by Tom Ellis
ALBANY, NY: Kate Lawrence of the Mayor’s Office of Energy and Sustainability was the speaker at the March 18 SPB dinner.
She said former Mayor Gerald Jennings launched the sustainability office in 2011; he signed a national green jobs pledge in 2008, the bicycle master plan was completed in 2009, and the 2030 plan was completed in 2010 and approved by the Common Council in 2012.
An Albany Common Council sustainability advisory committee was approved in 2013, she said; it has 15 members, it will issue a report in June, and has energy and sustainability subcommittees.
The two priorities for 2015 are the Tivoli Lake Preserve Community and Engagement and Visioning Project and development of an energy plan to improve energy efficiency in city operations. Regarding the former, Ms. Lawrence said the day-lighting of the Patroon Creek remains controversial among many community. Day-lighting refers to putting above ground a portion of the Patroon Creek that now runs in an underground pipe. She said goals have been established for the preserve, the preserve has some challenging topography including being a bowl-shape, limited access, only two main entrances, no off-site lake views, invasive species, debris in the lake, considerable overgrowth, dense and overgrown trails, frequent flooding and washouts, and low levels of lake oxygen,
Community members offered many suggestions including removing the invasive species, installing a comfort station, adequate maintenance and staffing, restoring the lake to its original size, environmental education opportunities, and making the trails wheel-chair accessible. The preserve is 72 acres. A vision plan has been developed and is still being revised. One major impediment to improving the preserve is an adequate, sustained funding stream. She said DEC has pledged a year of funding to improve soil and water quality.
The energy plan in conjunction with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) is an initiative of the governor that includes Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, and Yonkers. Assessments of energy efficiency are being conducted in the largest municipal buildings. Of the five cities, Albany is the least population dense and has the highest energy and highest transportation energy use per capita. Among the identified Albany energy plan goals are to develop a long term energy supply system and reduce city operations’ energy use by 20 percent by 2020. She said NYPA is serious about each city being successful and NYPA will create and energy manager for each city. Considerable information is available on line about the five cities energy plans.
Although Ms. Lawrence said her job touches on many issues, the Q&A was disappointing to many attendees. Chet Burch said many vehicles in the city of Albany are driven by non-residents. Ms. Lawrence said we should improve mass transit. Sylvia Bernard said many people flat-out refuse to use public transit. Tim Truscott responded that increasing numbers of young people choose not to drive and ridership on CDTA continues to rise each year.
Jim Travers asked about the Rapp Road landfill. Ms. Lawrence said she had no information about the landfill but added the city is looking into diverting textiles from the landfill. She said the city is going to sell the 363-acre parcel in owns in Coeymans to DEC. (Twenty years ago, city officials purchased the Coeymans parcel as a successor landfill site for the Rapp Road dump).
The 15 member sustainability committee is composed of five city commissioners, and five members each were appointed by the mayor and Common Council.
I asked about how the city views the relationship between sustainability and jobs, and in particular, public sector jobs. Ms. Lawrence said those are policy issues that she had no information about.
Lynne Jackson spoke about pedestrian safety saying some intersections in Albany are literally terrifying for pedestrians to cross because some drivers are hell-bent of passing through no matter what. Ms. Lawrence said she is a pedestrian and does not drive.
Mark Schaeffer said new buildings should be mandated to meet high energy efficiency standards, such installations will pay for themselves quickly, and the more we can do to quickly get off of fossil fuels the less future generations will curse us.
Published in May/June 2015 Save the Pine Bush Newsletter