ANDREW YANG RESPONSES
1) What are your top environmental and climate-related priorities?
New York City should lead the world when it comes to sustainability. Reducing New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions will be one of my top priorities.
The first step is executing on the ambitious goals of the Climate Mobilization Act. We have the technology and the capacity; we just need to maintain the political will and focus on implementation. As Mayor of New York, I will insist that we follow through on the timelines in the Climate Mobilization Act and will work in partnership with commercial and residential property owners and managers to transition away from dirty fuels and towards fully electrified building systems. I will use the City’s own buildings as demonstration projects for how landlords and building owners can meet the emissions reductions requirements. The work of greening our building stock will create thousands of good paying jobs. I will work to provide training so that we have a diverse green workforce to fill these jobs.
Beyond Local Law 97, there are additional steps that I plan to take. As Mayor, I will scale up Community Retrofit NYC so low-income communities see the benefit of more efficient buildings. I will also take simple, smart steps that will help New York City be more resilient to the impacts of climate change. For example, we’re going to paint streets brighter colors and expand the CoolRoofs program to lower the City’s temperature during the summer and address the challenge of heat islands. Today, the City’s building code doesn’t require screens in windows. So in the summertime, folks are keeping windows closed at night because they don’t want bugs coming in and running the A/C instead. That makes no sense. We will also change building codes to require window screens so people don’t have to choose between letting fresh air in and keeping insects out.
I am also committed to fully electrifying the City’s vehicle fleet by 2035 - 5 years before it is currently scheduled. When we take control of the MTA Regional Bus system, we will also rapidly shift from the current bus fleet to a fully electric fleet. We will pursue updating the zoning in manufacturing districts, especially low-income neighborhoods like Bushwick and Brownsville, to allow for safe commercial urban agriculture. Environmental justice must be part of our planning across the City - for transit, for development, for housing, and for so much more.
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 City faces interlocking environmental, social justice and economic challenges. In Hunts Point in the Bronx, emergency room visits for children with asthma are double the citywide rate. The City’s vast coastal area makes New York one of the most susceptible cities in the world to climate change. At the same time, too many people are unemployed or underemployed. These challenges create the opportunities for major public investments and job creation.
As mayor, I will adhere to the current emissions reductions targets as established in Local Law 97, which will require building retrofits across New York City. These retrofits - like switching from steam heat to electric heat pumps - will create thousands of jobs. My administration will work with federal and state partners, city institutions like CUNY, nonprofits like Green City Force, developers and workforce training programs to make sure that New Yorkers fill the demand for these retrofitting jobs. I will also take common sense steps to reduce carbon emissions and improve quality of life, like expanding theNYC CoolRoofs program. Like building retrofits, these kinds of initiatives will create and sustain jobs. I also support the creation of a Climate and Community Development Fund (CCDF) that subsidize wages and fund apprenticeship programs for workers from low-income communities and communities of color, in line with the proposal from the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance.
My administration will also be committed to fighting for environmental justice for low-income communities. A Yang administration will:
- Ensure that low-income communities and communities of color no longer bear more than their fair share of environmentally harmful activities, like waste processing;
- Establish a standard of review for “environmental justice burden” (i.e., disproportionate impact on disadvantaged communities) for all new developments.
- Pilot “green zones,” building on the example of Los Angeles. Green zones are designated for improved public health and economic development through the prevention and reduction of existing burdens (i.e., heightened pollution regulations beyond baseline city requirements), targeting investments (e.g., more explicit targeting of the city’s green infrastructure investments), and the engagement of neighborhood residents.
I’ve released a bold plan for the revitalization of NYCHA, specifically hinged on a green revolution at NYCHA. My plan would fight to secure $48 billion in federal funding to fix all the capital needs of NYCHA developments while abolishing carbon pollution and accelerating deep energy retrofits. The plan would create up to 325,000 jobs in NYC over ten years with priority for installation training and jobs given to NYCHA residents. Read more about my plan to bring a Green Revolution to NYCHA.
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 mayor, I will focus on implementing the ambitious Climate Mobilization Act, for example with regards to building emissions. There is likely to be significant pushback from industry around those requirements, but I will make sure that the City lives up to its promises. A Yang administration will also commit to public transparency on the City’s progress on climate priorities, for example, regular updates on the City’s divestment from fossil fuels. We will also ensure the timely release of the environmental justice report, as required by Local Law 60.
To advance clean energy deployment, I will work with state and federal partners and private developers to site clean energy transmission projects to help bring clean energy from New York State’s wind farms and offshore wind projects to the City. We will also work to close dirty “peaker” power plants. As mayor, I will also more rapidly electrify the City’s vehicle fleet, work with the MTA to switch to electric buses, expand the deployment of charging stations, and encourage alternatives to driving by investing in transportation alternatives.
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?
My administration will make the simultaneous improvement in both energy efficiency and living standards central to our approach to affordable and low-income housing. As discussed above, I joined Rep. Ritchie Torres and tenant leaders in launching a robust public housing plan to not only secure the needed $40 billion in capital repairs from the federal government but ensure that any new infrastructure and upgrades are in accordance with the highest energy efficiency standards. A green revolution for NYCHA will address the systemic failures that have led to leaks, mold, lead paint and worsening conditions. We will also scale up Community Retrofit NYC so low-income communities see the benefit of more efficient buildings, and take advantage of low-hanging fruit like painting streets brighter colors and expanding the CoolRoofs program to lower the City’s temperature and meet our emissions reduction goals.
5) How would you support the expansion of clean public transportation in the City, if at all?
As stated above, my administration will commit to reducing carbon emissions by fully electrifying the City’s vehicle fleet by 2035 - 5 years before it is currently scheduled. I will also work to reduce the City’s car dependence and direct much-needed resources to our mass transit system by aggressively pursuing the implementation of congestion pricing. In addition, I will prioritize the build out of our city’s bike infrastructure and focus on maintaining clear bus lanes to speed the movement of buses around the city.
6) How would you upgrade local industrial port infrastructure in a way that is both sustainable and equitable, if at all?
I support the recommendations outlined in the CW4A Equitable Recovery Report, including electrifying the City’s port facilities, investing in clean transportation as outlined above, using land use and zoning to maintain the industrial character of these areas, using city procurement to encourage businesses to manufacture locally and site factories in existing industrial zones, and upgrading facilities where necessary to make them more resilient to a changing climate. Such upgrades will include efforts like investing in renewable energy storage centers and building out the local green manufacturing capacity.
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 committed to working with federal and state agencies to advance climate resiliency infrastructure projects on public lands, like the construction of dunes in the Far Rockaways. In addition to flooding, I will help address the dangers of “heat islands” in New York, for example by improving accessibility of the city’s cooling centers. I will also explore buyout programs for homeowners who live in at-risk areas and financial incentives for lower-income renters in NYC to migrate out of 100-year flood plains to higher ground.
7B) How would you support the Renewable Rikers proposal, if at all?
With the recent passage of the Renewable Rikers Act, spearheaded by Council Member Constantinides, the Council has spoken and Rikers will be removed from the control of the Department of Corrections. I look forward to the feasibility study on the island’s potential to store renewable energy sources as part of this legislation. Beyond this, I fully support transitioning public spaces and publicly owned lands into renewable zones focused on clean energy production, composting, water treatment, and other activities.
8A) How would you support the City in meeting its target of becoming zero waste by 2030, if at all?
Early in the pandemic, the Mayor suspended public funding for composting, including DSNY’s Curbside Composting program, the Compost Project’s community composting sites and GrowNYC Zero Waste Program, which manages residential food scrap drop-off sites at Green Markets. Fortunately, $2.86 million was restored by the City Council in July 2020 to go toward community composting operations in several sites. But this means that out of the $28 million that was cut from the budget, only $2.7 million was restored. We must commit to expanding these programs and giving New Yorkers the tools they need to engage in proper recycling of organic waste.
Each year about 32 metric tons of food end up in landfills, costing the City about $1.5 billion. This uneaten food rots in our landfills, emitting methane that contributes to climate change, while over 1 million New Yorkers are food insecure. New York City --with all of its abundance-- can do better to eradicate hunger and simultaneously contribute to our climate goals. I support existing legislation in the City Council, known as the CORE Act on community composting that would mandate DSNY establish at least three organics drop off sites in each community district. A Yang administration would also support expanding the composting program, which is currently in 50 public schools, while also increasing programming focused on healthy eating that is culturally appropriate for New York City’s diverse communities, and urban agriculture.
Beyond this, we must address the dual problem of food insecurity and food waste by ensuring nonprofits and organizations that serve hungry New Yorkers have access to safe, uneaten food before it goes to our landfills.
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?
Local Law 199 calls for the Department of Sanitation to divide the city into 20 zones and then to issue RFPs to select three to five carters for each zone. Carters would award long-term contracts and in return would be required to develop zero waste plans and support waste reduction and recycling. As a successful entrepreneur who has built businesses and nonprofit, I know how to mobilize a team to execute on important priorities. As mayor, I will work closely with the Department of Sanitation to implement this law in my first term, while soliciting community input into the mapping of the zones and into the specific requirements on the carters.
9A) How would you invest in the New York City workforce for a future of climate jobs, if at all?
As mayor, I will adhere to the current emissions reductions targets as established in Local Law 97, which will require building retrofits across New York City. These retrofits - like switching from steam heat to electric heat pumps - will create thousands of jobs. My administration will work with federal and state partners, city institutions like CUNY, nonprofits like Green City Force, developers and workforce training programs to make sure that New Yorkers fill the demand for these retrofitting jobs. I will also take common sense steps to reduce carbon emissions and improve quality of life, like expanding theNYC CoolRoofs program. Like building retrofits, these kinds of initiatives will create and sustain jobs. I also support the creation of a Climate and Community Development Fund (CCDF) that subsidize wages and fund apprenticeship programs for workers from low-income communities and communities of color, in line with the proposal from the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance. And my plan for NYCHA could create over 300,000 green jobs over ten years.
9B) How would you implement measures to ensure the creation of high road jobs, if at all?
As organizations like Good Jobs First have pointed out, without intentional action by City, State and federal governments, many new green jobs will not provide a living wage or benefits. As mayor, I will use procurement policy and the bully pulpit to push green economy manufacturers and service providers to prioritize the creation of good jobs with liveable wages. For example, I will make sure strong labor standards are attached to economic development subsidies and enforce those standards. I will also use tools like best value contracting and project labor agreements to push for as many high road green jobs as possible. Further, as stated above, I will work to ensure these jobs are made available to workers from low-income communities and communities of color so that no one is left behind as New York City progresses towards a greener and more sustainable future.
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?
A Yang administration will focus on efforts both big and small. We need to scale up Community Retrofit NYC so low-income communities see the benefit of more efficient buildings. We’re also going to paint streets brighter colors and expand the CoolRoofs program to lower the city’s temperature. And we’re going to require window screens so people don’t have to choose between letting fresh air in and keeping bugs out.
And a Yang administration will work tirelessly to implement larger initiatives for a more sustainable city. We will reduce carbon emissions by fully electrifying the City’s vehicle fleet by 2035 - 5 years before it is currently scheduled. We will pursue updating the zoning in manufacturing districts, especially low-income neighborhoods like Bushwick and Brownsville, to allow for safe commercial urban agriculture.
And we’ll focus on keeping people safe by working with families and communities who want to move out of flood zones, but may not have the means to do so.