Green Infrastructure Recommendations for Western NY

On October 11, 2016, in partnership with local officials and community-based organizations, NYLCVEF hosted a forum on the topic of green infrastructure in the Buffalo-Niagara metropolitan region. The forum featured two panel discussions of policymakers and green infrastructure experts:

Panel 1: Lynda Schneekloth, Professor Emeritus at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning (Moderator)
Julie Barrett O’Neill, General Counsel, Buffalo Sewer Authority
Maris Grundy, Sustainable Landscaping Manager, PUSH Buffalo
Kathleen Buckler, Wetland Ecologist, Army Corps of Engineers
Scott Rybarczyk, Associate Principal and Senior Stormwater Engineer, Wendel
Sean Burkholder, Professor of Landscape and Urban Design, University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning

Panel 2: Carley Hill, Safety Director and Environmental Officer, Union Concrete and NYLCV Education Fund Board Member (Moderator)
Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director and Riverkeeper, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper
Justin Booth, Executive Director, Go Bike Buffalo
Brian Kulpa, Mayor, Village of Williamsville
Bart Roberts, Associate Director of Research and Faculty Engagement, UB Regional Institute

The first panel discussion reviewed the innovative work of the green infrastructure work being done by the Buffalo Sewer Authority, PUSH Buffalo, the Army Corps of Engineers, Wendel and the UB School of Architecture and Planning. Each panelist emphasized the importance of collaboration, and the City of Buffalo was recognized for its innovation and continued leadership on the issue. Drawing from varied experience in wastewater treatment, workforce development, wetland ecology, engineering and design, the multidisciplinary panel identified some early successes in the region’s efforts to capture and control stormwater runoff. Panelists also discussed some of the key challenges to implementing these projects in the future, including the need for maintenance funding and civic engagement to broaden public understanding of the importance of investing public funds in green infrastructure projects.

The second group of panelists from Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Go Bike Buffalo, the Village of Williamsville and the UB Regional Institute followed this conversation by taking a bigger picture view of the role that green infrastructure could play in future regional planning efforts and watershed management. Despite this different focus, panelists echoed many sentiments of the previous group. Specific projects such as the Niagara Street Gateway were lauded for including a complete streets model in design and implementation, a feature that can maximize the multiple positive effects of green infrastructure investments in the future. The importance of leadership from policymakers, another recurring theme from the first panel, was also raised as a significant opportunity for envisioning and implementing green infrastructure in local municipalities and across the region. Panelists agreed that continued public engagement will be essential for all of these reasons, ultimately enabling the region to capture the benefits of the One Region Forward planning process.

The forum was hosted by the Buffalo History Museum, generously sponsored by Roux Associates and Union Concrete, and featured by WBFO Buffalo.

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2017 Environmental Candidate School

On Thursday, May 4th, 2017, candidates for City Council, Borough President and all citywide offices gathered for a morning of discussions on critical environmental issues facing New York City. The event, designed to improve understanding of environmental and public health issues facing our city, featured two panels of environmental experts and advocates in conversation about some of the most pressing topics facing our city.

A third panel featured four current City Council members: Mark Levine, Costa Constantinides, Rafael Espinal, and Donovan Richards, who provided their own insights and experience on running for office and working in City Hall. NYLCVEF also presented our 2017 Green Guide, a comprehensive source for candidates to learn about opportunities and approaches to persistent environmental issues in the City.

Water

With water contamination issues on the rise, we are actively advocating for the protection of our waterways and their cleanliness. This includes both marine habitats and our precious drinking water. We are in a continual push for investments to repair our aging water infrastructure, with an emphasis on management, incorporating green infrastructure, support programs and incentives for clean water – both for daily living and recreational uses. 

Our priority is to prevent against water contamination before it occurs. NYLCV and NYLCVEF have advocated for and won significant victories for clean drinking water in the past year including $2.5 billion in state funding and a requirement to test for certain unregulated contaminants in small public water supplies. While we are headed in the right direction, these successes are a down payment on the greater long-term needs to protect our water. 

In addition to protecting our drinking water sources, we are advocating for local bans or fees on single-use bags which plague our waterways. Clean water is especially important in our most treasured open spaces, which is why we support protecting 31,000 acres of Adirondack forest in the MacIntyre East/West and Boreas Ponds tract in order to promote clean water, encourage healthy and abundant wildlife populations, and support vibrant communities.

On the federal level, we are advocating for maintaining funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF), which provide low-interest loans that leverage state and private money to a wide variety of water projects, including wastewater treatment, green infrastructure, pipe replacement, and source water protection. The CWSRF is incredibly efficacious, returning $2.31 for every $1 invested.

Learn more about our Programs focused on Water

Green Infrastructure in the Capital Region

Green Infrastructure in the Buffalo-Niagara Region

Dig Deep for a Greener New York City Policy Forum Series

Nitrogen Pollution on Long Island

Climate Change

Here in New York, we are fighting climate change by holding both the state and localities accountable for implementing the necessary actions required to meet their ambitious goals. The most significant are the stated goals of New York State and many county and municipal governments to reduce emissions 80% by 2050.

We are continuing our efforts to advance policies, administration, and funding to fight climate change. We are working to ensure that the Clean Energy Standard meets its goal of generating 50% of the state’s energy needs from renewable source by 2030. We are also working at state and local levels to secure funding, gain support from officials, and change local laws and policies to provide for the installation of more charging stations for electric cars. Another main push is our proposal of changes to be made to local laws and rules that will modernize codes and procedures for the allowance of residential solar installation.

The NYLCV Education Fund has taken a particularly close look at these issues in New York City through its four-part “Getting NYC to 80×50” forum series held in June and July of 2017. NYLCVEF is working to tie together the issues and ideas raised in the forums into a package of recommendations to be released this fall. 

Learn more about our programs focused on Climate Change:

Getting NYC to 80×50 Policy Forum Series

Parks and Open Spaces

New York’s spectacular open spaces not only provide awe-inspiring views and recreational opportunities, they help keep our children and families healthy. Our parks, rivers, lakes and oceans should be protected so future generations can enjoy them.

When addressing contaminated land, we were successful in our fight to renew and reform the state’s programs that assist in cleanup of contaminated lands and abandoned buildings. Part of this included the extension the Superfund Program, expanding the Environmental Cleanup Program, and making changes to the Brownfields Cleanup Program. From here, we plan to encourage and work towards the funding to revitalize municipal parks at the local, regional, and state levels. Included in this will be our goals to hold government accountable for alienation of parkland, as well as provide for protective rights of land swaps and sales. In order to reduce contaminated land, we are eager to implement organic waste diversion to composting and biodigesters.

We have long advocated for a Wilderness Classification for 35,000 acres of Adirondack forests, thus promoting a clean and healthy environment. We are also seeking to strengthen the Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda and other private initiatives to encourage the protection of scenic areas while promoting an increase in the recreational opportunities and communities in the Hudson Valley. Included in this is our goal to fund and implement programs battling the onslaught of invasive species.

Learn more about our programs focused on Parks and Open Spaces:

Dig Deep for a Greener New York City

Public Health

Every single community must have clean air to breathe, well-maintained parks for recreation, access to fresh foods from local farms, and protection from toxic chemicals. We are fighting to make this a reality.

Last year, after decades of pressure from concerned citizens, Congress finally reformed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to make it easier for the EPA to keep harmful chemicals from entering the market and assess the safety of currently used chemicals in a timely manner. We must maintain unwavering support and ensure appropriate resources to the TSCA so that every New Yorker can have the expectation that the products they purchase — from children’s toys, to household cleaners to toiletries — are free of toxic chemicals.

Both indoor and outdoor air quality have come a long way in New York, but we are continuing to fight to improve air quality through replacement of old diesel vehicles with cleaner, new vehicles and encourage upgrades to Zero Emission Vehicles. We also continue to support and push for increased funding in parks and playgrounds continues at the regional, local, and state levels.

Transportation

In New York, over 30% of our emissions come from the transportation sector. We are working to support new methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from public to private transportation methods. By finding new transportation alternatives, we will help in reaching the reduction of 80% by 2050.

In regards to public transportation, we are in support of increasing multimodal transportation like bus rapid transit, rails-to-trails conversions of abandoned rail lines, ferries, connected regional bike lanes and trails, and community multi-use trails that promote bicycling, walking, and safety. We also hope to continue to promote deployment of zero emission vehicles (ZEV) by significantly expanding ZEV infrastructure that benefits the grid and all electricity customers.

In order to continue to push low-carbon modes of transportation at the federal level, we are fighting to ensure proper funds are allocated to the Highway Trust fund, which funds the development of highways and mass transit systems, and to The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which funds a variety of transportation projects across the country. In addition, we are pushing for state funding for repairs and upgrades to critical freight rail lines throughout the region and state to limit truck traffic on local roads and highways.

Learn more about our programs focused on Transportation

Getting NYC to 80×50 Policy Forum Series

Food and Farms

Our greatest connection to our environment is in the food we eat every day and NYLCVEF believes that the nexus of farms, food and sustainability is an essential part of a robust conservation agenda. This nexus is facing many complex challenges that are all deeply interconnected. Solutions to issues such as loss of farmland and lack of access to healthy food will require focus, innovation and collaboration between government, a diverse group of issue advocates, farmers, and the food industry. Within government alone, coordination will be required at the federal, state, regional and local levels. The New York League of Conservation Voters is working to unite stakeholders in all parts of the food cycle behind a common agenda that tackles issues as large as the United States Farm Bill and as hyper-local as the Suffolk County Farmland Preservation Program.

New York State is a major producer of a wide range of agricultural products — ranging from apples to corn to yogurt — and boasts over 35,000 farms covering approximately 7 million acres of land. Many of these farms, especially small family farms, are under serious pressure from developers, the challenging economics of farming in the 21st Century, and an aging workforce. Preserving these farms is in the interest of cities across the state seeking to reduce their “foodprint” by ensuring a bountiful supply of locally grown produce. NYLCV has fought for — and won — significant investments at the state and local levels. Yet demand for preservation funds still far outpaces supply.

At the same time, approximately one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Despite the significant resources farmers put into growing food, a whopping 40% of it will end up as waste by the end of the food cycle. We are working to help promote sustainable practices for New York’s farmers while also diverting food waste from landfills. On the other hand, adaptation to a changing climate has become an immediate challenge, from the decline of pollinators such as bees to an increase in extreme weather events that devastate crops.  

Finally, despite a bounty of fresh and local farm goods, many low-income communities lack access to affordable, fresh and local foods. This has exacerbated a public health crisis in neighborhoods where, lacking options, families turn to highly processed and fast foods that can lead to obesity, cancer, diabetes and a host of other chronic diseases. Similarly, many industrialized food processes — from the use of pesticides to antibiotics to unregulated additives — pose a significant risk to our public health. Though NYLCV has successfully fought for funding for the Health Bucks Program, a tax credit to farmers who donate edible food, and a major expansion of a regional food hub in the South Bronx, there is still much more that needs to be done.

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