Climate Strategy

How can the next mayor deploy urban design and community organizing to address climate risk in underinvested communities?


Many Black and brown New Yorkers are not only facing high housing costs and economic security, they are also seeing the most disproportionate impacts of the climate crisis. Air quality in the Bronx is the worst in the nation, extreme heat is the number one climate killer, and waterfront communities ripped apart by Hurricane Sandy are still suffering from the impacts of flooding. The urgency to act is immediate as the planet overheats and extreme climate events become more frequent.

  1. 16.

    Mobilize every city agency to lead on climate action.

    • Challenge: Leadership on climate policy has been concentrated in small teams within the mayor’s office, rather than embedded across every agency. The city’s vast real estate assets – from urban forests to streetscapes – have been drastically underfunded and underused as tools to fight the climate crisis.

    • Deepen investment in climate action and explore new revenue streams.

    • Equip the Department of Transportation to be a leading agency in climate action.

    • Cool the most heat prone neighborhoods with a green infrastructure strategy led by the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, Department of Transportation, Department of Parks & Recreation, and Department of City Planning.

    • Rethink coastal development projects in collaboration between the Department of City Planning and State and Federal agencies.

    Case Study

    Philadelphia, PA – Stormwater Management
  2. 17.

    Fight environmental racism with a community-centered approach.

    • Challenge: Historically, environmental impacts from highways, peaker plants, and manufacturing facilities have disproportionately concentrated in Black and brown neighborhoods like the South Bronx, where childhood asthma hospitalization rates are 70% higher than the rest of New York City.

    • Launch a Climate Neighborhoods Program with frontline communities that is defined by community leadership.

    • Raise awareness of possible climate events and foster greater community cohesion around extreme weather.

    • Guarantee that low-income New Yorkers will not bear the burden of the city's clean energy transition.

    Case Study

    San Francisco, CA – Public Space Stewardship Guide
  3. 18.

    Aggressively adapt the city’s urban systems to shape a cleaner future.

    • Challenge: As the source of about 70% of the world’s energy-related greenhouse gases, cities like New York must radically transform their carbon emissions over the next decade in order to counteract the devastating social and economic effects from climate change.

    • Commit to owning, operating and developing net-zero city assets.

    • Overhaul the city’s food, energy, and waste systems to ensure environmental justice, food access and carbon reduction through a circular systems approach.

    Case Study

    Amsterdam – Materials Passport

These recommendations are authored by Urban Design Forum. We thank our advisors who provided helpful insights, suggestions, and guidance throughout the working group process.