NYC Could Be the First City to Create an Agency to Manage Climate Change

This is just one of the political efforts to help mitigate climate change in New York City.


(Nielskliim /

New York City, the Big Apple, is often a trailblazer for culture, fashion, and food. Now it hopes to be a trailblazer for combatting the effects of global warming. New York could be the first US city to create an agency to manage the effects of climate change in an innovative project that could spread to other large cities in the US and around the world.

The bill proposed in February by City Councilman Costa Constantinides would create a new commissioner-led department that would carry out the city's sustainability policies. “Climate change is going to be the great challenge of the 21st century,” Constantinides, a Queens Democrat, said during a press conference in City Hall Park. “We need to put that on par with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection.”

The need for a climate change department is very evident in lower Manhattan, which was flooded during Hurricane Sandy and suffered an estimated $65 billion in damages. The coastal city is still reeling from the effects of mega-storm Sandy, whose size and strength was caused by climate change.

In New York City, climate preparedness falls under the various urban planning and environmental agencies. The city already has an office of Sustainability and an office of Recovery and Resiliency, and those agencies oversee the city's OneNYC climate plan that was established in 2015 by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The new bill proposes merging these offices into a Department of Sustainability that according to Constantinides would be able to shepherd more resources from the state and federal governments and allow a larger amount of city officials to deal with green energy, zoning laws, and disaster relief efforts.

This is just one of the political efforts to help mitigate climate change in NY. On the same day as the Department of Sustainability was proposed, City Councilman Mark Treyger from Brooklyn introduced a bill that orders the city’s Department of Transportation to study the “feasibility of applying to the surface of city streets sealcoat or any other material that has the effect of reflecting sunlight and lowering street surface temperatures.”

In January, Constantinides proposed a bill that would require the city to phase out its 24 oil and gas burning power stations and replace them with renewables. Last year, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced plans to divest the city's pension plan from oil and gas.

In October 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report said that the world would have a decade to halve global emissions to reduce the rise in global temperature and not many countries are on track to meet this including the US.

But, New York City is on the right track. If the new legislation passes and a new agency to combat climate change is formed, other large cities will follow the Big Apple's lead, and real change will be possible.

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