About a dozen people embarked on a roughly 200-mile bike ride from New York City to Albany on Saturday morning to demand lawmakers take action against climate change.
Holding a bright yellow sign that read “Climate Can’t Wait,” members of various community groups such as the Sunrise Movement, Food & Water Watch and the Queens Climate Project organized a rally in Battery Park to kick-off the week-long ride that will culminate with an Earth Day rally next Friday. The groups are pushing the state Legislature to pass a dozen bills that would move the state away from relying on fossil fuels.
“The legislature and the governor failed to pass anything of note in the state budget. And so they need to act now before the legislative session ends in June,” Laura Shindell, an organizer with Food & Water Watch, told Gothamist. “Sure, you believe in climate change, but if you're not passing legislation to actually move New York off of fossil fuels, you're just as bad as the people who don't believe climate change is happening.”
The bicyclists were joined for a small stretch by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“There's a moral, economic, and health imperative to get hold of the climate destruction. Because of global warming and we have to work at every level of government,” he told the riders before they took off together.
Maggie Cely also joined the riders, and said she hoped lawmakers can act with urgency to prevent storms and power outages that are worsening with climate change.
“If you are a New Yorker and you live here, this is a sacred place that we love and call home," she said. "And it is in jeopardy, because we are a floating island and we are going to see effects of climate change."
Among the bills advocates are backing is a measure that was cut from the state budget, which would require new buildings to run entirely on electricity and stop burning fossil fuels on site. A similar law was signed in New York City by outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio. New York Senator Brian Kavanagh, D-Dist. 26, is the lead sponsor of the state’s bill, meant to stop the construction of infrastructure that requires fossil fuels.
“If you're living in New York, most likely your heat is resulting from burning fuel on site. Gas stoves are the most sort of visible thing, we see a flame in our kitchen,” he told Gothamist. “But every day, there's a flame burning fossil fuel in most of the residential buildings, and that's not a situation that is sustainable.”
New York has set ambitious climate goals that include cutting greenhouse emissions by 85% by 2050. Kavanagh said it makes sense to “start just building our buildings from the get-go in the way that a modern building ought to be built,” because it’ll be more costly to convert to electricity after they’re constructed.
Environmental advocates said on Saturday that the state’s recently inked $220 billion budget doesn’t go far enough to address climate change. The budget, however, does pave the way for a November vote on a $4.2 billion environmental bond act. If approved, the state could fund capital projects to preserve natural resources and reduce the impacts of climate change.
Correction: This story was updated to reflect a more accurate distance for the bike ride, which is roughly 200 miles.