November 4, 2022
By: Lynn Bodnar Kelly | Crain’s New York Business
The first time I had to open my umbrella to walk on a subway platform, I knew the city where I’ve lived my whole life had changed. Now as flash floods rapidly increase in New York City, stormwater runoff routinely pours through the street grates.
That is only one example of climate change I’ve witnessed while working on behalf of New York City’s open spaces.
The climate crisis is already here, New York, and we must adapt now.
I applaud the recent passing and codifying of the Inflation Reduction Act by the federal government, but it’s only the beginning if we are to truly address our reality. We New York voters must turn over our ballots Nov. 8 and vote for the largest environmental bond act in state history: the Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act.
The EBA, once-in-a-generation legislation, would authorize $4.2 billion to fund critical environmental projects—without raising taxes. It includes $1.5 billion for climate-change mitigation and $1.1 billion for restoration and flood-risk reduction.
Those two budget lines stand out most to me. It’s been a decade since Superstorm Sandy and yet experts today estimate that there are 431,000 people at risk of coastal flooding. By 2050, an additional 228,000 people are projected to be at risk due to sea-level rise.
The situation is life-threatening. Last year alone, more than 40 people were killed by the heavy rains and flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida in the New York region. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the frequency of annual storms is expected to increase by 100% in New York state and, at the current rate of sea-level rise, 50 additional square miles will be in the 100-year coastal floodplain by 2050. In other words, the outlook is getting worse.
The EBA would tackle the issues head-on. Proposed projects could protect people, roads and buildings from flooding by acquiring, moving, lifting or raising flood-prone properties and infrastructure. The measure could help relocate, repair or raise flood-prone roadways and update dams and bridges.
In addition to modernizing infrastructure, there’s also the potential for the EBA to safeguard clean drinking water, expand renewable energy and energy efficiency in public buildings, protect farmland and wildlife habitat, and increase access to parks, nature centers and public waterfronts.
Up to 40% of the entire bill must go to environmental justice communities, areas that have been subjected to a disproportionate burden of environmental hazards over the years.
If passed, the EBA also would support nearly 100,000 good, local, family-sustaining jobs across New York state.
The climate crisis will still exist after Nov. 8. The question is how much we are willing to allow New York communities to suffer its consequences.
Given New York’s international influence, passing the landmark EBA could not only take care of our own but also have global reach. New York state has the 13th-largest economy in the world. We have the potential to lead by example as other states and countries watch us pull out all the stops to face the climate crisis.
Voting yes on the Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act can help position us to protect New York and its people. Let’s invest in nature like our lives depend on it, because they do.
Lynn Bodnar Kelly is executive director of New York Restoration Project.