Centers environmental justice; proposes resiliency-focused approach to land use

(April 17, 2023 at 2:30pm)

QUEENS, NY – One year ago this week, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. announced the formation of Operation Urban Sustainability — a working group of local environmental justice leaders, activists and advocates tasked with assessing Queens’ sustainability issues and crafting tangible solutions centering on resiliency and equity.

Today, Borough President Richards announced the release of Operation Urban Sustainability’s inaugural report, a 25-page blueprint that will inform and guide his office’s sustainability and resiliency efforts in topics such as urban agriculture, composting, energy-efficient development, environmental justice, education, nature preservation, flood prevention and transportation.

“From Astoria to Arverne and everywhere in between, Queens families are tired of bearing the brunt of climate change and the deadly, devastating impacts it brings. The fierce urgency of now commands us to take action — to both save lives today and leave a stronger, healthier borough for our children tomorrow,” said Borough President RICHARDS. “Operation Urban Sustainability’s inaugural report is a tremendous roadmap toward a more livable Queens and I look forward to working with all our dedicated OUS members to make these proposed initiatives a reality.”

Highlights of the report include the creation of a new, resiliency-focused land use rubric that will guide the Queens Borough President’s Office, as well as developers seeking Borough President Richards’ approval of projects going through the ULURP process. The rubric will help encourage future land use proposals that come before the Borough President be crafted with sustainability at the forefront, including the use of geothermal energy, green roofs, electric vehicle charging stations, composting and more.

The report also reemphasizes Borough President Richards’ support of the Renewable Rikers proposal, which would see the island transform from a place of incarceration into the heart of New York City’s renewable energy efforts by becoming a hub for composting, solar power production, wastewater resource recovery and climate research.

The release of the report, which can be viewed by clicking here, coincided with Borough President Richards’ Queens Sustainability Tour, which took place today, April 17. The tour included stops at Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing and Jamaica Bay’s “living shoreline” in Broad Channel.

Borough President Richards announced the launch of Operation Urban Sustainability in April 2022 on Peck Avenue in Flushing, where multiple residents were killed and dozens of homes were inundated by historic flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida eight months earlier.

“We applaud Borough President Richards for convening community leaders and stakeholders to develop specific achievable targets toward building resilience, creating new economic opportunities, and expanding our natural areas,” said Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy Executive Director TERRI CARTA. “We look forward to working with the Operation: Urban Sustainability team to support investments in nature-based solutions and restore the historic wetlands of Jamaica Bay, reducing climate change induced risks for vulnerable communities.”

“Operation Urban Sustainability is a comprehensive, proactive approach to addressing the climate crisis right here in Queens and ensuring that our borough leads the way for our entire city. Whether it’s through infrastructure like green roofs or reduction of greenhouse gases through composting, it is critical we invest in a sustainable future,” said Queens Botanical Garden Executive Director EVIE HANTZOPOULOS. “We can talk about the climate crisis or we can do something about it. The recommendations in this report, from building more green roofs to comprehensive composting, demonstrates that the solutions are there if we invest in them and Queens will lead the way.”

“We applaud Borough President Richards, the Queens Borough President’s Office and Operation Urban Sustainability for their holistic approach to the climate crisis,” said Sierra Club New York City Group Chairman KARL PALMQUIST. “In order to address the growing threat to our city posed by climate change, we need to advance solutions that are comprehensive and equitable, and that engage frontline communities. From promoting resiliency through nature-based solutions like liberating soil, to developing a rubric to ensure sustainable and climate-friendly land use, these innovative programs will drive systems change, firmly establishing New York City as a leader in this fight.”

“Waterfront Alliance is proud to have been a partner in Borough President Richards’ Operation Urban Sustainability. Across the great borough of Queens, neighborhoods have already faced major challenges as a result of the climate crisis. Born out of the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ida, Operation Urban Sustainability signals opportunities ahead for a more resilient, healthy, and thriving borough,” said Waterfront Alliance President and CEO CORTNEY KOENIG WORRALL. “Borough President Richards continues to be an environmental champion and we look forward to continuing to work together toward a vision for a more resilient and equitable Queens for everyone.”

Operation Urban Sustainability meets monthly and accepts new members on a rolling basis. For more information about the organization, click here.

Follow the Office of the Queens Borough President via @QnsBPRichards on Twitter and @QueensBPRichards on Facebook and Instagram