Tell Mayor de Blasio: Build Green Healthy Schools now!

Mayor de Blasio

As New York City moves toward a full reopening of schools by September, the realities of COVID-19 and the climate crisis for our frontline communities cannot be ignored. That is why our Climate Works for All coalition is urging Mayor de Blasio to prioritize the installation of solar energy and air control systems in NYC public schools, which will enhance equity and safety for students and staff, while creating good-paying jobs that help the city achieve its 80 x 50 climate goals. Join us in demanding Mayor de Blasio end his term fighting for our communities by investing in Green, Healthy Schools now!

To: Mayor de Blasio
From: [Your Name]

New York City public schools are among the institutions that have been hit hardest by COVID. The shutdown of schools disrupted the lives of countless students, teachers, and families. What happens with public schools in the coming months and years will significantly shape recovery post COVID, especially in low-income communities of color ravaged by the pandemic.

With over 1,800 school buildings, New York City has the largest school district in the country. K-12 public schools account for one-quarter of all city-owned buildings. Many of these buildings are large with expansive rooftops that are suitable for solar energy, and have the capability to provide 23.2 megawatts of solar energy to the City’s grid. Since the City published it’s Solar 100 report, the Department of Education (DOE) has been recognized as an integral partner in achieving NYC’s solar energy goals. Beyond the solar-ready capabilities that DOE’s buildings provide, K-12 schools are a large portion of the City’s highest carbon emitters in its public buildings portfolio. According to a September 2020 report by The Solar Foundation, only 2.4 percent of New York City schools have installed solar.

The installation of solar and air control systems like HVAC in public schools will foster more resilient neighborhoods and ensure the benefits of renewable energy reach low-income New Yorkers of color who have been most impacted by COVID and climate change.

In addition, these clean energy infrastructure projects will offer a pathway toward well-paid, career-building jobs for both new-entry workers and workers transitioning into the climate industry, across ages and genders. The Political Economy Research Institute (UMass-Amherst) estimates for every $1 million spent on renewable energy projects and energy efficiency retrofit projects, 7.1 and 8.7 direct and indirect jobs would be created respectively. These jobs will not only put people back to work, but help them secure more stable, well-paid positions that can become fulfilling careers in the near future.

New York City needs to do more and move faster with the installation of solar and HVAC systems in public schools. The Climate Works for All coalition has calculated that installing solar and HVAC in every school would cost $1.5 billion over the next decade. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) – the city agency in charge of energy management – has already allocated in the capital budget $3.8 billion specifically dedicated to energy efficiency and renewable energy measures for public buildings over the next ten years. But allocation is not the same as active investment. This $3.8 billion is just sitting there, waiting to be used.

In your final months in office, your administration must begin the process of investing $1.5 billion towards the installation of solar panels and HVAC systems in New York City’s public schools. This would be a great end to your mayoral legacy and such action would leave the next mayoral administration in a strong position to finish the job and invest the remaining $2.3 billion of the DCAS funds toward energy efficiency projects on other public city-owned buildings. The full investment of $1.5 billion would be enough to install solar panels and HVAC systems in every New York City public school, creating Green, Healthy Schools for All.