OPINION / COMMENTARY
The New Year inevitably provokes us to think about change. This year, New Yorkers look to Albany with a cautious optimism. The rebirth of the New York State Legislature brings many looming issues regarding education, municipal budget deficits and our health care system to the table. But for Western New York, our ecological bounty is another salient issue that needs to be explored; as many questions surface about Andrew Cuomo's ascension to governor, the environmental implications in this new political atmosphere will be numerous and multi-dimensional. How do we, in fact, create "a cleaner, greener New York?"
Governor Cuomo's comprehensive agenda for the environment answers that question with both short- and long-term solutions and concerted efforts in the following areas.
The Cleaner Greener Communities Competitive Grant Program will incentivize the greening up of communities throughout New York State. Much like President Obama's Race To The Top, participation and buy-in from all community stakeholders is imperative, and those stakeholders will be challenged to no longer operate at the status quo and within the realm of best intentions, but rather, with the best environmental practices. The communities that will be awarded grants based on this program will be those that can provide an effective and innovative plan for the coordination of housing, transportation, emissions and energy efficiency, among other things, into one comprehensive and innovative regional plan.
Cuomo will look to increase energy efficiencies and renewable energy. By increasing financing for energy efficiency projects such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) and on-bill recovery, creating renewable energy tax credits to stimulate investment in solar energy and enacting a new fuel neutral power plant generation law to help increase the use of wind energy, the governor is continuing to improve the health and quality of life in New York while simultaneously working to improve an economy in crisis.
The Green Jobs Corps Training Program is a key strategy in the state's economic revitalization plan and will only continue to expand under Governor Cuomo. A green workforce will revitalize New Yorks failing manufacturing sector and be instrumental in developing a sustainable economy going forward. Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said of environmental policy and fiscal responsibility working in tandem: "Our current economic challenges are not an impediment to protecting our environment, but rather, they are an incentive."
Protecting the needs of low-income and minority communities and ensuring the public health and quality of life of these populations will be in direct correlation to how well Cuomo is able to create a state government that is smarter, more efficient and effective. Current policies need to be strengthened, programs improved upon and agencies reformed in order to provide a legal framework for furthering environmental projection. Just as importantly, it is critical for Cuomo to partner with community-based organizations that have proved to be invaluable in serving as community watchdogs.
Half of all trips in metropolitan areas are three miles or less, and over a quarter are a mile or less. As residents repopulate cities across New York, alternative transportation -- for example, bicycles, public transit, carsharing and high-speed rail -- are low-cost and high-impact means to a more sustainable and revitalized metropolitan New York.
Protecting Our Natural Resources:
New York is known for its natural beauty and abundance of natural resources. The quality of our surroundings has a direct impact on our quality of life. Sprawling communities per capita use a higher amount of energy, land and water. They also destroy open spaces, encroach on over 97,000 acres of farmland and threaten our natural resources. However, Cuomo's plan, based on smart growth, is environmentally and fiscally responsible reducing costly infrastructure projects while preserving open spaces and natural resources.
Cuomo's energy policy, farm and environment agenda, although flawed at times, reflect a sincere commitment to the environment and the issues that are deeply enmeshed in the overall success of the state, with particular regards to the economy.
Practically, the governor may face gridlock in fulfilling many of his plans with Republican majorities in the Assembly and Senate, while, ideally, this is what a 21st century New York looks like.
While flaws and political obstruction remain, there is promise in this comprehensive and progressive plan to benefit the environment and the residents of New York. It takes all of us together to ensure the fulfillment of Cuomos environmental agenda --- community organizations, universities, businesses and engaged citizens.
Whether Democrat, Republican or Independent, we are all New Yorkers first, foremost and always. This is our future. Lets change it together via sound energy and environmental policies that will last for generations to come.
Learn more about Governor Cuomo:
- Cuomo blog post about the Unveiling of the Environmental Policy Agenda
- Cuomo campaign news
- Cuomo Cleaner Greener NY Plan
- Cuomo press release about the Unveiling of the Environmental Policy Agenda
- Official website for Cuomo's 2010 Governatorial Race
- Official website for NYS Governor
- Property Tax Clean Energy (PACE) website