Sustainable Living in NYC: Bloomberg’s plaNYC and de Blasio’s OneNYC

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Central Park / Image courtesy of Creative Commons

You’re probably hearing the word “resilience” a lot lately. While the buzz is somewhat new, the concept isn’t. With roots in ecology science, the term arose to define the ability of systems to adapt or bounce back from shocks and setbacks—be it the environment or a niche ecosystem. Today, the concept has found prominence in wide-ranging disciplines from childhood development to city planning.

As far as “future-proofing” cities to be resilient goes, NYC is ahead of the curve. In 2007, the Bloomberg administration introduced “PlaNYC,” a groundbreaking effort to address the city’s long-term challenges, including climate change, an aging infrastructure, and the forecast of an additional 1 million residents by 2030. It brought together more than 25 city agencies and a coalition of academic, business, and civic organizations and outlined specific initiatives, such as a 30 percent carbon reduction by 2030. The agency reports that within a year, more than 97% of the 127 original PlaNYC initiatives were launched. Prominent among these was the creation in 2008 of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS).

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Mayor Bloomberg, announcing the release of “A Stronger, More Resilient New York” in the wake of Sandy / Spencer T Tucker, NYC Mayor’s Office

OLTPS, established by Local Law 17, is charged with ensuring the implementation of PlaNYC’s initiatives. Cutting across multiple city agencies, OLTPS tracks PlaNYC’s plans and progress, including the rezoning and rebuilding of areas of the city to better weather threats from climate change. In fact, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in late 2012, PlaNYC was credited with having better prepared New York for the disaster. When Hurricane Sandy hit, it was clear that NYC needed a better, longer-term plan for resiliency. The city then introduced A Stronger, More Resilient New York, a comprehensive plan to protect our city’s coastline, buildings, and infrastructure from future climate risks—and it contained actionable recommendations based on the best available science.

The Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel on Oct. 30, 2012, the day after Sandy’s storm surge hit, flooding streets, tunnels, and subway lines, and cutting power in and around the city / MTA

The Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel on Oct. 30, 2012, the day after Sandy’s storm surge hit, flooding streets, tunnels, and subway lines, and cutting power in and around the city / MTA

Building on this trajectory toward sustainable planning, Mayor de Blasio released his own update to PlaNYC earlier this year, called “One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City” (OneNYC). In it, de Blasio announced the city’s new “80 by 50” goal—an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2050 from its 2005 levels—making NYC the world’s largest city to commit to that level of GHG reduction. In other ways, OneNYC appears more like a strategic master plan than its predecessor, however critics say it does not specify timetables or budgets for every idea.

Divided into four categories—growth, equity, sustainability, and resiliency—De Blasio’s plan is more far-reaching and inclusive than PlaNYC. Aside from the more ambitious goals regarding carbon emissions, another major difference is OneNYC’s new initiatives that center around income equality—de Blasio’s signature issue.

For a closer look at the context of OneNYC and its broad ideas, check out the de Blasio administration’s website. To learn more about the city’s accomplishments in terms of sustainability, check out PlaNYC’s 2014 Progress Report, released in April of each year. And to delve into more information regarding urban resiliency and how to “future proof” our cities, head over to ResilientCity.org. Finally, the administration is vocal in saying that it wants to hear from citizens. Share your feedback and ideas on OneNYC here.

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