Queens Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) introduced a bill Wednesday at City Hall to create a Department of Sustainability for New York City, which if passed will be the first municipal agency in the country to dedicated to fighting climate change.
“There will never be a moment in which we can spike the ball and shout, ‘We officially won the fight against climate change,’” said Constantinides. “This is a battle New York City must wage for generations. Our citizens deserve a full agency dedicated to a sustainable, resilient, and greener future — one that’s adaptive, with the intellectual and budgetary power to make real change.”
The bill would merge the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability with the Office of Resiliency and Recovery to form a single commissioner-led entity that addresses threats to the city’s environmental infrastructure, like the estimated 2050 sea level rise, according to Constantinides’ office
The bill comes at a time that international and federal environmental reports have called 2018 the fourth-hottest year on the record, according to Constantinides’ office.
“If New York is to retain its position as a leading world city in the 21st century, it must be at the cutting edge of sustainability,” said Eric A. Goldstein, the city’s Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But we’re in danger of losing ground on these air, water and resiliency issues. Councilmember Constantinides is rightly sounding the alarm and we look forward to working with him and his Council colleagues to elevate the attention these issues receive in City Hall.”
Constantinides goal for the Department of Sustainability is to execute policies as the coordinator between various city agencies responsible for resiliency, recovery, and other measures, while also setting interim and long-term goals by 2050 on sustainability initiatives such as greenhouse gas emissions, sea level rise, tree populations, and renewable energy generation.
On April 22, the councilman wants the commissioner of DOS to have annual updates on how the measures are being addressed.
“New York City is one of the largest cities in the world, and without federal leadership right now it is important that large cities pick up the slack here,” said Terrence Cullen, Constantinides’ spokesman. “We’ve introduced bills that would reduce our greenhouse gas emission, make our infrastructure more resilient and our energy more sustainable…with the federal government not acting…and when you see the terrifying reports…this work is going to be very important.”
Pete Sikora, the campaigns director for the New York Communities for Change, a leading grassroots organization advocating for climate change policy.
“New York City needs a Green New Deal and this bill is one of its building blocks,” said Sikora.