FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2008
MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG DELIVERS KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT WORKSHOP HOSTED BY NEW YORK-NEW JERSEY HARBOR CONSORTIUM OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
The Following is Mayor Bloomberg’s Prepared Remarks. Please Check Against Delivery
"Thank you, Charles, and good afternoon, fellow scientists.
"That's right. Besides being an engineering major in college, I want you to know that I went to the Science Museum in Boston every single weekend for years as a kid. It was there that I learned how to handle snakes and reptiles - which some might say was perfect training for politics, but not me! I also want to say what a pleasure it is to join so many of you who are so passionate about New York Harbor. I'm right there with you! I've long believed that one of the most romantic evenings in the city is a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry. I admit it: I'm a cheap date.
"The New York Academy of Sciences is an incredible organization, a leader on so many fronts - including the revitalization of Lower Manhattan. The Academy was the first tenant in the new 7 World Trade Center building - a bold move that was not only emblematic of Downtown's resurgence, but also returned the Academy to the neighborhood where it was founded back in 1817.
"Since those early days, the Academy has adhered to the fundamental belief that good science makes good policy. Nothing less. That idea is the foundation of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Consortium's in-depth report and recommendations on cleaning and protecting our watershed. And it's a philosophy that I'm strongly committed to, as well.
"There's an old saying: 'In God we trust. Everyone else bring data.' Well, I've found that in business and government, those are good words to live by. In New York City, we've used data to drive just about every decision we've made. Take, for instance, public safety: By relentlessly mapping crime trends and deploying officers accordingly, we've reduced crime by more than 20% since 2001 - cementing our hold on the title of 'America's safest big city.' Or take our anti-smoking initiatives: Data showed that tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death - and that's why we raised the tax on cigarettes and implemented a pioneering smoking ban - which has led to a 52% decrease in teen smoking since 2001.
"Even though New Yorkers already produce less than a third of the carbon emissions that the average American does - we can and must do more. That's why we have set a bold but achievable goal of cutting the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030. To begin working towards this target, we took a small but essential step: conducting a comprehensive citywide inventory of our carbon emissions. Not only did this data establish a starting point for us to measure our reduction efforts, it also identified the largest sources of emissions and measured the impacts of other energy-saving actions taken in the past.
"That information - which we first released here at the New York Academy of Sciences in April 2007 - has helped us design an energy conservation plan that has three principal elements. The first starts from the fact that the more than 900,000 buildings in New York City account for almost 80% of the city's carbon footprint. So we're making a major push to get public and private buildings to use energy more efficiently and cleanly. At the same time, we're committing $80 million a year - equal to 10% of our annual energy costs - to reducing City government's production of heat-trapping gases.
"If our buildings use less electricity, that reduces demand on our power plants - but we also want the power plants themselves to be more efficient. So our second focus is replacing old and heavily polluting power plants with newer, more efficient ones, and re-powering or improving existing ones.
"And third, we'll work to decrease transportation-related CO2 emissions, by converting our taxis and black cars to hybrids, and most importantly by reducing the number of vehicles on our streets and highways. That's where our proposal for congestion pricing comes in - which would establish a fee for driving into the busiest part of the city during peak hours.
"Congestion pricing is particularly effective because it accomplishes two goals at once. First, it provides an economic incentive for commuters to leave their cars at home. And second, it creates a revenue stream dedicated to funding mass transit improvements. I completely understand the hesitation about congestion pricing. I was a skeptic myself, at first. But I've looked closely at the facts - and the facts are, in cities like London and Singapore, fees have succeeded in reducing traffic, improving air quality, and increasing economic productivity.
"The U.S. Department of Transportation has already made a pledge of more than $350 million to support implementation of our plan. On Monday, the City Council stood up and did the right thing when it sent a home rule message to Albany in favor of congestion pricing. Two thirds of the "yes" votes came from council members outside Manhattan. We remain hopeful that the State legislature will also do the right thing and enact our plan.
"Remember where we were twenty, thirty years ago, when a lack of investment in our subways badly hurt the economic health of our city. If we make the same mistake now, we're going to be right back where we were. And let's not forget how bad it was: Back then, New Yorkers who took the subway would face what some people called the "four Ds": Delays, Detours, Discomfort and Danger. We can't afford not to act on congestion pricing: an idea whose time has come.
"Buildings, power plants, vehicles. These are the principal sources of our city's pollution and greenhouse gases. But as we work to reduce them, we must also clean and protect the resources which have borne the brunt of our polluting. That includes our waterways.
"New York is a city surrounded by one of the most sophisticated and extensive harbor systems in the world. Unfortunately, for centuries it has been the catch basin for the pollutants in our air, and most significantly, for our sewage. Clearly it's not as bad as it once was - when taking a dip in the Hudson required a trip to the doctor to get your head examined! But it's certainly not as clean as it could be - and should be.
"The underlying problem is that the city's sewer system was designed with one goal in mind - to prevent flooding and protect public health by moving sewage and storm water to our waterways. Right now, 60% of the city's sewer network captures both storm water run-off and sewage in the same pipes. That's effective at reducing disease and flooding - but not so helpful for our surrounding ecosystems. During dry weather our sewage system and treatment plants can easily handle all of the city's waste. But add as little as a tenth of an inch of hard rain, and our treatment plants begin to strain past their limits. The extra flow - which ends up containing about 10% sewage - is dumped, untreated, into the surrounding bays and rivers.
"The consequences of these 'Combined Sewer Overflows' are bad enough for our beautiful rivers and harbor, but for the inlets and canals - like the Gowanus - where there are no natural currents to help flush out pollutants, the sewage and toxins have been piling up on the waterbed for decades.
"Since 1980, we've been able to cut this water pollution by more than 50%. And we've done that by upgrading our treatment plants so that they can handle twice the volume of flow that would occur on a normal day of dry weather. We've also committed more than $2.5 billion to improve the city's largest plant at Newtown Creek, on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Now, we are going to build on this progress by investing more than $10 billion in two critical strategies.
"The first is completing large capital improvements that will expand and enhance our sewers and wastewater treatment plants. Commissioner Emily Lloyd and our Department of Environmental Protection are constructing four holding tanks in Northern Queens and Jamaica Bay that can temporarily retain 118 million gallons of Combined Sewage Overflow until after a storm passes. At the same time, we will upgrade two of our pumping stations to prevent storm water overflow from pouring into our most polluted waterways at the Gowanus Canal and Coney Island Creek. And to protect aquatic life even further, we've committed more than $820 million to upgrade four wastewater treatment plants along the Upper East River with new technology that will reduce by 50% the amount of nitrogen they discharge into Long Island Sound.
"Our second strategy to reduce overflows after rainstorms is preventing water from entering our combined sewer system in the first place. That means pursuing proven water retention and diversion strategies. For instance, in new neighborhood developments like Hudson Yards and Queens West, we will build High Level Storm Sewers, which can capture 50% of the rainfall - before it enters our pipes - and divert it directly into surrounding waterways, taking some of the pressure off our treatment plants.
"We will also pilot a range of what are sometimes called 'Best Management Practices' that harness our environment as a natural water filter. Trees, plants, and other vegetation are great natural storm filters - which is why we've undertaken a mammoth effort to green our city.
"It begins up above - with the creation of rainwater-absorbing green roofs. In fact, Radio City Music Hall is about to install one of the city's largest green roofs - and we will encourage others to follow their lead by working with the State to enact a property tax abatement that offsets 35% of installation costs.
"We will make our streets and sidewalks greener, too, by planting more grassy medians and traffic islands, and by changing the City's zoning regulations to require landscaping around large parking lots. That's actually one of the great features of the Mets' new ballpark, which will be one of the most environmentally-friendly stadiums in the world when it opens next year.
"In addition, we recently launched a 10-year campaign to plant one million new trees on our streets and in parks across the city. That's the equivalent of 40 times the number of trees in Central Park! And we will continue to expand the intricate network of streams, ponds, and wetlands which make up the Staten Island Bluebelt system - created several years ago by my former DEP commissioner and a big collaborator on your study, Chris Ward.
"All of these strategies work - they've proven to work - and together, they will improve our rate of capturing Combined Sewage Overflow from 70% to 75%. But to make an even greater difference we also must be willing to be innovative and take risks.
"For instance, we will not simply plant new trees around the city; we will also explore new ways of planting them to maximize the water their roots can absorb. And we will seek to restore what was once one of the Harbor's most celebrated features by creating 20 cubic meters of ribbed mussel beds. Mussels, as I'm sure you all know, are one of nature's finest filtration systems.
"There's no guarantee that any of these ideas will be completely successful. But if these approaches don't work - we'll find another way. We won't let the fear of failure deter us - we can't afford to. We can no longer just sit back and hope that these problems will go away… or that others around the country and the world will take the lead. No. It's up to us - every one of us - to do our part in improving our beloved Harbor and our environment.
"Before I close, I want to make one final point, related to your study. Along with our efforts to ensure that the Harbor is clean and safe, we are also committed to making sure that it remains the incredible economic engine that it has been since the birth of our nation.
"So far, we have been disposing the dredged material safely and appropriately at Fresh Kills and other landfill sites in New Jersey. And as we move forward with this project and look for future sites to receive the dredged material, you can count on one thing - that we will continue making decisions not based on unfounded fears, but based on the hard science of what is cost-effective and what is safe.
"New Jersey, for instance, has been safely using dredged material to build golf courses and shopping malls. It's a great example of how protecting our environment and protecting our economy can go hand in hand.
"Indeed, the future of our Harbor - and New York City itself - depends on it. And that's why the work you are doing to clean up our waterways is so important. We clearly share the same goals - and the same values - and together we can ensure the best days for New York are still ahead.
"Thank you, and have a great day."
Stu Loeser/John Gallagher (212) 788-2958
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