Top: Helen supports Meatless Mondays alongside public health, environmental, and animal rights advocates at a 2015 rally (January 26, 2015) Bottom left: Helen pulls weeds in Riverside Park at a Community Clean-Up Day event (July 22, 2017) Bottom right: Helen alongside Council Member Carlos Menchaca and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City (September 21, 2014).
Helen has been a strong advocate on environmental and sustainability issues since her first day in office. She has prioritized the fight against climate change, the reduction of air pollution, divestment from fossil fuels, and more. For the past three years, Helen has received a 100% score from the New York League of Conservation Voters thanks to her record on improving street safety, reducing air pollution, and raising community awareness about environmental issues. And, there’s always more we can do. Helen is already building on her successes from her first term. She plans to continue her work in support of science-based and community-driven solutions to our environmental challenges. Helen is also an advocate for programs that reduce waste production through composting and recycling. She looks forward to passing legislation that improves air quality in New York. Read more below!
Helen is taking the lead, here are some legislative highlights (details below):
- Helen is the prime sponsor of legislation to enforce City anti-idling laws and require City-owned and operated school buses to switch to b-5 biodiesel fuel.
- Helen has advocated forcefully that New York City freeze any additional investments in fossil fuel companies and divest from existing fossil fuel resources.
- Helen is a co-sponsor of six bills that collectively advance City commitment to clean energy and environmental protections.
- Helen helped negotiate the NYC EDC agreement to halve the number of tourist helicopter trips, reducing noise pollution throughout New York City.
- Helen has encouraged Upper West Siders to reduce their waste generation and energy consumption by hosting educational forums, giving away hundreds of NYC official reusable shopping bags, and sharing environmental tip sheets for residents.
- Helen sponsored a Resolution, which passed, to declare the City of New York a “Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Zone.”
Helen’s goals for the next four years:
- Help NYC slash energy usage by passing legislation that requires all new buildings to meet Passive Building Code standards.
- Ensure that New York City meets the greenhouse gas reduction targets set forth in the Paris Climate Accord.
- Assist Upper West Siders in continuing to reduce waste production and energy consumption.
Helen Tackles Air Pollution
To reduce air pollution and improve public health, Helen is pushing the City to improve its anti-idling laws. Idling is one of the most intractable environmental issues facing New York City. City law currently prohibits vehicles from idling for more than 3 minutes on most streets and more than 1 minute in a school zone, but the law is rarely enforced. Helen has proposed legislation, Int. 0717-2015, mandating that residents who file citizen complaints about idling collect up to 50% of the City fine.
Helen is also researching requiring street vendors to plug into street lights for power, rather than running diesel generators all day. Street lamps are equipped to handle electrical outlets and using these instead of diesel fuel would dramatically improve our air quality. There is no precedent for this, however having street vendors pay the DOT for power would greatly reduce our emission, moving New York closer to becoming a zero emission city.
Helen Focuses on Climate Change
Helen sponsored a proclamation designating September 21st National Climate Change Awareness Day in New York City. This day raises awareness about the dangers of climate change and the role of greenhouse gas emissions. In May 2017, Helen interviewed the City Senior Director of Climate Policy and Programs on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) regarding administrative efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for impacts of climate change - watch the interview here.
Helen Supports Fossil Fuel Divestment
Helen believes strongly that cities have a huge role to play in our efforts to slow down climate change. New York City and State pension funds together invest over $8 billion in companies that mine, drill, and produce fossil fuels. In September 2015, Helen and Council Member Costa Constantinides sent a letter to the five pension boards of New York City, calling on them to investigate the phasing out of fossil fuel investments and the phasing in of renewable energy investments. Helen has also joined forces with State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz, who are calling on the City and State Comptroller to divest our pensioners retirement savings from fossil fuels. These efforts were featured in an op-ed that ran in Crain's New York Business.
Helen Speaks Out in Support of Clean Energy
Like many District 6 residents, Helen was profoundly disturbed by President Trump’s announcement that he plans to withdraw our country from the Paris Climate Accord. In response, local governments across the U.S. are moving ahead to reduce emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change with or without federal support. Helen hosted a forum at Rutgers Presbyterian Church in June of 2017 which provided detailed and practical information about how Upper West Side residents and business owners can make the switch to renewable energy, cut back on energy use in their homes and workplaces, and lower community greenhouse gas emissions levels. For more information, download the resource packet from the Clean Energy forum. Helen is also co-sponsoring six bills that would collectively advance our commitment to clean energy and the protection of our environment. These bills would make it easier for small businesses to adopt solar energy, ensure that our energy code is constantly updated to be the most progressive it can be, and require the creation of a comprehensive long-term energy plan for New York City.
Helen Advocates for the Reduction of Solid Waste
Helen is a supporter of a fee on plastic and paper bags. She also supports a citywide ban on polystyrene, a material used for packaging. Helen and her team have given away hundreds of New York City official reusable shopping bags in an effort to reduce waste and promote sustainable shopping.
Helen Reduces Noise Pollution from Tourist Helicopter Rides
Residents have complained for years about relentless helicopter noise and the impact it has on quality of life. This is an issue that resonates far beyond the Upper West Side: helicopter noise impacts everyone who lives, works, or uses public parks along helicopter tour routes citywide. Together with Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Margaret Chin, Helen introduced legislation, Int. 0859-2015, that would ban the noisiest tour helicopters after holding a committee hearing on the issue in 2015. Helen then helped to negotiate an agreement with the helicopter industry that banned tourist helicopter flights on Sundays and overall reduced flights by 50%. As part of the agreement, heliports also agreed to make their best efforts to curtail idling during the periods between flights, as well as actively research available technologies to reduce emissions, promote fuel efficiency, and further mitigate helicopter noise.
Helen Declared New York City a “TPP-Free Zone”
Helen raised strong concerns that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could weaken US standards for labor protections, environmental protections, and food sanitation. The City Council adopted Helen’s resolution (Res. 0576-2015) to declare New York City a “TPP-Free Zone” and urge Congress to not give the President permission to sign this free trade agreement.