Expert Voices: David Bragdon

Under the leadership of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (currently serving as chair of C40), New York City is firmly on the path toward a sustainable future. Its course was set by PlaNYC, a landmark effort launched in 2007 to drive environmental leadership and infrastructure investment in ways that support economic growth.  

The city has recently put forth an updated plan, which demonstrates striking progress, reaffirms goals, and sets new targets for the years ahead. Here, David Bragdon, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability in New York, tells us more about the latest PlaNYC, and his interest in sharing successes and challenges with other cities throughout the C40 network.

“When Mayor Bloomberg first announced PlaNYC in 2007, our bold agenda for creating a greener and greater New York City, he cited an old proverb: ‘The Earth was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children.’ The thought captured in this proverb guides every aspect of the work we’ve put into PlaNYC, an unprecedented effort to prepare the city for one million more residents, strengthen our economy, combat climate change, and enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers.

The Plan brought together over 25 City agencies to pursue its integrative agenda, and the city has since made significant progress. Over 97% of the 127 initiatives in PlaNYC were launched within one-year of its release and almost two-thirds of its 2009 milestones were achieved. In just four years the city has added hundreds of hectares of new parkland, reduced greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels, and enacted the most ambitious laws of any city in the country to make existing buildings in the city more energy efficient.

The updated plan we released in April 2011 is no less ambitious, with 132 new initiatives and more than 400 specific milestones to achieve by December 31, 2013. Several highlights of the Updated PlaNYC include:

The Clean Heat Campaign : Believe it or not, the 1% of City buildings that burn #6 or #4 heating oil produce 86% of all soot pollution from buildings. That’s more soot than is produced by all the cars and trucks in New York City combined! PlaNYC will eliminate the use of #6 heating oil by 2015 and #4 by 2030, and we will also be working with the utilities and property owners to accelerate the transition to cleaner fuels.  These steps will bring us closer to the goal of New Yorkers breathing the cleanest air of any city in the US.

Solar Landfills: This PlaNYC update calls for placing solar panels at decommissioned landfills, including Fresh Kills and Fountain Avenue. Solar landfills could generate more than 50 megawatts of clean solar power each year for New Yorkers – enough to replace the current oil-burning “peak load generators” that discharge 56,000 tons of carbon dioxide into our air every year. We’ll be expanding the use of other renewable and distributed generation sources, too.

GreeNYC : We will strengthen our public communication tools, including GreeNYC, an information resource that educates and inspires citizens about the positive changes they can make in their own lives to make the city a greener place.

Of course the updated plan in its entirety has much more information, and I look forward to discussing key aspects at the C40 Mayors Summit in Sao Paulo this week. I am thrilled to be joining Mayors and delegations from so many cities around the world, all focused on solutions to climate change. We have much to learn from one another over the next few days -- and thereafter. Together, we can make a difference.”

Mr. Bragdon is joined by colleagues Adam Freed, Deputy Director of the Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability, Cas Holloway, Commissioner, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, and Roya Kazemi, Director, GreeNYC, to form a strong New York delegation at the C40 Mayors Summit in Sao Paulo. They served as moderators of the sessions on Waste Management, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Urban Drainage, and Public Engagement, respectively.