A Farm Friendly and Sustainable Spring

By Peter Aronson

Buying locally produced food and dining at farm-to-table restaurants is one way we can all work together to fight climate change.  

Here we will offer tips on how you can turn the warm weather months into an educational farm-to-table extravaganza.

You can start out by visiting one of the many urban farms in New York City or elsewhere in the state, and then you can dine at one of the many farm-to-table restaurants.

Eating locally produced foods helps to cut down on one of the largest contributors of climate change: Transportation. Transporting food great distances to the East Coast is one of the leading sources of carbon pollution. Eating locally produced food, at home and in restaurants, is one way to drastically reduce that carbon footprint.

You can start your educational adventure by visiting a wonderful hidden gem along the Westside Highway, at 34th Street, where the seven-acre Javits Convention Center rooftop garden provides a stirring view of the Hudson River. Few people know that the facility has one of the largest green roofs in the United States and that it includes a one-acre farm. The area, a sanctuary to dozens of local and migratory birds, grows up to 50 crops a year to provide, literally, rooftop-garden-to-table food for events at the Javits Center. 

The roof is open to tours April-November. The cost is $5. Great for a family outing.

If you live in Brooklyn or wish to visit, there’s the 6,000-square foot Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint. The organic farm, a non-profit sitting atop a warehouse, runs a weekly market and sells its produce to local restaurants. They also accept volunteers. For more info: http://rooftopfarms.org/volunteer/

There’s also Brooklyn Grange farms, with two locations open to the public, at the  Brooklyn Navy Yard and in Sunset, Queens. The multi-acre organic farms offer a great variety of public events, from tours and yoga to events such as weddings. They produce more than 100,000 pounds of vegetables a year for its farmer’s market and host events.

Or you can take the family to the 40,000-square-foot Randall’s Island Urban Farm. It’s open on weekends from 10-4. They offer free events where you can learn about urban gardening, composting, sustainable agriculture, and even rice paddies, which the farm has.

Or, if you want to be more adventurous, try volunteering at NYC’s Billion Oyster Project, which is restoring the devastated oyster reefs to New York Harbor. The oysters, through their own filtering system, naturally clean the harbor water and their reefs protect the shoreline from erosion. To learn more why oysters are environmentally important to New York waterways (they are called “ecosystems engineers”), click here: https://www.billionoysterproject.org/ecosystem-engineers

To explore volunteering, click here: https://www.billionoysterproject.org/volunteer.     

If you live in or want to visit the greenest borough in New York City, wander over to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden on Staten Island. The center, which has 14 botanical gardens on its 83-acre campus, is open seven days a week, dawn to dusk, and is free to enter. For more info, visit https://snug-harbor.org/hours/. And if you want to volunteer in a beautiful, outdoor setting, visit https://snug-harbor.org/volunteer/

Snug Harbor includes the 2.5 acre Heritage Farm. To volunteer at the farm’s composting program, click to learn more: https://snug-harbor.org/heritage-farm/ 

If you want to learn more about bees or beekeeping, visit the hives in Bryant Park. You’ll learn about how bees help make our plants healthier and more beautiful.

If you want to take a short boat ride south, visit the one-acre urban farm on Governors Island, known as the GrowNYC Teaching Garden. They offer teaching events for kids and older adults and is open to the general public as well. Click here for more information about Governors Island and here for more about the rest of the sustainable happenings in the city.  

To learn more about the benefits of farming and locally-sourced produce on Long Island, visit the Suffolk County Farm and Educational Center in Yaphank. One of its stated goals is to help educate the public so as to “pave the way for a sustainable future.”

Westchester Family lists 13 farms to visit with your family in Westchester County.

If you want to stay on a farm in the Catskills, there are plenty of options.  

There are family farms in the Albany region. In the Adirondacks, Up Yonda Farm Environmental Education Center is a good option.

To find the best farm-to-table restaurants in NYC, see Wanderly, TimeOut New York, Culture Trip, Open Table, or just Google for your own preference or neighborhood.

The I Love New York website lists favorite farm-to-table restaurants throughout the state.    

Happy sustainable eating. 

New York Spurs Nation Towards Record Month for Offshore Wind

We must continue to urge local leaders and state officials to develop more offshore wind energy so the state can meet its clean energy goals. Sign our petition to support offshore wind!  

Last month was already a strong one for offshore wind energy with the approval of Sunrise Wind, a 924 MW project off the coast of Long Island, and the completion of South Fork Wind, the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the United States, earlier in March. 

However, the Biden-Harris administration, intent on turning an impressive month for this burgeoning renewable energy sector into an historic one, further capitalized on the momentum with their announcement of the final approval of New England Wind, a 2,600 megawatt (MW) offshore wind project off the coast of Massachusetts.

The administration also proposed auctions for four new lease areas in the Gulf of Mexico and finalized guidance for an Inflation Reduction Act bonus tax credit to better include energy communities and make it easier to build offshore wind projects in these communities, helping bring economic benefits to areas historically impacted by fossil fuel boom-bust cycles and pollution. 

In New York, local labor unions signed a landmark project labor agreement for the construction of the state’s first offshore wind port. 

All the while, state-level agencies and offices also continue to make important strides to push offshore wind forward. The country’s first tri-state solicitation from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut received proposals to develop a combined 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind when it closed at the end of March. This progress marks the phenomenal success of investments made through the Inflation Reduction Act and federal agencies focused on clean energy during President Biden’s first term.

“These announcements mark a great moment for the future of clean energy in New York and the United States,” said Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “Following the completion of South Fork Wind earlier this month – a first-in-the-nation achievement – we were thrilled that Sunrise Wind was approved to become America’s next commercial-scale offshore wind development. And with Equinor establishing a historic Project Labor Agreement for the construction of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, we are witnessing the fulfillment of the twin promises of our clean energy transition: reducing our reliance on fossil fuels while providing family-sustaining union jobs and ensuring a robust clean energy labor market in the years ahead. Furthermore, as New York’s offshore wind industry takes flight, we are committed to helping ensure that our clean energy economy works for everyone, which is why we enthusiastically support the Biden Administration’s expansion of the IRA’s community tax provisions to include communities on the front line of offshore wind energy production.”

Earth Month 2024: See You at the Festivals!

By Peter Aronson

We are thrilled to announce that the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) will be out on the streets helping New Yorkers celebrate Earth Month in April and Earth Day on April 22.

“Every day is essentially Earth Day at the League, but there is no doubt that April is always special,” said Lea Giddins, NYLCVEF’s Director of Civic and Community Engagement. “It’s when the world’s collective attention turns towards the need to protect our environment, and with the impacts of climate change accelerating, I don’t think there’s ever been a more important time to educate people about the existential threat of a warming planet and the steps we need to take to reverse it.”

The first Earth Day, 54 years ago on April 22, 1970, was begun as a grassroots movement by Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson and activist Denis Hayes, to raise awareness about the country’s increasingly perilous environmental condition. The movement was inspired by an oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. With little government regulation, pollution was rampant. On that first Earth Day, a reported 20 million Americans participated. In less than a year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established and within a few years three key pieces of legislation became law: the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

The theme of the 2024 Earth Day is “Planet vs. Plastics.” “EARTHDAY.ORG is unwavering in our commitment to end plastics for the sake of human and planetary health, demanding a 60 percent reduction in the production of ALL plastics by 2040.”

As of this writing, NYLCVEF will be active participants at five Earth Day/Earth Month events this April, culminating with three events on the weekend before Earth Day Monday. 

[We will update this article as more events are scheduled.]

The events are:

On Saturday April 13, the Saratoga Sustainability Fair will be held at Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs, from 10 am to 3 pm. The fair will include an EV auto show, events for children, and panel discussions, including one on regenerative agriculture. Food will be sold. Stop by to say hello to NYLCVEF’s Community Organizer Juan Torres and Programs Associate Alexis Hidalgo! 

On Sunday, April 14, the annual Earth Day Initiative will take place in Union Square, in Manhattan, from noon to 6 pm. The event will include environmental games and activities for kids and panel discussions with leading environmentalists and activists. Ample food will be available in the area. Stop by to say hello to NYLCVEF’s Senior Vice President Josh Klainberg and Special Assistant Jake Patel! 

On Saturday, April 20, the New York City Department of Transportation will hold its annual Car-Free, Open Streets celebration at select locations in all five boroughs. First begun in Manhattan in 2016, the event has now spread to all five boroughs, connecting open streets to plazas and promoting “activism and education surrounding climate change.” Musical performers, artists and others are encouraged to perform at select sites around the city. To sign up, please complete this form. Stop by to say hello to NYLCVEF’s Community Organizer Juan Torres and Deputy Director for NYC Policy Alia Soomro!

On Sunday, April 21, from noon to 3 pm, the Earth Day Festival 2024 will be hosted by Bedford 2030 at the Bedford Hills Train Station in Bedford, NY. Live music, kid-friendly environmental activities and educational discussions will be offered, including ones on how to grow a climate-friendly yard, how to grow a pollinator garden and how to eat sustainably. Free offerings will include a bike safety check and textile recycling. Stop by to say hello to NYLCVEF’s Communications Director Devin Callahan! 

And, finally, on that same Sunday, April 21, the House of Yes!, 2 Wyckoff Ave., Brooklyn, will host its Earth Love Fest: Block Party from noon to 7 pm. The event will have DJ music, an open-air eco market, a yoga class, a clothing swap, a fashion show, family-friendly activities and educational panels. Stop by to say hello to NYLCVEF’s Deputy Director of Politics Casey Petrashek!

We look forward to Earth Month and Earth Day and helping expand awareness about the environmental perils we all face due to global warming and what we can do to help alleviate the problem. Please feel free to come by our booths at any of the aforementioned events. We would love to chat!  

The Electric School Bus Transition: An NYLCVEF Webinar

The state’s fiscal year 2023 budget, passed in April 2022, established New York as the first state in the country to mandate an all-electric school bus fleet. As part of this plan, all new school buses purchased by 2027 must be zero-emission, and all school buses on the road must be zero-emission by 2035.

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund recently welcomed Jessica Wang from World Resources Institute and Ian Fried from CalStart for a webinar to explore the future of clean school transportation and to discuss the benefits of electric school buses, from reducing emissions to fostering a sustainable learning environment. 

Watch here:

 

NYLCVEF and partner organizations are shifting into high gear to help educate the public as well as school districts and other stakeholders about what this transition means and how it can be achieved. In a recent article, we highlighted the public health and environmental benefits of ESBs as well as funding opportunities at the state and federal levels.

[Important note: the deadline for the most recent round of federal funding, administered by the EPA, has been extended to February 14, 2024.

We know electric school buses are better for the environment. What is less known is that diesel-powered buses are poisoning children’s lungs and contributing to an asthma epidemic. This electric school bus transition won’t happen overnight, nor was it meant to. With a 12-year runway in front of them, the most important thing for school districts to do is to begin. 

Videos: Breaking Down the Inflation Reduction Act

Over a year ago, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law — the single largest climate and clean energy investment in American history that is already working to lower energy and health care costs for families, grow our green workforce, incentivize clean energy solutions in nearly every sector of the economy, and channel once-in-a-generation investments in climate-smart agriculture and conservation.

Through the IRA, many working families, small businesses, and communities can receive substantial tax breaks and rebates for making energy efficient improvements to homes, transportation, and more. 

As part of our ongoing series of webinars and in-person events on the IRA, Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and Matt Salton, the League’s federal campaigns manager, recently joined with New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey for an informational webinar to share details about the IRA and how households and our communities can benefit. In a separate event, Tighe and Salton joined Assemblymembers Patricia Fahy and John T. McDonald III to discuss the consumer benefits available in the IRA. 

We invite you toview the recording of the webinar with Sen. Hinchey here and with Assemblymembers Fahy and McDonald III here

Here are a few of the IRA resources that were discussed during the webinars:

  • NYLCV’s IRA Benefits Guides: NYLCV has put together several consumer guides that break down specific IRA benefits, including credits for electric vehicles (EVs), utility benefits, and more.
  • Calculate Your IRA Savings: Curious about how much you could save? Use the IRA calculator to estimate your potential savings and discover the incentives you may qualify for. 
  • Credit for Previously Owned Clean Vehicles: If you’re considering the purchase of a used EV, you may be eligible for a tax credit worth 30% of the sale price up to a maximum credit of $4,000.
  • Find a Local Energy Advisor: Income-eligible New Yorker’s can connect with an Energy Advisor to help guide you on how to save money and energy, as well as inform you about the incentives you qualify for. 

We will keep you posted about upcoming educational events on the IRA and other environmental issues. 

The Electric School Bus Transition is Necessary and Achievable

By Peter Aronson

While a school bus’s roaring ignition and noxious gasoline smell may bring a wisp of nostalgia to some of us, it comes at a steep cost in the form of emergency room visits, school absenteeism, and an overheating planet.

The state’s fiscal year 2023 budget, passed in April 2022, established New York as the first state in the country to mandate an all-electric school bus fleet. As part of this plan, all new school buses purchased by 2027 must be zero-emission, and all school buses on the road must be zero-emission by 2035.

As New York embarks on this 12-year journey to electrify its fleet of nearly 50,000 school buses, it’s important to understand three things: diesel-powered buses are poisoning children’s lungs and contributing to an asthma epidemic; ESBs are better for the environment; and transitioning to ESBs by 2035 is achievable. 

“Electrifying our school-bus fleet really is an essential component to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions throughout the state,” said Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV). “From the big cities to the smallest towns, from the suburbs to rural areas, it will improve air quality and improve the health of all students who ride the bus to and from school daily.”

Available Funding for Electric School Buses

While concerns have been voiced over the cost of ESBs, the fact is that most of the funding will come from federal or state sources, including $500 million from the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act passed by voters in November 2022, as well as funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program. 

School districts can begin the transition right now by working with their dealers to apply for the first $100 million of Bond Act funding, available first come first served via the New York School Bus Incentive Program. This money will help make ESBs and the charging infrastructure more affordable for school districts and bus operators. 

“Zero-emission buses will become a hallmark, not only transporting students through our communities, but also demonstrating the promise and possibility of a healthier, environmentally friendly, low-carbon future for our youngest citizens.” Gov. Kathy Hocul said, when announcing Bond Act funding for ESBs.

[We encourage school districts and others on the front line of the transition to refer to the World Resource Institute’s cheat sheet to help navigate the program.]

In fall 2022 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that New York School Districts would get $69,620,000 from its Clean School Bus Program to purchase 164 ESBs, with New York City getting $18.5 million for 51 ESBs.

In September the EPA began a new round of funding from the program. It is offering $500 million for school districts to buy new electric school buses and their charging stations. Applications opened on September 28, 2023, and will close on January 31, 2024. For helpful tips, see this toolkit outline here

Dirty diesel makes for dirty air

Over 2 million students in New York rely on the state’s nearly 50,000 school buses to get to school on time. But what many people don’t realize is that the air pollution inside of a diesel bus can be as much as 12 times higher than the air outside. When a diesel or gasoline school bus is in motion, it emits pollutants from its tailpipe, which tend to rise and disperse. However, when a school bus stops at a traffic signal, is stuck in traffic, or pauses to pick up and drop off students, the tailpipe emissions can drift back into the cabin and remain there, posing a health risk to students.

The kids and drivers on those buses are breathing in dirty air twice a day, five days a week, and the impacts are clear. Asthma rates in New York have tripled in the past three decades, affecting 315,000 kids. 

The rates of respiratory illness are much higher in areas most affected by environmental harms—sometimes as high as 25 percent—especially low-income communities and communities of color. Asthma is the leading cause of emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and school absenteeism. This affects learning outcomes, earning potential, and long-term health. For these children, the impact of breathing in toxic air on our school buses will reverberate throughout their lifetime.

Enlisting ESBs in the climate fight

Right alongside the public health benefits of ESBs are the unquestioned environmental benefits.

As we’ve seen with a seemingly endless stream of extreme weather events, the impacts of the climate crisis are growing more dire—and hitting closer to home—with each passing day. To stem the tide of a warming planet, we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. 

That’s why in 2019 New York passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the nation’s most ambitious climate law, which set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 40 percent by 2030 and no less than 85 percent by 2050. 

With the transportation sector making up nearly 30 percent of statewide emissions—and with each new ESB being equivalent to taking four gas-guzzling cars off the road—transitioning our school bus fleet to electric is crucial to the overall success of the plan and to the climate fight.  

Getting from here to there: planning is key

Questions have also been raised about the logistics of such a major transition. That’s why the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) and our partners are putting in the work now so school districts across the state have a clear roadmap to follow on their way to a zero-emissions fleet. 

Last year, NYLCVEF along with NYC School Bus Umbrella Services (NYCSBUS), World Resources Institute, The Mobility House, Bronx Community College, and CALSTART, won NYSERDA’s  $8 million Clean Transportation prize for “Electrifying School Buses in the Bronx and Beyond,” a project that will serve as a case study for the ESB transition.  

The choice of using NYCSBUS’s Zerega Depot in the Bronx for the first phase of the project is intentional, as the surrounding community ranks in the 98th percentile nationally for air pollution caused by diesel engines. Furthermore, the asthma hospitalization rate for children is 70 percent higher in the Bronx than in New York City as a whole, and 700 percent higher than for the rest of New York State. 

Last week, stakeholders and elected officials, including New York State Senators Nathalia Fernandez and Michael Benedetto, Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia, and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams joined the League and project partners at the Zerega Depot for an up-close look at the future of school transportation in New York. 

[Watch the video from the Zerega Bus Depot event.]

In September, the state released the Electric School Bus Roadmap, which sets forth a detailed plan to electrify the fleet incrementally, while also responding to concerns that electrification is too costly or unsafe. The roadmap will be updated in 2026, with substantially more information about cost, best practices and bus availability.

The next four years are crucial. It’s estimated that 3,000 electric school buses will be purchased across the state in as many school districts as possible during this time. This “would enable all districts and contractors to gain sufficient experience with ESBs ahead of the all zero-emission purchase mandate of 2027,” the roadmap states. 

ESBs are safer than their diesel counterparts

Some people have said ESBs are not the way to go. They couldn’t be more wrong.

In addition to the health and environmental benefits of ESBs, according to a July 2023 article by the Environmental Defense Fund, they are also much safer than the diesel-powered buses now on the road.

“Fossil fuel bus proponents have claimed electric school buses pose new fire risks. But evidence demonstrates that internal combustion vehicles are more likely to catch fire…” the article states. “In fact, electric school buses have safety features that make the risk of fire even more improbable, including sophisticated battery temperature controls, weather-durable casing and vehicle design that makes battery damage less likely.”

A study by the Swedish government, as reported on in MotorTrend, indicated “gas- and diesel-burning passenger vehicles have a 1 in 1,300 chance of catching fire, compared to a 1 in 38,000 chance of fire for electric vehicles and hybrids — indicating that fossil fuel-burning passenger vehicles are 29 times more likely to catch fire.” 

Other misinformed complaints are addressed in the state’s Roadmap and other sources:

  • ESBs will have sufficient range to meet their needs;
  • The batteries will operate in cold weather sufficiently;
  • ESB maintenance will be less, not more than, traditional buses;
  • While the initial cost of ESBs are more than a traditional bus, less maintenance, lower operating costs, plus government funding means the cost evens out; 
  • Charging will become routine and more easily managed with better technology
  • ESBs are simpler, not more difficult, to drive than traditional school buses.

For more information debunking the negative myths about ESBs, visit the websites for School Transportation News and SafeBus.

Electrifying New York: Grid Readiness and Infrastructure Resiliency

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) and Con Edison co-hosted a panel discussion on December 4, at The Center for Architecture (AIA) in New York City.

As New York transitions to electrifying its transportation and buildings sectors, we must consider grid readiness and infrastructure resiliency. The event featured a panel of cross-sector experts who discussed our transmission infrastructure needs. They addressed what they’re currently doing to achieve New York City’s clean energy goals, and more.

NYLCVEF President Julie Tighe delivered opening remarks and the expert panel included Carl Mas, the Vice President for Policy, Analysis and Research at the New York State Energy Research Development Authority; Chris Casey, a Senior Attorney for the NRDC’s Climate & Clean Energy Program; Jen Hensley, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs at Con Edison; and Kevin Lanahan, Senior Corporate Affairs Executive & Communications Leader for the New York Independent System Operator

Samantha Maldonado, a reporter for THE CITY who covers climate and resiliency, moderated the panel. We invite you to view the recording here.

 

NYLCV Rallies to Save Our Compost

By Alexis Hidalgo

The Save Our Compost coalition held a press conference and rally at City Hall Park on Wednesday to advocate for community composting. Aligning forces with over a dozen council members, we advocated passionately for Mayor Adams and the Department of Sanitation to reinstate vital funding.

Under proposed budget cuts, community compost organizations — GrowNYC, the Lower East Side Ecology Center, BIG Reuse and Earth Matter, as well as the four botanical gardens — must shut down their city-funded programs by the end of the year. 

The community composting programs in our city stand as indispensable resources, converting the waste of New Yorkers into nutrient-rich soil for our parks, gardens, and playgrounds, playing a pivotal role as a tool in the fight against climate change. Cutting community composting and outreach programs will result in the elimination of these invaluable services that provide local food scrap composting, extensive community outreach and education, and over 115 green union jobs for the City. 

No composting effort in NYC can succeed without a strong community composting network.  

The rally witnessed an impressive turnout of over a hundred supporters rallying for the restoration of the budget for community composting. Council Members Sandy Nurse, Chair of the Council Sanitation Committee, Lincoln Restler, Carlina Rivera, Chi Ossé, Crystal Hudson, Shahana Hanif, Shekar Krishnan, Christopher Marte, Erik Bottcher, Shaun Abreu, Eric Dinowitz, Jennifer Gutiérrez, Rita Joseph, Alexa Avilés, Kristin Richardson Jordan, and Julie Won delivered impassioned speeches, with Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso also lending his support.

Council Member Nurse emphasized the urgency of the matter, noting that the loss of these programs would result in over 120 people losing their jobs in just two weeks, and endanger the composting of 8 million pounds of waste through these programs.

Brooklyn Borough President Reynoso argued that cutting community composting is akin to “mortgaging our future,” urging an investment now to save money later.

Council Member Hanif underscored the broader significance, stating, “This is about a lot more than saving composting; this is about saving the city.”

This is a climate justice issue, racial justice issue, and worker justice issue. 

We need to urge Mayor Adams not to eliminate community composting so we can reach our City’s zero waste goals, invest in green jobs, and improve our quality of life!

Take action now! Sign GrowNYC’s petition here

The New York State Parks System Is Turning 100!

By Peter Aronson

As the New York state parks system prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2024, it’s worthwhile to continuously remind ourselves that the state has one of the best public park systems in the world, open to all.

The state has 182 parks, including the Adirondacks and the Catskills. The parks range from the beauty of Niagara Falls to the beaches of Robert Moses State Park on Long Island to the Saratoga Spa State Park, which offers swimming, golf, theater and more. They range from small to huge, many have lakes, all have greenery, and they can be found in virtually every county in the state, from New York to St. Lawrence, from Dutchess to Herkimer, from Ulster to Yates.

You might be wondering, Why is this article appearing now, as we head towards winter and more indoor activities? The reason is because our state parks offer a bevy of outdoor winter activities and also because open spaces – park land – are essential to fighting climate change, and we need to appreciate and applaud them year round. 

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYS OPRHP), which administers 180 state parks, has a wonderful interactive website where you can search state parks by name, location or amenity. For example, 12 state parks have ice skating, 13 sledding, 34 ice fishing, 37 snowmobiling and 106 snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. In the warmer months, 137 parks have fishing, 88 biking, 72 camping and 70 swimming at a beach or a pool. 

These parks are not merely places of recreation and they aren’t luxuries; they are indispensable environmental assets that contribute to the well-being of our planet and our people and are instrumental in preserving and protecting the state’s natural ecosystems. Parks also provide sanctuary for diverse plant and animal species, and they are essential for the conservation of native habitats. 

Perhaps most important, New York State Parks serve as vital components of the state’s strategy to mitigate the impacts of climate change and protect local communities. From coastal resilience to deforestation to their own energy footprint, parks are vital in face growing threats from extreme weather caused by rising temperatures. 

The Appalachian Mountain Club lists several reasons why open land is so essential in our fight against global warming, including that forests and greenery act as a carbon sink by absorbing greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere through photosynthesis; that green spaces are naturally cooler than developed, urban areas; that natural land protects areas against flooding by acting as a buffer; and that naturally balanced ecosystems allow plants and animals to flourish, a push against the declining bird and insect populations in America and the world.

“Conserved lands encourage natural growth and biodiversity, allowing ecosystems around the globe to thrive as nature intended,” the Appalachian Mountain Club states.

NYS OPRHP says “2024 will be an opportunity to reflect on the last one hundred years, celebrate the vital legislation that spurred the expansion of our parks and sites’ network, and ignite conversation and action around preserving New York State lands for the next generation.”

Learn more about the New York State Parks System’s centennial and sign up to receive updates on how and where to celebrate on their anniversary website

The state Department of Environmental Conservation operates the Adirondack and Catskills state parks. To learn about activities in the Adirondacks, go here. For activities in the Catskills, here.  

We look forward to publishing more articles in the coming year on the New York State Parks System where we’ll provide a more in-depth look at their history, their role in environmental stewardship, education, and fighting climate change, as well as their anniversary events and programs.  

In the meantime, no matter the season, we urge all New Yorkers to use and appreciate our parks and open land.

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