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Activists Urge City Council To Join Other Cities In Declaring A Climate Emergency

A City Hall rally on Tuesday demanding a resolution declaring a climate emergency.
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A City Hall rally on Tuesday demanding a resolution declaring a climate emergency. Adwait Patil / Gothamist

Two days after dozens of people were arrested outside of The New York Times building while protesting the paper’s climate change coverage, close to a hundred protesters gathered outside City Hall on Monday afternoon to support a City Council resolution that would declare a “climate emergency” in New York City.

The resolution was first proposed by Councilmember Ben Kallos in May this year, and would require the city to install battery storage systems on city owned buildings and construct geothermal and solar power programs for hot water, heating, and electricity.

The resolution notes that "nearly 400 cities, districts and counties across the world representing over 34 million people collectively have recently declared or officially acknowledged the existence of a global climate emergency, including Hoboken, Berkeley, and Los Angeles." The bill stresses that NYC, given its size, is in a position to be "a global leader by both converting to an ecologically, socially, and economically regenerative economy at emergency speed." Though short on details, the resolution calls for "an immediate emergency mobilization to restore a safe climate."

The rally was organized by Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement, among other groups.

Xiye Bastida-Patrick, a 17-year-old climate activist from New York, started advocating for policy change two years ago. According to her, “climate change” is an outdated term that does not cover its growing, and continuous, adverse effects on low-income communities. She spoke about “climate refugees,” and explained how her immigration from Mexico to America was because of droughts that affected food production in her region.

“The climate crisis has a thousand different shapes, but it ultimately affects everyone, everywhere. We are on earth to take care of life, not to take over,” she said.

The oversight hearing was presided over by Environmental Protection chair Costa Constantinides, and included Councilmembers Donovan J. Richards, Stephen T. Levin, and Eric Ulrich in attendance.

Public comment from activists, and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) included testimonies calling for a ban on citywide fossil fuel use, and creating pilot programs for renewable energy sources—like geothermal, and solar systems—to be set up in each district.

Christina See, an organizer with Extinction Rebellion, spoke about the effects on infrastructure, food systems, and transportation face because of climate change. She mentioned the Midwest crop flooding, and called for systemic change which included banning “single-use” items.

“We need to change how we think about convenience. We need to realize the strain we’re putting on the world. The animals we’re killing, just by virtue of living the way we do, and extracting resources from the planet,” she said, holding back tears. “Solutions and actions must be proportional to the issues at hand. We need to state a much more ambitious timeline for net-zero 100 percent greenhouse gas emissions. We need legally binding legislation to get us there.”

Representatives from the DCAS included Anthony J. Fiore, Deputy Commissioner, Energy Management and Chief Energy Management Officer, who confirmed that the agency has started to identify potential solar-energy grid locations in the city. No further action or commitments have been made by DCAS regarding this plan.

Karlos Edmonds, an organizer and member of Extinction Rebellion, spoke on the mobilization required to popularize this issue among citizens, who may not be concerned with topics relating to renewable energy, and climate protection. His organization is concerned with bringing this issue to light, via mainstream news sources, and everyday discussion.

“The corporations continue to pass propaganda off as news stories, as well as advertisements that make it sound like we can just continue to keep burning fossil-fuels. That dialogue has got to end. It’s going to sink us, if we let that carry on the airwaves,” Edmonds told Gothamist.

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