SHAUN DONOVAN RESPONSES
1) What are your top environmental and climate-related priorities?
Climate change is a global issue, but cities are on the frontline of its impacts – and the response. We will have a laser-focus on achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century and protecting New Yorkers from climate threats like flooding, severe storms, and heatwaves. This shift to a green economy is an unprecedented opportunity to support longer-term growth and jobs for all New Yorkers – prioritizing the communities left behind. And throughout all of this is the prioritization of New York neighborhoods that have always borne the brunt of climate change, and its contributing pollutants, because of a history of discriminatory policies and practices.
New York City will return to the global stage in 2022 as a leading example of how to mitigate, adapt to and prepare for climate change. The next mayor’s term is critical to saving the planet and staying on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050, a target scientists say we cannot miss.
My top environmental and climate priorities are:
Centering Environmental Justice
Alleviating Public Health Disparities
Establishing Permanent and Equitable Public Space
Building a Green Economy for Everyone
Taking Real Steps to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Empowering and Preparing the Next Generation
Strengthening Climate Resilience and Disaster Response
Achieving Zero Waste
To read more about my plan for climate policy in NYC please go to: https://shaunfornyc.com/issues/climate/
2) How would you prioritize the creation of climate jobs in New York City and investment in communities of color, if at all?
New York is on a pathway to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions citywide by 2050. This requires making all sectors of our economy cleaner, from increasing energy efficiency in buildings to shifting our industrial facility practices to making our public transit more sustainable and accessible. This shift to a green economy is an unprecedented opportunity to support longer-term growth and jobs for all New Yorkers – prioritizing the communities left behind.
This transition will require careful attention and investment, while positioning New Yorkers for stable, good jobs of the future. As expanded on below, I will prioritize the creation of climate jobs and prepare NYC residents for our net zero economy, with a focus on the skills required for building retrofits and offshore wind production. I will spearhead a new NYC Climate Corps and conduct a full audit on the jobs required for Local Law 97 compliance, and look to replicate successful programs in the context of critical roles needed for this transition to a green economy. I will also work to make NYC the center of clean tech innovation.
I will work tirelessly to correct decades of inequity that have seen low-income and communities of color disproportionately impacted by environmental issues that arose from a broad spectrum of private sector and public policy decisions. To ensure investment in communities of color, I will hold Albany accountable for the environmental justice goals set by New York State as part of the landmark CLCPA. This includes that disadvantaged communities receive 35-40% of overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects or investments, with the goal of achieving 40%. Many of these communities are in New York City, and we will work with the state legislature, the New York State Public Utility Commission, the Governor’s office, and the federal government – as the Biden administration may have a similar goal in place – to ensure that our communities receive their fair share and are involved in the allocation process.
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?
To reduce greenhouse gases and reach 100% clean energy, we must implement strategies to clean our energy supply and to decarbonize end uses, leading with the highest-emitting sources of carbon pollution -- NYC’s buildings and its transportation system.
To clean NYC’s power supply, I will work closely with New York State to bring additional renewable resources online. This includes supporting the development of local offshore wind energy, which will create local jobs in the process, and deploying local solar energy on our city’s schools and public buildings. In parallel, I will work with and support local community-based organizations and elected officials advocating for the expedited closure of all polluting “peaker plants” currently located in all five boroughs.
To reduce carbon pollution in our buildings, we must facilitate building electrification, energy efficiency, and on-site renewable energy across NYC’s building stock. I will work with building owners, experts, labor leaders, and solution providers to further refine and implement NYC’s landmark existing building emissions law, Local Law 97 of 2019. I plan to enact a zero-carbon building code for new buildings by 2030; I will follow through on the current Mayor’s commitment to prohibit gas from new construction and major renovations. I will incentivize or require greater energy efficiency for smaller buildings that are not currently required to meet the standards of LL97.
I will significantly reduce emissions in NYC’s transportation sector and facilitate the use of sustainable modes by all New Yorkers, reducing harmful particulate matter pollution which disproportionately harms environmental justice communities. I plan to expand bicycle infrastructure and create connected, protected bike lanes and pedestrian corridors across all boroughs and expand bus service in NYC to reach traditionally underserved neighborhoods. I will increase the availability of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations to ensure that all residents, in every neighborhood, live within a quick drive of on-street EV charging. I will facilitate partnerships between NYC’s public school districts and utilities to convert a portion of yellow diesel buses to electric models, starting with pilot programs in environmental justice communities.
While implementing these strategies I also commit to ensuring every New Yorker has access to affordable clean energy. My administration will advocate on the state level against any unfair rate hikes. I will provide support to building owners, especially those in low-income and environmental justice communities, to implement clean energy and energy efficiency in their properties.
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?
Improving the quality of the city’s affordable housing and energy efficiency is one of the most important challenges I will face as mayor of New York City. Making New York a more equitable city, one that can respond to the climate emergency, starts at home. My Administration will work tirelessly to correct decades of inequity that have seen low-income and communities of color disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and underlying environmental issues.
Achieving significant energy efficiency across NYCHA’s portfolio represents a historic opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the quality and resilience of its housing stock, and provide tenants with healthier and more comfortable living.
The current mayor has put the health and safety of New Yorkers at risk by downplaying the number of at-risk NYCHA apartments. As Mayor, I will commit up to $2 billion per year in City capital dollars to accelerate critical repairs and upgrades across NYCHA’s portfolio to ensure that tenants have safe, energy efficient housing. Making these critical investments will improve the comfort of residents’ homes, create good paying jobs, and address the climate crisis.
I am also committed to accelerating energy-efficiency and resiliency investments through the use of energy performance contracts to capture upfront savings. My Administration will also expand the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation’s Green Predevelopment Loan Fund to dedicate affordable housing providers the funds they require to fund energy conservation measures. Revamping the Multifamily Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program (formerly known as the 8a loan program) and J-51 preservation incentive will help responsible building owners improve their buildings and meet climate goals.
5) How would you support the expansion of clean public transportation in the City, if at all?
Vehicle congestion is expensive, dangerous, and polluting, and is estimated to cost NYC up to $15 billion annually. Expanding clean public transportation options for New Yorkers will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also improve quality of life. I will implement efficient, equitable, safe, and clean mobility policies and programs and ensure that the MTA bus system is entirely electric by 2040. To achieve bus electrification on this timeline, my Administration will plan for all new MTA bus purchases to be electric by the end of my second term. I will accomplish this in close coordination with the state and the electric utilities to overcome obstacles such as the cost of charging.
I plan to expand bus service in NYC to reach traditionally underserved neighborhoods by launching true Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) with fully separated and dedicated busways, platform-grade “stations,” and intelligent technology – with a goal of an eventual all-electric fleet. Separately, when my administration works to speed up regular bus service and expand bus lanes in transit deserts, we will provide New Yorkers with additional and quicker options to travel without a personal automobile and can reduce emissions. On-road emissions account for almost all greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in NYC; national averages show that public transit including buses produces fewer emissions than do private vehicles.
I support implementation of congestion pricing for Manhattan’s central business district, while insisting on transit improvements first.
6) How would you upgrade local industrial port infrastructure in a way that is both sustainable and equitable, if at all?
Addressing climate justice in NYC will demand non-traditional partnerships that support frontline solutions, starting with our industrial waterfront. Policies that support a thriving and state-of-the-art offshore wind sector are also a necessary part of operationalizing our climate and clean energy goals, making the most out of the city's industrial assets, workforce, and talent pipelines, including our partners in labor, to create thousands of well-paying jobs and build towards a climate future that overcomes the acute challenges we face now. We look forward to working with ALIGN and its partners to ensure all future upgrades to local port infrastructure are sustainable and produce equitable outcomes for frontline communities.
7A) How would you develop climate resiliency infrastructure on public lands to protect New York City’s most vulnerable communities, if at all?
As with COVID-19, the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect historically disadvantaged communities. My administration will take a proactive approach to climate resilience that prioritizes equitable, community-driven plans and innovative solutions. We will enhance social and economic resilience in the face of climate change and ensure that ALL New Yorkers - no matter what borough or neighborhood they live in - are protected from flooding, severe storms, heatwaves, and other climate threats.
To achieve this vision, my administration will advance holistic waterfront and resilience infrastructure that safeguards our city from the impacts of climate change. In addition to man-made adaptation structures, we will also promote the use of nature-based solutions - like wetland preservation, land conservation, and green infrastructure - which improve stormwater management and combat rising summer temperatures. While pushing new, innovative adaptation projects, we will take stock of the city’s many existing resilience plans, which have been stalled under current or previous administrations, and address institutional and funding barriers that have historically slowed progress.
To promote an inclusive and just adaptation strategy, we will expand the use of social and physical vulnerability mapping to identify and protect at-risk communities. We will rethink traditionally used cost-benefit analysis to prioritize equitable investment for historically disadvantaged communities and those most at risk from climate change. In the name of environmental justice, we must center equity and inclusion in our rebuilding and adaptation efforts – prioritizing the hardest-hit communities that are often left behind in disaster response.
7B) How would you support the Renewable Rikers proposal, if at all?
The closure of the notorious Rikers jail complex is a much-needed and long-awaited step towards a more fair and equitable city. As the jails close, it is time to plan for the island's future as a resource for public good, particularly to benefit communities that have been most impacted by mass incarceration. I believe New York City’s new green economy must not replicate the low-wage, low-benefit, low-unionized, discriminatory past and I am committed to turning the island into a physical manifestation of environmental justice. My administration will work with stakeholders citywide to ensure it becomes a cornerstone of rigorous, evidence-based community development and Just Transition for uses like green energy, a 21st century wastewater treatment facility to clean our water, composting, and possibly even new public space. I want to apply creative, win-win-win solutions for communities, the economy, and the environment in places where it facilitates permanent closure of carbon or waste infrastructure.
8A) How would you support the City in meeting its target of becoming zero waste by 2030, if at all?
We believe that New York City can not only get its trash problem under control but emerge as a global leader in waste. We will make meaningful progress toward the city’s zero waste goal, reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste transport and processing, and alleviate trash and health disparities in overburdened communities.
A key part of my plan is to reintroduce and improve upon the city’s curbside organics program, while restoring support for community-based compost and recycling operations. Organics, like food scraps and yard waste, make up about one-third of the city’s residential waste stream, and continuing to send this material to landfills represents a missed opportunity to reach our zero waste goal, convert trash into profitable materials like fertilizer and clean energy, and curb GHG emissions related to waste transport and landfill rot. We will expand our organics service to all residents and mandate recycling for organics just as we do for plastic and glass. In doing so, we can significantly cut back on waste sent to landfills and reduce pollution from transporting waste long distances. An improved system will save taxpayer money over time, generate new revenue streams for the city, and create green jobs for New Yorkers by increasing local processing.
We can further advance this goal by introducing recycling requirements for construction and demolition materials, which account for nearly half of all waste generated in the city, and by improving waste infrastructure for public housing residents, who have for too long have lacked adequate, convenient, and equitable access to bins. We will advance creative solutions for reducing single-use plastic and follow the path carved by cities like San Francisco, which have taken meaningful steps to reduce this waste, such as by requiring that restaurants only offer plastic cutlery to takeout customers when specially requested. We will recognize trash not simply as a burden but also as a resource, and promote structures for reuse and repair across the 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?
For decades, lack of municipal oversight of the city’s commercial waste sector has led to poor labor, recycling, and safety standards; exacerbated street congestion; and surged greenhouse gas emissions from transporting waste. City Council passed much-needed legislation to reform this industry in 2019, but the de Blasio Administration has taken few steps to see this commitment through. New York City needs a leader who can deliver on their promises, and my reputation as a public servant who can get things done makes me the right candidate for the job. During my administration, I will ensure that the goals of this legislation are met and will prioritize the execution of commercial waste reform, bringing cleaner air, safer streets, and better labor standards to the people of New York.
9A) How would you invest in the New York City workforce for a future of climate jobs, if at all?
While the first priority is putting New Yorkers back to work following job loss resulting from COVID-19, our effort will also focus on supporting longer-term job growth for New Yorkers.
With the right strategies, NYC can become a global leader in the emerging clean energy workforce. My administration will conduct a full audit on the jobs required for Local Law 97 compliance. We will partner with external stakeholders to publish an understanding of the jobs most needed, so that training programs can be developed accordingly. City Hall will look to replicate successful programs, like the “1,000 Green Supers Program,” in the context of critical roles needed for this transition to a green economy.
We will also spearhead an NYC Climate Corps, a citywide initiative built off the Clean Energy Service Corps program, an AmeriCorps program initially set up under President Obama to employ young Americans on clean energy and resilience projects through nonprofit and local government grants. This will build on local service and educational programs, such as the CUNY Service Corps and CUNY’s existing, high-quality environmental, sustainability, and energy management degree and credentialing programs.
We will simultaneously work to make NYC the center of clean tech innovation. This will include efforts like creating a Clean Power Generator Jobs Accelerator that can align zoning, regulatory, and tax incentives to support private investments in the wind-power generation sector and create jobs in areas such as harbor services, information technology, and power transmission.
9B) How would you implement measures to ensure the creation of high road jobs, if at all?
We must ensure that green jobs are good quality, and that New York City’s new green economy does not replicate the low-wage, low-benefit, low-unionized, discriminatory past. Building on the successful process to increase the minimum wage in New York State, my Administration will explore establishing a wage board to set fair terms for compensation for climate adaptation workers, integrating rates of pay, work rules, and scope regarding private and public projects. We must make sure that our clean economy jobs are well-paying and accessible, while maintaining an eye towards keeping costs down.
In my time in the Obama administration we began the policy of “High Road Contracting,” which made sure that vendors seeking government contracts would be subject to strict scrutiny in their labor practices, so that companies receiving lucrative contracts would be paying their workers a living wage, with things like health insurance and paid sick days.
We passed legislation that made it easier for employees to form labor unions through card-check organizing, we saved pension funds that were at risk of failure and we went after contractors that weren’t paying their employees prevailing wage.
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 am committed to prioritizing climate justice and environmental justice from Day One. Delivering clean, safe, and reliable public transportation for New Yorkers in every neighborhood will allow NYC to be a leader in our quest for climate justice. Environmental justice communities disproportionately bear the burden of transportation pollution from vehicles that are powered by gas and diesel. Expanding clean public transportation can alleviate the resulting public health disparities from transportation pollution and give all New Yorkers better access to reliable transportation.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must come up with new sources of revenue to fund public transit improvements. Some examples include value capture and a Marijuana Tax. State law allows for value capture but we will recommend that every future expansion project use value capture, including revenue streams dedicated to equity outcomes, as part of its funding.
Once New York State fully legalizes marijuana, New York City can explore using revenue from a marijuana tax to fund transit improvements. If the state were to legalize recreational marijuana and place a tax on those sales, the revenue could be $500-$750 million annually. A portion of that money could be set aside for public transit improvements and this could be bonded to support capital expenditures.