On a bright and warm November morning, 100 people turned up at a pop-up tent in Tribeca to give advice to Mayor-Elect de Blasio. Urban Green and 16 (you read that right!) partner organizations led a 90-minute workshop to discuss the challenges to making homes more energy efficient, healthy, and resilient. After spirited cross-pollination, small groups of 6-8 presented their suggestions for how the new mayor can better engage homeowners and apartment-dwellers on these issues. These suggestions will be officially presented to the new mayor soon. But de Blasio transition team co-chairs Jennifer Jones Austin and Carl Weisbrod showed up just as the event was concluding, perhaps picking up a bit of a buzz from all the green building discussions.
There were a lot of common threads throughout the different tables’ conversations. Some were familiar, though still worthy of repetition: better education can reduce barriers to people taking action; more financing opportunities can help further energy retrofits and resiliency improvements; and as pointed out by Elizabeth Yeampierre of Uprose, many New Yorkers who may not own their homes or have access to high-tech retrofits still need healthy places to live with affordable lower energy bills. In some ways, it’s “A Tale of Two Cities” in terms of green building, a message that should resonate with the de Blasio platform.
There was an intriguing debate about regulation, where participants’ feelings were mixed but ultimately compatible. Some called for more laws as a necessary tool to ensure action to fight climate change and clean the air. Others pointed to the incredible complexity of permitting construction, seeing them as unnecessary burdens on both citizens and businesses. Combining those threads together, there’s a need for tougher laws to protect New Yorkers’ health and the fate of our grandkids – but we must streamline the permitting process so bureaucracy doesn’t interfere with economic growth and job creation.
Some contributors pointed out that Mayor-Elect de Blasio distinguished himself during the campaign as being more of an “average” New Yorker than some other well-known mayors or mayoral hopefuls. Now elected, this presents him with some exciting opportunities. Living in a Brooklyn brownstone, perhaps a Passive House retrofit of his own home (on his own dime, of course) is in order. That would truly be leading by example.
If you missed the event, you can watch the archived live stream here. Table reports with proposals start in at about the 44 minute mark.
Many thanks to our event co-hosts, the volunteer moderators, and to Talking Transition for providing the opportunity and the location.