City Council Member and Queens Borough President candidate Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, parts of Long Island City, Woodside) yesterday unveiled an ambitious climate plan on the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy that he said will protect neighbors from the next big storm.
“Queens residents deserve leadership that ensures they aren’t displaced by rising tides or rising rents. Sadly, seven years after Sandy killed 11 of our neighbors, destroyed our coastal communities, and eroded our shores, we are still unprepared for the next big storm,” said Constantinides, who has chaired the New York City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee since 2015.
“The plan we’re announcing today will put Queens on the course to a stronger, safer future that protects these neighborhoods by making them more sustainable. We can close dirty power plants blighting communities for too long while also making it more affordable to keep the lights on. Our movement will make Queens the national leader on green policies that create good jobs that serve as a pathway to the middle class.”
Constantinides’ plan would make Queens the leader for sustainability, resiliency and green job creation in New York City. Not only will neighborhoods from the Rockaways to College Point be protected from storm surge, the Borough President’s Office attack the root causes of climate change by closing dirty power plants that also make Queens residents sicker. A new Deputy Borough President for Sustainability will execute this ambitious plan, with a mandate to put Queens on a brighter course by 2030.
Building on his success in the New York City Council, Constantinides would reform the Borough President’s Office to:
- Close Dirty Queens Power Plants by 2025 or Sooner: Polluting power plants built in the early 2000s on the promise they’ll only run for a few years still click on whenever New York City needs power — and overwhelmingly that’s off the backs of Queens residents. By investing in solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources, we can close these plants and create thousands of good green jobs. Northwest and southeast Queens residents, who have higher asthma rates than the boroughwide average, will breathe cleaner air while simultaneously making it more affordable to keep the lights on.
- Create 50,000 Green Jobs by 2030: The Climate Mobilization Act is expected to generate 141,000 jobs over the next decade, according to the Urban Green Council, and there’s no reason Queens residents shouldn’t fill those positions. A Constantinides Borough Presidency will promote Career and Technical Education, which gives high school students on-the-job training in emerging fields such as solar. By partnering with New York’s local unions, we can create a pathway to the middle class, especially for those who come from environmental justice communities. More opportunities will come from upgrading our crumbling mass transit system, weatherizing homes and making our neighborhoods more resilient.
- Double Queens’ Greenspaces by 2030: Trees are the vanguard of sustainability by soaking up carbon pumped into the air every day. The decimation of wetlands in Flushing and Jamaica bays, which had been a natural storm barrier for a millenium, contributed to the destructive storm surge during Sandy. Constantinides would invest capital dollars into planting trees and bioswales along our congested thoroughfares, work with the Department of Transportation to create more pedestrian plazas, and partner with neighborhoods to close dilapidated wastewater treatment plants, which will free up hundreds of acreage for public use.
- Solarize City Buildings by 2030 to Reduce Costs and Emissions: Constantinides will work with government partners to put solar on any public building in Queens where the roof can support it, such as libraries, hospitals, and courthouses. That means leading by example, so Queens Borough Hall will be upgraded with solar panels to drastically shrink its carbon footprint. If a City building cannot support solar panels, the Borough President’s Office will work to install green roofs. By using natural plantings and other green infrastructure, these roofs capture excess rainwater and reduce the heat island effect. Queens’ public buildings will set the demand for clean energy, comply with new emissions laws and significantly reduce operational costs.
- Appoint a Resiliency Czar as the New Queens Deputy Borough President for Sustainability: A well-trained expert dedicated to fighting climate change’s fatal effects will oversee Constantinides’ bold, necessary vision as the newly minted Deputy Borough President for Sustainability. This person will have a mandate to overhaul land-use decisions so they directly address the climate crisis, develop a community-based resiliency plan and create an environmental justice task force to reverse generations of wrongs in communities of color.
Constantinides’ plan comes as conservative estimates by the New York City Panel on Climate Change predict an eight-inch sea level rise over the next 30 years, which stands to drastically reshape the layout of southern Queens.
The panel also found Rockaway residents would see regular tidal flooding in their homes as early as 2050 without meaningful action now. And extreme heat predicted at the end of this century is expected to kill thousands of New Yorkers — a glib future for western Queens children with respiratory illnesses.