Preparing Manhattan for the Future
From our start-ups and universities to our theaters and restaurants, the world looks to New York’s innovators to find the next big thing. Living on the cutting edge has amazing benefits, but it also makes us more vulnerable. In recent years, global crises – from 9/11 to the financial crisis, to Hurricane Sandy to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis – have disproportionately impacted New Yorkers.
As we bring Manhattan back from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also make it more resilient to current and future threats. Fighting climate change, for example, can create jobs while investments in technology and infrastructure now will make Manhattan a hub for the industries of the future.
Universal WiFi for Manhattan
New York has made great strides in making WiFi internet access more available in public spaces, including in subway stations, at LinkNYC kiosks, and in some of our parks like Central Park.
The past year shows us this is insufficient. More than 800,000 New Yorkers live in households without internet access, including 38% of low-income households and 100,000 school-age children. An additional 12% of New Yorkers access the internet exclusively through mobile providers.
Access to fast and reliable internet is no longer a luxury but rather a necessity in today’s economy, especially for children doing classwork online. A lack of internet access should not be a barrier to doing schoolwork, accessing services, or finding a job.
I will work to blanket the Borough in WiFi, starting with all public housing (NYCHA) facilities. I will also work to create community WiFi hotspots throughout Manhattan where the public – especially students – can work comfortably and safely.
Implement congestion pricing
For almost a decade, I have focused my work in the private sector on bettering urban transportation and infrastructure. I understand that effective local oversight of our city’s transportation systems can make them more efficient and improve our quality of life. Congested roads impact people driving into the city, parking garages, ride-sharing drivers and users, and even those who ride our subways and buses. The issue of congestion has only worsened since the onset of the pandemic with more workers from on and off the Island choosing to commute via car rather than public transit.
While congestion pricing for Manhattan was approved in 2019, implementation has been delayed because of funding problems and the COVID-19 pandemic. At the current pace, the system might not be installed and fully operational until 2023. I will champion congestion pricing and make sure it is implemented quickly and responsibly. I recognize that congestion pricing uniquely impacts Manhattan, especially in the Upper West Side and Upper East Side. As the City implements the system, I will work to represent those communities to ensure that their neighborhoods do not become disproportionately congested as drivers aim to avoid parking in the Central Business District. I will also carve out exemptions for people who commute to Manhattan, but do not have reliable access to public transportation.
A coastal resilience plan for all of Manhattan
During Hurricane Sandy, we learned just how vulnerable Manhattan is to storm surges and sea level rises. Focusing resilience projects in Lower Manhattan, which bore the brunt of the damage during Sandy, is an important, but insufficient, step in the right direction.
Studies show that sea levels could rise in New York City by 11 to 21 inches by the 2050’s and, in a worst-case scenario, by as much as 9.5 feet by 2100. Over $100 billion in property is at risk in New York City – $38 billion in Manhattan alone.
It is clear we need a comprehensive Borough-wide climate resilience strategy for all of Manhattan. This includes completing the Lower Manhattan Climate Resiliency Plan and creating separate neighborhood resilience plans across the Borough. While seawalls are important, such a plan should focus on coastal resilience measures that mitigate not only storm surges (the priority of the Army Corps of Engineers), but also sea level rise generally.
While many resilience projects are and will remain funded by the federal and state authorities, I will advocate for a comprehensive resilience plan that includes members of our community throughout the development and building processes. I will also advocate for other community-focused measures, including the possibility of buyouts for vulnerable homeowners and programs to help residents take steps to make their homes more resilient to climate crises.
Accelerate phase-out of dirty fuels
Buildings are a leading source of climate emissions, and make up an especially large proportion of air pollution in Manhattan. While the City has taken positive steps by phasing out dirty heating fuels and mandating sustainability retrofits that make buildings more efficient, more can be done to lower buildings’ climate impact.
The current administration has announced plans to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings by 2030. While this is a good starting point, I will lobby the City Council to establish a more aggressive target of banning all fossil fuels by 2025. I will also support accelerating the phasing out of heating oil number 4 from 2030 to 2025.