Urban Sustainability: Examples from New York City

  • Why is urban sustainability important?
  • What can be learned from New York City?
  • Why do density and social equity matter?

I have written extensively about sustainability in New York City, including my most recent book: “Sustainability Management, Lessons from and for New York City, America, and the Planet.” New York City has historically been a leader in fields ranging from finance to media, and is currently experimenting with sustainability. Mayor Bloomberg has made his PlaNYC 2030 sustainability plan a priority across the administration. He has done so because he views sustainability as integral to the city’s long-term quality and global competitiveness as its population grows and other cities emerge as global leaders.

The trends seen in New York City — of municipal government taking leadership to implement sustainability measures and practices regardless of global, national, or regional government assistance — can be seen worldwide.  There are a variety of factors pushing local governments to take the lead in sustainability although two stand out: (1) Local governments are more clearly confronted with the short-term impacts of sustainability challenges, (2) Water supply, waste management and transportation infrastructure are a basic responsibility of local municipalities.

In response to this need for a strong local sustainability initiative, New York City has succeeded in implementing several sustainability measures from PlaNYC 2030 and must continue to manage the goals set forth by Mayor Bloomberg in that plan. The following essays chronicle the successes and failures of sustainability policies in New York City and look to the future as this diverse city must meet its growing demands for energy, mass transit, and clean drinking water.


It’s Time for New York to Save its Mass Transit System (June 12, 2017)

Replacing the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant with Energy Efficiency (March 6, 2017)

The Second Avenue Subway: Another Small Piece of the Sustainable City (January 9, 2017)

Mass Transit in the Sustainable City (October 31, 2016)

Solar New York (October 3, 2016)

New York City’s Sustainable Dream (September 19, 2016)

A New Park Rises From an Old Garbage Dump: Parks as Critical Elements of Urban Sustainability (May 16, 2016)

New York City’s Bag Fee and the Circular Economy (May 9, 2016)

The Importance of New York City’s Water Infrastructure (April 11, 2016)

Zero Waste in San Francisco and New York: A Tale of Two Cities (March 28, 2016)

A Sustainable City Would Continue to Keep Cars Out of Times Square (August 24, 2015)

Post-Sandy Rebuilding for Resiliency: Lessons from Long Beach, NY (July 27, 2015)

Coal Miners, Extractive Industries, and a Sustainable Economy (July 20, 2015)

Removing Toxic Electronics from NYC’s Waste (July 13, 2015)

From PlaNYC to OneNYC: New York’s Evolving Sustainability Policy (April 27, 2015)

We Need to Finance and Subsidize Mass Transit (March 30, 2015)

Sustainability Planning in New York City: Let’s Build on the Path-Breaking Work of the Bloomberg Team (March 9, 2015)

Preventing Sea Level Rise in New York City While Cleaning the Air in India and China (February 23, 2015)

Banning Styrofoam, Managing Our Waste, and Promoting Sustainability (January 12, 2015)

NYC’s de Blasio Administration and the Path to 80 Percent Greenhouse Gas Reductions (December 8, 2014)

A Key Lesson from Superstorm Sandy: We Still Need a Rainy Day Fund (November 3, 2014)

Mayor Bill de Blasio Pivots Toward a Sustainable New York City (September 22, 2014)

Will de Blasio and Cuomo Make Sustainability a Higher Priority? (August 11, 2014)

NYC’s Bike Sharing: The de Blasio Administration’s First Expansion of the City’s Sustainability Agenda (July 28, 2014)

Getting Rid of NYC’s Garbage (July 21, 2014)

Mayor de Blasio, Traffic Safety and a Sustainable New York City (June 9, 2014)

Park Equity and Park Reality in NYC (May 12, 2014)

Sustainable Consumption and the Global Environmental Crisis (April 28, 2014)

Our Aging and Dangerous Urban Infrastructure (March 17, 2014)

Renewing NYC’s Sustainability Agenda: A Community Based Approach (February 17, 2014)

Bloomberg and de Blasio: Different Mayors, Different Times (December 23, 2013)

What Kind of New York City Do We Want? (December 9, 2013)

Preparing for Climate Change After Summer at the Shore (September 3, 2013)

The Post-Sandy Summer by the Shore (July 29, 2013)

Will New York’s Sustainability Program Survive Bloomberg’s Mayoralty? (July 8, 2013)

Reducing Greenhouse Gasses: NYC Is Not Waiting for the U.S. Congress (April 22, 2013)

Maintaining the Momentum Behind New York City’s Sustainability Initiatives (January 14, 2013)

The Shameful Delay in Federal Aid for Sandy Relief (January 7, 2013)

Homelessness is getting worse in New York City (June 11, 2012)

Mayor Bloomberg’s Sustainability State of Mind (April 30, 2012)

NYC Takes the Garbage Out (January 17, 2012)

Mike Bloomberg’s Impressive Sustainability Record (December 5, 2011)

New York’s Exciting Experiment in Green Infrastructure (November 14, 2011)

We Need to Reduce New York City’s Growing Poverty Rate (September 26, 2011)

Japan’s Nuclear Catastrophe and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Policy to Close Indian Point (August 15, 2011)

The Highline: Public-Private Partnership and Bloomberg’s Leadership Creates a Great NYC Park (May 31, 2011)

While Congress Stalls, New York City Pushes Sustainability (April 25, 2011)

An Environmental Tale of Two Governments: New York City and the United States of America (February 14, 2011)

New York City’s Sustainability Plan 2.0 (November 15, 2010)

Andrew Cuomo’s Leadership and New York’s Green Economic Revival (November 8, 2010)

New York Needs to Reinvent and Not Destroy Its Environmental Agency (October 25, 2010)

The Jersey Train Tunnel Is a Smart Investment (October 11, 2010)

New York City’s Green Infrastructure Plan and Sustainability Management (October 4, 2010)

It’s Time to Enact Congestion Pricing in New York City (September 27, 2010)

Andrew Cuomo’s Visionary Energy Policy (August 5, 2010)

A Sustainable City Requires Increased Mass Transit Subsidies (August 3, 2010)

Understanding Homelessness in New York City (June 10, 2010)

Everyone’s Backyard: Parks in New York City (April 12, 2010)

Giants Stadium, the Wrecking Ball, and Sustainable Structures (February 6, 2010)

New York: A Global City for the Global Economy (February 1, 2010)

Sustainable Financing for Mass Transit in New York (December 31, 2009)

The Real Results of Copenhagen Will Be Seen in Our Cities (December 14, 2009)