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Mayor de Blasio Appoints Nilda Mesa as Director of the New Office of Sustainability

December 4, 2014

Mesa brings extensive environmental experience at all levels of government, public and private sectors, including at White House and EPA

Mesa and Office of Sustainability will coordinate administration's environmental agenda, lead implementation of 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 and major green buildings plan

NEW YORK—Today, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Nilda Mesa as the Director of the new Office of Sustainability, which will spearhead the administration's environmental and sustainability initiatives.

Mesa brings with her extensive experience at the local, state, and federal levels of government, and in both the public and private sector. She will coordinate the administration's sustainability initiatives and green investments, guide interagency processes, and help lead implementation of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and One City, Built to Last¸ Mayor de Blasio's sweeping green buildings plan.

Mesa is currently the Director at the NYC Mayor's Office of Environmental Coordination. Prior to joining the administration, Mesa served in two key capacities at Columbia University, as the Assistant Vice President of Environmental Stewardship from 2006 to 2012 and as the Chief Administrative Officer and Associate Dean of Administrative Affairs at the Graduate School of Journalism from 2012 to 2013.

Previously, Mesa served as the Associate Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, leading an initiative involving over thirty agencies to streamline implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act. She also served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as Counsel to the NAFTA Taskforce, where she led U.S. legal negotiations with Canada and Mexico and implemented legislation related to trade and the environment. Mesa served as the Assistant Deputy for Environment at the U.S. Air Force, and began her career at the California Attorney General's Office enforcing toxic management and natural resources laws. She has a J.D. from Harvard University and a B.A. from Northwestern University.

"Climate change poses nothing short of an existential threat to New Yorkers and our planet. Nilda Mesa – with her passion for our environment and her extensive experience across all levels of government and the public and private sectors – will make a lasting impact on our city as she leads our new Office of Sustainability," said Mayor de Blasio. "As we work toward an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050, I'm thrilled to have Nilda on board to make our ambitious, vital policies a reality."

"The de Blasio administration has made clear that it not only sets ambitious goals, but also does what's necessary to achieve them. The challenge before us may seem daunting, but we know there's no choice but bold action – and I am thrilled to lead the Office of Sustainability as we implement the Mayor's sweeping new policies and work toward an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050," said Nilda Mesa, Director of the Office of Sustainability. As New Yorkers, we're all in this together: we breathe the same air, drink from the same water supply, and suffer the same impacts of climate change. Let's leave a legacy for our kids that will make them proud."

Mayor de Blasio also announced today the merger of the Mayor's Office of Environmental Coordination (MOEC) with the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability into the new Office of Sustainability.  MOEC has overseen the City's environmental review process, administers the City's green buildings program, and advises on other key environmental issues. OLTPS has spearheaded the City's sustainability agenda, developing the policies and programs that increase efficiency and enhance the economy, improve quality of life, and better protect the environment.

Bringing the two offices together into the centralized Office of Sustainability will make City processes more efficient, while also better utilizing the deep subject matter knowledge in the two offices. The new office will allow the City to integrate its policies and planning for City buildings along with non-City buildings, and ensure better performance measurements particularly in the area of energy and green building.  It will also enable the City to better use the analytical data within the offices to inform decision making across key issues areas, such as transportation, community facilities and services, parks, air quality, water, brownfields, energy, solid waste and safety, which are already analyzed under the city's review process as well as in PlaNYC. As part of this effort, the City will look toward new opportunities to improve City regulatory processes, including public engagement with those processes.

The Office of Sustainability will work in partnership with the Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR) – created earlier this year by Mayor de Blasio and led by Daniel Zarrilli – with the Office of Sustainability leading the administration's efforts to dramatically reduce our contributions to climate change, while ORR implements a comprehensive citywide plan to protect against its risks.

"I am so pleased that someone of Nilda Mesa's expertise and experience will now be overseeing the City's sustainability policy initiatives and overall strategic direction," said Bill Goldstein, Senior Advisor to the Mayor for Recovery, Resiliency, and Infrastructure. "With Dan Zarrilli, who heads up the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, and Nilda overseeing our Sustainability agenda, we have a great team that will tackle all sides of climate policy and ensure a stronger, sustainable, and resilient New York City. I also want to recognize and thank Dan for his stewardship of our sustainability work over these past months."

"Climate change and extreme weather events are a continuing and growing threat to New York City," said Daniel Zarrilli, Director of the Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency. "I look forward to partnering with Nilda Mesa and the Office of Sustainability in the effort to reduce our contributions to the causes of climate change and to further our city's global leadership in sustainability and resiliency."

"Nilda Mesa's appointment to the newly created Office of Sustainability is an important step in supporting New York City's efforts to be an environmentally tenable city," said Chair to the Committee on Environmental Protection, Council Member Donovan Richards. "The Office of Sustainability smartly combines the review and oversight functions of Environmental Coordination with the implementation and foresight of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. I look forward to an even stronger partnership with the administration to address the various challenges posed by climate change and finding innovative solutions to meet them head on."              

"Nilda Mesa is a terrific choice to lead New York City's sustainability initiatives," said Andy Darrell, New York Regional Director of the Environmental Defense Fund. "She brings an impressive track record in government, the private sector, and with communities. As Chief Sustainability Officer at Columbia University, she pioneered the use of cutting-edge clean air technologies as well as worked with diverse stakeholders to deliver environmental results for the university and its neighbors. We look forward to working with her and her team to reinforce the mayor's commitment to energy efficiency, clean air, and other clean energy measures that will directly impact the health and well-being of New Yorkers."

"Nilda Mesa has sterling environmental credentials and the confidence of the Mayor, two extremely valuable assets for success in this critical new position.  We welcome her appointment and look forward to working with her on the challenges ahead," said Eric A. Goldstein, New York City Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"The Office of Sustainability will play a key role in marshalling communities, government and the private sector to make environmental progress. Nilda Mesa is an exciting choice to lead this new office precisely because of her extensive experience across different sectors," said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. "We look forward to working with her and the administration on the city's next comprehensive sustainability plan, and on the larger mission of creating a greener, healthier city for all."

Tom Wright, executive director of Regional Plan Association, said: "The threats of severe weather and climate change demand comprehensive and creative action, and by appointing proven leaders to direct and coordinate sustainability and resiliency planning, the city will be able to better tackle some of the most pressing challenges we face."

"The responsible course for New York City and its real estate industry is to continue to lead the way forward by adopting sustainability and resiliency measures that will reduce greenhouse gases and protect New Yorkers from the impacts of global climate change," said Steven Spinola, President of The Real Estate Board of New York. "We are excited about the leadership the de Blasio administration has put in place to address these critical issues and we look forward to working with the City on policies to achieve its goals of an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050."

"Nilda Mesa is an excellent choice to head the Mayor's Office of Sustainability.  She has a deep understanding of the issues related to sustainability, which is essential in order to bring new thinking to the building, real estate, energy, waste and transportation industries. Her warm, engaging and inclusive manner positions her well to meet the demands of the job, which include convincing building owners, operators and tenants that first cost capital and professional development investments will be more than offset by lower operational costs and other continuing benefits," said Pat Sapinsley, Co-Chair of the Committee on the Environment at the American Institute of Architects (NY). "In accordance with the Mayor's commitment to the ‘80 x 50 Plan' and the City Council's recent green legislation, Nilda will be empowered to create specific goals and programs that are both auditable and enforceable.  She is ideally qualified to carry this ambitious program from concept to fruition. As a coalition builder and a good listener, she will be able to bring many disparate groups together to make the 80x50 Plan a reality. In this way, she will help the de Blasio Administration to make good on its commitments and make progress towards the stated goals of measurable and significantly reduced carbon emissions."

"This is a smart choice to fill a critical position," said Russell Unger, Executive Director of Urban Green Council. "Nilda is a stalwart in the sustainability community who knows the big issues facing the city as well as the challenges of implementation. Streamlining sustainability functions into one new office is also a positive step. We look forward to working with Nilda, and the de Blasio administration, to tackle sustainability and resiliency challenges, and to help implement One City Built to Last."

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