After Hurricane Ida flooded large swathes of New York City and became the most recent climate event to expose its vulnerabilities, the City Council passed two pieces of legislation aimed at addressing climate change last Thursday.
One bill, sponsored by Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn), will require the city to identify and plan for climate change-related hazards. Another, sponsored by Councilmember Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), will tackle its carbon footprint by creating a fleet of electric buses.
Brannan’s bill creates a five-borough climate adaptation plan that will require, no later than Sept. 30, 2022, and every 10 years thereafter, the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability to lead the process of creating a climate adaptation plan that considers and evaluates hazards including extreme storms, sea level rise, tidal flooding, extreme heat, extreme precipitation, extreme wind, wildfire and flooding surge events.
In a meeting of the Council’s Committee of Resiliency and Waterfronts, Brannan referenced the 2020 tropical storm Isaias and this year’s storms Henri and Ida as new realities that the city must contend with. Isaias left over 70,000 Queens residents without power — 14,000 of whom did not get it back for five days. Ida killed more residents in Queens than any other borough.
“These recent storms and heat waves demonstrate that the city needs a much more comprehensive approach to address the climate hazards that the city faces. The city must also ensure that the most vulnerable neighbors are prepared and protected,” Brannan said.
The legislation tasks the city with identifying areas that are most vulnerable to climate hazards and helping determine where resiliency and adaptation measures should first be implemented.
Dromm’s bill will require the city to ensure that all operational school buses by Sept. 1, 2035 are all-electric, zero-emission vehicles. In addition to the goal of reducing the city’s carbon footprint, Councilmember and Committee on Environmental Protection Chairman Jim Gennaro (D-Hillcrest) framed the issue as a health risk for school children inhaling particulate matter while riding diesel-burning buses.
“Environmental justice communities, such as the one I represent, have had to deal with a host of economic and health disparities. Dirty buses and the noxious fumes they spew most impact the individuals who spend the longest time on them: drivers and special education and homeless students,” Dromm said in a statement.
Gennaro reported that transportation made up about 5 percent of the Department of Education’s spending, as of 2019. New York State reimburses the city for approximately 50 percent of transportation costs. The legislation will require the DOE to report to the mayor and the Council speaker on a variety of implementation targets within three reporting deadlines, in 2023, 2028, and 2033.
“Let our work here inspire the country. If New York City can do this every municipality can,” Dromm said during the Committee on Environmental Protection
Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign both bills.