Creating Green, Healthy Schools: Advocates Release Blueprint for Mayor Adams to Prioritize COVID Safety in Schools, Meet City Climate Goals, and Save $175 Million on Annual Energy Costs
New York, NY (June 1, 2022) – Today, ALIGN unveiled a new report establishing a blueprint for Mayor Adams to create Green, Healthy Schools, prioritizing neighborhoods most impacted by COVID and the climate crisis.
Analysis of data from New York City school ventilation audits reveals that 70% of public schools with the highest ventilation needs are located in environmental justice communities, with 52% in Brooklyn. Research suggests effective ventilation and reliable air quality monitoring can minimize the airborne transmission of COVID-19, and these findings highlight the disproportionate resource distribution in low-income Black and brown neighborhoods already burdened by the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
NYC K-12 public schools have been hit hard by the pandemic, with shutdowns stunting learning and disparate vaccination rates resulting in a daily student infection rate that’s 39% higher than the city average. Cases are on the rise once again, with NYC’s COVID alert level designated high since May 16.
Public schools are also among the biggest public polluters in the city, with many school buildings relying on inefficient, fossil fuel-dependent energy systems for everyday essential needs like heating and cooling. ALIGN’s report reveals that the city is more than 80% behind on its solar installation targets, with only 1 of 67 solar priority schools completed.
Green, Healthy Schools offers Mayor Adams an equitable action plan to help the City justly transition to a zero-emissions economy and address pandemic recovery needs. Solar systems will reduce the City’s reliance on fossil fuels, and deep retrofits, starting with HVAC upgrades, will make buildings more energy efficient. Prioritizing this work in environmental justice communities can help the City invest in neighborhoods most vulnerable to climate change and the public health crisis and establish a model for private buildings to comply with targets set by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and Community Mobilization Act of 2019 (CMA). Together, these strategies can lower energy usage and reduce carbon emissions that pollute the air; create good-paying career jobs in clean energy; and enable public schools to become net-zero in the coming years.
Researchers from ALIGN who developed the Green, Healthy Schools blueprint estimate that installing solar and HVACs in every public school would cost $1.8 billion annually through 2030. The plan would result in at least 50% energy savings or $175 million in saved energy costs per year and create about 63,000 direct jobs annually.
“NYC’s youth spend 180 days a year in school, where their health and safety must be our priority. But as COVID case numbers rise once again, their health remains at risk in overpopulated, poorly ventilated classrooms,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN, a leader of the Climate Works for All coalition. “Public schools are among the city’s dirtiest buildings, but they can be our greatest solutions. Our Green, Healthy Schools blueprint will ensure that the City prioritizes health and climate equity while creating hundreds of career jobs for communities most impacted by the climate crisis. Now, the onus is on the city to make it happen, and there’s no time to wait.”
“We cannot allow our public schools to continue to be big polluters in New York City. The Green, Healthy Schools Campaign will get us on track to make our schools part of the strategy to combat the climate crisis and protect our kids today and our planet for future generations,” said Councilmember Lincoln Restler (District 33).
“The Green, Healthy Schools action plan is critical to addressing the climate crisis in New York City. Renewable energy and retrofits are key steps towards ensuring a cleaner city and good job opportunities for our residents. The City must continue to take climate action because the future of NYC depends on it, and this plan is a blueprint towards success,” said Christopher Erickson Jr., Assistant Business Manager at IBEW Local 3.
“Cafeteria workers deal with extreme heat in the public school kitchens, even in the winter time. Using fans is totally unacceptable and does nothing but cool down the food, causing it to be served out of compliance with the Health Department as food is supposed to be served at a certain temperature. Ventilation is extremely important for the health & welfare of these dedicated, hard-working members,” said Shaun D. Francois I, President, Local 372 & District Council 37.
“TREEage’s 250+ members are proud to stand in support of ALIGN’s Green, Healthy Schools report and plan of a better future for New York City’s 1 million students. Every young person deserves an education uninterrupted by old, unhealthy buildings and increasing pollution. Young people deserve education with dignity and this report outlines a plan forward that will do just that,” said Shiv Soin, Executive Director of TREEage.
“From Brownsville to the East Bronx, every New York City community should be home to a healthy, state-of-the-art public school. We know that public schools are major polluters and that antiquated school buildings with inefficient air conditioning and heating systems, deteriorating rooftops, and outdated electrical systems are all too common, especially in communities of color. It doesn’t have to be this way. We have billions of federal dollars available right now that our city can invest in repairing and retrofitting school buildings to create healthier classrooms for students and educators, slash carbon emissions and pollution, create good union jobs, and save our city millions of dollars in energy costs. Healthy school buildings mean healthy kids, educators, and communities. Let’s get it done.” Dave Hancock, Interim Executive Director, Climate Jobs NY.
ALIGN (Alliance for a Greater New York) is a longstanding alliance of labor and community organizations united for a just and sustainable New York. ALIGN works at the intersection of economy, environment, and equity to make change and build movement. Our model addresses the root causes of economic injustice by forging strategic coalitions, shaping the public debate through strategic communications, and developing policy solutions that make an impact.
About Climate Works for All
The Climate Works for All Coalition, led by ALIGN and NYC EJA, is a citywide partnership of over 50 labor, environmental justice organizations, faith, and climate advocates united to ensure that efforts addressing climate change create good career-track jobs, and prioritize low-income climate-vulnerable New Yorkers. Learn more at nyclimateworks.org.