AARON FOLDENAUER RESPONSES

1) What are your top environmental and climate-related priorities?

Aaron’s early appreciation of the environment has carried over into his personal philosophy, making environmental protection a cornerstone of his campaign. The Gotham Gazette recently recognized Aaron for his work as an “environmental advocate” in New York City politics. 


In considering environmental and climate-related issues, Aaron has created a three-pronged clean transportation plan, which includes building a bicycle superhighway along Third Avenue, banning gas guzzlers, and establishing electric vehicle lanes. Aaron has articulated the details of his plan elsewhere in this survey. 

2) How would you prioritize the creation of climate jobs in New York City and investment in communities of color, if at all?

A critical component of Aaron’s campaign is safely reopening New York while bringing back jobs. Banning gas guzzlers and establishing electric vehicle lanes are two ways of creating climate jobs in New York City.


Aaron believes that we must take back our streets from polluting cars that have overtaken our way of life. As the next Mayor, Aaron will establish Ultra-Low Emission Zones, where only electric vehicles and hybrids will be allowed. Aaron’s plan to ban gas guzzlers in certain zones will make New York City a beacon of progressive energy policy and a more attractive place to live, work, and visit.  In addition, establishing electric vehicle lanes would encourage New Yorkers to convert to clean electric vehicles. As a result of both policies, additional EV charging stations will be needed, and thus, a significant amount of climate jobs will be created.


Racial equity is another key priority in Aaron’s campaign. Aaron will reverse the budgetary discrimination that our so-called leaders have imposed on immigrant and minority communities. As an attorney, Aaron has practiced employment law, and thus, fairness in the workplace is important to him. Aaron has routinely stood up against wrongful conduct, including by representing a number of minorities who were victims of employment discrimination.  As a trained employment attorney, Aaron will fight for equality in our workplaces.


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?

Aaron has proposed an ambitious plan to reduce pollution, which is harmful to our health and also destroys our economy, thus discouraging people from living here. Aaron has created a three-pronged clean transportation plan in order to foster the use of clean, affordable energy and minimize harmful greenhouse gases.


First, Aaron proposes building Bicycle Superhighway along Third Avenue through both Manhattan and the Bronx. Cycling is a healthy, zero-emissions form of transit and allows residents and visitors to experience our City in an entirely new way. Although the West Side of Manhattan has dedicated bicycle lanes along the Hudson River, the East Side lacks a safe and efficient bicycle corridor, and Aaron’s plan for this Superhighway will foster urban sustainability, ease congestion, and improve our way of life. 


Second, Aaron proposes banning gas guzzlers. Aaron recognizes that we must take back our streets from polluting cars that have overtaken our way of life. Aaron will establish Ultra-Low Emission Zones, where only electric vehicles and hybrids will be allowed, making New York City not only a beacon of progressive energy policy but also a more attractive place to live, work, and visit. 


Third, Aaron proposes establishing electric vehicle lanes. Transportation accounts for well over 30% of our annual carbon dioxide emissions and our roadways are congested. Aaron proposes dedicating lanes exclusively for Electric Vehicles, which would allow for expedited and clean transit in and around Manhattan.


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?

Aaron will fight for the realignment of incentives so that the real estate industry will build more rental housing, which is what this City needs the most. More rental units will mean more choices for consumers, and ultimately, lower prices for people who actually live and work here in New York City.


Aaron is also focused on overhauling our public housing and the broken agency that runs it. NYCHA public housing facilities are in dire need of improvement on all fronts. In the past several years, we have seen too many cases of dangerous and even deadly living conditions. Not only will Aaron fight for much-needed reform for our residents of public housing, but he will modify them to create energy efficient homes.


In addition, a tremendous problem facing New York City is the unemployment caused by the ongoing pandemic, which has disproportionately affected communities of color. As the next Mayor, Aaron will be focused on getting New York City moving again. He will focus on reinventing neighborhoods to adapt to the new work-from-home trends and enact incentives to bring tourists back to our City.


5) How would you support the expansion of clean public transportation in the City, if at all?

The tragic reality of the pandemic is that our trains, subways, and buses are empty. In contrast, vehicular traffic is at 90% of pre-pandemic levels. Accordingly, we continue to pollute our city while our energy efficient public transit systems remain vacant. Therefore, one of Aaron’s key priorities is to reestablish trust in New York City’s subway system.


Trust in our subways is vital to getting the City back to work. The good news is that the air recirculation rate in our subway cars meets the standards set for hospital operating rooms, and Aaron will launch an awareness campaign to demonstrate to the public that traveling via subway is very safe, particularly with the addition of new safety protocols. Aaron will also ensure that additional filtration measures are implemented so that New York City subways have the cleanest air of any transit network in the country.


Additionally, Aaron supports the expansion of clean public transportation by increasing the availability of clean transportation alternatives, such as electric buses. Our city streets are crowded with vehicles that burn fossil fuels and pollute the air we breathe.  Aaron will work on converting more New York City public buses so as to reduce the number of buses that pollute our air.


6) How would you upgrade local industrial port infrastructure in a way that is both sustainable and equitable, if at all?

Aaron recognizes that a major issue with New York City’s industrial port infrastructure is that we have already created resources that would decrease emissions and create a pathway to a cleaner environment, but the ships do not take advantage of these resources. New York City has invested millions of dollars to equip ships that come into ports in Brooklyn, with shore power capabilities, yet the shore power system is not utilized to the extent that it could be.


When a ship is not using shore power, a single cruise ship docked for one day can emit as much diesel exhaust as 34,400 idling tractor-trailers; however, when a ship is plugged in, its exhaust is nearly eliminated. Idle ships release potent diesel air pollution, which is linked to cancer, asthma, heart disease and other serious health problems.  In particular, those in the direct path of the ship emissions – families in the nearby areas of the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn – have higher asthma rates than average. The city’s Economic Development Corporation, which runs the cruise terminals, said that the Brooklyn plug-in system would save $99 million in health care costs over 15 years.


The plug-in station at Red Hook Terminal in Brooklyn was introduced to eliminate 1,200 tons of carbon dioxide and 25 tons of hazardous nitrous oxide that is spewed out each year by cruise ships idling off Brooklyn’s coast. But at the core of the problem is that the City has identified the issue and created a system to fix it, but the system has hardly been used after going into operation. Statistics show that in the first three years of the shore power system’s installment, ships actually connected to shore power less than a third of the time.


California made plugging in mandatory years ago, but cruise ships in New York are still not required to plug in while docked nor are the plug-ins being monitored. Aaron will make shore power a priority and continue to encourage cruise lines to plug in. Not only will Aaron encourage the use of shore power, but he will also work hard to further the discussions of legislation that would require all cruise ships docking in New York City to use shore power.


Captains have stated that reluctance to use shore power is based on a lack of easy access due to a skewed line up with the shore-power crane, but solutions to these issues exist.  Aaron plans to work with the ships to increase the frequency with which ships plug in.


Moreover, New York City is expected to expand terminals in Brooklyn and Manhattan to accommodate the world’s largest cruise ships (and more of them), and Aaron believes that we must create a plan to expand the shore power system. Last year, 214 cruise ships docked at the Manhattan and Brooklyn Cruise Terminals, but only Brooklyn’s terminal has shore power.  Thus, Aaron plans to equip the Manhattan Cruise Terminal with shore power in order to dramatically reduce the pollution emitted by cruise ships at port.


7A) How would you develop climate resiliency infrastructure on public lands to protect New York City’s most vulnerable communities, if at all?

Aaron believes we must commit to major capital investments in preparation for major storms and the undeniable realities of Global Climate Change. As a long-time resident of New York City, Aaron has experienced the effects of climate change firsthand: His building was flooded during Hurricane Sandy and was closed for more than three weeks. In addition, one of his friends in Lower Manhattan lost all of his belongings when his ground-floor apartment was inundated with floodwater, and many more lost their homes in the aftermath as well. Aaron plans to implement proactive measures to protect our residents and our coastline.

7B) How would you support the Renewable Rikers proposal, if at all?

Aaron agrees that when the prisons in Rikers Island are closed, we need to reimagine and revitalize how we use the precious land. However, no matter what is ultimately built on Rikers Island, we must ensure that it is sustainable, practical, and conducive to a friendly environment.

8A) How would you support the City in meeting its target of becoming zero waste by 2030, if at all?

Aaron has proposed two important ways in which we can aggressively become less wasteful as a city. First, we must reduce the amount of waste that we generate. Perhaps the greatest threat to our environment is the amount of unnecessary waste we produce. We use far too many disposable cups, plates, and utensils in our food service establishments, and most of the time these materials are not even recycled and, instead, are sent to a landfill. Aaron plans to enact incentives for businesses and consumers to reduce the amount of overall waste that we generate as a community.


Second, we must reduce our food waste. As much of 40% of food in New York City is thrown away. With so many people struggling to make ends meet, this is a tragedy. Aaron will require that food that would otherwise be discarded be donated to food banks and homeless shelters instead. Moreover, we need to more effectively manage inedible food waste. Food scraps that are left to rot in landfills emits harmful methane gas; therefore, Aaron will implement mandatory composting rules for businesses, restaurants, and grocery stores in New York City.


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?

Aaron will ensure that the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions are prioritized and accomplished by continuing to address the senseless system of waste collection and waste management in our city. The fact that the city had dozens, if not hundreds, of commercial waste haulers crisscrossing the very same streets was, and is, an environmental catastrophe.


Aaron strongly believes that, in the long term, the best way to improve our environment is to reduce the amount of waste we generate in the first place. Aaron has articulated further detail of his plans to reduce waste and to reduce greenhouse gas emission elsewhere in this survey and on his website, www.aaronfornyc.com


9A) How would you invest in the New York City workforce for a future of climate jobs, if at all?

Aaron plans to invest in New York City’s workforce by modifying and rebuilding our city’s infrastructure. All too often, our career politicians ignore routine maintenance and replacement of our existing infrastructure, because these projects are not viewed as “sexy.” We can no longer afford to ignore our aging bridges, ancient gas lines, and crumbling train tunnels. Rebuilt, stronger infrastructure will also endure more favorably against the ramifications of a changing climate. The time is now to invest in ongoing maintenance, repair, and rebuilding of our infrastructure.


Second, necessary counterpoints to our concrete jungle are green spaces where members of the community and their families can decompress, enjoy nature, and exercise. Accordingly, every New Yorker should live within a 10-minute walk of a safe, well-maintained park. In order to achieve this goal, Aaron will secure much-needed funding to maintain our parks and ensure that they remain the vibrant and safe places that benefit our communities. When we rebuild our city, we will rebuild it greener and better than ever, and a substantial amount of climate jobs will be created as a result of reinvesting in our infrastructure and parks.


Aaron’s priorities will ensure that New York City is a hub for the creation of Climate Jobs in the years ahead.


9B) How would you implement measures to ensure the creation of high road jobs, if at all?

A bedrock of Aaron’s campaign is to revitalize our economy in the aftermath of the pandemic. Aaron is focused on reopening the city safely and getting our economy moving again. Tourism is a vital part of the City’s economy and provides over five billion dollars in tax revenue each year. Since the onset of the pandemic, the tourism industry, which supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in the City, has been decimated. As tourism rebounds, Aaron will prioritize bringing back the highest-spending tourists first, so that the City can bring in the most money as fast as possible. 


We will start by rethinking our quarantine and testing requirements in a way that invites the world to visit our City. Attracting tourists from overseas will be Aaron’s priority, because they spend four times as much money as domestic tourists. Because tourism is so crucial, Aaron will restart tourism to the City in a safe and innovative way. Tourists coming to the City will be given a free rapid COVID test upon arrival at an NYC-area airport. Once they test negative, they will be allowed to freely travel within the tristate area and enjoy the attractions the City has to offer. This will show the world that the great assets of our City are open for business.


Focusing on these priorities will immediately bring back secure, well-paying jobs to our 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?


Your answer: New York City could become a leader in the quest for Climate Justice by addressing food insecurity and promoting healthy eating. 


Unfortunately, more than 1.2 million New York City residents, nearly 15% of our citizens, are food insecure. These New Yorkers go without access to adequate food to support an active, healthy lifestyle. Instead, they often eat cheap, processed food, which is linked to obesity and illness. Expanding support for food and nutrition assistance programs is a necessity to make the city healthier and to help it thrive. Especially since we now live in the era of COVID-19 and given that current leadership has failed to address how nutritious eating habits can keep us healthy, successfully addressing food insecurity will set standards for the rest of the world. 


For underprivileged children, the meals they receive at school are often the only true meals they have. Therefore, we must be committed to promoting healthy eating in schools. Our schools should be showing students from an early age what healthy eating looks like. Children should be given opportunities to practice what they learn in health classes by working with kitchen staff to assist in making healthy choices in their cafeterias. Aaron supports promoting healthy, balanced meals served at both breakfast and lunch for all students. Our kids deserve healthy school lunches made with fresh produce and local ingredients, not processed foods. Aaron will eliminate the processed, unhealthy, frozen foods that are leaving our children with lifelong medical complications and, instead, require school cafeteria workers be taught how to make healthy foods from scratch.


It is tragic that our minority communities and the underprivileged do not have equal access to fresh and healthy food. Aaron views this as an environmental issue, because the food that we eat is critical to our way of life.


By failing to address food insecurity and the lack of healthy meals in our schools, New York City has been perpetuating injustices, and Aaron is committed to changing that.