Elected officials, environmentalists, union leaders and other advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall Thursday to demand Mayor Eric Adams and the NYC city council retrofit public schools with climate friendly infrastructure.
The March 24 rally saw the coalition of advocates call on the mayor to plan to support carbon-free, healthy schools especially in lower income neighborhoods by funding the Carbon Free and Healthy Schools (CFHS) initiative in this fiscal year’s budget plan.
The speakers highlighted how the initiative could simultaneously combat multiple priorities of city leaders, while also addressing the long term concerns of student health and wellbeing in public school buildings.
“The majority of the emissions from our city come from large buildings,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN, a leader of the Climate Works for All coalition to amNew York. “Public schools are some of the biggest polluters in the city. So we are talking about reducing emissions and ensuring that we actually meet our climate goals, and it is critical that these buildings have the funding necessary to be upgraded and have the retrofits needed.”
NYC public schools are an average of 70 years old, and with aging infrastructure and a pandemic, students are being put in unnecessary risk of illness or injury. Many of these schools lack adequate heating, cooling and ventilation systems (HVAC), and also may still contain hazardous building materials like lead and asbestos.
“It’s clear that now more than ever New York City’s public schools need a historic investment in their infrastructure,” said Jeff Vockrodt, executive director of Climate Jobs NY. “Carbon Free and Healthy Schools is the long-term, sustainable, and equitable solution this city needs to create more resilient schools and bring green, unionized careers to our young people, especially in neighborhoods that have historically been overlooked.”
Approved by climate change movements like the Sunrise Movement, Climate Works for All and unions including 32BJ SEIU, AFSCME District Council 37, Building and Construction Trades Council, United Federation of Teachers, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators and the NYC Central Labor Council, the CFHS plan would; make energy-efficient retrofits to school buildings and cut 75,000 tons of carbon emissions, upgrade school HVAC and air conditioning systems, save the Department of Education $250 million per year, install solar panels and fix roofs in need of repairs and create tens of thousands new union jobs.
“Climate change and environmental injustices continue to impact our communities, from heat waves, to flash floods, to ongoing air pollution,” said Councilmember Sandy Nurse. “Now is the time to invest, build, and implement solutions. Building public solar on our public schools is a clear win. Increasing energy efficiency in our public schools is a win. Lowering utility costs for the DOE is a win. And directing those funds to climate and education is a win! The Carbon-Free and Healthy Schools plan, alongside the advocacy of community and environmental justice organizations, is just the bold action we need to fix our school buildings and drastically cut carbon emissions.”
These issues with public school infrastructure also disproportionately impact communities of color, particularly Black and Brown children who have higher asthma and obesity rates. The issues of disrepair not only impact their health, but prevent them from learning at their full potential.
“The pandemic exposed the inequities in our school system’s infrastructure front and center for all New Yorkers to see,” said Kyle Bragg, President, SEIU 32BJ. “For the workers and students, especially those who live and learn in communities of color, who have endured years of crumbling infrastructures detrimental to working and learning conditions, the Carbon Free & Healthy Schools plan offers a path to transformative change.”
Last updated 3/25/2022 10:06 am