Some Good News to Celebrate, But Mayor’s Budget Cuts Are Undermining the City’s Environmental Goals
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 29, 2024
Contact: Chris Dobens, 718-679-8542, firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW YORK — In the annual State of the City address, New York City Mayor Eric Adams claimed he wants the city to lead the nation in fighting climate change, including efforts to cut emissions and protect residents from extreme heat, flooding, and storms. However, while the Mayor stated that his efforts are “about reimagining the urban experience for all New Yorkers,” his rhetoric does not address the discrepancy between his goals and his continued sweeping budget cuts to programs and services that are vital to the health, quality of life, and safety of New Yorkers – especially our most vulnerable populations.
Studies show that these communities – low-income communities and communities of color – are disproportionately impacted by climate change, pollution, and nearly every environmental hazard. Yet studies also show that these communities contribute the least amount of emissions and other pollution that are driving these issues, despite being forced to bear the brunt of their adverse effects.
To lead the nation in fighting climate change, and to truly reimagine the urban experience for all New Yorkers, Mayor Adams needs to center his policies on addressing the inequitable harm being done to New Yorkers of color and low-income by climate change, air pollution, and toxic chemicals. And a great place to start would be restoring and increasing funds to the important initiatives we have highlighted below, inclusion of key initiatives that have been overlooked, and a greater focus on addressing the environmental disparities faced by these communities.
First of all, we would like to thank the Mayor for including the following in his annual address:
- Green Economy Action Plan – this plan will harness the economic potential of reducing emissions and building a more sustainable city to help support 400,000 green economy jobs alone in New York City by 2040;
- Waste containerization – the city will expand its Harlem on-street containerization pilot and set the city on a path to getting every single black trash bag off of New York City streets;
- Implementing a five-borough bluebelt strategy, expanding the cloudburst program and investing $390 million in the green infrastructure program to support the fight against extreme rainfall and coastal flooding; and
- Investing $450 million in federal resiliency grants in projects that restore public housing developments, expand the city’s green infrastructure network and support communities emergency preparedness training.
However, the Mayor failed to address these key environmental and climate justice initiatives:
Deep cuts to the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) which include the devastating elimination of funding to community composting organizations that collectively operate six community composting sites – providing the most sustainable and equitable form of organic waste management – diverting 8.3 million pounds of organic waste from landfills each year.
These cuts will result in 115 New Yorkers losing their jobs. Also, the budget cuts delay the start of residential curbside organics collection in the Bronx – a borough that has been consistently neglected when it comes to investments in climate and environmental justice. Cuts to community composting and delays in curbside organics collection along with reduction in litter basket service will undue any progress made to reduce the rat population in New York City.
Over 1,000 positions were eliminated from the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). Parks are some of our city’s most valuable resources. Green space improves mental, physical, and emotional health, cleans our air, and makes our city more resilient to extreme heat and flooding. In order to realize these full benefits and ensure safety for park goers – parks must be fully funded at 1% of the total budget, which is a promise that Mayor Adams made while campaigning.
The Department of Buildings (DOB) is set to lose over 100 positions through vacancy reductions, greatly impacting the equitable implementation of Local Law 97 – New York City’s groundbreaking buildings emission reduction law.
Stalled implementation of the Streets Master Plan that would vastly expand bus and bike lanes. This five-year transportation master plan improves the safety, accessibility, and quality of the city’s streets for all New Yorkers as well as helps reduce emissions.
The New York City Council finance team has shown a positive new tax and economic forecast – forecasting about $1.2 billion more in fiscal year 2024 revenue than the Office of Management and Budget has predicted. Mayor Adams has presented New Yorkers with a false choice between spending money on essential programs and financially supporting asylum seekers looking for refuge in New York City.
We are in the midst of a worsening climate crisis and the City must do everything it can to reduce emissions, decarbonize our buildings, invest in resilience, and more – all with environmental and climate justice as the foundation of this work. New York City cannot afford austerity.
Mayor Adams’ 2024 State-of-the-State Address is available here. And to see what policies we have prioritized for this year, WE ACT’s 2024 Policy Agenda is available here. We look forward to working with Mayor Adams, the City Council, and their staff on these issues, and we also look forward to reviewing the details of the Executive Budget later this month.
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WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.