Activists push New York City and state on climate resilience

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New York think tank Regional Plan Association and the advocacy group Make the Road New York are urging New York City and the state to expand climate resiliency measures.

Devastation in Queens from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

They are calling for the city to expand its green infrastructure program, the state to pass a “polluter’s tax” on greenhouse gas emissions that they say would raise up to $7 billion annually for the first 10 years; and the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates mass transit in the city, to shorten its timetable to electrify its entire bus fleet.

The groups released their climate change policy agenda during a briefing last Wednesday in Queens. They want to build on the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which the state enacted last year.

“These are actionable steps that the city, the state and local entities can take to make Queens and the rest of New York City a more climate-resilient place,” Vanessa Barrios, RPA senior associate for state programs and advocacy, said at Make the Road’s headquarters in the Jackson Heights neighborhood.

Make the Road is an affiliate of NY Renews, a statewide coalition of roughly 300 organizations.

They groups are looking for the city to double its Department of Environmental Protection budget to $2 billion and prioritize low-income neighborhoods under its green infrastructure program. RPA, in its position paper, said the state could help support city projects by adopting the New York League of Conservation Voters proposal for $1 billion in water infrastructure improvement statewide.

In addition, they’re suggesting the MTA fully electrify its buses within 10 years, not 20. The MTA intends to transition its entire fleet from diesel by 2040, and in its $51.5 billion capital program for 2020 to 2024, the authority has committed $1.1 billion to purchase 500 electric buses.

Revenue from a polluter’s fee, according to NY Renews, would be distributed among four funds: climate jobs and infrastructure; a community just transition; worker and community assurance for retraining displaced workers; and an energy rehire fund.

Climate resilience merges with many “front-line” issues such as affordable housing, the environment and immigration, according to advocates who plan to lobby City Hall and state officials in Albany.

“All these intercept with climate change, because with climate change happening, how are we going to have fair and just housing, how are you going to be able to really have environmental equity?” Barrios said.

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