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December 1, 2016
by Anna Gibertini
New York City’s Roadmap to 80×50

On 11.14.16, the Center for Architecture hosted an intimate discussion of New York City’s progress on its 80×50 initiative, an ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Mayor de Blasio’s Office of Sustainability released its “Roadmap to 80×50” strategy this September, detailing how this goal would be achieved in various sectors of environmental concern, including waste, energy, transportation, and buildings. The city joined the 80×50 initiative in 2014.

Three members from the Office of Sustainability led the discussion: Benjamin Mandel, Renewable Energy Policy Advisor; Lia Carione, Senior Policy Advisor; and John Lee, RA, LEED AP, Deputy Director, Buildings and Energy Efficiency.

Lee began with a dose of harsh climate reality: The number of days above 90 degrees Fahrenheit is expected to triple by 2050 if the city does not enact this plan, and seawater levels could rise by as much as six feet. He stressed that although this would be detrimental for New Yorkers, they would not be experiencing these effects alone. “This is a global problem,” Lee said. “We have one, maybe two shots to get this right. But by pursuing 80×50, we set an example to other cities and can come together to form a community dedicated to carbon-neutrality.”

From there, Lee, Carione, and Mandel launched into the specific waste, transportation, energy, and building transformations they envision. A few of the enterprising aims detailed in the Roadmap include: a complete elimination of landfill use and new bio-waste processing tech, which will reduce emissions and can be used for fuel; introduction of autonomous vehicles, which will reduce the need for parking and car ownership; a greater reliance on power generated within the city, including installation of 1,000-megawatt solar capacity panels in some of the city’s one million buildings; and a host of energy-efficient and carbon-neutral retrofits to existing structures.

During the Q&A follow up, a palpable skepticism of 80×50’s potential permeated the audience in light of President-elect Trump and his cabinet’s stance on climate change. Lee assuaged some of the fear by assuring the audience that most of the actions listed in the 80×50 plan would remain within the domain of city government to enact. Though he did concede that the project has taken on a new sense of urgency due to the election results. “Despite the despair, we can create a better city and a clean energy economy,” said. “We are talking about a fundamental transformation.”

Pat Sapinsley, LEED AP, co-chair of the AIANY Committee on the Environment, introduced the lecture, and concluded by bringing two smaller, but related on-going proposals to the audience’s attention. These included a zero-waste to landfills by 2030 initiative, and a digital archive of curated drawings, resources, and webinars of new and updated environmental codes. The archive is intended to help architects and contractors design and build energy-efficient buildings with greater efficiency. Sapinsley said that help was needed, and welcomed anyone to reach out if interested.

Event: Roadmap to 80×50
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.14.16
Speakers: Lia Cairone, Senior Policy Advisor, NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability; John Lee, RA, LEED AP, Deputy Director, Buildings and Energy Efficiency, NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability; Benjamin Mandel, Renewable Energy Policy Advisor, NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
Organized by: AIANY Committee on the Environment and Urban Green Council
Sponsored by: Con Edison

Anna Gibertini is a freelance journalist based in the New York metropolitan area.  She recently graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s in arts journalism.

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