MAYOR’S VISION OF GREEN APPLE
Looking to catapult New York to the environmental forefront in one dramatic bound, Mayor Bloomberg yesterday proposed a far-reaching plan for remaking the city over the next quarter-century that would impact virtually every facet of workaday life. “The science is there,” the mayor told several hundred invited guests during a multimedia presentation at the American Museum of Natural History.
“It’s time to stop debating it and start dealing with it.”
Bloomberg marked Earth Day by offering his plan for “A Greener, Greater New York” – 127 initiatives that would boost housing, improve transportation and water quality, create more open space and severely cut energy consumption by 2030.
They ranged from the intriguing (adding mussels to waterways for natural filtration) to the fascinating (installing a deck over a submerged portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to add nine blocks in Brooklyn).
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger saluted the mayor’s “vision” in a surprise video appearance, only to be topped a half-hour later by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who praised Bloomberg’s “great act of leadership.”
There were no similar accolades from state legislators, who would have to approve many of the proposals. Brooklyn state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said, “The proposal represents a backdoor toll on the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges.”
Another hurdle facing the city: Albany has never before demonstrated much willingness to share power, and Bloomberg is asking for permission to create a new city-state board that would dispense $50 billion for transportation improvements.
The mayor acknowledged that he has sparked a political firestorm with his plan to car drivers $8 and truck drivers $21 to enter Manhattan between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room,” he said, introducing the touchy topic.
Bloomberg admitted that it took some convincing before he embraced the idea, which is modeled on the congestion-pricing plan pioneered in London in 2003.
“I’ve thought about this question a lot,” the mayor said. “And I understand the hesitation about charging a fee. I was a skeptic myself. But I looked at the facts and that’s what I’m asking New Yorkers to do.”
Aides projected the fee would discourage 94,000 motorists a day from entering Manhattan. About 815,000 do so today.
Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said that since most people don’t commute by car into Manhattan, 95 percent of city drivers wouldn’t be affected.
“There will be some people who pay more,” he said. “There’s no question about it. But the reality is they represent a tiny fraction of the people who commute.”
Legislators from the outer boroughs were opposed in such numbers that one top real-estate official predicted, “It’s never going to happen.”
But Bloomberg won support from environmentalists, good-government groups, business leaders and even a prominent figure in Queens, epicenter of the opposition. Former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman told The Post, “I think it was a great speech, and the mayor is very courageous.”
Asked if she would back congestion pricing, she responded: “Yes, on balance, I do.”
Other officials said they expect a drawn-out battle in which opponents eventually fall by the wayside as traffic gets worse and worse.
“Like gay marriage, someday it will happen,” predicted civic activist Henry Stern, the former city parks commissioner. Bloomberg’s other proposals were equally ambitious, if less contentious.
The mayor set a 2030 goal of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by 30 percent from today’s levels through a series of measures which would include a $2.50 monthly surcharge on electric bills to fund the retrofitting of old power plants.
The city would do its share by allocating a figure equaling 10 percent of its annual energy bill – currently $800 million – for upgrading city buildings to improve efficiency.
“[That] will make this the largest single energy-conservation effort ever undertaken,” the mayor said.
All new construction would have to be 20 percent more energy efficient than the current energy code requires.
Leading by example, Bloomberg has begun replacing the 100-watt bulbs at his house and in City Hall with 26-watt energy savers.
“None of us can afford to waste money!” he declared. That got laughs from those in the audience who made the connection to the mayor’s fabulous wealth, last put at more than $13 billion.
To improve water quality, the city is building what it describes as the “world’s largest ultraviolet-disinfection facility” by 2012 to kill disease-causing organisms from the upstate water system.
To boost housing, Bloomberg is pushing the state to speed the cleanup of 7,600 acres of contaminated brownfields.
To create more open space, the Parks Department capital and construction budgets are being increased by $1.2 billion, a sum so large that Commissioner Adrian Benepe said he couldn’t sleep just thinking about it.
“It’s a dream come true for a parks commissioner,” he said excitedly.
During several points in his one-hour speech, the mayor stressed that no other municipality has ever attempted what he’s proposing.
He described the sum total of the initiatives as “the broadest-scale attack on the causes of global warming and environmental degradation that any city has ever undertaken.”
If there were any doubt that Bloomberg was thinking big, he erased it by departing from his prepared text to make reference to Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez.
“For our children’s sake, swing for the fences,” he urged
By DAVID SEIFMAN
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