The Environment

The importance of thinking globally and acting locally has never been more apparent. New York City and each of our communities must help lead the way on climate change, and toward a more sustainable way of living. At the community level, creating new parks and greenways, supporting the cause of environmental justice, promoting better transit and alternative modes of transportation, and greening our homes and businesses are just some of the ways we can help make New York one of the most sustainable cities in the world.

Don’t drive into the Gowanus. Help us improve the parks instead!

First things first: don’t drive your car into the Gowanus Canal – as an out-of-state, hit-and-run driver did over the weekend, after he hit a parked car and slightly injured a woman and her infant daughter (all three of them are going to be fine, and he was taken into custody).

A better way to get involved in Gowanus: work with us to improve the parks and open space in the neighborhood.  

As one part of my office’s “Bridging Gowanus” initiative, we’re working to create, upgrade, and connect public open space throughout the neighborhood. The long-term goal is a “Gowanus Greenscape” that would connect a series of parks, plazas, canal-front open space, safe places to walk and bike, public art, and a clean, publicly-accessible canal.

We’ve got a long way to go toward that vision, but – thanks to the work of some great partners, especially the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, the Gowanus Alliance, and Gowanus by Design – we’re off to a great start. Read more »

Gowanus Canal Clean Up Update

Black mayonnaise. Poo-nami.  Rumors of a three-eyed catfish.  

I know this update isn’t well-themed for the holiday season – I’m not aware of any Christmas carols about “combined sewer overflows” – but we wanted to give you an end-of-year update on the work to clean up the Gowanus Canal.

The Gowanus Canal has been deeply polluted for more than a century, making it a long-time source of local lore—and cringe-inducing headlines.

However, since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated the canal as a “Superfund” site in 2010 (after longstanding advocacy by many local leaders), the Federal, State, and City government have all committed significant resources to reversing many decades of environmental degradation and neglect. Projects are underway that will, over the next several years: dredge the toxic sludge at the bottom of the waterway, curtail its use as an open sewer, remediate the land nearby, and minimize neighborhood flooding.

Here’s some of the progress toward a cleaner Gowanus that we’ve seen in the past year: Read more »

Reduce Single-use Bags in NYC

Plastic bags are designed to be used only for a short period of time, but their negative impacts are long-lasting. Even when properly disposed of, plastic bags often blow away onto the street or into waterways, where they become eye-sores, clog storm drains, and endanger wildlife. If we are going to achieve our OneNYC zero waste goals, we can't ignore harmful plastic bag waste.

Our bill aims to reduce the use and negative impacts of carryout bags by requiring a 10-cent charge for carryout bags in NYC grocery and retail stores. Stores would retain the cost of the charge.

Read more »

Gratitude, 2015

There’s a lot to be anxious about these days.

Terrorism around the world punctures our sense of security, and prompts xenophobic backlash against our neighbors and those seeking protection from this very sort of terror.

Climate change threatens the world we will hand our kids.

Growing inequality makes it harder for people just to get by.

We struggle across racial divides, as we see video of yet another young African-American man killed needlessly in an encounter with police, and violence comes to those protesting peacefully to change an unfair system.

And at times, the changes in our communities – new development, skyrocketing rents, rising homelessness – make us feel we are losing our neighborhoods.

So I’m glad that Thanksgiving is here, to remind us of all we have to be grateful for. Read more »

Composting is coming to Community Board 6!

Two years ago, the Department of Sanitation began a composting pilot program in a few neighborhoods around the city. Today I’m happy to share the news that the pilot has been so effective, it’s getting expanded again, this time to all of Community Board 6.

That means composting is now available in Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, the Columbia Waterfront, and Red Hook.  And starting in two weeks, organics collection will start in Park Slope (now including streets north of Union) and Gowanus (now on both sides of the canal). To see if this new area includes your home, check out the map on the Department of Sanitation website.

Sanitation will collect all food scraps (including fruits and vegetables, meat, bones, grains, and prepared foods), food-soiled paper, and yard trimmings from the new curbside bin twice a week on your normal trash day. Your organic waste will be composted and become fertilizer for gardens, parks, and street trees. Organic waste accounts for a third of all garbage created in New York City, so composting will really help reduce how much we send to the landfill.  Read more »

Hurricane Joaquin – what you need to know to be prepared

As you know, there’s a chance that Hurricane Joaquin is headed our way. We don’t know its exact path, and hopefully it will head out into the Atlantic, rather than make landfall, as the most likely current forecasts predict (you can stay up-to-date via the National Weather Service, and the NYC Office of Emergency Management).

But since there is a real chance that the storm could hit near NYC, we should be ready. If the storm does hit, it would likely be Monday or Tuesday, so please use the weekend to make sure you’re prepared: Read more »

Whose visions for Gowanus? Come take a look.

You may have seen the recent New Yorker cover on Gowanus, in which artist Adrian Tomine makes fun of “people eating their organic kale and quinoa salads while gazing across the opaque, fetid water.” It’s a funny cover, and it’s good to be able to laugh at ourselves (and our neighbors). And there are certainly many ironic contradictions around the Gowanus Canal these days.   

But the issues we face in Gowanus are serious ones: How do we confront the legacy of industrial pollution, and the challenges of climate change and resiliency? How can we create inclusive neighborhoods – with room for working- and middle-class families, for public housing, for artists, for manufacturing – amidst skyrocketing real estate values? What’s the right balance of housing and jobs? Can we preserve, (or even strengthen) the mixed-use, eclectic, creative character of the neighborhood amidst change? Read more »

Your Neighborhood Needs You!

Our 5th year of Participatory Budgeting NYC (PBNYC) is about to kick off, and we need your help! 

The PBNYC process gives New Yorkers the power to decide how to spend tax dollars in our neighborhoods. If you’re not familiar with PBNYC, here’s how it works: Read more »

Following up from the Climate Change Town Hall

Thanks to many of you for attending last week’s Town Hall Meeting on Climate Change. We had a great room, full of engaged community residents, who came eager to work together on the steps NYC must take to confront one of the great challenges of our generation.

As we heard, the problems we face are daunting. New data from the NOAA shows that the global warming trend continues, with May, March, and June of 2015 all breaking previous records. Leading climate scientist James Hansen and a team of experts have put out a new study (not yet peer-reviewed, but still alarming) that resulting multi-meter sea-level rise could come much faster than previously thought.

The good news is that the scale of response – by global activists (like the 350,000 of us who took part in the People’s Climate March last fall), in public policy, and now even from Pope Francis –  is growing as well. Hopefully, and with all of our help, it will become commensurate with the challenge we face.  Here are some steps you can use to stay connected and continue to take action. Read more »

Earth Day 2015: Toward a more sustainable NYC

This Earth Day, I’m relieved that spring is finally here, after such a long and harsh winter.

But even as the weather lifts our spirits, we urgently need the reminder – the inconvenient truth – of the enormous work we must do to confront climate change if we want to have a safe planet to hand over to our children and grandchildren. The evidence is ever-more incontrovertible.   

Today, New York City took some strong steps in the right direction. I’m enthusiastic about Mayor de Blasio’s announcement of the City’s new One NYC Plan for a sustainable and resilient city, and one that works for all New Yorkers. Income inequality and climate change are the twin crises of our generation – so it is smart, urgent, and morally compelling to fight them together. Read more »