GREENER GREATER NEW YORK ---------------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org email@example.com 2007 June 13
[This article, from before the NYSkies website, has minor editing to remove typos. Other than that, the text is original]
Introduction ----------- On 22 April 2007, Earth Day, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg released an titanic scheme for a greater greener City. It, plaNYC2030 (plan-n-y-c-2030), has 127 individual projects to accommodate anticipated population growth and sustain a harmony with nature. The title is commonly shortened to 'plaNYC' (plan-n-y-c). Note that there is only one 'N' in the word and it is not in any way related to a separate institute at New York University called 'plannyc'. The plan is a manifesto for the City except that it promotes real action, rather than unelaborated goals, concepts, and thoughts. It also has valuable background and baseline data for all parts of the City.
Overview ------ plaNYC covers narrowly the City of New York with minor consideration for adjacent counties or states. Its domain ends at the City frontiers, even tho some projects in it could reasonably be extended beyond them. Individual projects, like rail improvements, do involve exterior territories because the trains need them to realize full benefit from projects within the City. Also, projects in the municipal water network include those in the upstate reservoirs. But all-in-all, plaNYC2030 is a glatt noveboracian manifesto. The programs in plaNYC cover the span from now, or even a little before now, thru year 2030. If all goes well, we then have six more years to enjoy the consummation of the plan before asteroid Apophis whacks us. The plan deals with projects to lessen or correct various social ills in today's City and to cope with reasonably expected population growth. It postulates an increase residency of one million by 2030. It also assumes a general continuation of today's economy and culture in the City. These include suppressed crime, high integrity rating for municipal financing, abated unemployment, high revenues from taxes and fees. In turn, these parameters suppose continued conscientious work by the City authorities to sustain and maintain policies that realized these good parameters. plaNYC does NOT carry a black cloud of doom with it. There is no skreed about global ecological catastrophe, inundation from melted polar ice, decimation by epidemic and plague, conquest by foreign invasion, dissolution of civil rule, suffocation from rising global temperatures, nuclear winter. At the same time, it doesn't present itself as the salvation of humankind from its potential ruination by unchecked insults to the environment. Taken all together, there seems to be no single place where the full cost -- monetary and social -- for everything in plaNYC. I heard guesstimates in the myriads of millions of dollars at 2007 level. Even if the figure should rise to a full 100 billions of dollars, that's only about 5 billion dollars per year until 2030 and the sum is barely equal to that of building and running the International Space Station. Tempering the fiscal pain is the inclusion in plaNYC of projects ALREADY in the pipe and ALREADY funded, like Water Tunnel #3, East End Access at Grand Central, segregated bus lanes and platforms in lower Broadway. If, just if, plaNYC is satisfied, at least in the whole, it will be a smashing demonstration of how the planetary capital can align with nature without undue imposition on its inhabitants. The costs of living in the City under plaNYC should be only modestly greater than in place now.
Elements ------ plaNYC is organized into six phyla, some with subphyla, for the protection and management of the four classical elements of the world, plus climate change and transportation: Land - housing, open space, brownfields Water - water quality, water [supply system] network Air - air quality Energy ('fire') - [efficiency, renewable sources] Two additional ones deal with more modern sectors of nature: Transportation - congestion, state of good repair Climate Change - [greenhouse emission] The elements are interlinked, so that progress in one relates to that in others. On the other hand, they are not in lockstep. If progress in certain elements lag, they do not seriously impede work on the others. Climate change is one hot theme in the US presidential runnings, the United Nations, and world industrial associations. It is under incandescent debate in environmental and scientific circles. The issue is that climate change -- evidenced by a supposedly steady and slow global warming (or cooling?) -- is augmented by release of greenhouse gases from human civilization. Regardless of the worldwide influence of humans on the planet, certainly these gases emitted within the City deteriorate 'state of good repair' of human life in and around the City.
plaNYC2030 documents ------------------ plaNYC comes in the main report whose books are the elements noted above, plus various appendices. Supporting this are many supplemental reports. All are in the plaNYC website 'www.nyc.gov/planyc2030'. for free download. The papers are in PDF form, playable in Adobe Acrobat. For those readers with dialup Internet or a low-quality printer, fill in the online form to obtain a snailmail full-color published copy of the main plaNYC2030 report. I strongly suggest fetching the boro books, which give detailed baseline information about each community board and some details on future projects under plaNYC. plaNYC is on shelf at the larger library outlets of New York, Brooklyn, and Queens. (The City got THREE independent library networks.) It can be examined at the urban studies departments of many colleges and universities thruout the City. I don't know if hard copies are placed elsewhere in the country, even in New Jersey across the Hudson River. Readers beyond the City may have to rely on the website.
Public participation ------------------ While the plan seems to be in a load-&-go status, awaiting the work orders to be cut, there is ample room for public participation. Because there are segments of the plan that WILL affect you, no matter where you are in the City, it is absolutely imperative that you acquire a general fluency in it. Get the documents! Besides passively reading the report, you should avail of the many meetings and briefings now starting up all over the City. Representatives are on hand from the mayor's office; various municipal agencies; satellites from industry, commerce, and services; advocates and antagonists from social/nature groups explain and discuss the plan. These are free and sometimes include refreshments. Failure to engage in these dialogs could result in unexpected changes in your hood, behind your back so to speak, that WILL alter your daily routine. 'Hey, what's with the new trees on that ferry depot roof' or 'If I pay my fare at the bus platform, I then have to wait it out for the bus. Otherwise my fare falls thru!' syndrome. I don't mean you should attend a large number of the meetings. scurrying here and there to reach them. Definitely grab onto those that come your way, both near home and near other districts of your frequency. You may also email plaNYC thru its website with your comments and ideas. Snailmail the mayor at his office in City Hall. Speak with your councilman, state senator and assemblyman (some parts of plaNYC call for state enablement).
Academy meeting ------------- I attended one early round of th public dialogs on Tuesday 5 June 2007. It was hosted by the New York Academy of Sciences, adjacent to Ground Zero, in the evening. About 150 people attended the session, titled 'greeNYC: goals for 2030'. They nearly filled all the seats in the Academy's lecture room. The presentation was delivered by: Laura Kerr, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Mayor Ariella Rosenberg, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Mayor Joshua Laird, Asst Commissioner, Dept of Parks and Recreation They each in turn gave a general peek at plaNYC, illustrating their talks with numerous slides. There ws no way to absorb the details on the spot. I noticed several attendees started to scribble in notebook (paper ones or computers). After about ten minutes they just sat and listened. All three speakers maintained a professional demeanor, keeping to rational facts and opinions. There was nothing of the strident sermons, evangelist dreamspeak, appeals to predestiny, naive optimism, preaching or scolding, doomsday forecasting sometimes issued at environmental lectures.
Audience ------ The audience was a good spectrum of ages, from college student types to senior citizens, about half-&-half male and female, of many nationalities. They came from industry, trade associations, advocancy groups, government agencies, college departments. During the reception, with good drink and snacks, I spoke with several people. Mostly light banter. All seemed quite aware and wisely about the City, knew enough technical and social aspects to carry on a rational discussion, were even-handed about plaNYC, were to a person enthusiastic about satisfying the plan. The elevated education and sophistication of the audience at this specific plaNYC meeting may reflect the targeted publicity from the Academy. I suppose at other plaNYC2030 sessions, the audience makeup will follow the host's market for publicity. Dress seemed to carry over from a daytime setting, as if the people came here from a business office or college campus. Everyone was in neat, if casual, attire, with a sprinkling of business suits. Most people I spoke with pledged to work on their own, or thru their profession and colleagues, to assist in fulfilling plaNYC. Or, alternatively, to subsume its principles into their own area of work. No one really bad-mouthed plaNYC or downplayed its importance and influence. There were questions about a this or that feature, disputes about certain statistics, doubts about assorted projections. No one debunked the plan, voiced hostility toward it, vowed to oppose it. At the worst, I did find a couple uncertain attendees of a 'let's see what happens' felling.
Questions ------- Questions from the audience were reserved to the end of the show, when audience members came to microphones deployed in the aisles. All were intelligent ones, mostly calling attention to some factor not mentioned during the talks or offering additional considerations. The speakers answered the questions quite spontaneously and informatively. Three particular ones serve to illustrate this exchange between speaker and audience. The compact fluorescent lamps have a drop of mercury in them, as part of the mechanism of a fluorescent bulb. Would this mercury suffer an uncontrolled release when the bulb is discarded? Well, likely, yes. The trade off is that the bulb lasts about ten times longer than an incandescent bulb. During that time, the incandescent bulbs cause a release of mercury, and other ecologicly offensive material, from the fuel burned to make the electric that lights the bulb. Over the lifetime of about ten incandescent bulbs, equal to one fluorescent bulb, the released mercury would be at least an order more than the bit in the fluorescent bulb. This figure factors in the greater energy efficiency of the fluorescent lamp. An other question asked about codifying the compact fluorescent lamp as a replacement for incandescent ones. Several towns and states are discussing legislation to require this replacement. But the fluorescent lamp just happens to one of several possible replacements in the interest of energy savings. Isn't a LED bulb a far better replacement? in New York the compact fluorescent lamp will not be hardcoded into law or regulation precisa mente because it is merely one potential substitute. It happens to be the best one on shelf now. People can buy the compact bulbs now. They can not yet get LED bulbs. LEDs are widely used in pocket lamps and signal lamps, like the stop lights that in recent years replaced the incandescent lights thruout the City. There seem to be difficulties in building an LED bulb to screw into a regular lamp socket. The speakers mentioned the energy waste in a rectifier built into the bulb (LEDs run off of DC, not AC), which cancels out much of the energy efficiency of LEDs. A third inquiry noted there was nothing in the plan for the existing street steam network. Steam in New York displaces electric for many commercial functions and probably should be looked at for expansion and further electric displacement. The plaNYC2030 commission is aware of the steam system, the runaway largest on Earth. The speakers noted that steam is actively considered when designing new corporate and office towers and is actually chosen over electric in many situations. The steam network is maintained in good repair. Certain power plants retired from electric generation remain in operation for producing street steam.
Feasibility --------- I find that plaNYC is founded on presently available methods, products, techniques. It pretends no speculative new inventions, technologies, arts, science. The many programs in it could be accomplished today -- some being already underway -- without waiting for some imaginary discovery in the future. The plan will take many years simply from the sheer number and magnitude of the projects. If there be new, unforeseen and unimagined, new developments down the track, they will in general serve to enhance and quicken the fulfillment of plaNYC. Or, potentially, remove the need for certain actions under the present less-advanced world. One example is the reforestation of the City. Now we must choose trees from naturally living species. It's possible that geneticly designed trees will be invented. We could request any desired species with specified urban properties that grow fully in a couple years. This will quicken the pace of reforestation and allow more options in fitting trees to sites. An other could be the discovery that greenhouse gases can be recycled into petrochemicals. Reduction of emission could be achieved by storing the emissions within the vehicles and pumping them out at designation recycling depots. Vehicles availing of City streets could then be required to have collection devices for this purpose.
A couple oddities --------------- Two particulars of plaNYC discussed by the speakers may make you wonder: What's this all about? They are the 'green roof' and seeding mollusks into New York waters. The former refers to the theme of displacing barren roofs with gardens, lawns, trees. The green roof will help remove locally produced greenhouse gas from the air, provide shade to reduce air condition demand in the underlying structure, general beautiful the cityscape. The speakers noted that the City is conducting experiments for the mix of plants and soil suitable for green roofs. Injecting mollusks into the waters around the City is already an ongoing program. It is a successful effort, with several beds of oysters thriving in shallow waters away from the shipping lanes. The City in former centuries was fabled for its shell fishing. Shell fish eat and remove certain contaminants from the water. They attract regular fish and sea animals, like the seals now starting to reestablish in the harbor. The speakers noted that the restoration of mollusks can lead to revival of the clam industry, with new job opportunities.
Population growth? ---------------- Since the meeting and already kicked about in the public news media are two features of the plan. These are congestion tolls and population growth. The statistics in plaNYC are founded on the official US Census of 2000 and extensions from it. According to that count, there ae about 8.2 million residents in the City. This is an absurdly undercount. It is well understood by city authorities that there a LOT more people around, creating more rubbish, drinking more water, crowding more trains, looking for more housing, eating more food, using more hospital services, and so on. The surcharge of people is the residency that skipped the 2000 census or who arrived here under the radar since then. For those who are resigned to use only 'official' figures, there's a social bomb on our doorstep that we better listen to. In May 2007 national debate opened on proposed changes for US immigration. Among the features is to recognize formally the illegal residents, numbering some 10 to 12 million in the country. The idea is to convert the undocumented residents into legal ones thru means still under debate in Congress. In what ever form this conversion is enacted, it'll then take place over a few years. We then just increased -- in one blow! -- the US population by that 10-12 million. For the City, we may, within a couple years, absorb a spike in population from plaNYC's 8.2 million to, uh, 9.6 million! Because this will be the new accepted official count, plaNYC is thrown for a loop in its early years. Features in it predicated on the old 8.2 million starting figure could be exfrenestrate. I also have problems with the modest growth of only one million in, what?, 22 years. With immigration modification, the City may experience a larger, looser, freer influx of new residents. On top of new residents from overseas, we'll get increased residency by migration from elsewhere in the country. Such shift within the US is not in any competent way monitored. The same upbeat factors of the City that spawned plaNYC also generates a magnetism to attract huddled masses from the hinterlands of America. From immigration and migration, we could take in more like TWO million new residents by 2030, for an aggregate population by then of 11-1/2 million.
Second Avenue subway? ------------------- The plan posits the completion of the Second Avenue subway to add transit capacity and alleviate overcrowding on the parallel IRT Lexington Av line. However, ONLY the line as designed NOW is assumed to be in operation by 2030. This is a short reach from Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan to Park-Lexington Av at 125 St in Harlem. It is tied to the existing 63 St line only on one quadrant of the junction, from the north leg of 2 Av to the west leg of 63 St. It has only two tracks for only all-stop service. Under current schedule, the line will be finished over its full length by 2020. In the next ten years, thru 2030, plaNYC supposes no effort to build it up to the New York standard with four tracks or to attach new lines to it from the other boros. The line remains a long shuttle on Manhattan.
Congestion tolls? --------------- This is a major concern to a large sector of readers. Either people want and like it or they despise and oppose it. Congestion tolls was announced as a proposal before plaNYC, to collect a toll from vehicles entering Manhattan below 86th St during weekdays. The toll should dissuade casual influx of vehicles, reduce congestion, encourage use of transit, generate a new revenue stream for other parts of plaNYC, and reduce greenhouse emission from vehicles. Realizing this program may involve placing EZ-Pass checkpoints at the exits of highways, tunnels, bridges leading onto Manhattan streets. There would be a scrimmage from river to river across 86th St and, for sure, thru Central Park. There would be no toll booths because EZ-Pass requires no humans to work it. Vehicles are gated by barriers thru the EZ-Pass sensors and the fee is added to their EZ-Pas billing statement. It seems that plaNYC assumes universal use of EZ-Pass, which is not really unreasonable. In an unrelated program, to start in 2008, the Port of Authority NOW assumes complete penetration of EZ-Pass among vehicles. It will remove all human-attended booths at its crossings. All vehicles must pass thru the EZ-Pass gates.
One million trees? ---------------- This was announced before the issuance of plaNYC. The intent is to reforest the City for ecological, social, comfort, quality of life concerns. There are large sections of the City with no or few trees. These will be targeted first. One problem is that many of the new trees will replace older ones lost to collision, storm, disease. The new tree is a small sampling; the old one, a large and mature one. In the short term, there could be a REDUCTION of tree function as small trees displace large ones. Down the track, the tree function will increase as all-new trees fill in barren parts of the City. The figure of 'one million trees' is circulated. This is an immense number of trees! The City today has around 600,000 trees, so the scheme is to more than double the number of trees thruout the City. Even if we allow for populating more parks and squares with new trees, not just placing them on streets, that's a LOT of trees. I figure that over the next 22 years, thru 2030, planting 1,000,000 trees calls for one new tree EVERY 12 MINUTES ROUND THE CLOCK! If we impose the more realistic condition that trees are planted only during work hours, there are about 2,200 such hours available per year for tree planting. The rate of planting is, hold your pants, a new tree EVERY 2-1/2 MINUTES during the workday.
Home astronomy ------------ New York, and its vicinity, is among the leading centers for home astronomy on the planet. This derives from the cosmic perspective of the City: think locally, act globally. If you read NYC Events, the monthly NYSkies column for astronomy-related events in and around the City, you appreciate why being a home astronomer in the City and surrounds is a vastly more happy pursuit than anywhere else. Look at some examples from May 2007. Home astronomers attended many full-featured lectures on cosmology, Albert Einstein history, string theory, and string cosmology[!]. These were held at either the Graduate Center of the City University diagonally across from the Empire State Building, or the New York Academy of Sciences, overlooking Ground Zero. All the shows were free. One at the Academy included free lunch. Oh, this is all very nice, but what about stargazing? In just about any other town, 'home astronomy' IS nothing but 'stargazing'. I fear one cardinal cause of this equation is that other places plain lack the multidimensional opportunities for home astronomy so casually taken for granted in the City. Be as it may, there are in plaNYC segments that can abate the impediments against stargazing in New York. These parts deal with luminous graffiti, the trashing of the night sky by obnoxious outdoor lighting. Many are a continuation of programs ALREADY in action before plaNYC. Now they are in your face. RIGHT NOW, outdoor lighting on municipal structures is turned off or toned down after hours. RIGHT NOW, the hideous cobrahead street lamps are being pulled down. Far more star-friendly fixtures, like the bishopcrooks, take their place. RIGHT NOW, hybrid-electric taxis and buses are displacing the all- petroleum ones. Their far lower consumption of petroleum fuel reduces starlight-quenching air pollution. RIGHT NOW, assorted vacant land is earmarked for open space with ample exposure to the sky. As they are released for public use, they offer more of the night sky for viewing. RIGHT NOW, sky-washing incandescent bulbs are under displacement by generally shielded compact fluorescent bulbs. Their far lower need for electric reduces starlight-quenching air pollution at the power plants. RIGHT NOW, energy audits in skyscrapers and commercial properties are advising the removal of excess outdoor lighting RIGHT NOW some 90% of commuters into Manhattan arrive by transit. They withhold encouragement for a car culture on the island, with its apparently inevitable spread of luminous graffiti. I really don't want that you rub the noses of your debunkers in the City's ongoing and oncoming efforts to enrich home astronomy, even if they were established for a more general motive. You can, never the less, walk tall among other darksky wishers and say 'Been there, done, and doing, that'.
A common heritage --------------- In a serendipitous validation for the City's efforts to clean up the air, litterally, by wiping out luminous graffiti, we have in hand a remarkable paper from, of all outfits, UNESCO. Almost simultaneous with the release of plaNYC is 'Declaration in defence of the night sky ...'. It puts natural starlight in the night sky as a common heritage of all humankind. plaNYC, probably without knowing of this worldwide proclamation, ingests many of the Declaration's precepts. It can be held out as accessory support for plaNYC, an independent recognition of humankind's duty to live in harmony with nature.
Other large towns --------------- For most of the 20th century New York was the world's largest city in population. Part of the claim came from inadequate records in certain countries and disputes about who is a resident. In some years, New York and London vied for first place, with Moscow asserting that title, also. By the late 20th century it was evident that New York is far from the world's largest city, with the explosive growth and better counting in places like Mexico City, Cairo, Dacca, Jakarta, Shanghai, Istanbul. On the other hand, New York, with its 9-1/2 million residents, is still among the more populous conurbations. There are two singular attributes of New York that stand it apart from other large towns. First is its cosmic mix of people. Other towns tend to be homogenized. One nationality or faction overwhelms all the others. New York is composed with substantial portions of hundreds of sects, representing all parts of the world. Thus, calling New York a 'world city' in more than just a trite cliche'. The world lives here. This made for a more vigorous and reasoned deliberation in civic affairs, resulting in more rational ultimate courses of action. The other factor, far less appreciated, is that New York for its size is ALREADY leagues ahead of the world in achieving a sustainable society. In spite of the many real and sometimes severe defects, New York uses far less energy per person than other large towns in the US and most other world cities. It has by far the cleanest air, water, and land. It enjoy freedom from massive disease and illness. It has ample park and seashore open space. It has almost no smokestack or waste dump landscape. It is rather free from pestilence, vermin, danger from jungle animals. It [so far] escaped routine disruptions by rebellions, anarchists, separationists. On just these two counts, plaNYC is unique to the City and is a genuinely achievable program. An other large town can not simply edit in its own name and proclaim its own planROW (plan-rest-of-world). Perhaps this situation of the City and plaNYC may bring some mean measure of envious criticism. This may be a tag-along to the undercurrent in Transhudsonia of antinoveboracism. If so, so what? It's OUR plaNYC and WE'RE going to fulfill it.
Conclusion -------- plaNYC2030 is one hell of a massive manifesto for the City. It can soon become a rallying paper for other world cities as part of the global awakening to the problems of dense urban life. What distinguishes plaNYC from other pious pronouncements is that it is a prescription for actualization on a sustained level. It is based on feasible and current humankind's capability. It also has genuine potent support from a diverse spectrum of interests in the City, even those who are traditionally adversaries. It also enjoys a courteous, if not really enthusiastic, welcome in the state and federal level. Many of the 127 programs will seek state and federal funding. It is a plan that profoundly will alter the way you as an individual interacts with the City in your circumambulations. All of us better read the plan, or at the very least competent descriptions of it, attend the plan's briefings, engage in good-faith dialog with the plan office, adapt some of its principles into your own lifestyle. When all is said and one, where else on earth could such a manifesto be issued and make it stick? Only in New York.