By Chloe Skye on Jul 16, 2010

New York City Already Ahead In Sustainability Goals

Central Park Sheep Meadow

PlaNYC calls for better planning so that all New Yorkers live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Photo: Flickr/wallyg

In December 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg challenged New Yorkers from all five boroughs to generate ideas towards improving the sustainability of their city. The result was PlaNYC 2030, which focuses on enhancing five key dimensions of the city’s environment: land, air, water, energy and transportation.

The Plan’s biggest objectives include ensuring a higher quality of life for future generations of New Yorkers and effecting a 30 percent reduction in the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Since its implementation in 2007, PlaNYC has made notable headway on its goals, as outlined in its Progress Report 2010.

One of the Plan’s stipulations is that all New Yorkers should live within a 10-minute walk of a park. From 2007 to 2010, the percentage of New Yorkers living within a quarter mile of a park rose 8 percent, for a total of 84 percent.

The Schoolyards to Playgrounds program opened 113 sites, effectively adding 85 more acres of open space to the city’s children. In addition, the city has planted more than 322,000 trees, achieving nearly one-third of the MillionTreesNYC goal of 1 million new trees by 2017. As of now, it is 65,000 trees ahead of schedule.

New York City also notes that, because the need for space grows while the land supply is fixed, it must use its land more efficiently. This has sparked attention towards renovating brownfields, which are vacant or underutilized properties blocked from redevelopment by pollution.

“The Brownfield Incentive Grant is the first in a series of new programs for brownfields, and each will help land owners and developers clean up contaminated properties and bring them back into productive use,” said Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith.

The Plan aims to improve water quality by opening 90 percent of NYC waterways to recreation through preservation of natural areas and pollution reduction.

While investments in the sewer system and wastewater treatment plants have made New York Harbor cleaner than ever, stormwater management remains a challenge to be dealt with by updated infrastructure.

The Plan also targets air quality, striving to reduce road vehicle and building emissions through promoting cleaner fuels.

The Clean Air School Bus law has taken the oldest and most polluting buses off the streets and mandated that diesel-powered buses must be retrofitted with filters. In addition, the Green Taxis Act of 2009 converted 25 percent of the city’s 13,237 yellow taxis to hybrid or clean diesel vehicles.

“Through PlaNYC, which was launched just three years ago, we are transforming New York into a greener, greater city – even as we prepare for a million more New Yorkers,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “In doing so, we continue to prove that being more sustainable isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing.”

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