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URBAN AGENDA: Mayor de Blasio loses face in important climate change issues

URBAN AGENDA: Mayor de Blasio loses face in important climate change issues

At least 11 New Yorkers drowned in basement apartments after the remains of Hurricane Ida opened the sky and flooded New York City.

In the wake of this, Mayor Bill de Blasio – in one of his worst moments of macho hubris – admitted that he has no plans to tackle illegal basement apartments that are likely to number in the tens of thousands. “We do not have an immediate solution to this,” he said, shrugging his shoulders and raising his palms toward the sky.

In fact, his administration had created – and then defused – an important program that would have helped make basement apartments safer and legal. A robust rollout of that program could have saved lives.

It is an open secret that the crisis of affordable housing has driven low-income New Yorkers and working-class families to live in illegal apartments below class. It is also common knowledge that illegal housing puts extra money in the pockets of small landlords.

As we look to a new city government and plan an inclusive recovery from the pandemic and recession, the next mayor must tackle affordable housing in a comprehensive way that prioritizes those least served by the current housing system. We must find solutions to this problem in the name of the climate. Fewer economic resources mean that climate change is facing even more difficulties for New York City’s color community, which is increasingly bearing the brunt of extreme heat and other weather events.

City Hall has a responsibility to lead the rest of the nation with a good example. The upgrade / legalization program must not only be refinanced and expanded, but let us consider the idea of ​​relocating illegal basement residents to empty hotels and office buildings that have been emptied by teleworking from the COVID era.

Other ideas: we need to implement congestion rates to raise money for metro improvements that prevent flooding. We should also promote the benefits of electric vehicles and find a way to put 25,000 solar cells on the roofs of schools and city governments to help reduce their CO2 footprint.

And we must be better prepared for the next storm that is sure to come. The more attention the media, activists and citizens pay attention to the housing crisis, climate change and extreme weather, the harder it will be for City Hall and Albany to ignore the struggles of the average working class citizen until it is too late.

The mayor blamed meteorologists for his administration’s bad hurricane Ida preparedness, saying their forecasts “will be made fun of in a matter of minutes.” He added, “No one has seen a scenario like this,” suggesting there was insufficient warning about Ida’s impending flood.

Not true. New York City has experienced the constant march of climate change for years, and our aging infrastructure cannot keep up. That’s the lesson from Hurricane Ida, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Tropical Storm Floyd in 1998. And even before the storm’s frequency and speed increased, the streets of East Queens and some New York City Transit subways had a well-deserved reputation for routinely to be flooded in flood.

Ironically, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a landmark study in support of racial climate justice the same day Ida wreaked havoc in New York and New Jersey. The study showed that colored people carry a disproportionate burden of the negative health and environmental impacts from floods, severe heat and extreme weather events. Latinx individuals are 43 percent more likely to live in communities that will lose working hours due to intense heat, and black people will suffer significantly higher mortality rates, the study says.

This report drives home a simple fact: risks of climate change are not evenly distributed across New York City. Black and Latinx societies in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx are in the way of some of the worst effects.

Separately, the National Climate Assessment, published by the US Global Change Research Program, “focuses on the disproportionate and unequal risks that climate change is expected to have on communities that are least able to predict, cope with and recover from adverse effects.” It notes that people “who are already vulnerable, including lower incomes and other marginalized communities, have a lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater consequences.”

It follows that low-income households spend more than double the share of their total income on food, energy and household needs as high-income households — and that spending will continue to rise as climate change increases the prices of these necessities, which further exacerbates the wealth gap.

Mayor de Blasio fought for a $ 10 billion plan to protect the lower Manhattan coastline. What’s good for Manhattan should be good for the outskirts. We can not ignore the poor and moderate income families in the districts that are least prepared to deal with climate-driven change.

David R. Jones, Esq., Is President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 175 years. The views expressed in this column are those of the author alone. Urban Agenda is available on the CSS website:

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