Group will help guide Queens’ future resiliency efforts

(April 22, 2022 at 1:45pm)

QUEENS, NY – Standing just feet from where multiple borough residents lost their lives to Hurricane Ida’s historic flooding seven months ago, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. on Thursday at Flushing’s Kissena Park announced the launch of Operation Urban Sustainability — a working group comprised of borough and city leaders across the spectrum of resiliency and sustainability that will guide Queens’ initiatives in those critical areas. 

“Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Ida were two of the most severe and deadly examples of extreme weather Queens has ever experienced, but what’s just as dangerous is the reluctance to see sustainability in a holistic manner. With Operation Urban Sustainability, we are committed to developing a wide-ranging roadmap toward a more livable, resilient borough for all our families,” said Borough President RICHARDS. “From expanding urban agriculture to promoting more open streets to transforming Rikers Island into a renewable energy hub and beyond, I look forward to the critical work this group will perform in the months ahead.”

Operation Urban Sustainability, which will accept new members continually, will meet monthly, beginning in May, to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the sustainability issues facing the borough and craft tangible solutions centering on resiliency as well as environmental equity.

Members will serve one-year terms and will be tasked with crafting a yearly report that will inform and guide Borough President Richards’ sustainability and resiliency efforts in topics such as urban agriculture, composting, energy-efficient development, environmental justice, education, nature and ecosystems, flood prevention and resiliency, as well as transportation and walkability.

Operation Urban Sustainability members as of today, April 22, include:

  • Alley Pond Environmental Center
  • Costa Constantinides, former New York City Council Member
  • Guardians of Flushing Bay
  • Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy
  • New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
  • Newtown Creek Alliance
  • NYC Department of Environmental Protection (ex-officio)
  • PopUP Forest
  • Queens Climate Project
  • Queens College
  • Queens County Farm Museum
  • Queens Neighborhood Housing Services
  • Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board
  • Sierra Club
  • Surfrider Foundation NYC
  • Transportation Alternatives
  • Waterfront Alliance
  • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Woodside on the Move

“I am proud to be part of this one-of-a-kind urban sustainability initiative spearheaded by our Queens Borough President, Donovan Richards,” said Boys and Girls Club of Queens CEO and former City Council Member COSTA CONSTANTINIDES. “As Queens looks to the future and away from a fossil fuel past, developing a renewable Rikers Island is the beginning of reversing a past steeped in environmental racism. Developing initiatives around composting, energy, sustainability and resiliency are all parts of the future Queens deserves and I thank our Queens Borough President for his continued commitment to making Queens the leader in our city’s green future. I’m excited to get to work.”

“Queens Borough President Donovan Richards’ work toward a greener, more resilient Queens is essential for a sustainable future,” said Queens County Farm Museum Executive Director JENNIFER WALDEN WEPRIN. “Operation Urban Sustainability is being launched as Queens Farm celebrates its 325th anniversary of continuous farming. Queens Farm is the largest tract of farmland, home to the single largest apiary and a site for community composting in New York City, connecting with over 500,000 visitors annually and making it a leader in environmental education and the ecological well-being of Queens and New York City. We are excited to lend our voice and expertise to this important work.”

“For 50 years, Alley Pond Environmental Center has been dedicated to educating children and adults of Queens and the entire city about protecting and preserving our parks, open spaces and waterbodies, and advocating for sustainable environmental policies and practices,” said Alley Pond Environmental Center Executive Director IRENE SCHEID. “Alley Pond Environmental Center is honored to be part of Queens Borough President Donovan Richard’s Operation Urban Sustainability.”

“Despite many challenges — an overburdened sewer system, an under-resourced waterfront park, a watershed threatened by increased flooding and an onslaught of luxury waterfront developments — Flushing’s waterways and nearby residents represent a dynamic social and ecological community teeming with life,” said Guardians of Flushing Bay Executive Director REBECCA PRYOR. “We are eager to participate in the Queens Borough President’s Operation Urban Sustainability initiative, where we will contribute to an assessment of these sustainability challenges and bring forward solutions identified by the communities most impacted by the issues. We are sincerely grateful to the Queens Borough President for spearheading this meaningful effort.”

“It’s always a great pleasure to work with Borough President Richards as he demonstrates keen comprehension of the myriad challenges associated with the climate crisis that distributes disproportionate impacts to Black, Brown and poor New Yorkers, while exacerbating the effects of decades of systemic environmental racism,” said New York Lawyers for the Public Interest Director of Environmental Justice ANTHONY ROGERS-WRIGHT. “The Borough President’s Operation Urban Sustainability initiative will foster an interdisciplinary and intersectional approach to addressing and dismantling various environmental and social justice challenges facing residents of Queens and the City as a whole. NYLPI salutes the Borough President and his staff, and we look forward to rolling up our sleeves with them and seeing to the people’s work of a more sustainable New York where everyone gets a fair slice of the Big Apple.”

“The Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board looks forward to working with Borough President Richards and the Operation Urban Sustainability team to share and build on the QSWAB Organizing Committee’s State of Waste Report, first released in April 2021,” said Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board Chairperson ADAM MITCHELL.

“Be it local flooding, sea level rise, or extreme heat, the local effects of climate change pose a direct risk to environmental justice communities and expose the need for large scale investment in resilient infrastructure and nature based solutions,” said Newtown Creek Alliance Executive Director WILLIS ELKINS. “We look forward to working with Queens Borough President Richards on this much needed initiative.”

“The climate and environmental justice challenges we face in Queens are the consequences of car-dependent development. To address these urgent crises and build resilient communities — especially for our most vulnerable residents — we must equitably reallocate our streetscape to prioritize pedestrians, people on bikes, and transit riders, as we’ve proposed in our NYC 25×25 vision,” said Transportation Alternatives Queens Organizer LAURA SHEPARD. “By investing in our green spaces, sidewalks, open streets, protected bike lanes, and greenways, we can reduce planet-warming carbon emissions and improve safety, health, and resiliency in our neighborhoods.”

“Nature and ecosystems are too often overlooked in sustainability action plans. I applaud Borough President Richards’ leadership in recognizing that biodiversity is essential to the resiliency of Queens,” said PopUP Forest Founder MARIELLE ANZELONE. “Given the planetary extinction crisis, Queens can join cities globally in valuing ecosystem services such as flood protection, saving local birds and wildflowers, and addressing equity in historically marginalized communities. Including nature in Operation Urban Sustainability will increase the well-being and safety of residents across the borough.”

“New York City has a serious problem of unprocessed sewage getting into our waters as a result of increasing population and climate change. The need to drastically increase our capacity to treat our waste is an urgent health related issue that must be resolved over this next decade,” said Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Coastal Preservation Network Visiting Scientist of Marine Chemistry DR. JAMES CERVINO.

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