-door boarding, give our buses priority at intersections, and grow the Express Bus network and Select Bus Service to cut down commuting times. We will also create an integrated transportation system that meshes both public transit with people-powered options like safe biking and pedestrian mobility, rather than operating these as separate silos.
Kickstart planning for new transit to create opportunities for new housing and job growth, including the Utica Avenue and expanded Second Avenue subway and new ferry terminals in East Harlem, Inwood, Hunts Point and northern Queens. We should rationalize the subsidy for ferry service to better match users' ability to pay and redirect funds to invest in our bus and subway system.
6) How would you upgrade local industrial port infrastructure in a way that is both sustainable and equitable, if at all?
New York’s port infrastructure is an incredible part of our heritage and an important source of good-paying union jobs. New York was too slow to adjust to shipping containerization last century, leading to a shift in port activity into New Jersey and out of the region. We should invest to upgrade our infrastructure to prepare for the next generation of shipping innovations, while prioritizing investments sustainable industrial growth. Our ports should be the largest wind energy hub on the East Coast, with the facilities and people to build and maintain new wind farms off the coast. We should expand capacity to provide shore power -- and clean, renewable energy rather than dirty bunker fuel -- to ships of all types and impose clear financial penalties on polluters who do not plug in.
As Sanitation Commissioner, I implemented the City’s solid waste management plan, which shifted from truck export to more sustainable barge and rail export of the City’s waste. We will emphasize smart industrial growth that utilizes NYC’s strong position in rail and maritime shipping, including growth of 21st century industries like renewable energy and green manufacturing, and protect and create good-paying manufacturing jobs in neighborhoods like Hunts Point, Williamsburg and Sunset Park. We will leverage federal incentive programs to upgrade our City’s short-haul locomotives and tugboats to industry-leading emissions standards to reduce air pollutants and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
New Yorkers increasingly rely on delivery to get the products that they rely on every day. I support the smart growth of local distribution infrastructure, particularly compact, multi-level warehouses common in Europe rather than sprawling warehouses that eat up our manufacturing zones. Any new distribution centers built in NYC should feature solar power and electric vehicle charging, and we will incentivize delivery companies to electrify 100% of last-mile delivery fleets across New York City.
7A) How would you develop climate resiliency infrastructure on public lands to protect New York City’s most vulnerable communities, if at all?
Resiliency is about preparing for more than just the next storm. We will implement neighborhood-based resilience strategies to storms, flooding and heatwaves that adapt to the unique needs and risks of each neighborhood in New York City. When it comes to storm surge, we will produce a real framework for all 520 miles of City coastline, with the same focus on the Rockaways and Red Hook as the southern tip of Manhattan. We will dramatically expand our green infrastructure to absorb stormwater and cool our neighborhoods, with a focus on neighborhoods with the fewest parks and street trees. We will expand bluebelt stormwater management strategies to other flood-prone parts of the City, including Southeast Queens, and restore wetlands to serve as a natural buffer to protect our waterfront communities. In some neighborhoods, we don’t need more planning, but we need to fully fund and execute plans that are already in place and work with our partners in state and federal government to eliminate bureaucratic barriers to a more resilient city.
7B) How would you support the Renewable Rikers proposal, if at all?
I fully support the Renewable Rikers proposal. Rikers Island is the ideal location to harvest renewable energy with solar panels, large battery storage, composting sites, wastewater treatment and digestion, and electric charging stations for the City’s fleet. We don’t need to wait for the full closure of the Rikers Island jail to make this vision a reality. As individual jail facilities close or consolidate on the island, we will implement a phased plan to jumpstart the build-out of critical infrastructure necessary for NYC’s carbon-free future.
8A) How would you support the City in meeting its target of becoming zero waste by 2030, if at all?
As Sanitation Commissioner, I led the fight to achieve zero waste by 2030. We cannot envision a sustainable future for New York City without taking control of our waste and creating a more sustainable, more circular economy.
The de Blasio Administration has repeatedly failed to advance core components of our zero waste plan. And worse, at the start of the COVID-19 crisis the Administration deemed zero waste programs “non-essential” and all but eliminated them. As Mayor, I will immediately reinstate the curbside composting program and work quickly to make it mandatory when service is available citywide. Our food scraps and yard waste are a valuable source of energy and nutrients for our soils, and we need to make it easy for all New Yorkers to do the right thing.
I will also open compost facilities in all five boroughs to dramatically expand our ability to process our food and yard waste in NYC and reap the benefits for our soil, our parks and our communities.
The key to getting garbage off our streets is focusing on waste reduction. We will follow through on developing a commitment for the country’s first urban Save As You Throw program to incentivize New Yorkers to reduce their waste. We will also create an Extended Producer Responsibility program so that the product manufacturers are responsible for the end of life of the items they design and manufacture.
8B) Commercial Waste Zones and Local Law 199 is an example of the sort of comprehensive and transformative climate justice policy that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emission while also raising labor standards, and its implementation will likely happen under the next mayoral administration. How will you ensure that the ambitious goals of the policy are prioritized and accomplished in its implementation?
As Sanitation Commissioner, I oversaw the entire Commercial Waste Zones program from its start to the passage of Local Law 199. The success of this transformative program relies on continuing the inclusive, stakeholder-forward process that has brought us to this point. In implementing this program, we must push the limits of what we can achieve in terms of safety and labor standards, recycling and composting, and green infrastructure investments, while ensuring the private carting industry provides high quality and affordable service to our small businesses. I have proven that I can deliver on these kinds of comprehensive policies, and I won’t let up now.
9A) How would you invest in the New York City workforce for a future of climate jobs, if at all?
As we upgrade building systems and expand renewable energy production, we will need a new and expanded workforce of building trades, information technology specialists and systems engineers to properly maintain and operate them. Our public education system should prepare every graduate for a job in NYC’s green economy. We will create a pipeline from CUNY colleges and trade schools to jobs in clean energy and building systems, including guaranteeing good-paying jobs for graduates of our trades schools in City employment. We will also emphasize smart industrial growth that leverages NYC’s strong position in rail and maritime shipping. We will focus on the growth of 21st century industries like renewable energy and green manufacturing, and protect and create good-paying manufacturing jobs in neighborhoods like Hunts Point, Williamsburg and Sunset Park.
9B) How would you implement measures to ensure the creation of high road jobs, if at all?
As someone who has worked closely with frontline essential workers for years to deliver critical services, I know that we have an obligation to protect workers and build a work environment that allows them to thrive. I will double-down on job growth and economic mobility, building a pipeline from our City’s community colleges and trade schools to good-paying jobs in biotech, green infrastructure and renewable energy. I will create expanded protections for workers, including free childcare for working families, and more strongly enforce our paid sick leave and fair work week laws. Most importantly, I am a strong supporter of workers’ rights to organize, and I am proud to have the endorsements of more union locals than any other candidate in the race to date.
10) Is there an innovative idea, policy or otherwise, that you believe would allow NYC to be a leader in our quest for Climate Justice?
As Mayor, I will create a comprehensive climate plan for NYCHA that puts our public housing developments at the forefront of the fight against climate change, rather than an afterthought. We will commit to decarbonizing buildings with every major capital project, installing efficient and reliable electric heat pumps and geothermal systems instead of dirty fossil fuel boilers. We will make public housing complexes centers for environmental education and nourishment, supporting community gardens and composting, investing in open space and trees, and reclaiming neighboring streets as people-focused public spaces. We will create a job training and readiness program for NYCHA residents that leads directly to employment in renewable energy, including installing solar panels on more than half of NYCHA buildings in five years and creating distributed battery infrastructure where it’s needed most. Lastly, I will create community reuse hubs at the largest NYCHA developments, providing residents the opportunity to repair, repurpose and reuse products and truly embrace a zero waste lifestyle.