Legislative package would accelerate phase-out of dirty fuel, and expand organic waste collection, community recycling, electric vehicle chargers, greenways, resource conservation by buildings, and tree plantings
On Earth Day, the New York City Council continued its legacy as a leader on environmental policies by announcing a new package of environmental legislation. It includes bills to accelerate the phase-out of dirty fuels, expand curbside organic waste collection citywide, establish community recycling centers, and increase tree plantings, the availability of electric vehicle chargers, greenways, and tree plantings. The package would also include legislation to build upon the City’s groundbreaking energy and water usage benchmarking law to cover buildings of at least 10,000 square feet, creating greater transparency around usage and greater efficiencies to reduce waste. The legislation will be introduced in the coming days, with hearings to follow in the coming months.
“The New York City Council has a history of advancing local laws for successful environmental policies and programs that have become global examples of responsible leadership,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “This Council will continue to build on that record of promoting sustainability, reducing pollution, and protecting the environment. We celebrate Earth Day by establishing a commitment to always do our part in confronting the climate crisis with action. I look forward to working with my Council colleagues to advance these important bills during this session, while supporting global efforts to preserve our planet for future generations.”
The environment-focused legislative package includes the following bills:
Citywide Curbside Organic Collection (sponsored by Council Member Hanif, Speaker Adams, Council Members Won, Nurse, Bottcher, Gennaro, Menin, Hudson and Cabán, by request of the Brooklyn Borough President) – Establishing a mandatory citywide organic waste curbside collection program for the diversion of organic waste from residences. An earlier pilot program that covered only a portion of the City was discontinued during the pandemic. This local law would require a permanent citywide program for organics collection, just as programs currently exist for the collection of metal, glass, plastics and paper.
Accelerated Phase Out of Dirty Fuel Oils (sponsored by Council Member Gennaro, by request of the Queens Borough President) – Requiring that no newly installed boiler shall burn fuel oil grade no. 4 and that no boiler in the City, regardless of when installed, shall burn fuel oil grade no. 4 after January 1, 2025. This would be a significant acceleration of the current phase out date, which is in 2030, and would hasten the further cleaning of our local air from pollutants.
Electric Vehicle Chargers in Parking Lots (sponsored by Council Member Brannan, by request of the Queens Borough President) – Requiring parking lots above a certain size have certain percentages of spots either electric ready or supplied with electric vehicle charging equipment by certain dates. By making electric vehicle charging more accessible, it encourages the transition to emissions free vehicles and reduces air pollution in the City.
Encourage Community Recycling (sponsored by Council Member Powers, at the request of the Brooklyn Borough President) – Two pieces of legislation, aimed at establishing permanent drop off points and community recycling centers where New Yorkers can drop off waste, including materials that are not otherwise accepted for curbside collection, such as hazardous materials.
Citywide Greenway Master Plan (sponsored by Council Members Rivera and Brooks-Powers) – Requiring the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Transportation to develop and regularly update a master plan on maintaining and expanding the City’s greenway network. Greenways are open spaces developed for use by pedestrians or non-motorized vehicles and a stronger greenway network encourages the public use of open space and eco-friendly travel.
Tree Pit Plantings (sponsored by Council Member Bottcher) – Requiring the planting of a tree or other vegetation in abandoned tree pits within a certain amount of time, to encourage the further greening of the City. An abandoned tree pit is one in which only dirt, or sometimes a tree stump from a previously removed tree, remains.
Expanded Benchmarking of Buildings (sponsored by Council Member Gennaro) – Expanding the City’s groundbreaking energy and water usage benchmarking law to cover buildings of 10,000 square feet or more. By creating greater transparency around the usage of energy and water by buildings, greater efficiencies and waste reductions can be encouraged and the success of conservation programs can be better understood.
From passing groundbreaking legislation that has become a global model on how to reduce carbon emissions from buildings (Local Law 97 of 2019), to requiring the electrification of newly constructed buildings (Local Law 154 of 2021), to requiring a transition to a zero emission City school bus fleet (Local Law 120 of 2021) to championing a green future for Rikers Island (Local Laws 16, 17, and 31 of 2021), and even to reforming the commercial trade waste industry to ensure emissions reductions and a greater emphasis on environmental goals (Local Laws 198 and 199 of 2021), in recent years the City Council has advanced significant environmental policies that have served as models for New York State and jurisdictions around the world.
In fact, the Council’s history of pushing forward local laws advancing environmental policies extends further back as well, with many of those policies having now established themselves as successful programs and global policy examples. The New York City Panel on Climate Change’s regular reports are a trusted source for local climate science; the phasing out of the dirtiest heating fuel oils has already helped clean our local air; restrictions on engine idling have helped clean the air and reduce fuel consumption; and the establishing of larger citywide emissions goals established targets that all City agencies are expected to work towards meeting.
The Council is dedicated to continuing with sound environmental policies for the City – by establishing new initiatives and fine-tuning existing policies to increase their impact. This work does not begin or end on Earth Day, and will continue throughout the legislative session, with more announcements expected.
Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato Admitted to Participating in Wire Fraud Conspiracy
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that BRIAN KOLFAGE and ANDREW BADOLATO pled guilty today in connection with their roles in defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors to an online crowdfunding campaign known as “We Build the Wall.” Both defendants pled guilty before United States District Judge Analisa Torres.
Program Will Improve Air Quality, Advance Clean Energy and Reduce Carbon Emissions in Pre-K-12 Public Schools
Would be Significantly Expanded Under $4.2 Billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act Going Before Voters This Fall
Builds Upon New York's First in the Nation Requirement for All New School Buses to be Zero-Emission by 2027 to Further Improve Air Quality for School-age Children
Supports New York State's Nation-Leading Goals in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Including an 85 Percent Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced $59 million in funding is now available for the Clean Green Schools initiative, which will advance clean energy and energy efficiency solutions to improve indoor air quality and reduce emissions for more than 600 under-resourced public Pre-K-12 schools across the state. All public school buildings across New York State that are designated as high-needs by the New York State Education Department or located in a disadvantaged community will be eligible to participate in the program. First announced during Climate Week 2021, the initiative was developed with input from education leaders and low carbon building experts. Today's announcement builds on the historic achievements in the enacted FY 2023 Budget, including the expanded Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, as well as New York's first in the nation requirement for all new school buses to be zero-emission by 2027. It also supports the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal of an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
"Providing cleaner and healthier places for children to learn and grow is an absolute must if we want to deliver on a green transition that benefits all," Governor Hochul said. "This Earth Day, we reflect on the ways New York has made strides to fight climate change and will continue to lead the nation with our climate goals. The Clean Green Schools initiative will bring meaningful change to communities that have been too often left behind, allowing our schools to be models of innovation while giving educators and students the type of learning environment they deserve."
Administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), applications are now being accepted for the Clean Green Schools initiative, which will help public schools in disadvantaged communities or high-needs areas that traditionally lack resources to invest in infrastructure improvements become healthier, more productive learning environments. This initiative advances climate justice by providing technical, financial, and human resource support to help under-resourced public schools assess and implement energy efficient heating and cooling projects to benefit the most vulnerable New Yorkers. All HVAC projects funded under this initiative will address indoor air quality.
Funding to significantly expand the program will be included in the historic $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, which will go before voters in November. If approved, the Bond Act funding will allow the program to serve will serve more than 1,000 under-resourced public schools and benefit nearly 1 million students, driving significant infrastructure upgrades, such as geothermal heating and cooling, solar, green roofs, and indoor air quality/ventilation. The historic Bond Act will also provide the support New York needs to provide safe water to drink; invest in critical water infrastructure; restore critical environmental habitats; reduce flood risks; preserve our outdoor spaces and local farms; and invest in climate change mitigation and adaptation projects that will reduce air pollution, lower carbon emissions, and improve the ability of New York communities to withstand the climate-driven increase in severe weather events and flooding.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "On this Earth Day, New York is sending a resounding message that we are leading the nation by advancing actions to fulfil our commitment under New York's landmark Climate Law in tackling the damaging impacts of climate change. Today with the Clean Green Schools initiative, the Governor is answering that call with real and impactful change that will increase energy efficiency in our schools and electrify our school buses, building a greener, healthier and a more sustainable learning environment for our children."
Applications are open for the two tracks participating in the initiative:
Participating schools in either Track may also apply for funding under the initiative to support eligible activities that create or further clean energy educational opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community. New York State has over 4,000 public K-12 schools that spend approximately $800 million in annual energy costs, which produce approximately 4.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or other harmful greenhouse gases. Approximately 2,500 of these schools are located in a disadvantaged community or high-needs area and are eligible to participate in the initiative. Schools that are interested in applying to the program should visit the NYSERDA website.
In addition to today's announcements, New York State currently offers incentives for the purchase of new electric school buses through the New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program (NYTVIP) administered by NYSERDA. NYTVIP provide incentives up to $220,000 for electric school buses located within disadvantaged communities utilizing up to $12 million in funding from the State's settlement with Volkswagen and the Congestion Mitigation for Air Quality Improvement Program. To date, New York has committed nearly $70 million in VW settlement funds to replace diesel-powered medium-and heavy-duty vehicles with new zero emission vehicles, including electric transit buses, school buses, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and cargo handling equipment. For more information, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/109784.html.
To further improve air quality for school-age New Yorkers and local communities, the State Budget requires that all new school bus purchases be zero-emissions by 2027 and all school buses on the road be zero-emissions by 2035. The State Budget will provide $500 million through the Bond Act to support school districts in purchases of zero-emission buses and related charging infrastructure including charging stations, aided by technical assistance to be provided by NYSERDA. Additionally, the State Budget authorizes school districts to lease or finance zero-emission buses for 12 years, more than double the current five-year limitation for diesel buses, in order to help districts meet this goal, and ensures Transportation Aid is provided on zero-emission buses and related charging infrastructure.
"Spring is a fantastic time of year to visit one of the many sites on the newest segment of the New York State Birding Trail," Commissioner Seggos said. “The Hudson Valley region, with its stunning and historic parks and public lands, unique hawk watches, and sweeping Hudson River views, provides a unique and special birding experience for anyone interested in getting started in this fun, accessible activity.”
Birdwatching has quickly become one of New York’s fastest-growing recreation and tourism activities. The New York State Birding Trail is managed by DEC in collaboration with partners including the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The statewide trail includes a network of promoted birding locations that can be accessed by car or public transportation, providing an inclusive experience for all visitors to enjoy birds amid beautiful natural settings with little or no cost or investment in equipment.
The Hudson Valley segment of the trail includes 39 locations on a mix of public and private lands throughout Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland, Orange, and Westchester counties. From Bird Conservation Areas (BCAs) including Hudson Highlands State Park, and Rockefeller State Park Preserve, to the tidal swamps and marshes at Tivoli Bays Wildlife Management Area, and the Mount Peter Hawk Watch that provides a scenic overlook for raptor watching, the Hudson Valley provides unique landscapes and habitats for birding along the Hudson River and beyond. We invite you to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to experience birds firsthand by taking the time to visit one of the sites on the bird trail.
“Exploring the Hudson Valley segment of the New York State Birding Trail is a sure way to grow and enrich an appreciation for the natural world,” said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. “Our State Parks on the trail offer exceptional places for people to see and learn about a diverse species of birds in their native habitats – and we welcome all to visit."
New segments of the Birding Trail are opened in a phased approach. DEC announced the New York City trail segment in October 2021, the Greater Niagara trail segment in February 2022, and Long Island segment in March 2022, totaling more than 130 birding locations. Once finished, the Statewide Birding Trail will provide birding opportunities for everyone, regardless of age, ability, identity, or background, across New York State.
To promote the trail as an inclusive experience for all, DEC and partners are working to select sites that are welcoming and accessible by public transportation. Several Hudson Valley birding trail locations are accessible via the Cold Spring-Beacon Trolley Shuttle which runs from Memorial Day to Veterans Day weekend. DEC also continues to solicit input from a wide range of New Yorkers and organizations that represent Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and is making information available in both English and Spanish. Bird walks will be held in collaboration with organizations working with BIPOC communities.
The New York State Birding Trail map is available at www.ibirdny.org and provides valuable information on each site such as location, available amenities, species likely to be seen, directions, and more. Additional information on birding, educational and interpretive information, is also available. Digital information on the Birding Trail will be updated periodically, so budding outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to check back often.
In addition to State-owned and managed locations for the Birding Trail, publicly and privately managed sites can complete a simple self-nomination process to be considered for inclusion on the trail. Sites all meet criteria to help ensure a positive experience for visitors throughout the state. Additionally, each site will post signage noting it as an official location on the birding trail. For information on the nomination process, see www.ibirdny.org.
DEC encourages birding enthusiasts to visit I Bird NY for more information on where and how to observe birds, upcoming bird walks, a downloadable Beginner's Guide to Birding (available in Spanish), and additional resources.
DEC manages and oversees nearly five million acres of public lands and conservation easements and plays a vital role in both protecting New York’s natural resources and providing opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors. From fishing on scenic streams, hiking and rock climbing, swimming and boating, birding, and nature study, or simply relaxing in a tent under the stars, there are endless adventures to be found. Visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/
In the 2022-23 Enacted State Budget, Governor Kathy Hochul succeeded in increasing the EPF from $300 to $400 million, the highest-ever level of funding in the program's history. The EPF supports a number of important objectives that benefit birds and other wildlife in the State, including climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, promoting sustainable agriculture, protecting water sources, advancing open space conservation efforts, and providing recreational opportunities for New Yorkers.