ART CHANG RESPONSES
1) What are your top environmental and climate-related priorities?
Communities affected by sea rise are primarily lower-income; upland communities will need to accept higher density and perhaps more economic diversification. This also means re-imagining wastewater treatment (the existing facilities for which will be flooded in the coming decades), decommissioning carbon-emitting electrical power plants, and relocating airports and other strategic transportation infrastructure. The next mayor has the immense challenge of organizing the multi-party, multi-issue conversations that can lead to a consensus for action.
I will plan to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050 and to plan for a 10’ sea rise by 2100, along with the related increases in storm surges and weather violence.
I will mandate that new construction eliminates carbon-based fuels and shifts consumption away from carbon-based fuels to clean power in existing buildings. Transition transportation away from carbon-based fuels to clean power. Implement congestion pricing. Invest in clean buses. Expand bicycling and electric vehicle infrastructure. Use zoning and building codes to prevent new construction in realistically-drawn hazard zones and to incentivize higher density upland. Look for opportunities to implement split systems for wastewater. Engage in multi-party, multi-issue conversations to educate people and drive toward consensus about moving away from the waterfront, relocating upland, and re-imagining vulnerable infrastructure.
2) How would you prioritize the creation of climate jobs in New York City and investment in communities of color, if at all?
With my plans to re-imagine wastewater treatment (the existing facilities for which will be flooded in the coming decades), decommission carbon-emitting electrical power plants, and relocate airports and other strategic transportation infrastructure, many jobs will be created in the communities most impacted. Creating partnerships with the organized labor coalition formed to support green job creation in NYC will be key to bringing solutions.
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?
As I wrote above in a prior question, I will mandate that new construction eliminates carbon-based fuels and shifts consumption away from carbon-based fuels to clean power in existing buildings. Transition transportation away from carbon-based fuels to clean power. Implement congestion pricing. Invest in clean buses. Expand bicycling and electric vehicle infrastructure. Use zoning and building codes to prevent new construction in realistically-drawn hazard zones and to incentivize higher density upland. Look for opportunities to implement split systems for wastewater.
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?
I would commit to meeting the demands of fixing the multilayered problems of NYCHA, with full data review, the use of green materials and green building methods. New York City will invest in clean energy buses and expand infrastructure for bicycling and electric vehicles. I would commit to building truly affordable housing, prioritizing clean power and green building standards. In my work building Queens West, I learned how to build the city from the sewers to the street in a way that withstood Hurricane Sandy, provided universal broadband, and prepared the area for the climate crises to come. All existing and future affordable housing needs to be built towards green standards as the city prepares for rising sea levels and decaying effects from climate change. We need to leverage advances in new technologies (e.g. pre-fabrication) to speed the delivery of sustainable homes for our city both present and future.
5) How would you support the expansion of clean public transportation in the City, if at all?
Investing in clean buses and expanding bicycling and electric vehicle infrastructure. I support making NYC a more bike-friendly city, and I believe that reasonable enforcement of bicycle traffic is key to that. In European cities where bicycles are the primary mode of transportation, hordes of cyclists stop at red lights and wait patiently for green while pedestrians cross. There is no reason we cannot have this too. But first, we need the infrastructure.
I also support open streets in key areas where foot traffic is heavy, similar to European cities. The most common routes traveled by car are routes between boroughs, highlighting the need for improved inter-borough transit options and supporting micro-commutes. And with more public options outside of subways and buses - like bikes, scooters, walkable streets, and other creative options - we will reduce car use and carbon emissions in the city.
6) How would you upgrade local industrial port infrastructure in a way that is both sustainable and equitable, if at all?
I would survey the needs of the port infrastructure, with the input of all who use it, and plan a way forward that is sensible, informed by data and the community needs, and grounded in climate justice.
7A) How would you develop climate resiliency infrastructure on public lands to protect New York City’s most vulnerable communities, if at all?
I am a supporter of the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, which, as proposed, would give $48 billion to NYC to fix NYCHA in a green and sustainable way. The residents of New York City, and especially those who live in NYCHA, need mold remediation, rodent and insect extermination, and basic services.
Broadly, we need to be thinking about the forthcoming environmental crisis -- especially rising seas on our city’s shorelines. In order to plan for the decades to come, we will use zoning and building codes to prevent new construction in realistically-drawn hazard zones, and to incentivize higher housing density upland. We’ll look for opportunities to implement split systems for wastewater. We’ll engage in multi-party, multi-issue conversations to educate people and drive toward a consensus about moving away from the waterfront, relocating upland, and re-imagining vulnerable infrastructure.
We will look at models, such as Co-op City’s hydroelectric power plant, as an example on how to sustainably develop affordable housing, with green energy.
And lastly, we need to seriously reevaluate how we use city-owned land. For example, at a time when the affordable housing crisis is one of the biggest emergencies facing our city, is it morally correct for the city to own 21 golf courses? That land could be put to better use, supporting affordable units for thousands of residents.
7B) How would you support the Renewable Rikers proposal, if at all?
Yes, I support the Renewable Rikers Act. It’s important that we utilize the land of Rikers in a way that supports New Yorkers by helping us meet our 2030 environmental goals. Due to the low-flying plane activity over Rikers, it’s not a place that anyone should live. Instead, we can establish an advisory committee to determine how the land is best used for sustainability purposes, such as generating solar power and building a wastewater treatment center.
8A) How would you support the City in meeting its target of becoming zero waste by 2030, if at all?
As Mayor, I will build upon the current administration’s Zero Waste by 2030 challenge. However, this needs to not just be an optional “challenge” for businesses; it needs to be enforceable. I would apply fair and meaningful penalties to companies that do not comply and do their part to make NYC waste-free and sustainable.
My personal mantra is that data is of the utmost importance, and our city needs to utilize it better. Data leads to transparency, which leads to progress. So, I would first start by evaluating the current progress, achieved by our current environmental efforts, including the efforts of the 2030 challenge. I would facilitate a conversation with small and large businesses, home owners, renters, schools, and grassroots organizations to establish the new short-term goals of the zero waste effort and chart a path for the next year and the next five years.
In the short-term, as Mayor, I will also need to address the impact that COVID has had on our environmental progress. Use of plastics, disposable masks, and increased waste was necessary to slow the spread of the virus, but certainly set us back environmentally.
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?
By dividing the city into twenty different zones each served by three carters, the Commercial Waste Zone and Local Law 199 creates not only a cleaner and safer city, but a more efficient process of waste management. I support the plan’s organized and consolidated approach through a non-exclusive zoning model. In addition to reducing air and noise pollution, traffic fatalities, and truck traffic across the city, the comprehensive plan is an essential step towards the city's sustainability goals while protecting workers in the private carting business. I especially support this initiative considering that a majority private sanitation workers are people of color, undocumented or formerly incarerated individuals. We need to support the carting industry as they recover from the economic impact COVID-19 has had on their businesses. Then, we need to enable them to implement this new procedure for carting waste.
9A) How would you invest in the New York City workforce for a future of climate jobs, if at all?
Full commitment to the Renewable Rikers program is one way forward. Partnering with organized labor is another way forward. All existing and future construction projects need to be built towards green standards, those are the next jobs of climate. If you think about all of our efforts in New York City, being a part of a cohesive whole, all work will be a part of a future, green city.
9B) How would you implement measures to ensure the creation of high road jobs, if at all?
Commitment to building pathways to green energy careers will happen with organized labor, community involvement, the public school system, and CUNY, all bringing ideas and input to inform on the best ways forward.
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 would support our progressive City Council members, who have proposed and enacted many pieces of legislation to make our city more sustainable. My job as Mayor is to be a partner to our city council and make implementation of their changes a priority. It is absolutely essential that NYC is a leader in the quest for climate justice, and should be a role model for the rest of the world.