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For Immediate Release:

June 3, 2021

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Dan Morris. 917.952.8920.

Creating Green, Healthy Schools: Climate Advocates Unveil Action Plan for Next Mayor of NYC

An Investment of $1.5 Billion should Enable Every Public School in NYC to Install Solar Panels and HVAC Systems

New York – Today, during a Zoom press call, members and leaders of the Climate Works for All coalition unveiled a new equitable action plan for how the next Mayor of New York City can create Green, Healthy Schools, especially in neighborhoods most impacted by COVID and the climate crisis.  The action plan focuses on the installation of solar energy and HVAC systems as part of the full re-opening of public schools scheduled to begin in September.

This Green, Healthy Schools action plan shows how Mayor Bill de Blasio should use his final months in office to make initial investments in solar energy and HVAC systems that the next Mayor can build on and expand. Investing in solar energy and HVAC will create good-paying jobs and careers in clean energy while enabling all public schools to become net-zero schools in the coming years.

In the action plan, PS 62 on Staten Island is highlighted and presented as a successful model of a net-zero public school that can and should be replicated in communities across New York City.   Created in partnership with IBEW Local 3, the PS 62 building has solar panels on the roof and its south facing walls to take advantage of the sunlight throughout the day, allowing the building to optimize the amount of solar energy it can collect.

With over 1,800 school buildings, New York City has one of the largest school districts in the country. K-12 public schools account for one-quarter of all city-owned buildings, and they are also among the biggest climate polluters.

“Installing solar and air control systems like HVAC in public schools will allow the next Mayor to foster more resilient neighborhoods and ensure the benefits of renewable energy reach low-income New Yorkers of color who are most impacted by COVID and climate change…  As New York City moves toward full reopening of schools by September, 1.1 million public school students, teachers, and staff must also have daily, equitable access to clean air and feel safer breathing in their classrooms,” the action plan notes.

Researchers from ALIGN who developed the Green, Healthy Schools action plan estimate that installing solar and HVACs in every public school would cost $1.5 billion. Mayor de Blasio should begin the process of investing this $1.5 billion in solar panels and HVAC systems for New York City’s public schools. Such action would put the next mayoral administration in a strong position to finish the job.  That full investment of $1.5 billion would be enough to install solar panels and HVAC systems in every New York City public school.

“All the mayoral candidates should connect their climate plans specifically to COVID recovery and the re-opening of public schools planned for September. The installation of solar panels and HVAC systems in every public school will enhance air quality, education, and health while creating career-orientated union jobs for New Yorkers.  This work must begin in Mayor de Blasio’s final months in office, but it will fall to the next mayoral administration to sustain investments in solar energy and HVAC systems in public schools, especially in low-income communities of color hit hardest by COVID and the climate crisis,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN, an advocacy group involved in Climate Works for All that developed the Green, Healthy Schools action plan and is focused on advancing solutions to the climate crisis that will create good-paying jobs and build an equitable economy.

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) – the city agency in charge of energy management –has already allocated $3.8 billion allocated for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures for public buildings over ten years in the capital budget. But allocation is not the same as active investment. This $3.8 billion still needs to be invested. The recommended investment of $1.5 billion in solar panels and HVAC systems should be accompanied by an additional $2.3 billion investment in energy efficiency projects on other public city-owned buildings. These investments totaling $3.8 billion will help ensure the city is aggressively making progress toward its climate goals in the years ahead.

Participants and speakers in the noon Zoom press call to unveil the Green, Healthy Schools action plan included: members and leaders of Climate Works for All, including ALIGN and New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA); New York City Council Members Justin Brannan and Helen Rosenthal; leaders of IBEW Local 3 and Alliance for Quality Education (AQE); New Yorkers living in communities most impacted by COVID and the climate crisis.

“I’m proud to stand with the Climate Works for All coalition in calling for the installation of solar-powered HVAC systems across New York City’s school system. This is a win-win for our city: students and teachers will breathe healthier air, we will reduce our carbon emissions, and residents will have access to new green jobs. It is long overdue that our schools make the switch to renewable energy,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal (Manhattan, District 6).

“The path to New York’s recovery must prioritize our children and their future. As more students return to classrooms, our public schools will need committed investment in infrastructure of all kinds. Ventilation and other upgrades are essential to ending the long-standing educational and environmental injustices in our communities, addressing chronic health disparities and making our children’s classrooms safer. Mayor de Blasio, and his successor, have a responsibility to the families and students of New York City to ensure that our public schools are healthy, safe and supportive environments for all students,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education.

“The ‘Green, Healthy Schools’ report clearly spells out the case for action by the City of NY to address the pressing issue of climate change while creating opportunities for union careers through sustainable jobs. Local 3 is an active partner in addressing the climate challenge while ensuring these job opportunities are not just short-term, low-skill, dead end solar installer jobs, but lead to apprenticeship positions that ultimately result in journey person status with long-term, family supporting wages and benefits. Now is the time for the city to invest in our future by committing to solar installations on schools and HVAC retrofits that will not only benefit the health and wellness of our children but also our communities with a cleaner city and life-changing work opportunities,” said Christopher Erikson, Business Manager IBEW Local 3 .

“Green Healthy Schools are a WIN-WIN for NYC.  Combining solar on schools, reliable HVAC for learning and good green jobs for NYC residents, this Climate Works for All Coalition plan imaginatively demonstrates how to design climate solutions that work for NYC’s communities,” said Wendy Seligson of the Jewish Climate Action Network NYC. 

“Facing an accelerating climate crisis, New York City must aggressively install renewable energy and storage infrastructure wherever possible.  Public school buildings are perfect sites for local renewable energy – especially in communities breathing polluted air from peaker plants, diesel and gasoline school buses, and highways.   Investing in renewables and efficiency retrofits schools are a critical step to replacing dirty power plants, dirty school buses, and wasteful buildings with green, clean infrastructure that our kids can thrive in and learn from,” said Justin Wood, Director of Policy for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

“If children are New York City’s future, then sheltering them in dirty and dilapidated schools sends a message of disregard and disrespect. It’s time for the city to put its money where its mouth is – invest in schools, reduce harmful pollution, and create a better future for everyone,” said Shiv Soin, Executive Director of TREEage.

“350Brooklyn is powered by so many Brooklyn families and educators, and we can think of no better place to prioritize local climate actions than our schools. Climate Works For All’s report on Creating Green, Healthy Schools shows how the nearly 1,800 NYC public school buildings — currently among the city’s most polluting facilities — could be sites for aggressive climate action, sources of new green jobs for our communities, and safer, healthier learning spaces for our children. Green, healthy schools that don’t run on fossil fuels will benefit us all in Brooklyn, but are especially crucial for low-income, environmentally-burdened neighborhoods that endured the city’s highest asthma rates before the pandemic and that have suffered so deeply from Covid. Our schools’ large rooftops are ideal for solar energy that will help our city reach its clean energy goals. What are we waiting for?,” said Sarah Orleans Reed of 350Brooklyn.

“Arcadia Electrical is a full-service N.Y.C. licensed electrical contractor.

We do both solar installations and electrical vehicle charging stations for the public and private industry. We employ union electricians and we have found that the training these workers receive is second to none, which allows our company to provide the best possible service to the end-user. In addition, we are securing good-paying jobs with benefits for these workers, which places them on a career path to the middle class & beyond. We encourage Mayor de Blasio to use the funds available to create a greener, cleaner & healthy city for all New Yorkers,” said Stephen Gianotti, President of Arcadia Electrical Co, Inc. 

“Climate Works for All’s budget demands of $1.5 billion towards installing solar and retrofitting HVAC in schools must be met so that all New Yorker’s have access to healthy schools, good-paying clean energy jobs, and surety of more resilient neighborhoods. This is our opportunity to address the economic recession, invest in frontline communities and tackle the climate crisis,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of NYC-EJA.