New York City

The New York City Green Infrastructure Plan

PlaNYC, Mayor Bloomberg’s sustainability plan published in 2007, committed the City to build more Bluebelts and Greenstreets, [...] incentivize green roofs, and form an Interagency Best Management Practices Task Force[1].

The Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan issued by that task force concluded that green infrastructure was feasible in many areas in the city and could be more cost-effective than certain large infrastructure projects such as CSO tunnels in terms of stormwater retained or detained.

The NYC Green Infrastructure Programme enacted in 2010 built upon these analyses by modelling CSO reductions associated with both green and grey infrastructure, and extended the commitments made in the Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan to meet the twin goals of improved water quality and a more liveable and sustainable New York City.[2]

In March 2012, the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan was incorporated into a consent order that will eliminate or defer $3.4 billion in traditional investments (think: bigger pipes to cope with stormwater) and result in approximately 1.5 billion US gallons of CSO spill reductions annually by 2030[3].

The City updates on the progress of its Green Infrastructure plan every year. We found the following quote in the preface to one of these updates particularly relevant:

The joint economic and environmental analysis contained within the plan has shown that the cost of new green infrastructure and more efficient water management systems would save billions of dollars over more traditional fixes. By using green infrastructure technology to keep stormwater out of our sewers, we can reduce sewer overflows and promote the sustainability policies that will make New York greener and greater – and save taxpayers money, too.
Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, Page i of The NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, 2011 update

Isn’t it rather curious that in New York, Green Infrastructure is deemed by its Mayor to be much better value than traditional (ie: bigger pipes) infrastructure but in London, it’s supposedly the other way around according to Thames Water[4]?

New York (City and State)’s response to hurricane Sandy

Those who experienced the wrath of Hurricane Sandy on the US East Coast in late October 2012 got a nasty wake-up call to the reality of Climate Change[5].

The NYS 2100 Commission, convened two weeks after Sandy left its trail of devastation wasted no time in producing its Preliminary Report to improve the strength and resilience on NYC’s infrastructure in January 2013. That report contains a set of cross-cutting recommendations. Chief among them: “encourage the use of green and natural infrastructure“…

The Commission was co-chaired by Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin, which inspired the Foundation to instigate their 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, recognizing the critical risk posed by 21st environmental challenges to our cities.

Finally, this was followed by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy, a concrete 69-point federal plan, which, at point 19 states:

RECOMMENDATION: Consider green infrastructure options in all Sandy infrastructure investments.
Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, August 2013.

Read the National Resource Defence Center (NRDC) summary of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy.

New York City recipient of the first City Climate Leadership Awards (2013)

A Stronger, More Resilient New York an update to PlaNYC was also released just seven months after Hurricane Sandy and strengthens previous commitments to understand and plan for “climate risks”, which can only be achieved by working with nature rather than against it.

As a recognition for this ambitious programme, it was awarded one of the ten City Climate Leadership Awards in Sept 2013.  Ironically, the award ceremony was held in London but our city, though nominated, wasn’t among the 10 winning cities…  There is still a lot of work to be done here to undo the damage wrought by years of self-interested lobbying by private monopoly corporations…

Further reading

  1. [1] The importance of getting various departments to cooperate cannot be overstated. This is another area where London lags years behind
  2. [2] Above paragraphs adapted from Climate Leadership Group Case Study: NYC Green Infrastructure Plan).
  3. [3] Source: page 209 of A Stronger, More Resilient New York, PlaNYC update, June 2013
  4. [4] This is one of many vacuous claims by Thames Water, which we scrutinize in our Thames Tideway Tunnel mythbuster (myth #2)
  5. [5] Let’s hope that it won’t take coping without electricity and heating for a couple of weeks in a cold month for Londoners to gain an appreciation for the need to start working with nature rather than against it…