BRAD LANDER RESPONSES
1) What are your top environmental and climate-related priorities?
The New York City Comptroller is responsible for taking the long-term view on our city and confronting our biggest risks. The climate crisis poses the most catastrophic long-term risks to New York City. So it must be the office’s top priority.
As New York City Comptroller, I will fight for, invest in, and hold us accountable to a Green New Deal for New York City to decarbonize our economy and build a resilient city, to create hundreds of thousands of good, green jobs in NYC, and to reduce energy costs for millions of struggling families.
As fiduciary of the pension funds, I will complete responsible divestment from oil, gas, and coal corporations, join and lead strategic alliances of shareholders to compel bold climate action by publicly-traded corporations (utilities, banks, car and technology companies), and provide investment that addresses financing gaps for the transition to clean energy.
As the city’s chief fiscal officer, I will assess the financial risks that the climate crisis poses for our city’s future, and use that analysis to transform the City’s spending, contracting, banking, and infrastructure to mitigate climate risk and create economic opportunities.
As the city’s chief accountability officer, I will establish a new, dedicated audit team to focus on agency sustainability and environmental justice performance, hold public and private-sector actors to NYC’s ambitious clean energy targets, and bird-dog the city’s oft-neglected investments in coastal resilience and climate readiness to help ensure they remain on-time and on-budget.
As an innovator in public engagement, I will work in partnership with NYC’s grassroots communities to build democratic and equitable solutions from the ground up, and offer accessible ways for New Yorkers of all backgrounds to participate in the transition to a sustainable economy. New York City can and must be a leader in winning -- and implementing -- a Green New Deal before it’s too late. More here: landerfornyc.com/climate
2) How would you prioritize the creation of climate jobs in New York City and investment in communities of color, if at all?
A grounding principle of New York City’s economic recovery, and for the climate future we work to create, must be a deeper commitment to racial equity. New York City’s only real chance for future success is embracing a vision of much more real inclusion and equality, as one of the most diverse places on the planet.
One key starting place for that work is creating tens of thousands of good green jobs for BIPOC New Yorkers in environmental justice communities (including those presently and historically exposed to disproportionate levels of pollution) in renewable energy, building retrofits, and technology sectors. Through bold climate action, we can create tens of thousands of good jobs for people who are currently locked out of economic opportunity in our city. That’s why I co-sponsored the Climate Modernization Act; as comptroller, I will audit to ensure that building owners are hitting their targets, and that jobs are going to New Yorkers in communities of color.
In the realm of climate job creation for BIPOC communities, my proposal (outlined below) for a large-scale, City-owned rooftop solar installation program has this big advantage of installations financed by home or building owners themselves: because the City would hire contractors and workforce for the installation, we would be able to prioritize M/WBE contractors and BIPOC New Yorkers for employment.
Racial justice means much more than jobs. I will bring a lens of equity and environmental justice to all of the Comptroller’s office’s work, building on work I have done in the City Council to reform the city’s broken “fair share” system for siting infrastructure and public services. This will begin with an environmental justice audit of city spending, to confront the ways that many of our city’s decisions detrimentally and unfairly impact Black, brown, and immigrant neighborhoods (e.g. the ways we plan our truck routes, waste management, transportation improvements, and maintenance of parks and open spaces).
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?
Achieving 100% renewable energy (at prices low-income and working class New Yorkers can afford) is critical both for reducing greenhouse gases to reduce warming, and for reducing co-pollutants to improve air quality in EJ communities. As Comptroller, I will work to expand New York City’s current initiatives to reduce emissions and accelerate the transition to renewables.
First, as fiduciary for the city’s pension funds, I will complete the pledged $4 billion responsible divestment of three of the funds from fossil fuels, if possible sooner than the announced five-year timeline.
Utilizing green bonds, I will develop a financing plan for the large-scale installation of City-owned rooftop solar. In this program, rather than having individual homeowners each finance installation, the City will install the solar units, paying a rent to building owners (including affordable housing, low-income homeowners, and manufacturers). The City will then own the units as a municipally-owned clean-energy utility, negotiate with Con Ed over rates, and develop battery storage. Through this program, the City will help to reduce costs and barriers, making rooftop solar more affordable more broadly.
Through research, advocacy, and the creation of easy-to-use resources, I will help New York City’s building owners and developers bring rooftop solar and electric heat pumps to scale in the short-term, helping New Yorkers fund energy efficiency and clean energy projects while dramatically reducing their utility bills. I will help increase awareness and access to the city’s existing financing tools, including the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE program), and advocate for improvements to the efficiency of lighting, heating, water conservation, and ventilation systems (especially by installing more and better temperature sensors and heat controllers in every apartment) in public and private buildings.
Finally, I will develop an interactive public dashboard to track the city’s progress on city and statewide climate goals, including reducing our emissions by 80% by 2050 (80x50), reaching 70% renewable energy by 2030, reducing solid waste sent to landfill by 90% by 2030, the implementation of the Climate Mobilization Act. You can preview the proposed dashboard here: landerfornyc.com/s/Climate-Dashboard.pdf
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 enthusiastically support the Green New Deal for Public Housing bill in Congress. As a long-time affordable housing and tenants rights activist before my time in the City Council, I have fought for increased federal support for NYCHA to make critical improvements and repairs and to keep residents safe, and (especially after the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy) for those improvements to be made sustainably.
For rent-stabilized housing, I believe we can responsibly, and with appropriate financial support, cover buildings under the Climate Modernization Act, in order to improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and increase resident quality-of-life. In November, I was a co-sponsor of Intro 1947, which expands coverage to buildings where fewer than 35% of the units are stabilized. As City Comptroller, I will explore financing mechanisms and tools that allow us to achieve coverage of all rent-stabilized buildings, without unfairly passing costs onto low-income tenants (especially because the improvements will, in many cases, save the building owner money in the long term). As I have advocated in my recently-released social housing platform (landerfornyc.com/social-housing), the City must provide affordable financing to Mitchell-Lama, HDFC cooperatives, and nonprofit-owned affordable and supportive housing to enable them to comply.
Finally, the City-owned solar installation program outlined above will target affordable housing buildings. By paying these buildings a rent for the rooftops, the City will be able to both convert to clean energy and help finance affordable housing operations.
5) How would you support the expansion of clean public transportation in the City, if at all?
Transportation plays a large role in the city’s path to the goal of achieving 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality, accounting for more than 30% of NYC’s emissions - 86% of which is produced by private vehicles. If we are serious about reducing emissions and mitigating the threats posed to our city by climate change, New York City must invest in clean public transportation infrastructure. I have a strong track record fighting for congestion pricing in 2008 and 2018, pushed for transit signal modernization, winning major legislation to combat reckless driving, and have consistently supported the creation of cycling and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. In the Comptroller’s office, I will continue to be a champion of public transit, active and sustainable modes of transportation, and accessible, livable streets.
As Comptroller, I will also help make the financial case for investing sustainably in New York City’s bus and subway systems, bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrian spaces. This must include the rapid transition of the New York City Transit bus fleet to zero-emissions, all-electric buses -- both to reduce emissions, and to improve air-quality in our neighborhoods. Through regular, high-quality audits, oversight and data-driven policy reports, and budget advocacy to city, state, and federal leaders, I will also push for the full funding and implementation of the Fast Forward Plan, including fighting to upgrade the subway’s century-old signal system and to improve the management of the MTA’s capital projects.
I will support efforts to accelerate New York City’s transition to electric vehicles, both City-owned and privately-owned. I also commit to researching and raising awareness around the cost-benefit of reallocating our curb space to prioritize people over cars and the implementation of new tools to more efficiently and automatically enforce issues related to illegal parking in bike and bus lanes, placard abuse, speeding, and other behaviors that threaten the health and safety of New Yorkers and discourage sustainable and active modes of transportation.
6) How would you upgrade local industrial port infrastructure in a way that is both sustainable and equitable, if at all?
As far back as 2010, I was one of the early elected officials to push for “shore power” at the Red Hook Cruise Terminal. Building on this advocacy, I pushed for the NYC Economic Development Corporation to green its port infrastructure in Staten Island. I have consistently supported efforts by Congress Members Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez to preserve and invest sustainably in our port infrastructure in Red Hook and Sunset Park, including the effort to bring the assembly of the largest dedicated offshore wind port to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.
Building on these efforts, the City -- in partnership with the Port Authority -- should scale up its investments in resilient waterfront infrastructure by greening our ports and constructing renewable energy infrastructure. Wind and solar installation, operations, and maintenance can be housed at additional port facilities beyond SBMT. In addition, electrification of port vehicles and vessels will reduce air quality impacts to surrounding communities. Finally, all five boroughs should have a working pier that can accommodate last-mile package delivery in order to remove trucks from the road as e-commerce increases local delivery traffic.
7A) How would you develop climate resiliency infrastructure on public lands to protect New York City’s most vulnerable communities, if at all?
The next eight years -- that the next mayor, comptroller, and city council will serve -- are critical for developing climate resiliency infrastructure to protect our city’s vulnerable communities. We have already witnessed the climate devastation that Superstorm Sandy visited on communities from the Rockaways to Red Hook, from Staten Island to Southern Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan. Time is short.
Unfortunately, many of the climate-resiliency projects New York City developed in response to Sandy (such as the Big U, improved resiliency in Hunts Point, sand dunes in the Rockaways and Staten Island, Integrated Flood Protection System in Red Hook, etc.) have fallen far behind their timelines, with little accountability.
As Comptroller, I will make resiliency preparation a top focus. Our NYC Climate Dashboard will be the first available resource to continuously monitor the status of these large-scale climate adaptation projects to ensure they are distributed equitably, remain on-time and on-budget, and apply pressure where the City needs it most.
To develop the next generation of resiliency plans, I will continue leading the push for comprehensive planning for New York City, with communities at the center, to provide a framework through which we can collectively plan for the impacts of the climate crisis on our communities, make hard decisions about where retreat will be necessary, and invest in the long-term infrastructure for community resilience.
To establish a platform to finance these additional investments, I will evaluate and report on New York City’s exposure to climate risk. Making data and evaluations easily accessible to the public -- through a public-facing NYC Climate Dashboard and other tools -- will support community-level efforts to adapt to the crisis and push city and state legislative action. These analyses will help make the financial case for funding new programs—such as new real estate buyback programs to reduce vulnerabilities along New York City’s coasts, new funding mechanisms for building large scale coastal resiliency projects.
7B) How would you support the Renewable Rikers proposal, if at all?
I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the City Council’s “Renewable Rikers” package (Intros 1591, 1592, and 1593, sponsored by Council Member Constantinides), which are set to pass the City Council this week! As the City moves forward with its plan to close Rikers Island, we have once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine the use of this 400-acre site. There is a significant opportunity to build the infrastructure of our future: to generate and store clean energy, build green infrastructure and create new green jobs, especially for the New Yorkers who have suffered harm as the result of Rikers Correctional Center. As Comptroller, I will support the vision of Renewable Rikers to advance a just transition, create high-quality green jobs, reduce the environmental burden on the South Bronx and surrounding communities, and move us towards our goals of climate justice.
8A) How would you support the City in meeting its target of becoming zero waste by 2030, if at all?
In 2015, Mayor de Blasio announced his intention to move New York City to zero waste by 2030. It is the right goal. Unfortunately, since that time we have moved backwards. Our curbside organics recycling program is fully suspended, and even community-based programs have been reduced. The conversion to single-stream recycling is on hold. And we are not moving toward “save-as-you-throw” approaches.
First, we must restore a cost-effective, mandatory, citywide organizing recycling program. Over one-third of the city’s municipal waste is made up of food scraps and yard waste, and the overwhelming bulk of these materials are now sent to landfills (where they generate methane), often after being trucked through communities of color.
The time is ripe to consider more comprehensive changes to the city’s sanitation efforts. As comptroller, I will conduct an evaluation of the financial and operations implications of re-establishing the citywide program as “mandatory” vs. “save-as-you-throw,” in order to help make the financial case for universal food waste composting for New York City and to increase the effectiveness of curbside recycling. We should also explore alternative collection technologies, including designing organics, recycling and waste containers into the streetscape, to improve both efficiency and quality-of-life. And we should also explore the establishment of community-based material reuse centers, which keep materials circulating in our communities, keep materials out of landfill, and reduce the need for new lumber and other materials.
Finally, it is essential that we include NYCHA building in our zero waste program. As Politico revealed last year, recycling and organics programs lag woefully behind in public housing. With NYCHA housing as large a population as Miami, we won’t get close to zero waste until we include them.
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?
After learning about commercial waste zones from advocates in Los Angeles, through the “Local Progress” network which I helped to found (and for which I served as co-chair from 2016-2020), I became an early advocate for them here in New York City. I was proud to work closely with Council Member Antonio Reynoso, ALIGN, NYCEJA, NYLPI, Teamsters Joint Council 16, and other advocates to win Local Law 199. This legislation will reduce unnecessary truck trips along with the traffic, emissions, noise, and safety hazards they bring; at the same time, it will help us to increase labor standards and workplace safety in a sector that has been poorly paid and dangerous.
As Comptroller, I will work to ensure that the commercial waste zone program mandated by Local Law 199 is adopted and implemented with fidelity, efficiency, transparency, and community engagement.
This implementation will be one of the first “Sustainability & Environmental Justice Audits” performed by a new team as part of the office’s Audits Bureau, and responsible for the creation of a first-of-its-kind interactive and publicly accessible dashboard to monitor the city’s progress (or lack thereof) towards climate mitigation goals, I will work to improve accountability and transparency in city government and bring a sense of urgency to meeting these long-term goals. Where New York City starts to fall behind, my office will act swiftly and push the city and the private sector to comply with existing requirements, troubleshoot issues where there are real barriers to achieving our goals, and advocate for stronger enforcement mechanisms.
9A) How would you invest in the New York City workforce for a future of climate jobs, if at all?
With record unemployment, we must focus our economic recovery efforts on creating high-quality, high-paying jobs that create career pathways in the sustainable industries of the future. There is a unique opportunity to rethink the jobs that our city can offer New Yorkers. As climate and environmental justice leaders like NYCEJA and UPROSE have been saying for decades, green jobs can help the city achieve its climate goals while simultaneously offering workers long-term financial security, stabilizing our local economy, and advancing goals of racial and social justice. I am committed to the principles of the Green New Deal and will work hard to ensure the city listens to our climate and environmental justice leaders to shift toward a more just and regenerative job market for the health and stability of the city’s economy on the whole.
As Comptroller, I will critically examine where the city is spending its workforce development dollars, whether the programs it is funding are advancing a just transition, and who is getting hired by the city and private building owners to upgrade buildings to high energy efficiency to satisfy new city laws. Through policy reports and budget advocacy, I will fight hard to advance a Green Jobs agenda aligned with our goals related to renewable energy and retrofits and to expand opportunities for and access to employment in environmental justice communities (including those presently and historically exposed to disproportionate levels of pollution) in the clean energy and technology sectors. In addition, I will explore the potential for job retraining programs to support a transition for those currently employed in unsustainable industries like fossil fuels into more environmentally conscious and good-paying jobs (true green-collar jobs) that can support these workers, their families, and our city for decades to come.
9B) How would you implement measures to ensure the creation of high road jobs, if at all?
As Comptroller, I will continue to build on my strong support for the Climate Mobilization Act--which will create high-quality, accessible, union jobs for New Yorkers to retrofit our building stock--by exploring new finance mechanisms to build new and maintain existing resilience and renewable energy infrastructure while creating high-quality union “green” and “blue” jobs, particularly in environmental justice communities--and fight for funding to provide jobs training to the New Yorkers who are struggling to make ends meet and face significant barriers to employment.
My proposal for a large-scale, City-owned rooftop solar installation program has this big advantage of installations financed by home or building owners themselves: because the City would hire contractors and workforce for the installation, we would be able to prioritize M/WBE contractors and BIPOC New Yorkers for employment.
Additionally, I commit to working with existing green job training providers, such as the Association for Energy Affordability, Center for Sustainable Energy at the Bronx Community College, and Sustainable South Bronx among others to advance a just transition for New York City.
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?
“Accounting for Our Future: Confronting the Climate Crisis” was the first policy platform put forward by my campaign. We intend to put climate justice at the center of our work. The plan includes a number of innovative ideas, developed in partnership with community-based and EJ groups, that would continue to enhance the leadership of NYC:
Divest, invest, pressure: As fiduciary of the pension funds, I will complete responsible divestment from fossil fuels, join and lead strategic alliances of shareholders to compel bold climate action by publicly-traded corporations (utilities, banks, car and technology companies) and the transition to clean energy.
Comprehensive climate risk assessment: One of my early actions in the Comptroller’s office will be to conduct a formal assessment of the financial risks that the climate crisis poses for our city’s future. Understanding the impending costs of not acting is critical to making the case for bold action in mitigation, adaptation, and just transition, and to transforming the City’s spending, contracting, banking, and infrastructure investments to mitigate climate risk and promote a green economy.
Large-scale City-owned rooftop solar installation: Utilizing green bonds, I will develop a financing plan for the large-scale installation of City-owned rooftop solar. Rather than having individual homeowners finance each installation, the City will install the solar units, paying a rent to building owners and directly hiring contractors to create good green jobs. The City will own the units as a municipally-owned clean-energy utility, negotiate with Con Ed over rates, and develop battery storage, making rooftop solar more affordable more broadly.
Climate dashboard: I will develop an interactive public dashboard to track the city’s progress on city and statewide climate goals—including 80x50, reaching 70% renewable energy by 2030, zero waste, the Climate Mobilization Act, coastal resiliency and climate adaptation projects, the installation of solar and green roofs, the implementation of green infrastructure and CSO reductions, pension fund divestment, and more. The dashboard will also assess issues of air and water quality, open space, public health (e.g. asthma rates), and provide New Yorkers with an up-to-date and easy to understand snapshot of our city’s standing in the battle against climate change.