Environmental Quality Improvement Projects (E-QIPs)

Working together in small groups, NYCELLI participants develop and implement a one-year project designed to improve the quality of the New York City environment and the health of its residents. Participants develop their project proposals throughout the course of the program, calling on their personal interests, the material covered in meetings, and the guidance of the presenters, Board of Advisors, and NYCELLI alumni, and present their final project plan to the class at the eighth (and final) meeting.

While the ultimate form of the projects can vary greatly, depending on the interests, creativity, and skills of the project teams, all projects advocate for reforms in law, policy, and/or practices, that contribute to the preservation, restoration, and/or enhancement of the City’s environmental health. Strategies include legislative or regulatory advocacy, educational tools or campaigns, innovative partnerships, and the provision of litigation or pro bono legal assistance to an environmental organization or stakeholder group in support of a specific outcome.

With the ongoing support of the Director and the broader NYCELLI community, participants implement their projects over the year and return to the sixth class of the following year (in late April) to describe their experiences, present the outcomes, and share the lessons they’ve learned in order to assist the participants of that class in finalizing their own project plans.

At each Graduation Luncheon, an outstanding project will be chosen from the previous year to receive the E-QIP Award.

Green Jobs Bill

Lawyers for Green Jobs (L4GJ) was created by five NYCELLI students in 2009 in response to New York’s lack of a coordinated, systematic approach to green job training and education statewide.  After reaching out to many stakeholders in this area, including Green for All, the Blue-Green Alliance, Sustainable South Bronx, the Working Families Party and other groups, and having listened to their ideas and suggestions, L4GJ determined that the best approach would be to draft a bill that would coordinate green jobs training and education statewide.

Thus, L4GJ drafted such bill which was introduced in both the Assembly and the Senate (A8377/S5640) in 2010.  Specifically, the bill created a Green Jobs Subcommittee within the New York State Workforce Investment Board.  The Green Jobs Subcommittee was mandated to oversee four tasks:  perform a labor market and industry data analysis, make targeted recommendations to develop education and job training programs, assist local governments in creating local green jobs corps to spur job training and education throughout the state, and explore funding mechanisms through a mix of public and private resources.

The group lobbied for the bill in Albany on several occasions, including meeting with members of the Environmental Conservation Committee, where the bill was being considered, and speaking at a Small Business Committee hearing concerning fostering green jobs in New York state.  The bill passed both houses nearly unanimously but unfortunately was vetoed by Governor Cuomo, who thought (incorrectly) that the bill was unnecessary given that this work was currently being carried out by the State Department of Labor.

Stormwater Fees; Impacts on and Involvement of Environmental justice Communities

Drafted an article evaluating the need for and the possibility of a stormwater fee in New York City, and how strong and equitable incentives for green infrastructure, via credits to the fee for the installation and maintenance of stormwater capture efforts (e.g., bioswales/rain gardens, rain barrels, green/blue roofs, permeable pavers, etc.) could ensure improve the environmental health of the city and ensure that environmental justice communities benefit as well as more affluent parts of the city. A stormwater fee would incentivize green infrastructure on both private and public property, reaching a much larger percentage of property in the city than any other city effort. A stormwater fee, if effective and equitable incentives for green infrastructure are included, can ensure that green infrastructure is equitably distributed throughout the city, and could potentially alleviate the limited amounts of green space, higher than average unemployment rates, and higher than average adverse health impacts, such as asthma, in environmental justice communities. The article included a review of other cities’ stormwater fee programs and the different options for credits for green infrastructure, how environmental justice communities might benefit from increased green infrastructure, NYC’s existing green infrastructure programs, and the legal framework for a stormwater fee in NYC, among other topics.

Achieving a Ban On the Sale and Possession of Bluefin Tuna In New York City

New York City, as a culinary capital of the world, is uniquely poised to influence consumer demands and trends. Not only can New York be the genesis of a global food craze (one need look no further than the cronut), but this influence can moreover be wielded as a means to effect positive change in the environmental field.

Bluefin tuna are a collection of three highly prized, but highly overfished tuna species, typically served in New York’s most exclusive and expensive restaurants.  Bluefin populations have plummeted over the last two decades, however, and at least two of the species, the Atlantic bluefin and Southern bluefin tuna, are on the verge of collapse according the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Greenpeace. Unfortunately, given the United States’ legal framework regarding fisheries, species such the bluefin tuna are treated as a resource and are not subject to endangered species legislation.

Our project’s aim is the assist the New York City Council in enacting a legislative ban on the sale of bluefin tuna in New York City.  To achieve our goal, we first sought out members of the New York City Council sympathetic to environmental causes.  We were fortunate to come in contact with Council Member Alan Maisel, a seasoned legislator, who had previously spearheaded New York State’s July 2013 ban on the sale of shark fins.  In addition, we sought, and graciously received, the assistance of major environmental non-profit organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council.  These organizations’ vast knowledge of political and legal issues and like-minded enthusiasm for our project have been instrumental in our lobbying efforts and were invaluable to the drafting of the bill, which ultimately required a good deal of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

On September 23, 2014, Council Member Maisel formally introduced the draft bill before the New York City council and our efforts to ban the sale of bluefin tuna were reported in the New York Post and several notable blogs.  As we await a crucial public hearing on the bill, we continue to try and rally a broad base of support among non-profit organizations, environmental groups, chefs, restaurateurs, and private citizens. We remain convinced that the people of New York City are behind progressive environmental legislation and we are confident in the bill’s passage