A little over 10 years ago, I began a four-year stint as a legislative attorney at the New York City Council. Back in those pre-PlaNYC and pre-Green Codes Task Force days, it was no easy feat to get the Mayor’s Office to concentrate on environmental legislation and we had a big one cooking at the City Council: Local Law 86, which required all city owned and funded construction over $2 million to be built to LEED Silver.
One of the people who would attend meetings at the Mayor’s Office on this legislation was an elegant, soft-spoken woman who seemed to know everything about the building code: Deborah Taylor. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she was one of the principal advocates for this green building legislation within city government. I later discovered she was probably the first person to propose that city agencies meet to develop a broad sustainability agenda – this became the “Mayor’s Task Force on Sustainability,” the precursor to PlaNYC. Without her, PlaNYC may never have happened. Deborah also recognized that New York City would need to adopt its own version of the state energy code, both to close state loopholes and so the city could make its own amendments. This led to the city finally starting to enforce the energy code for the first time since it was adopted in the 1970s. Another Deborah special. And so on, again and again and again.
Long before Urban Green Council or the U.S. Green Building Council New York, before PlaNYC and the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, before the Office of Long-term Planning & Sustainability, before the Green Codes Task Force, and before Local Law 86 there was Deborah Taylor. Working behind the scenes and without public credit, she nurtured much of the green building revolution we’ve seen in city government and her imprint is on so many policy accomplishments in the last decade.
Last month, Deborah retired from city government after nine years at the Department of Buildings, and eight years at the School Construction Authority before that. A great public servant, she is one of New York City’s unsung green heroes. Let’s all celebrate her enormous achievements and hope that other champions within the Department of Buildings will continue in her footsteps.