Recommendations for Creating a Department of Sustainability and Climate Change in NYC


Graduate students report on proposed bill to create a new department overseeing sustainability efforts in New York City.

In our second semester as graduate students in the Environmental Science and Policy program, we had the opportunity to explore a proposed bill that sets out to create a Department of Sustainability and Climate Change within New York City. The bill would mandate that a commissioner, advisory board, and interagency green team be established within the department, and address all facets of sustainability, recovery, and resiliency for New York City. Currently, there is an Office of Sustainability, an Office of Resiliency, and an Office of Environmental Coordination within the mayor’s office, but this bill would move the functions of these offices under one department overseen by a commissioner rather than the mayor. The department would hold itself more accountable to working directly with citizen stakeholders and would receive a larger budget to carry out its many functions.

In our policy analysis workshop, overseen by program director Steven Cohen, I was on a team that explored the bill’s political feasibility, programming, and implementation. Climate change is an imminent threat to New York City. Ever since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the city has had to re-shift its focus toward resiliency efforts to better protect against increased precipitation, heat waves, and sea level rise. With plans like OneNYC 2050 and Roadmap to 80 x 50, a stronger department appears to be a necessity rather than a luxury. Cementing such a department would also help to meet the goals of New York’s “Green New Deal.”

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