A new mayor, a new approach to climate?

NY DAILY NEWS OPINION: It’s a new day — or so they say when there is a new mayoral administration ready to take hold of what the last has not accomplished. Since the New Deal, America has seen an increase of agencies, siloed from one another, on the local, state and federal level, each responsible for their own narrow charge, with their own budget. This model has served us well for decades. However, the climate crisis requires a new way of governing.

This fall, Hurricane Ida inundated our region, sending record-breaking rainfall into our streets and resulting in 43 deaths in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut — the same number as those who died in New York City from Hurricane Sandy. Yet there is still no single agency responsible for addressing the effect that flooding has on our communities. NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection is only responsible for rain after it hits our sewers. The Department of Transportation is responsible for moving cars, bikes and pedestrians, not building streets that absorb rain and keep water out of the basements of small businesses. The list goes on.

Every year, more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat, which is the number one climate killer. In 2021, New York City had 17 days in which the city hit 90 degrees or higher. There is no single agency responsible for addressing the effect that increased heat has on the most vulnerable. The Parks Department provides shade through street trees and maintains extended hours in city pools. The Human Resources Administration distributes air conditioners to New Yorkers who have medical conditions that are made worse by heat, and a myriad of agencies, including those responsible for seniors, public housing and libraries, operate cooling centers giving the most vulnerable a safe place of refuge.

Right now, the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency must negotiate with city agencies to change the status quo, as they have neither the budget nor authority to implement policy. This has caused rifts between policymakers and agency implementers, such as we experienced with the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. Instead of having agencies pitch in what they can, creating a hot potato of climate infrastructure that no agency wants to fund or maintain, Mayor Adams can develop a more sensible path to climate resilience. Read More >>