2007-07-12 / From The Mayor...

From The Mayor's Desk ...

State Legislature: Stand Up For Future Of New York City!

By now, many of you have heard about PlaNYC - our sweeping set of initiatives to guide New York's continuing growth in a way that both benefits our economy and protects our environment. The plan takes aim at every area of city life - and one of its central goals is making sure that all city residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park or playground.

Parks are so important to our health and our quality of life. But as more people move to the five boroughs and real estate becomes ever more precious, it's getting harder to find new open space. That's why we're turning our attention to the city's public schoolyards. During any given school day, these yards are buzzing with activity. But once the last bell rings, the gates close shut, and many of the yards sit completely empty.

Truth be told, we aren't the first to see the greater potential in these schoolyards, but the galvanizing power of a mass-movement like PlaNYC has given us the chance to finally put this long-considered idea into motion. Last week, we opened 69 schoolyards in communities most in need of open space. For the rest of the summer, they'll be open to the public every day until dusk. Come the fall, they'll be open when schools are not in session.

Eventually, we are going to open up 290 schoolyards in under-served neighborhoods across the city - which will provide more than 200 acres of new parkland within walking distance of more than 400,000 children and their families.

As committed as we are to strengthening our future and creating the world's first truly sustainable city, we can't do it alone. At the moment, there are two issues before the State Legislature that are paramount to our success - and we need Albany to act on both.

The first is our three-year pilot congestion pricing plan, which will not only reduce gridlock and improve air quality but will also raise money for crucial mass transit improvements so that we can all get around town quicker and easier than ever. The federal Department of Transportation is interested in giving us $500 million to put the plan into action. But they've set next Monday as a deadline to apply for that funding - and before we can apply, we need the green light from Albany.

With this window of opportunity rapidly closing, it's imperative that our state leaders put aside their competing interests and come together on this issue. To leave this half a billion dollars just sitting on the table would be absolutely ridiculous.

At the same time, we need Albany to approve a recycling transfer station on the Hudson River at Gansevoort Peninsula. This facility is a key part of our new plan to begin transporting most of our garbage out of state by barge and rail - instead of by diesel-burning trucks. In fact, opening the Gansevoort facility would alone eliminate 30,000 miles a year in truck trips to dispose of Manhattan's recyclables. Our plan will also make each borough responsible for its own waste - which is good news for residents of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, who've born the brunt of the city's garbage for too long.

That's a good point to end on - because both our solid waste and congestion pricing plans aren't neighborhood issues; they're citywide issues - and regional, too. And with time running out, we hope members of the State Legislature will see the big picture and stand up for what's truly important: the future of our entire city.

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