Pols looking to make Big Apple greener
From rooftops to waterfronts, city officials are sowing the seeds for a greener New York.
Imagine breathing air with fewer toxic emissions, living in housing that wastes less water and energy, and eating more fresh food plucked from local rooftops.
The idea of more New Yorkers living an energy-efficient lifestyle is attainable, said Daniel Hendrick, spokesman for the nonpartisan New York League of Conservation Voters.
"Who's not for clean air and clean water? New York has one of the smallest carbon footprints already," Hendrick said. "But green issues are really complicated … and there are ways we can do more."
It remains to be seen whether some of the city's more ambitious goals -- such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in 2030 -- are met.
One of the latest pushes is called Zone Green. A City Council subcommittee will hold a hearing Monday the initiative, which aims to make it easier to construct and retrofit buildings in environmentally friendly ways.
In the long run, officials say, building owners and their tenants can save energy and money.
The amendment includes:
- Waiving building height limits so that solar panels can be built.
- Allowing "solar shades" -- used to cool buildings -- to hang off facades.
- Permitting rooftop greenhouses to exceed certain limits in order to promote locally grown food.
Planning Commission chairwoman Amanda Burden said Zone Green is "the most comprehensive effort of any city in the nation to sweep aside obstacles" to building green.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this month touted his administration's progress in going green: The city is saving about $32 million a year after giving 143 municipal buildings green makeovers in the past five years.
"It is in our power to give our city a sustainable future," Bloomberg told reporters.
But the city's work is far from done, environmental groups say, including upgrading the centuries-old water and sewer infrastructure and figuring out cost-effective ways to dispose of garbage.
All that will depend on how important environmental issues are for the next mayor, and whether he or she wants to build on what Bloomberg has laid out, Hendrick said.
"Politicians can often be about short-term reactions and what they can deliver in the next four or eight years," Hendrick added.
"But if we want to make New York sustainable for future generations, we can't be shortsighted."