De Blasio’s One-Year Mark: Shifting toward sustainability

Climate change is happening–and it’s here to stay. Fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have occurred since 2000–and the fifteenth was 1998. Month-to-month and year-to-year variations are to be expected of course, but decade by decade the pattern is a clear and startling warming trend, and its resultant impacts on biodiversity, food systems, water supplies, and national and global security cannot be understated.

In New York, we know all too well what rising seas can mean for our way of life; many communities are still rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy over two years later. Since Mayor de Blasio was elected one year ago, however, it seemed his agenda was focused on affordable housing, universal pre-K, reform of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy, and reducing traffic fatalities. But one glaring issue loomed with little mention; an issue considered by many New Yorkers, including the previous mayor, to be one of the most important facing the city.

This is not to say these issues are not also important. The threat posed by inequality in particular might be said to be equally as important as that of climate change. Middle-income people, many of the "creative class," who have for decades built communities in New York, are being priced out of living here (Manhattan especially). They don't want to leave, but their options are dwindling. A diverse population, vibrant cultures, and resilient neighborhoods are all at stake when speculative investment drives up real estate prices, rents, and property taxes for residents and businesses. That said, the Tale of Two Cities was never more evident than in the days and nights following Sandy. Both issues threaten to bifurcate and cripple the nation's greatest city, so it seemed unwise not to address them with equal zeal.

At the end of de Blasio's first year, however, it is clear that a shift is taking place. De Blasio's office recently announced a new Office of Sustainability with the impressively credentialed Nilda Mesa at the helm. He also unveiled an ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, starting with a plan to retrofit the city's building stock for energy efficiency and livability. He followed that up with a climate resiliency plan for the city's infrastructure. SPN's recent panel discussion focused on the one-year mark of de Blasio's time in office, and noted both the focus on inequality and the recent pivot toward climate change… Check the featured content section for more on de Blasio’s attention to sustainability issues.

Posted by Robbie Copley
February 25, 2015
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