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For Immediate Release: March 24, 2022

Contact: Rendy Desamours,





New York, NY -A powerful coalition of union workers, parents, and environmental activists stood alongside elected officials and students on the steps of City Hall on Thursday to call for the City Council and Mayor to fund the Carbon Free and Healthy Schools (CFHS) initiative in this year’s City Fiscal Year 2023 budget.

The gathered speakers emphasized throughout the rally how the plan could simultaneously tackle multiple priorities of City leaders while also addressing longtime concerns of students, faculty and school staff, including improving aging school infrastructure, creating pathways to union careers for young people in underserved communities and addressing racial inequality.

With an average age of 70, NYC public school buildings suffer from antiquated heating and cooling systems, electrical grids and roofs. A large number of the schools that are poorly maintained primarily serve Black and Latino students, highlighting the racial justice imperative of taking action.

Backed by the Sunrise Movement, Climate Works for All and unions including 32BJ SEIU, AFSCME District Council 37, Building and Construction Trades Council, United Federation of Teachers, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators and the NYC Central Labor Council, the CFHS plan would:

  • Make energy-efficient retrofits to school buildings and cut 75,000 tons of carbon emissions

  • Upgrade school HVAC and air conditioning systems

  • Save the Department of Education $250 million per year

  • Install solar panels and fix roofs in need of repairs

  • Create tens of thousands new union jobs

“One of my lasting accomplishments while serving as Community Board Chair was helping to spearhead the building of three new public schools in Downtown Manhattan,” said Councilmember Julie Menin. “I am proud to say that one of these schools was New York City’s first green school, built with sustainable infrastructure. The importance of providing newly updated schools with climate resilient infrastructure cannot be overstated. Our students deserve more green schools that are healthy and safe for generations to come.”

“Climate change and environmental injustices continue to impact our communities, from heat waves, to flash floods, to ongoing air pollution,” said Councilmember Sandy Nurse. “Now is the time to invest, build, and implement solutions. NYC can and must lead by example. Building public solar on our public schools is a clear win. Increasing energy efficiency in our public schools is a win. Lowering utility costs for the DOE is a win. And directing those funds to climate and education is a win! The Carbon-Free and Healthy Schools plan, alongside the advocacy of community and environmental justice organizations, is just the bold action we need to fix our school buildings and drastically cut carbon emissions. I’m excited to support this initiative and encourage my colleagues to do the same.”

“It’s clear that now more than ever New York City’s public schools need a historic investment in their infrastructure. Too many schools deal with outdated HVAC systems, faulty electrical wiring, leaky roofs and beyond. Carbon Free and Healthy Schools is the long-term, sustainable, and equitable solution this city needs to create more resilient schools and bring green, unionized careers to our young people, especially in neighborhoods that have historically been overlooked” said Jeff Vockrodt , Executive Director, Climate Jobs NY. “We hope to partner with the Mayor and City Council on this effort and ensure that students, faculty and staff can thrive in a safe and healthy environment.”

“With the Carbon Free & Healthy Schools initiative, our city has the opportunity to create tens of thousands of “green” jobs while also reversing the decades of underinvestment in public school infrastructure,” said Mike Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “Our students, teachers, and staff deserve modern schools that also work to improve our environment. This should be a top priority of our City Council and Mayor.”

“CSA is a proud member of the Carbon Free & Healthy Schools campaign because we understand how vital it is to retrofit our public schools with green infrastructure and meet the global climate challenge,” said Mark Cannizzaro, President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. “Our New York City schools have experienced decades of underinvestment, seen in the outdated ventilation and filtration systems that are in place. The Carbon Free & Healthy Schools campaign will use funding to correct this poor infrastructure immediately before our students and the planet face further risk.”

“Too many of our school buildings are several decades old and in need of critical repairs,” says Gary LaBarbera, President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and New York State. “The Carbon Free and Healthy Schools plan would address these issues and our members are ready on Day 1 to make it a reality. We need this investment from City leaders for every New Yorker who walks in our school buildings everyday whether they’re educating, learning, providing meals or keeping the environment clean and safe.”

“One of the key initiatives of Climate Jobs NY is to create good union jobs combating climate change in the Carbon Free and Healthy Schools campaign,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the NYC Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “Years of disinvestment in public school buildings has exposed our kids to unhealthy, run down educational facilities. Now is the time to make a dedicated effort to help transition them to be carbon-free and energy efficient. Not only would this initiative dramatically cut emissions, but it would also save millions of taxpayer dollars while creating thousands of job opportunities for low income and marginalized communities.”

“The pandemic exposed the inequities in our school system’s infrastructure front and center for all New Yorkers to see. For the workers and students, especially those who live and learn in communities of color, who have endured years of crumbling infrastructures detrimental to working and learning conditions, the Carbon Free & Healthy Schools plan offers a path to transformative change” said Kyle Bragg, President, SEIU 32BJ. “32BJ is proud to be a part of the Carbon Free & Healthy Schools campaign to commit to a systematic overhaul of our city’s public school infrastructure and bring good-paying, union jobs to the communities that need them the most.”

“32BJ is proud to be working with Climate Jobs New York and advocating for the Carbon Free and Healthy Schools Initiative,” said Shirley Aldebol, NYC Schools Director at 32BJ. “ Throughout my years at 32BJ, I have spoken with parents, students, and union members who all make the same complaint: Our schools need repairs and upgrades now. The outdated infrastructure of our schools makes it increasingly difficult to keep our schools healthy and safe for our students and staff. The NYC City Council must act now to fund the implementation of green infrastructure within our schools before it is too late.”

“I have been a cleaner in a school in the Bronx for over 6 years and throughout this time I have been hearing the same complaints echoed by my coworkers: The age and outdated condition of school buildings make our jobs extremely difficult,” says Angel Ocasio, Member of 32BJ and NYC Schools cleaner. “As workers, we not only deserve the right to fair wages and benefits, we also deserve a healthy and safe workplace. 32BJ is calling upon the NYC City Council to invest in our public schools for energy efficiency upgrades, not just for the purpose of protecting workers like me, but also to protect our children from future climate change impacts.”

“Another world is possible for the children of this city,” said Paola Sanchez of Sunrise NYC. “Creating Carbon Free and Healthy schools in NYC would eliminate 75,000 tons of carbon emissions from our schools.  We would save the public tens of millions of dollars, and at that, we would create thousands of good union jobs in the process.  Best of all, we would give students of color a path from public school to strong careers and imaginative futures.”

“As we turn a corner in the pandemic, our city is in a state of renewal. Now is the time to invest in a resilient future for NYC, starting with our most precious public infrastructure: public schools. By dedicating $1.6 billion a year to school solar systems and retrofits, beginning with HVAC upgrades, we can improve student health, enhance classroom performance, create green career jobs, and prioritize the Black and brown communities most affected by Covid and the climate crisis,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN, a leader of the Climate Works for All coalition.