Recap: Westchester Clean Energy Summit

On March 5th, 2020, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, Sustainable Westchester, and Pace Energy & Climate Center co-hosted the Westchester Clean Energy Summit. The Summit focused on the future of clean energy in Westchester. Panelists from local and state government, academia, and business spoke about New York State’s new climate law—the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act (CLCPA)—and the opportunities that it presents to transition Westchester County to renewable energy sources. The event was divided into two parts: the first explained major components of the CLCPA, and the second focused on scalable solutions for powering homes and businesses using renewable energy across a diverse and densely populated county. 

Part One

The first panel focused on the CLCPA, which was signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2019. NYLCV President Julie Tighe moderated the panel. Kara Allen from New York’s Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) discussed the ambitious new climate legislation, which commits New York to net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Specifically, the law requires New York to reduce GHG emissions 40% from 1990 levels by 2030, and 85% by 2050. “Net-zero” allows emissions to be offset by other projects that remove GHG from the atmosphere. 

The CLCPA also creates the Climate Action Council, a body of 22 state leaders and appointees who are required to develop a scoping plan for how the state will achieve the mandates of the law. Kara Allen reported that on March 4th, the Climate Action Council had their first meeting. She emphasized the importance of stakeholders and local leaders participating in this process.

In addition to its ambitious renewable energy requirements, the CLCPA includes provisions for environmental justice communities. It sets a target for disadvantaged communities to receive up to 40% (and no less than 35%) of the benefits from the state’s climate programs. The law also creates a Climate Justice Working Group, which will be tasked with identifying criteria for what constitutes a disadvantaged community. Radina Valova from Pace Energy & Climate Center summarized these provisions and highlighted their importance.

Next, Anjali Sauthoff, an independent environmental health consultant, emphasized how health outcomes are influenced by environmental factors such as air pollution and heat. She suggested that New York’s climate policy should focus on environmental justice communities since they are often hit hardest by pollution and the impacts of climate change. 

Peter McCartt, Westchester County’s Director of Energy Conservation & Sustainability, highlighted local efforts to make operations more energy efficient. He acknowledged that large-scale renewable energy projects sited further upstate, hydroelectric power, and offshore wind could all help the county transition to cleaner energy. Continuing the conversation, Nancy Seligson, Mamaroneck Town Supervisor, discussed how she has led several projects in her town to improve the energy efficiency of public buildings. She also mentioned how important it is for local leaders to get involved in these issues and be vocal spokespeople to skeptical residents about the benefits of renewable energy.

Part Two 

The second panel, moderated by Pace Energy & Climate Center’s Craig Hart, focused on existing local programs that can be scaled up. Sustainable Westchester has helped the county establish itself as a leader in the state through various community solar and solarize programs. Nina Orville summarized Sustainable Westchester’s efforts to green the grid in Westchester and make clean energy solutions available and financially feasible for companies and residents. Michel Delafontaine, also from Sustainable Westchester, highlighted how much of the clean energy that Westchester needs will have to come from outside the county, through the Empire State Connector and other transmission upgrades. 

The next set of presenters focused on existing state programs that can help the county transition to renewables. Vennela Yadhati highlighted NYPA’s streamlined process for expanding community solar programs. Brad Tito from NYSERDA provided a snapshot of the county’s energy mix, and which municipalities are leading the way on clean energy by being certified Climate Smart Communities and Clean Energy Communities. Tito also focused on how to get more residents enrolled in community solar, and how municipalities can ensure that their residents are getting their energy from clean sources through community choice aggregation. NYSERDA’s Marilyn Dare also discussed how to use NYStretch energy codes to support improvements to the energy efficiency of buildings. 

Ryan Boniello, a developer in Westchester, discussed how his company has incorporated geothermal systems in its developments. Mark Brescia of ConEdison discussed how the company manages energy demand, and how residents can transform their homes to be more energy efficient through energy audit programs. Hart reviewed the benefits of Combined Heat and Power, an energy efficiency solution that uses a combined system to produce both heat and electricity. 

The Summit made it clear that there are many existing programs and opportunities for Westchester County to shift toward renewable energy. To scale them up, it is essential that communities and residents are aware of these programs and have access to these opportunities. 

NYLCVEF would like to thank our special guest speakers, State Senator Peter Harckham and Westchester County Legislator Nancy Barr, for participating in the event. We also extend thanks to our Summit sponsors: ConEdison, JetBlue, Direct Energy, and Constellation. The slideshow that was displayed at the forum can be viewed here.

Recap: Queens Borough President Candidate Forum

On February 12th, 2020, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) held a nonpartisan candidate forum for the Queens Borough President special election, which will take place on March 24th. The forum took place at the New York Hall of Science in Corona and provided the opportunity for nearly 100 voters to hear from candidates about where they stand on important sustainability issues in Queens. Participating candidates included Costa Constantinides, Elizabeth Crowley, Anthony Miranda, and Donovan Richards.

Candidates spoke about the imminent threat of climate change, protecting Queens communities from the risk of flooding, the need for sustainable transportation options, and the importance of improving local air quality in Queens neighborhoods.

Costa Constantinides has represented Western Queens in the New York City Council since 2014. During the forum, he expressed the need to “break car culture” and pursue more sustainable methods of transportation, the importance of waste equity, environmental justice, and the expansion of green space in Queens. He also brought attention to the Renewable Rikers Act, legislation he recently introduced that would transform Rikers Island to be a renewable energy hub. He discussed using Rikers to process organic waste and moving a wastewater treatment plant there. Constantinides noted that his ideas for Rikers could lead to the creation of green jobs in the borough.

Elizabeth Crowley is a former Queens City Council member and served from 2009–2017. Crowley emphasized public transportation issues, including reducing rider fares and utilizing railways for public transportation. She also highlighted the devastation from Superstorm Sandy and the delayed response in recovery efforts. Crowley plans to prioritize green infrastructure projects to help protect Queens communities from future flooding events. She also proposed implementing a tax to address traffic congestion and air pollution near airports; funds generated could be invested back into the borough.

Anthony Miranda is a former law enforcement officer and long-time civil rights advocate. Throughout the forum, Miranda discussed several key issues, including the need for sustainability to be at the core of all city planning projects. He affirmed the importance of having a proper environmental impact assessment for the proposed LaGuardia AirTrain. Miranda echoed other candidates’ views about public transportation accessibility, and stressed the need for safer bike lanes.

Donovan Richards has served as a New York City Council member of Southeast Queens and the Rockaways since 2013. During the forum, Richards spoke about his involvement in rebuilding the areas of Queens affected by Superstorm Sandy. He also expressed the need for green infrastructure in areas of Queens that are most vulnerable to flooding. Richards spoke about his priority for improving conditions in environmental justice communities, including stopping the use of heating oil that creates air pollution and negative health outcomes. Additionally, Richards discussed his plans to increase education for green technology to get more people involved in the emerging green workforce.

The forum concluded with remarks from Melissa Zavala, a board member from the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, who co-hosted the event with NYLCVEF. Zavala highlighted the city’s current sustainability efforts and how ambitious programs are needed to achieve our goals. By electing a Queens Borough President who places the environment as a top priority, Queens can lead the charge in these efforts.

Thank you to our partners, Jackson Heights Beautification Group, Eastern Queens Alliance, Guardians of Flushing Bay, New Yorkers for Parks, Regional Plan Association, Waterfront Alliance, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign for helping to make the event a success!

A special thanks to the New York Hall of Science for hosting this event.

Nassau and Huntington Candidate Forums in October 2017

Following an eventful week, the NYLCV Education Fund was back at it again on Sunday, October 15th and Monday, October 16th. NYLCVEF sponsored two environmental Candidate Forums in Nassau County for County Executive and Huntington for Town Supervisor. Continuing the trend of having engaged and interested audiences, we received many insightful and relevant questions from audience members that revealed the importance of the environment in Nassau County and Huntington.

On Sunday evening at Adelphi University in Garden City, crowds gathered to hear Nassau County Executive Candidates Laura Curran and Jack Martins answer questions from the panel that included Eric Alexander from Vision Long Island, Adrienne Esposito from Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, and Nick Sifuentes from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Moderated by the NYLCVEF’s President, Marcia Bystryn, the forum addressed a range of environmental issues including water and air quality, sewage management, offshore wind turbine installation, and public transportation.

Curran and Martins both stressed the need of an expedited pipe from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant to the Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant to restore the shellfish and marshlands of Nassau County as well as the need to clean up contaminated groundwater from old Navy Manufacturing sites.

A full video can be watched here. The event was covered by Newsday and News & Photo Features.

The next day at the Huntington Library, Huntington Town Supervisor Candidates Tracey Edwards and Chad Lupinacci answered questions from Eric Alexander from Vision Long Island, Maureen Dolan Murphy from Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, and Beth Fiteni from Green Inside and Out. Among the questions asked by the panel included topics related to road safety in Huntington, pesticide use, high-density housing, and waste management.

Both candidates showed great concern for the environment of the town through their answers. Lupinacci discussed how state incentives should exist for schools and residents if they decide to use solar energy, and Edwards discussed the need to decrease food and clothing waste and implement innovative strategies to help the environment of Huntington.

Our livestream of the event can be watched on our Facebook page: part 1, part 2, part 3.

As a nonprofit, nonpartisan and educational organization, the NYLCV Education Fund does not make endorsements in political races. Our goal with these forum was to educate Nassau County and Huntington residents about environmental issues and elevate the public dialogue around sustainability.

We would like to extend our thanks to our partners: Adelphi University, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Green Inside and Out, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and Vision Long Island.

A Busy Two days of Candidate Forums for the Education Fund and our Partners

In the past week, NYLCVEF hosted two environmental Candidate Forums in Westchester and East Hampton. As was made clear by the insightful questions both audiences asked the candidates, Environmental issues are extremely important to both Westchester and East Hampton residents alike.

Beginning with Wednesday’s 2017 Westchester County Executive Environmental Candidate Forum at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, candidates Rob Astorino and George Latimer answered a series of questions from the board of panelists as well as some questions asked by audience members. The panelists, Victoria Alzapiedi, Tracy Brown, and Karl R. Rábago asked the two candidates questions relating to climate change, the Westchester County Airport, the closing of Indian Point and replacements for it, and renewable energy to get a sense of their opinions on environmental issues.

Both candidates support the expansion of solar energy as a replacement to Indian Point and see natural gas as as an interim fuel for the meantime. Latimer spoke on how he believes cost oriented spending in Westchester has been detrimental to the environment and believes the Climate Change taskforce in Westchester should be reinstated. Astorino spoke on his successes as County Executive and how he will continue to reduce energy costs and give residents incentives for buying solar panels.

A full video of the forum can be watched here.

The next evening, three Republican candidates and three Democrats in East Hampton spoke with panelists to a similarly engaged audience. Beginning with Republican Candidates Manny Vilar, Paul Giardina, and Jerry Larsen, questions related to beach erosion and protection, renewable energy, ground and surface water, and plastic pollution were asked. The candidates spoke about how they will be proactive to protect the environment, rather than waiting to act after negative events. On coastal issues, Vilar emphasized the importance of adhering to the New York State Coastal Plan to improve and protect the coastline and Giardina spoke strongly against offshore windmills and instead supported the expansion of solar panels in East Hampton.

The Democrats, Peter Van Scoyoc, Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, and Jeffrey Bragman, responded as passionately as the Republicans did, once again emphasizing the importance of water to East Hampton. Van Scoyoc remarked on how the economy of the town is based on water and how there needs to be a town-wide water management plan put in place. Burke-Gonzalez, the incumbent, spoke about the importance of having clean and renewable energy in the town as well as ground and surface water. Bragman said that the landscape is an active, living thing and we need to treat it as one. A major difference from the republicans, all three Democratic candidates were in opposition of hard shore restoration and believe that the rebuilding of the coasts should be natural.

A full video of the forum can be watched here. The event was covered by the East Hampton Star and

As a nonprofit, nonpartisan and educational organization, the NYLCV Education Fund does not make endorsements in political races. Our goal with these forum was to educate Westchester and East Hampton residents about environmental issues and elevate the public dialogue around sustainability.

Many thanks to the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University for hosting our Westchester forum, and to Federated Conservationists of Westchester, Greenburgh Nature Center, the Pace Energy and Climate Center, and Save the Sound for partnering with us for our Westchester forum.

Many thanks to Concerned Citizens of Montauk for co-sponsoring our East Hampton Environmental Candidate forum

NYLCVEF Joins Partners for Two NYC Council Candidate Forums

Residents of Council District 18 in the Bronx gathered to hear from city council candidates on September 5th 2017. Candidates are racing to fill the open seat of Council Member Annabel Palma, who is term-limited.

All candidates were invited, with Amanda Farias, Elvin Garcia, and Michael Beltzer in attendance.

The forum was hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, alongside Waterfront Alliance, New Yorkers for Parks, and Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. Questions were focused on sustainability, resiliency, and environmental justice issues in the community, and were asked by panelists Jose Soegaard of Waterfront Alliance, Emily Walker of NY4P, and David Schuffler of YMPJ. The discussion was moderated by Adriana Espinoza, NYC Program Manager, and opening marks were made by Marcia Bystryn, President of NYLCVEF.

The citizens of District 18, hailing from Soundview, Castle Hill, Parkchester, Clason Point, and Harding Park expressed a variety of concerns during the Q&A session. One resident expressed serious accessibility concerns regarding the lack of elevators at the Parkchester 6 Subway stop. Residents and candidates both shared concerns of access to healthy, sustainable foods. Citizens inquired about the Sheridan Expressway plans, and discussed their daily encounters with heavy truck traffic and subsequent air pollution.

The forum was held to inform voters of each candidate’s position on important environmental issues ahead of the September 12th Primary Election. Search for your polling place here.

Council District 35 is another highly contested city council race playing out ahead of the September 12th Primary. The district covers the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, and is currently represented by incumbent Laurie Cumbo. Challengers include Democrat Ede Fox, and Green Party members Jabari Brisport and John Hutchins.
NYLCVEF partnered with five local neighborhood groups– The Brooklyn Heights Association, The Crown Heights North Association, The Fort Greene Association, The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, and The Society for Clinton Hill– to host a candidate forum on Wednesday September 6th. The goal was to bring together community members and give them a platform to question candidates on policy matters of importance to them.
The event was moderated by Rachel Holiday of DNAinfo, and topics covered varied from transportation issues like bike safety and congestion pricing to sustainability issues such as access to healthy food and climate change. Other policies of great importance to the community were also discussed, including affordable housing, zoning, and development.
Make sure you cast your vote on Primary Day September 12th!

Getting NYC to 80×50

In September 2014, Mayor de Blasio announced an aggressive carbon reduction goal for New York City to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. In order to address some of the key topics and major challenges to reaching these goals, NYLCVEF hosted a 4-part forum series this summer to address the 80×50 targets in the sectors of transportation, buildings, waste, and energy. Experts representing a variety of stakeholders debated and discussed the future of the city and the most effective way to achieve these goals, guided by questions from both the moderator and the audience.

The transportation forum focused on topics of equity, transportation availability, and infrastructure so that New Yorkers in all boroughs will have access to low-carbon transit. Buildings, as the largest contributor to greenhouse gas in the city, focused on the costs of improving energy efficiency particularly in existing buildings that have high retrofit costs. In the waste forum, panelists tackled the daunting question of how the city will completely eliminate waste sent to landfills and where waste will be sent instead. Finally, the energy forum looked at the challenge of transmission and connecting New York City with clean energy upstate.

The city officials, experts, advocated, and private sector leaders all added valuable insight into the feasibility of 80×50 and the best way forward. The conversations mimicked the type of cross-sector collaboration needed to craft the most effective policies, and NYLCVEF is hoping to make recommendations based on this dialogue that will shape the city’s path to achieving 80×50 with maximum stakeholder engagement. Learn more about any of these forums by clicking the links below.

Getting to 80×50: Transportation
How can we ensure sustainable mobility for all New Yorkers?
Download the Background Paper

Getting to 80×50: Buildings
Getting to Net Zero: What needs to be done to radically improve efficiency of heating and cooling systems in buildings, and how will it be funded?
Download the Background Paper

Getting to 80×50: Waste
Reimagining the waste stream: If we send Zero Waste to Landfills, where will it go instead?
Download the Background Paper

Getting to 80×50: Energy
The transmission challenge: How do we get enough clean energy to New York City?
Download the Background Paper


Get Involved