In October 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its climate report, the most significant finding of which was that unless immediate and dramatic action was taken to reduce the impacts of climate change, by 2030 there would be irreversible damage to our planet, resulting in food shortages and mass migration. In May 2019, the UN released an executive summary of the Global Assessment report that found that nature is declining at unprecedented rates, one million species are threatened by extinction, and there will be grave impacts for people around the world. But, to quote the chair of the UN task force that issued this report: “It is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global.” As the Federal government seeks to dismantle climate action, we have a compelling and urgent need to lead from the grassroots and local level.
We believe in working together, building on what works, and putting the environment first in all decisions. The science is clear, the crisis is real.
In light of the new climate science, we need to revisit the Town’s Climate Action Plan, which was adopted in 2011, and create a new timeline and strategies to reduce our Town’s environmental footprint. This starts with updating our greenhouse gas inventory to understand the sources of emissions, which will help determine how best to reduce of emissions and convert to clean energy. We would bring together the Sustainability Advisory Board, the Conservation Board, and the Planning Board to collaborate on this project and we would seek Federal and State grant opportunities to do so.
As residents are aware, Con Edison has enacted a moratorium on all new natural gas connections in southern Westchester County (including New Castle). We support promoting alternative clean energy sources over increases in natural gas supply; therefore, we will vigorously oppose any effort to site a natural gas storage tank in our town and/or in other communities. Our goal must be to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
As elected officials we will continue to press Con Edison to invest in clean energy alternatives to natural gas, without which we fear that demand for fuel oil will increase. We are also concerned about potential increases in demand for electricity, which will put strain on the grid and accelerate the increased increase reliance on the aging infrastructure used to supply electricity to the region.
In 2017, New Castle became the first small town in New York State to be designated as a NYSERDA Clean Energy Community. We are committed to continuing to lead the way in adopting clean energy standards. The Town is proud of local projects where “passive house” standards have been used for ultra-energy efficiency.
We should build on our track record of successes and create a Green Building Code to require substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in all new buildings. Our goal is to encourage and incentivize net-zero greenhouse gas emissions buildings. We would examine incentives including tax exemptions, additional square footage, building permit relief, and a recognition program. We would seek to attract progressive, climate-smart developers that want to work with enlightened and proactive Towns.
Financial incentive programs exist for the replacement of fossil fuels with climate-friendly energy sources, such as solar and geothermal. NYSERDA, Con Edison, Sustainable Westchester, and the Town of New Castle all provide consultation and support. We would appoint a point person in Town Hall to assist commercial and residential property owners in navigating these resources.
Much of the response to the Con Edison gas moratorium has focused on commercial properties. We want to do more to engage residential homeowners in making their homes climate-smart.
We will explore locations to install solar panels to create new climate-smart energy sources for the town. Part of this initiative would include incentives for commercial property owners to install solar panels on flat roofs and approaching property owners with large, non-wooden tracts of land to consider building solar farms.
We believe that the Town of New Castle should be the leader when it comes to making climate-friendly changes to policies and practices. One way to do this is to more aggressively convert the fleet of Town vehicles from gas to electric. We support creating a plan for the conversion of the town fleet to all-electric vehicles, as feasible based on their use.
As more electric vehicles are on the road, we will work to make our town not only a convenient place to charge, but a destination for travelers. We will explore adding more chargers in our community, as needed, as well as Tesla supercharging machines. Our two hamlets sit at an ideal location for travelers to get off the Saw Mill Parkway, Taconic Parkway, or other nearby highways and local roads to charge their Tesla. These visitors will be able to shop or get a bite to eat in Chappaqua or Millwood while their car is charging. This is convenient for travelers, but it also brings more people to our town to support local businesses.
The existing preferred parking at the train station does not meet the current demand, and therefore is no longer incentivizing the purchase of electric vehicles. We support expanding the number of preferred parking spots, subject to the review and recommendation of the Sustainability Advisory Board.
In order to save energy and avoid parking hassles, we would explore launching a train station rideshare program with an application similar to New York State Rideshare App 511. We understand the magnitude of the culture shift such a program would require, therefore we would start small with an aggressive pilot program in certain targeted neighborhoods.
Another important way that our community can be climate-smart is through composting. In 2018, Ivy and Jeremy supported the SAB in the implementation of the New Castle Food Scrap Compost Pilot Program. We would continue our ongoing work to encourage the County to build a compost facility in Westchester and to explore curb-side pickup for compost.
In 2018, Ivy and Jeremy, brokered a legal agreement between the Town and Intergenerate that enabled the Millwood Community Garden to launch after months of stagnation. This included getting the Town to agree to supply water and to fence the property. We will continue working with Intergenerate to launch community programming at the Garden to teach residents, and in particular children, about growing food and sustainable eating.
The SAB recently launched a “Meatless Mondays” program to encourage residents to forgo meat once a week (or more!) to reduce carbon emissions associated with the production, processing, and transportation of meat. We support this initiative and applaud the SAB for their leadership.
Our community is situated within the NYC watershed; we have an obligation to protect the water supply for ourselves, our children, and the millions of NYC residents who rely on our region for drinking water. We must educate residents and developers with regard to storm water management to reduce runoff and staunch the loss of nutrients in our soil. Furthermore, we must educate residents about the use of pesticides to reduce harmful, unnecessary over-spraying.
We will partner with the Conservation Board to establish a “tree goal” - the number of trees the town will commit to planting each year. Then we will work with the Arbor Day Foundation to launch a pilot program and explore vacant land that the town owns or controls to plant more trees.
The 2017 Comprehensive Plan addresses the need to locate development within the hamlets, and commits the Town to take affirmative steps to maintain the bucolic nature of the surrounding communities. We support limits on development, particularly in the R2-A zone, and we will push to preserve open space. (Look for more about open space in our next platform item: Our Plan to Enhance Recreation Opportunities and Improve Community Spirit).
We propose working with the Towns of Cortlandt, Ossining, and Yorktown to create overlay zoning that would address development in this environmentally-sensitive area. The overlay district would include additional requirements that would layer on top of the underlying zoning to address issues such as biodiversity, wetlands, steep slopes, and aquifers, among other issues to be identified as a part of this project. We believe that the first line of defense in protecting and preserving the Greater Teatown area is to ensure more careful evaluation of proposed development – an overlay district is one way that we will accomplish the community’s goals.
Recent weather incidents have made residents aware of the real and present impacts of climate change. As we plan for the future, it is critically important that residents, neighborhoods, and the entire community are prepared to respond to a range of different incidents. Our goal is to create a resilient community that can survive and thrive into the future. We will work with the Community Preparedness Committee, the Sustainability Advisory Board, the New Castle Police Department, and other first responders to establish a resiliency plan that is fully-informed by the latest climate science.
We believe that that local government has a considerable role to play in instituting climate-smart policies to protect our planet and create a resilient community. While individual residents must share in the responsibility for protecting our natural environment, we believe that local government can and should enact thoughtful, strong, and enforceable policies to do the same. The belief that government can use its power to act in the public good is part of our core values as Democrats and will be a key part of how we govern as public officials on all issues, including addressing climate change.
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