BY DEBORAH J. GLICK | On July 18, Governor Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act into law, thus ensuring that New York will embrace the most ambitious climate goal in the United States.
This is a major step undertaken by the state Legislature at a time when the national political rhetoric of the Trump administration is to deny the effects of climate change while many in this country suffer. New York is the fourth most populous state in the U.S. and has the third-largest economy. Other state legislatures may fall behind in addressing the negative effects of climate change on farming, infrastructure, housing, the economy and wildlife. But in New York we have taken action to achieve the goal of an economy-wide net-zero carbon-emission objective.
In recent weeks we witnessed violent swings in the weather here in New York City. Clearly, the effects of climate change are upon us and will only continue to have increasing dramatic effect on our daily lives. The widespread flooding on Manhattan’s West Side during Superstorm Sandy, and the recent incredible images of flash flooding in Brooklyn following a heat wave and localized blackouts serve as unfortunate reminders. In reality, our infrastructure is fragile, outdated, and ill-equipped to deal with climate instability. We can marshal government action and embrace scientific research to plan for a future that allows our society and economy to cope with this new reality.
The New York City subways are a crucial part of our shared infrastructure. Ensuring that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is adequately funded and is improving service, access and efficiency is an objective of the state government. In the 2019 state budget, the Legislature provided $1.65 billion that will support $25 billion in new bonded capital funding that will be dedicated to the 2020-24 M.T.A. Capital Plan. The $1.65 billion is being paid for with revenue from congestion pricing, online marketplace taxes and real estate taxes. Decades of underinvestment have left the subway system without the proper fortifications to combat climate change’s effects.
Some improvements in the subways and with the M.T.A. require additional legislative approval. This session I worked with the M.T.A. to pass a bill allowing for the expansion of a subterranean easement under Grand Canal Court Park at Sixth Ave. and Canal St. This will enable the M.T.A. to expand a power substation along the A, C, E, B and D subway lines, allowing for a greater power supply that will allow for the operation of trains closer together and therefore more frequently. This will also provide an opportunity for the M.T.A to fortify that infrastructure to be resilient against storms. This shows that city and state stakeholders can continue to work collaboratively to address these much-needed resiliency objectives.
In addition to threats to our infrastructure, reports released this summer show a global epidemic of marine life dying or being threatened by the proliferation of plastic in the world’s oceans. A disturbing trend has arisen in finding beached whales with upward of 50 pounds of plastic packaging, bags, containers and tubes clogged in their stomachs contributing to their death. In turn, research suggests that micro-plastics in oceans are ingested by fish and then eaten by humans, contributing to the plastic levels in our own bodily systems. New York has taken steps to confront this issue by discouraging behavior that further propagates single-use plastics. Banning styrofoam takeout containers and single-use plastic shopping bags are steps toward changing our personal behavior for the good of humanity. Those who are able should work to reduce the use of unnecessary plastics, like utensils, straws, cups, storage containers and other food-related items that do not recycle easily.
These issues are all connected and will be the preeminent challenge for humanity in the 21st century. Extreme weather events, rising water levels, shrinking natural habitats necessary for our planet’s biodiversity, and the strain on infrastructure can all be directly traced back to the net-warming of our planet because of an increase in greenhouse gases. Our city and state will continue to endeavor to ensure that we preserve a sustainable way of life for future generations.
Glick is assemblymember, 66th District (Greenwich Village, Soho, Noho, Tribeca, Little Italy, Hudson Square, part of the East Village)