Op-Ed | A win-win for taxpayers & the climate

Lincoln Restler
Photo via Twitter/Lincoln Restler

We are often told that public policy is a zero sum game. When it comes to addressing climate change, the conversation is too often about winners and losers, and then everything becomes stalled in a state of permanent inaction. So it’s not everyday that the City enacts an initiative that both protects the planet, while also saving taxpayers’ money. That rare win-win is Mayor Adams’ recent announcement to reduce the city’s auto fleet by at least 855 vehicles. And it is exactly the kind of forward-looking policy New York City needs right now.

During the previous administration, the city’s vehicle fleet became bloated. Today, New York City’s auto fleet includes over 24,500 cars. That’s way too many. More city vehicles on the road means more pollution, more potential crashes, and more traffic. Mayor Adams’ plan will reduce the fleet to Bloomberg-era levels with a four percent overall reduction in city vehicles.

This is great news to any New Yorker concerned about the climate. This fleet reduction is estimated to result in 5.13 million fewer miles driven per year, which amounts to a 2,072 metric ton reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Passenger cars are the biggest source of emissions in the world – they accounted for 41 percent of global transportation emissions in 2020. A reduction of this magnitude will quite literally be a breath of fresh air for millions of New Yorkers.

But rightsizing the city’s car fleet is good for more than just the planet. It will also bring significant fiscal savings to New York’s taxpayers. A four percent reduction in automobiles in the city’s fleet is projected to save taxpayers approximately $13.7 million. That is real money that can be freed up for a whole range of worthy progressive initiatives. We can avert the wasting of precious city resources and invest them where they are needed most to advance the health and safety of New Yorkers.

Mayor Adams was elected to office by a coalition of New Yorkers from many different backgrounds. This is a good initiative that Mayor Adams should take even further. On the campaign trail, he promised to slash the city’s fleet by half or perhaps by as much as 70%.

To make the right determination, Mayor Adams should conduct a top-to-bottom review to identify further inefficiencies that contribute to waste and generate pollution. From speeding up the process of modernizing municipal buildings to auctioning off additional unnecessary vehicles, there are plenty of additional improvements that can deliver savings for our city budget and protections for our environment.

Through this worthy action, New York City is leading by example. The Mayor is right to streamline the city’s auto fleet and pave the way for a cleaner future for the next generation of New Yorkers. And as a partner in government, I stand ready to shrink the City fleet further and act in every way possible to help build a more efficient and sustainable city.

Councilman Lincoln Restler represents the 33rd District of New York City, encompassing Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, Fulton Ferry, Greenpoint, Vinegar Hill, and Williamsburg.

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