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Budget, Education & City Services

Community Board Five Support of Intros 960 and 980 by the Council of the City of New York, Committee on Environmental Protection

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, March 11, 2021, the following resolution passed with a vote of 37 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, As a Community Board we are cognizant of the import of maintaining clean and healthy air throughout New York City in order to safeguard the health, wellbeing, development, and prosperity of all residents, workers, and visitors; and 

WHEREAS, Negative health & economic outcomes caused and/or exacerbated by poor air quality include death, cancer, heart attacks & disease, respiratory diseases, asthma, depression/suicide, inhibited intellectual & physical development in children and fetuses, missed school/work days, and decreased productivity; and 

WHEREAS, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets regulations on permissible levels for six classes of commonly encountered airborne pollutants, including permissible particulate matter, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead levels; and 

WHEREAS, Sources of air quality pollutants are many and include motor vehicles, power plants, manufacturing, fuel combustion processes, and consumer/commercial products; and

WHEREAS, In New York City, there are two comprehensive air quality monitoring programs: the NYC Community Air Survey (NYCCAS) and the NY State Department Department of Environmental Conservation; and

WHEREAS, Each NYCCAS site is monitored for a two-week period each season on a rotating basis (i.e., the same # of sites are being monitored at any given point in time), with three reference sites monitored on a continuous basis for data adjustment/control purposes; and

WHEREAS, NYCCAS uses monitoring data along with data on land use, traffic, building emissions and other neighborhood factors around the monitors to build a land-use regression (LUR) model used to estimate seasonal average air pollution levels at locations across the city, including places where no NYCCAS measurements were collected; and

WHEREAS, NY State Department of Environmental Control (DEC) conducts ongoing monitoring at 50 building roof-level sites statewide (19 in NYC, five (5) in Manhattan, zero (0) in CB5) at locations set forth in Exhibit 2, with results reported daily (including to the EPA); and

WHEREAS, NYCCAS results for 2009-2018 indicate that there have been vast improvements made on an aggregate basis for almost all pollutants monitored (specifically, citywide, annual average levels between 2009 and 2018 have decreased for fine particles (-32%), Nitrogen Dioxide (-29%), Nitric Oxide (-47%), Black Carbon (-33%), and, significantly, sulfur dioxide (-95%); and

WHEREAS, The results indicate that previous policy interventions of (i) banning the combustion of No. 6 fuel oil after 2015, (ii) mandating phase out of combustion of No. 4 fuel oil for heating purposes by 2030, (iii) increasing use of electric vehicles in the City fleet, (iv) requiring cleaner truck fuel, and (v) strengthening anti-idling programs, are achieving the desired results; and

WHEREAS, Those improvements, though positive, are not uniform across the board, as illustrated in Exhibit 3, such as where there are areas of high traffic activity as in CB5, higher density of buildings with heat and hot water boilers, and industry continue to have far higher levels of most pollutants; and

WHEREAS, Communities in upper Manhattan and the Bronx, many at the intersection of high rates of poverty (above 20%) and with a high racial/ethnic minority composition, were less likely to upgrade to cleaner heating systems and benefit from air improvements as well as have environmentally damaging infrastructure (e.g., power plants); and

WHEREAS, Results of our analysis indicate that NYC’s air quality monitoring infrastructure is insufficiently robust; and

WHEREAS, NYCCAS sites are sparse and scattered, with only a few active at a given point in time, while NY State’s sites are few and elevated on the roofs of buildings, not testing what pedestrians are breathing; and

WHEREAS, Many areas of key concern (transit hubs, high traffic corridors, and recreational areas) are not monitored with sufficient granularity and frequency, forcing agencies to rely excessively on modeling and assumptions rather than actual data; and

WHEREAS, Int. 960 would add four definitions to Title 24 of the administrative code, including:

  1. Heavy-use thoroughfares: any traffic corridor with traffic volume greater than the 50th percentile of the average NYC roadway, or have traffic in excess of 100k vehicles/annually
  2. Recreational areas: any park, playground, ball field and school playground that abuts a heavy use thoroughfare; and

WHEREAS, Int. 960 would require:

  1. The installation of street level air monitors along designated heavy-use thoroughfares, at a minimum of two major intersections, and at every recreation area;
  2. The issuance of a report to the Mayor and the Speaker of the City Council containing the results of those monitoring efforts, including whether they indicate levels of regulated air contaminants in violation of existing standards;
  3. The NYC Departments of Environmental Protection, Transportation, and Education to develop and implement mitigation measures for exposure risks; and

WHEREAS, We are wholeheartedly supportive of efforts to expand and improve the air quality monitoring infrastructure, which, as detailed above, does not meet the desired data accuracy, completeness, and timeliness standards for air quality monitoring infrastructure that a city like New York requires; and

WHEREAS, We believe that, if enacted, Int. 960 would provide a valuable source of data and transparency about the localized air quality impact of heavy-use thoroughfares and areas heavily frequented by the most at-risk populations like children; and

WHEREAS, We are supportive of increased transparency regarding air quality data in order to better inform the public, Mayor, and Council on the air we breathe every day, and the establishment of reporting requirements to codify that transparency; and

WHEREAS, We are supportive of requiring administrative agencies to, upon receipt of data indicating that air quality violates existing regulatory standards, develop and implement a remediation plan to restore the air quality to appropriate levels and mitigate the exposure impact; and

WHEREAS, We feel that a balance must be found and that 50% of thoroughfares in NYC is too large a population to have monitoring sites installed and overseen on an ongoing basis, especially in light of the COVID-driven fiscal strait NYC is in; and

WHEREAS, Bill sponsors have indicated a willingness to work with the city and the Council to refine the threshold to a more reasonable level and ensure that the requirement is clearly defined in the final legislation; and

WHEREAS, Int. 980 would move forward the phase out of No. 4 fuel oil from 2030 to Jan 1, 2025; and

WHEREAS, We are convinced of the positive impact phasing out No. 4 fuel oil will have on air quality in light of the major improvements from 2009 to 2018 driven by, primarily, the phasing out of No. 6 fuel oil and beginning phase out of No. 4; and

WHEREAS, Converting from No. 4 to No. 2 oil can be done without being overly disruptive to building operations or tenants, as noted by REBNY when attesting to their general support of Int. 980, and a gradual phase out of No. 4 oil by 2025 is not an unreasonable timetable; and

WHEREAS, as CB5’s air quality is among the worst in the city for most of the monitored pollutants, as is made all too clear by the Exhibit 3 maps, and a number of transit hubs and high traffic areas are within our district, we are disproportionately impacted by poor air quality, and would greatly benefit from any and all initiatives to improve; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, Community Board 5 of Manhattan supports Int. 960 and Int. 980, and we ask our Mayor and City Council to pass this legislation, taking into account our recommendations above.

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