Today, New York City finds itself at a place of great promise and great peril. The City’s enormous energy needs and reliance on fossil fuels are rising as we continue to grow and welcome new residents. The dangers of fossil fuel use, including climate change and unhealthy communities, are increasingly clear to an ever-larger number of New Yorkers, who also understand that the “more power plants” approach to electricity generation exacerbates these problems. At the same time, New York’s historic economic growth in some quarters is masking decline in others. A struggling industrial economy, spiraling cost of living and lack of affordable housing threaten to push the city’s working class into the ranks of the working poor. New York City cannot remain viable through this century if we do not address these challenges.
The problems of energy use and consumption, however, offer a great opportunity to link environmental stewardship and job creation in developing a more sustainable and equitable New York City. With targeted investments and action, the city can exchange its dangerous reliance on fossil fuels for a diversified energy portfolio, foster a new industrial sector within the regional economy and enhance the health and performance of our built environment through a sustainable development approach. With its location, workforce and industrial infrastructure, New York City is well positioned to support a new economy based on green building, green manufacturing and energy conservation. A new energy, high performance economy will improve the city’s environmental sustainability while expanding the benefits of economic growth to all of its communities.
The steps we must take to seize this opportunity already have been proposed by many of New York City’s environmental, business, labor and environmental justice leaders. Yet although New York City can achieve much on its own, State action is needed on several fronts if the city is to build a new energy, high performance economy. This report calls on New York State to help us realize this vision by spearheading ten new initiatives.