SCOTT STRINGER REPONSES
1) What are your top environmental and climate-related priorities?
I am running to bring a Green New Deal to New York. I believe the Green New Deal will not only save our planet, but it will also transform our society by lifting up workers, creating a more inclusive economy, and prioritizing public needs over profit motives. As Mayor, I will act with the urgency that climate science requires by rejecting fossil fuel infrastructure, slashing building emissions, democratizing our energy system, decommissioning polluting peaker plants, onboarding renewable energy options, scaling back urban highways, reducing waste, fortifying our shorelines, and creating the good, green jobs that will accomplish those goals.
My climate plan is ambitious -- Bill McKibben, cofounder of 350.org, described it as the most progressive municipal climate action in the nation -- but ultimately, it's actionable. We know what a more sustainable future looks like and I won’t allow complacency, bureaucracy, or special interests hold us back from making transformative progress towards lower emissions and environmental justice. I am going to measure my success every year by how clean our air is, how many jobs we’ve generated in disadvantaged communities, and how much carbon we’ve cut.
2) How would you prioritize the creation of climate jobs in New York City and investment in communities of color, if at all?
Unless New York City makes combating climate change a core component of its economic recovery from COVID-19, we will only end up exchanging one crisis for another. Making massive investments in a more sustainable future for our City will not only help protect our planet, it will allow us to address systemic disparities of environmental and economic injustice. I anticipate that my plan will generate tens of thousands of new, good jobs within the first years of my administration alone.
The Climate Works for All Equitable Recovery Plan was a clear inspiration in the development of my climate plan. I am proud to have already worked with many members of the Climate Works for All coalition on strategies to generate jobs and I believe our plans share an emphasis on moving forward from this crisis to bring about a just transition to a better future.
I’ve proposed using our capital program to make crucial investments in our green public spaces, overhaul NYCHA – improving living conditions as well as reducing emissions, install highly-efficient boilers, undertake deep retrofits of schools and other City buildings, bolster shoreline defenses, improve transit infrastructure, and create sustainable affordable housing. Every billion dollars in construction spending directly creates nearly 5,000 good-paying jobs and generates hundreds of other supporting jobs that can help lift us out of this crisis. I will also champion Local Law 97 and similar requirements to retrofit our buildings, which will generate tens of thousands of jobs in New York City.
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?
My climate plan specifies a goal of achieving 100% clean, affordable, and reliable energy by 2035 or sooner. My plan outlines how investments in renewables, energy efficiency, energy storage technology, and a wholescale restructuring of our utilities can combine to remake our energy system. These advancements will allow us to phase out polluting peaker plants or noxious oil furnaces and boilers to make immediate improvements in air quality.
There are actions we can take right now to realize this goal — and I’ve been alongside advocates and activists to demand a moratorium on fossil fuel infrastructure like the Williams Pipeline that is hurtling our city toward climate disaster.
I believe that a necessary step to greening our grid is the creation of a public utility that can supplant Con Edison and National Grid. I support legislation that would allow for the creation of a State-level public utility, which would be permitted to both develop renewable energy options and to deliver clean energy to our homes and business. A public utility will allow us to better target subsidies for solar, batteries, and energy efficiency improvements to the low-income and environmental justice communities that deserve the most support in the coming energy transition.
Solar and wind energy will be the backbone of our energy system. I have proposed doubling the City’s solar property tax abatement from 20% to 40% and as soon as I am in office I promise to create a one-stop application process, streamlining inspections, and eliminating any permit fees for solar applications. I will also get the City on track to meet its 2025 goal by putting union labor to work building out and maintaining City-owned solar systems on City buildings. So far, the City has failed to make real headway on its goal of installing 100 megawatts of solar by 2025, having added an anemic 1.6 megawatts over the last four years. That changes on my watch.
I will push for New York City to become a regional epicenter of offshore wind, including bringing good jobs to local manufacturing hubs. I will also implement the City’s first ever battery tax abatement, which can encourage the adoption of energy storage systems that can help harness the power of wind and solar to create a reliable supply of energy.
I will also ensure that Local Law 97 is successfully implemented so as to make our buildings as efficient users of energy as possible.
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?
Greening our affordable housing sector will not only lower emissions, but make our buildings more liveable and our air cleaner. I supported Local Law 116 to extend Local Law 97’s mandates to buildings home to affordable units and as Mayor, I will ensure that the City is prepared to assist with the financing of energy efficiency improvements so that any building can economically do its part to lower emissions. I will leverage my financial experience as Comptroller to ensure that the City’s PACE program can be utilized by all classes of building owners and that the program offers low-cost financing to any applicant. I will explore how HPD’s Green Housing Preservation Program can be improved and extended, and will make sure representatives of affordable housing, including tenets and CBOs, have a place at the table on retrofit advisory panels.
We also face a pressing need to protect our affordable housing stock against the consequences of climate change, including flooding and severe heat. Research indicates that by 2050, as many as 4,000 units of affordable housing in our city may be at risk from rising seas and annual flooding. I will work to ensure these homes are offered financing and support to implement resiliency upgrades. I am also proud that I was able to convince the Mayor at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis to supply low-income seniors with air conditioners to keep them safe from the pandemic and deadly heat. As Mayor I will extend that program to ensure no resident of affordable housing is at risk of extreme heat.
5) How would you support the expansion of clean public transportation in the City, if at all?
Safe, convenient, affordable transportation is a fundamental right of all New Yorkers. It is also key to the city’s economic recovery and our ability to combat climate change.
As Mayor, I will make improving our bus system a major priority. The city controls the streets, traffic lights, curbs, sidewalk, and bus shelters — I’m going to use that power to make sure bus service is fast, frequent, and reliable to get people out of their cars and onto public transit. That includes more dedicated bus lanes and busways, improved enforcement, more bus shelters, and more transit signal priority which will curb stalling and air pollution.
I also believe it is past time to fundamentally overhaul how we design, enforce, maintain, and connect our bike lane network, ensuring that it is safe enough, wide enough, integrated enough, and fully separated from traffic so that New Yorkers of all ages and experience feel comfortable riding. We also need to create hundreds of miles of truly protected and separated bike lanes, expand Citi Bike to all five boroughs, upgrade the maintenance of bike lanes, subsidize e-bike purchases, and dramatically improve bike parking -- including secure parking facilities near transit stations, schools, and major corridors.
I will push the MTA to increase so-called “off-peak” service to make our transit system truly 24/7. So many workers today -- from building service workers to construction workers, to home health aides and restaurant employees -- commute to and from work either late at night or very early in the morning, when subway service is erratic at best. We are literally leaving hundreds of thousands of workers stranded in the dark, waiting for trains that never seem to come. Having that population resort to ride-sharing services is bad for their pocketbooks and bad for our climate — and will change with me.
6) How would you upgrade local industrial port infrastructure in a way that is both sustainable and equitable, if at all?
New York City’s six urban ports are areas of transformative potential for the city and for many environmental justice communities that surround them. As Comptroller, I have repeatedly called for the electrification of our passenger ports and the repurposing of our industrial ports to support the manufacturing of wind turbines and other climate industries. I will invest new resources into port electrification and ship plug-ins, especially at the Brooklyn and Manhattan cruise terminals where cruise ship emissions spew noxious exhaust fumes into neighborhoods already burdened with poor air quality. I will also double down on investments at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal and will offer support to staging areas at Arthur Kill to help make New York City a regional wind powerhouse. We must ensure that New York City is home to the manufacturing infrastructure that can support the creation of an innovative offshore wind base that can help create thousands of good union jobs.
7A) How would you develop climate resiliency infrastructure on public lands to protect New York City’s most vulnerable communities, if at all?
Our City has not made the progress necessary to fending off the next big storm or even next month’s high tide -- and that puts communities at risk. Sandy-era projects are incomplete, community based resiliency planning has been haphazard, and too many of our homes, schools, businesses, hospitals, and parks remain exposed to the next storm. I support the development of a comprehensive five-borough resiliency plan and capital planning framework that assesses climate risks in every community, underlies an integrated capital planning process, and proposes strategies and policies to address these risks. My plan will draw on the latest science and climate modeling and a holistic understanding of how human networks in our neighborhoods undergird real resiliency. Rather than concentrating resources to protect wealth and high value property, we must build out a plan that directs dollars to areas with the most social and ecological risk. Utilizing this framework of risk and social vulnerability will allow capital dollars to flow towards neighborhoods that are in desperate need of investment to protect against climate change and improve quality of life by building better, more resilient schools, libraries, hospitals, and parks.
I have proposed a floodplain restoration program that would help buy out willing homeowners who are at risk of repeated flooding, allowing property owners escape danger while simultaneously repurposing their property to create naturally resilient shorefront protections. My plan would bring together federal and local funding sources to buy out vulnerable homes whose land can be repurposed for resilient infrastructure or naturally resilient features like dunes or wetlands. Such a program could offer a lifeline to residents who feel unsafe in their homes, are faced with unaffordable flood insurance payments, contend repeated flood, or face being unable to sell their home. I would ensure that buyouts are a tool embedded in a larger risk-informed strategy, used only in the most vulnerable areas and developed in concert with zoning and policy practices that prevent future development in neighborhoods where buyouts occur.
7B) How would you support the Renewable Rikers proposal, if at all?
I am very proud to have earned the endorsement of Councilmember Costa Constantinides, who knows that as Mayor I will put his visionary Renewable Rikers Plan into action by beginning the transformation of Rikers Island from a cruel monument to injustice, into a hub of urban sustainability. Closing the jail complex on Rikers Island and replacing it with a combination of energy storage, renewable energy generation, and wastewater treatment facilities would offer an unprecedented opportunity to alleviate environmental injustices in communities that saw many of their residents victimized by the criminal justice system. In particular, utilizing the island’s 400 acres as a venue for battery storage could allow for the permanent closure of nearby peaker plants in northern Queens, the South Bronx, and Northern Manhattan. Building a renewable Rikers could drive as much as $340 million in annual economic activity per year while generating sustainable energy and good, green jobs that can lift up communities that have suffered from both incarceration and pollution. A $15 billion dollar investment to overhaul the island would create as many as 1,500 jobs.
8A) How would you support the City in meeting its target of becoming zero waste by 2030, if at all?
Despite the City’s goal of achieving zero-waste by 2030, New York City still sends over 3 million tons of residential waste to landfill each year. That amounts to less than 10% of the progress we need to make towards our zero-waste goal. My administration will put the City back on track to achieving its goal by pursuing innovative programs and policies that challenge our culture of consumption and incentivize recycling and composting.
Organic waste accounts for a third of New York City’s wastestream and is responsible for the production of methane — a particularly potent greenhouse gas. For New York City to close in on zero-waste, composting must extend across the city and become a new norm. Even prior to the COVID-19 crisis, composting had been set up to fail by the de Blasio Administration with only 1% of the city’s organic waste actually making it to the compost heap. I will work towards citywide curbside collection of compost waste and immediate restoration of compost infrastructure that was lost in the latest budget, including Parks Department compost sites. I believe we need to support community composting groups, house composting centers on City grounds, and educate the city about the benefits of composting.
I will also work to increase recycling, including pursuing new types of programs to force the producers of waste to do their part to clean up. Even as the City works to reduce landfill, one element of our waste stream continues to grow exponentially: cardboard. The hundreds of thousands of e-commerce packages that pour into the city each year have swelled our waste systems and now account for almost fifty percent of all recyclables according to some estimates. I will seek legislation requiring e-commerce companies to either reduce the volume of waste they are sending New York City’s way or to pick up part of the tab for its disposal. Other products are subject to “extended producer responsibility laws” and I will push for these rules to govern the disposal of cardboard.
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?
I have been an ardent supporter of zoned commercial waste pickup and am proud to have worked with Align to support the passage of Local Law 199. Under my watch the program will proceed without delay and will do its part to reduce truck traffic and air pollution. I will make sure that high road labor standards are emphasized in the rollout because I know we cannot return to the wild west conditions that have for far too long characterized our current commercial waste system. I am proud to have issued a report that shined a light on serious lapses in safety by private carters, including finding that among the city’s largest commercial waste haulers, two-thirds of safety inspections had resulted in violations. I look forward to working with DSNY, labor, environmental advocates, and businesses to ensure that this law is championed and implemented successfully.
9A) How would you invest in the New York City workforce for a future of climate jobs, if at all?
I will prioritize the workforce development and community engagement necessary to ensure all New Yorkers, especially those within environmental justice communities, are able to train for and access green job opportunities. Remaking our city will jumpstart a jobs boom that will take us out of the COVID-19 induced downturn and onto a stronger, more equitable future. My plan supports apprenticeships, local hiring, and the development of good union jobs. I have proposed a comprehensive workforce development model that can reach displaced workers by making CUNY community colleges – including green programs – tuition free, invest in Career and Technical Education Programs, and expand apprenticeships. In particular, I will continue to work with the CUNY Building Performance lab to place STEM students in opportunities where they can help create a greener City.
Under my watch, New York City will launch the nation’s largest green bonds program designed to green the City’s capital program, introduce more accountability to the capital process, and attract new buyers interested in investing in a more sustainable future for the City. As Comptroller, I have called for a green bonds program and outlined how such a program could catalyze the green bonds market. Similarly, blue bonds could funnel investments into resilient infrastructure.
9B) How would you implement measures to ensure the creation of high road jobs, if at all?
I know that achieving a true Green New Deal for New York City means combatting both climate change and economic inequality in tandem. That means ensuring climate jobs are good jobs and I will work with labor and advocates to make that happen.
I will prioritize high road jobs, especially in the implementation of Local Law 97. I will work with labor unions, who will be the backbone of a clean energy transition, to make sure that our workers are equipped with the skills and opportunities to engage in green construction. My plan will center pathways to apprenticeships and opportunities for local hires to create the good jobs that can sustain families.
I will also make sure that public sector climate work is equipped with strong labor standards. I have been appalled by the City’s rollout of its solar program. Not only has City failed to make real headway on its goal of installing 100 megawatts of solar by 2025, having only added an anemic 1.6 megawatts over the last four years, but too often solar installations have not been managed by City workers. I will change that and make sure that as we accelerate our adoption of solar, we are creating good union jobs to get it done.
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?
I believe that just as we talk about NYC becoming a national leader on solar and wind, we must also push for our city to become an epicenter of battery and energy storage technologies. Large, utility-scale batteries can allow us to shutter polluting peaker plants that are choking our communities, and smaller, home-scale batteries can allow us to truly unlock the potential of renewables like solar to create a more reliable and affordable energy system. Getting a battery in every basement will be an enormous challenge, but I am committed to fostering the innovation and the creation of sensible regulatory pathways that are required to reach that goal. Between solar, energy efficiency retrofits, and the installation of batteries we can create tens of thousands of green jobs that will pull our city out of this economic crisis and towards a better future.