In 2007, New York City unveiled an ambitious plan that then-mayor Michael Bloomberg hoped would make it “the first environmentally sustainable 21st-century city.” PlaNYC was a 132-item program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve mass transit, plant trees, clean up polluted land and rivers, and enhance access to park land. The aim of PlaNYC was to make New York City a better place to live as it accommodates 1 million more people by 2030.
Under the plan as of 2014, the city had improved energy efficiency in 174 city buildings; planted 950,000 trees; opened or renovated 234 school playgrounds; established 129 community gardens; upgraded wastewater treatment; and acquired 36,000 acres to protect upstate water supplies. It had expanded recycling, installed solar panels, cleaned up polluted sites, installed bike lanes and racks and launched a bike-sharing program, retrofitted ferries to reduce pollution, introduced electric vehicles, and converted hundreds of taxis to hybrid vehicles. So far, such actions have improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 19%.
In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio continued the program under a new name, OneNYC, while adding new dimensions to address economic equity. Most steps being taken to make cities more livable also help to make them more sustainable. Planning and zoning are pursuits that specifically entail a long-term vision.
By projecting further into the future than political leaders or businesses generally do, planning and zoning are powerful forces for sustaining urban communities.