Mayor Bloomberg announces NYC has cleanest air quality in over 50 Years

27 September 2013

NEW YORK: Today, New York Mayor Bloomberg shared progress he has made in making NYC a greener, more resilient city, months before the end of his mayoral term, at a day-long climate summit hosted by The Weather Company and The Climate Group as part of Climate Week NYC.

The event was opened by Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group, who during his speech said: “Like many coastal cities, New York is among the most vulnerable cities in the world. We know climate change is happening now and we must deal with it as an opportunity. We must connect the dots on finding climate solutions.” In a similarly positive opening speech, David Kenny, CEO, The Weather Company stated: “We are making progress–we are slowly winning the climate battle.”

New York Mayor Bloomberg, who we honoured with The Climate Group Leadership Award earlier in the week, started his speech by welcoming Climate Week NYC to the city once more. He said: “As Mark Twain once said, everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. But Climate Week NYC focuses on the doing. Now the summit is in its fifth year and we are thrilled that they keep doing it here in New York.”

Now nearing the end of his final mayoral term, Mayor Bloomberg shared his progress in making the city cleaner and more resilient, including the announcement that New York City’s air quality has reached the cleanest levels in more than 50 years. He said: “We are creating a greater, greener city as part of PlaNYC. With the program, we have reshaped New York to become the sustainable city we envisioned. We just presented the results of a report on major objectives of the program, which show we have some of the cleanest air of any big American city. In reducing pollution by transforming from heavy fuel oil to cleaner fuels, we went from 7th to 4th cleanest air in the US over three years. With this feat we are saving 800 lives per year, every year going forward. And we have only just started.”

The milestone was achieved with big reductions in pollutants: since 2008, the levels of sulfur dioxide in the air dipped 69% and since 2007 the level of soot pollution has gone down 23%. PlaNYC’s Clean Heat program, which phased out the use of the most heavily polluting heating oils in New York City, was the biggest contributor to the reductions.

The cleaner air is preventing 800 deaths and 2,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations from lung and cardiovascular diseases a year, compared to 2008.

At The Weather Company event, the Mayor also talked about other initiatives, such as improving green spaces: half a million New Yorkers are now a ten-minute walk from a park or playground. He explained how the city is also more than three quarters of a way towards achieving its plan of planting half a million new trees, and talked about the recent launch of the ‘largest bike share program of its kind in the Western hemisphere'. Bloomberg also announced that New York’s waterways are cleaner than they have ever been in the last century and talked of the city’s green building program, all of which feed into the goal at the heart of PlaNYC—to shrink the carbon footprint of the city by 30% by 2020, which, he announced, NYC is more than halfway to achieving.

He concluded with: “We’re not just talking about the weather, but doing something about it. No matter where we’re from or where we’re going, we have to take care of the here and now. We have to prepare for today.”

The day-long Climate Conversation took place at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers as a part of Climate Week NYC. Other speakers included Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway; Health Commissioner Thomas Farley; Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland; Director of the Office for Long-Term Planning and Sustainability Sergej Mahnovski; Andy Darrell, New York Regional Director of the Environmental Defense Fund; Michael Seilback, Vice President for Public Policy and Communications at the American Lung Association Northeast; Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance; and Douglas Durst, Chairman of The Durst Organization and Chair of the NYC Clean Heat Task Force.

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By Clare Saxon

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