Fighting Climate Change Annual Report 2018
Marching in Albany
2018 was the 2nd year of NYCC’s new program ings. It will set a worldwide example. Just as with to fight climate change and inequality. It’s gone New York City’s divestment, the bill will lead to spectacularly better than we expected! other cities taking similar action. 2018 started with NYC’s Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate committing to divest its mammoth pension funds from oil and gas, which means the likes of Exxon will lose about $5 billion in investments. It’s the world’s largest divestment win at the local level – and has sparked other large funds to divest, for example the entire country of Ireland! That was a hard fought campaign, detailed in last year’s report.
Intro 1253 also creates thousands of good, union jobs yearly hiring from communities of color for renovation and construction work to rehab and upgrade the city’s most polluting buildings to high energy efficiency. The legislation is a #GreenNewDeal4NYC.
We’ll push hard to enact Intro 1253, but with the Council’s leadership as well as Mayor’s support, we’re in a strong position to win. Both of these Now, 2018 has ended with the New York City victories are the result of NYCC and our allies’ Council on the verge of enacting the world’s larg- hard-hitting organizing and campaign work. est cut to climate pollution by any municipality, ever, thanks in large part to our work. Our political theory is: win transformative policy victories by combining our base in communities In November, the City Council Speaker, Corey of color with predominantly white progressive Johnson, and Chair of the Council’s Environmen- climate activists in aggressive, relentless camtal Committee, Costa Constantinides introduced paigns that demand big results. We’re constantIntro 1253, which would require large buildings ly organizing and putting together events – at a over 25,000 square feet ––– the top source of much higher volume than other organizations. climate pollution from NYC –– to slash their climate pollution by over 80% by upgrading to high In 2018, we grew from one to two staffers devotenergy efficiency standards. ed full-time to climate/inequality campaigns. As a result, we delivered even more work in 2018 According to media, Intro 1253 is “historic” … than in 2017: NYCC was either the main orga“aggressive” … the “most ambitious city level cli- nizer or the co-organizer of over 50 events and mate bill in the world” that will “deliver the largest protests, which included nearly 500 NYCC memcargon reduction in any city in history”. It’s true! If bers in attendance. enacted, the bill will set the world’s first comprehensive requirements to slash pollution from the Many of these were small, rapid-response procity’s top pollution source: energy use in build- tests, but we also led the organizing on two
“I can tell you that there is no place in the world that organizes like NYCC.” – Bill McKibben, October 2018 Co-founder of 350.org
much larger events, including a 1,500 person march and rally in Albany (photo above) and a nearly 3,000 person march in Lower Manhattan. NYCC is helping unite diverse communities for these high-impact events. Our climate/inequality work is going better and faster than our wildest expectations! Of course, we’re not going to slow down. In 2019, we plan to drive home these wins by passing Intro 1253 and look forward to NYC’s pension fund beginning to divest by starting to dump about $5 billion in oil and gas holdings. We will also fire up our efforts for more big victories that make a meaningful difference in the fight against climate change and inequality! Keep reading to check out our plans for 2019.
Patrick Houston Campaign Associate Marie Pierre Board Chairperson Pete Sikora Climate & Inequality Campaigns Director Jonathan Westin Executive Director
#GreenNewDeal4NYC to Clean Up #DirtyBuildings Thanks in large part to NYCC and our allies’ campaign, New York City is on the verge of passing world-first legislation (Intro 1253) to slash climate pollution from energy use in large buildings by over 80%. Buildings are responsible for about 70% of the city’s climate pollution – or about 35 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Just 2% of NYC real estate – the largest buildings over 25,000 square feet – generate HALF of this massive amount of pollution, as we documented in a report released in June. Among the very worst polluters are super-luxury buildings like Trump Tower and Kushner’s 666 Fifth Avenue, which are among the city’s most polluting buildings, measured by pollution per square foot. Cleaning up these #DirtyBuildings requires upgrading them to modern energy efficiency standards, which creates thousands of jobs per year, especially good, union jobs hiring from communities of color. This new legislation, introduced in November by Council Environmental Committee Chair Costa Constantinides and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, does exactly that. It is a #GreenNewDeal4NYC. Worldwide, cities are responsible for about 70% of climate pollution, and energy use in buldings is the top source in many cities. Intro 1253, if enacted, will be the first law worldwide to set comprehensive standards that if all covered buildings comply will achieve the over 80% pollution cuts needed to achieve the Paris climate agreement and UN IPCC report recommendations. Intro 1253 cuts climate pollution by about 40% by 2030 and over 80% by 2050 (in combination with a greening electric grid). The city’s dirtiest large buildings must begin to slash their pollution in 2022. It’s by far the strongest standard worldwide – and it’s also a world-first. If enacted, it will be the largest cut in climate pollution by any city ever. The real estate industry and
Rallying at City Hall
its allies and front groups oppose the proposed legislation. They are trying to derail or weaken it, but we’re pushing hard for its passage. NYCC is leading the charge for co-sponsors. Along with our allies, we quickly rounded up 34 co-sponsors for the bill (26 votes constitutes a majority in the Council) as of the New Year. NYCC also organized and turned out 200 people to the hearing on the bill and rally beforehand. We were the first organization selected to testify on the bill. In dramatic testimony, NYCC members testified at the Council’s hearing about being crushed by Sandy, a city-wide climate disaster, as well as the increasing difficulty of dealing with asthma as the city gets hotter due to climate change. At the hearing, the de Blasio administration also declared strong support for the bill, so we’re in a strong position to pass Intro 1253 in the coming months. The bill didn’t appear out of nowhere, of course: NYCC relentlessly pushed the Mayor and City Council to take bold action, intensifying our efforts in 2017 and 2018. We demanded that the bill not only slash pollution and create good jobs, but also not raise rents in rent-regulated housing, where state law allows landlords to raise rents permanently for “Major Capital Improvements,” while pocketing the savings of energy efficiency improvements.
The new legislation protects tenants city-wide from rent hikes, ensuring that climate pollution cuts are not pitted against affordability of housing in New York City, where 75,000 people sleep in homeless shelters each night; almost half of renters pay almost half their income in rent; and 1 in 10 public school kids is homeless at some point in the school year. Getting the right bill introduced with the Speaker and Environmental Committee’s support was a major fight. Ultimately, we couldn’t be happier with their bold stance, which fully embraces the transformative approach needed to fight the climate crisis. The legislation is a testament to the leadership of Speaker Johnson and Committee Chairman Constantinides. We look forward to working closely with them, along with support from the de Blasio Administration, to pass it. Some of the actions that NYCC was the main organizer or at the core of organizing that led to this bill’s introduction include: • Training and developing a network of constituents pushing their Councilmembers for this legislation. NYCC created, trained and coordinated constituents in over 20 Council districts who are themselves lobbying their Councilmembers, which helps counteract the real estate industry’s lobbying. • Nearly 5,000 people marching and rallying on the 5th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy in October 2017, with this legislation as a prime demand; • About 3,000 people marching and rallying in September 2018 at the #RiseForClimate action, again with this legislation as the primary demand. • Our report documenting the problem and exposing buildings like Trump Tower as among the city’s worst polluters. • A 600-person town hall meeting in May of 2017 that focused on this issue (along with divestment) • Relentless lobbying almost every Councilmember. NYCC held face to face meetings with over 25 Councilmembers and even in of-
#RiseNY March and Rally in Lower Manhattan
fices where we didn’t get a meeting with the Councilmember themselves, we briefed staff and repeatedly followed up. • Organizing over 1,000 community leaders from across the City in every Council District to jointly write to Speaker Johnson, pushing him to introduce and move this bill. • A teach-in in March 2017 inside Trump Tower in a public space to dramatize the building’s pollution and show the greedy real estate developers who oppose this legislation. Trump Tower tried to eject us, calling the NYPD and NYFD to try to get us out, but we used an obscure deal the city reached in the ‘80s with Trump to guarantee public access to a public terrace. In the end, we insisted on our legal right to the space, thumbing our noses at Trump’s minions while dramatizing the issue and generating media coverage. • Developing vocal support from Councilmembers, including by getting 17 Councilmembers to sign a statement of support that pushed their colleagues and the Mayor to take bold action. • Many smaller events such as small press conferences and rallies on the steps of City Hall with Councilmembers pushing the Mayor and Council to action.
In January of 2018, we won the city’s commitment to divest its mammoth, $190 billion (with a B) pension funds from oil and gas corporations. The city’s divestment is now on pace to begin pulling out about $5 billion from the likes of Exxon in 2019, with divestment completed within three years. Now, we’re setting our sites on New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who is the sole trustee of the even-larger NYS pension fund, which controls $200 billion and invests about $13 billion into oil, gas and coal corporations. DiNapoli puts $1 billion of the public’s money into Exxon alone. We detailed the successful #DivestNY campaign at the NYC level in last year’s annual report. In 2019, along with our partners at 350.org and the #DivestNY coalition, we’re taking it to the state level. We hope to convince Comptroller DiNapoli that financing climate destruction with the state’s pension fund is both morally indefensible and a poor financial strategy, just as we successfully convinced NYC Comptroller Stringer and Mayor de Blasio, who are now strong advocates for fossil fuel divestment worldwide. Unfortunately, Comptroller DiNapoli is resisting this effort. As a result, he’s rapidly becoming a “poster boy” for the fossil fuel industry, which praises his resistance to divestment. Sadly, it’s no surprise that the Comptroller continues to pour money into fossil fuel corporations since his Chief Investment Officer (CIO) left his operation to take a highly-lucrative, low-show position on the Board of Directors of the Williams pipeline corporation, a Fortune 500 fracked gas pipeline corporation. DiNapoli’s former CIO will get about $300,000 per year to sit on the Williams fracked gas pipe-
#DivestNY NYC => NYS line corporate board. Williams announced the appointment literally the day after the CIO left the state’s employment after leading the managing of the pension fund. Along with our allies, we launched a formal corruption complaint to the State’s ethics board. An excellent investigation from WNYC, Sludge and Capital & Main documents this issue. While the State’s ethics board typically whitewashes ethics problems, we will not drop this issue. In 2019, we will be ramping up the campaign to get DiNapoli to #DivestNY, as this Daily News column reported. Along with our partners, we plan to push divestment legislation; hold protests; document the state’s already-large financial losses from oil and gas investments; organize large town hall meetings across the state; and shine a spotlight on the Comptroller’s ethics problems on this issue. We hope to win Comptroller DiNapoli’s commitment to divest the $200 billion state pension fund from fossil fuels this coming year. Front of #RiseNY March of 3,000 New Yorkers
Picketing by kayak outside Cuomo’s fundraiser at Billy Joel’s mansion
Pushing Gov. Cuomo aka Governor 5% to go #OffFossilFuels Governor Cuomo calls himself a leader on climate change but New York State is failing: only 5% of the electricity on the grid comes from wind and solar; only about 15,000 zero emission cars are on the road out of the roughly 15 million owned by New Yorkers; and Governor Cuomo’s been approving massive new fracked gas projects such as the CPV and Cricket Valley power plants that lock in decades on climate pollution. As a result, New York’s climate pollution has barely changed under the Cuomo Administration at a time when we need radical cuts and a transformative push for good jobs to go #OffFossilFuels. In 2018, we dogged Governor Cuomo on this issue. We were core to organizing the biggest protest on climate change in Albany ever, with about 1,500 people marching and rallying on the Capital. This video gives a sense of the energy and excitement at the event.
these protests – and his staff do everything they can to avoid our picket lines, often playing a game of cat and mouse as we stake out entrances to an event and his security tries to get him in and out through an alternative where he doesn’t face us. Despite their efforts, we’ve been able to catch him several times in person. Check out this video to get a sense of these direct actions to demand results in person from the Governor. Over the summer, we got extra-creative, when we took to the water as the Governor held a fundraiser at Billy Joel’s waterfront mansion on Long Island’s North Shore. Since Joel’s mansion is hard to reach on land, we decided to rent kayaks and paddle over with our banners, as pictured. Of course, pickets are only one of our activities in this effort: along with our allies across the state we generated over 10,000 calls to the executive office. Every week, we select a different infrastructure fight from across the state and collectively mobilize an average of 200 people to call the Governor’s office. We are pretty sure that going #OffFossilFuels and moving to 100% renewable energy was the top subject of calls to the Governor in 2018.
Along with our partners at Food & Water Watch, we organized 24 pickets of the Governor’s public appearances in 2018, typically on just a few hours of notice because the Governor cowardly hides his schedule from the public. On rare occasions, he announces an event, often with just a few hours of notice… and then we scramble to We’re particularly proud of this effort because get there and catch him in person with a protest. it’s an attempt to build solidarity between groups It’s clear from his affect that he’s very aware of across the state that don’t automatically work
together. We’re now working with local leaders across the state who are battling local proposals for new fracked gas infrastructure such as pipelines and power plants, which Cuomo has the power to stop. Along with Food & Water Watch, Sane Energy Project, 350.org, Mothers Out Front, and NYPIRG, we’ve formed a statewide network that says NO to each individual fossil fuel infrastructure proposal in individual communities and to ALL the proposed projects across the state – and pushes Cuomo to stop them all while moving rapidly to 100% renewable energy. By elevating the issue statewide beyond any individual local battle, we think we’re helping to build a whole movement that’s greater than the sum of its individual parts.
Williams CEO makes over $9 million per year and its top six executives make about $35 million per year. Among their hired lobbyists is Maggie Moran, who was Governor Cuomo’s 2018 campaign manager. To help defeat Williams, NYCC is organizing against the pipeline out on the Rockaways and throughout the city and pushing elected officials to oppose the project. Banner drop to stop Williams pipeline at Governor’s office
#StopNESE The Williams pipeline corporation wants to build a big new fracked gas pipeline from New Jersey and across the harbor to New York, where it would deliver gas onto land on the Rockaways. Called the Northeast Supply Enhancement, this pipeline project would effectively lock in decades of climate pollution by delivering fracked gas into the downstate grid, slowing the state’s transition to renewable energy. Along with our allies, we’re organizing to get Governor Cuomo to stop this project by denying it the key permits it needs to be built. Last year, we had our first success, when the Governor’s Department of Environmental Conservation denied Williams’ application for a critical water quality permit. Remarkably, the Governor’s office denied the permit at the exact same time as his 2018 primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, announced her opposition to the pipeline at an event on the Rockaways with NYCC and community leaders opposing the pipeline. We’ll take it, of course! For its part, the Williams corporation immediately re-applied for this critical permit. Once again, we have to convince the Governor to deny it by the mid-April 1 year deadline set by the process for this application.
#StopTheDanScam Wall Street private equity firm Tiger Infrastructure, whose backers are dark-money Trump supporters, is the prime financier of the proposed Danskammer Energy Center, a large new fracked gas power plant that would be built in Newburgh, New York, on the Hudson’s shore in place of the barely-used obsolete gas plant currently at the site. If built, the new plant would pump out many millions of tons of climate pollution, far beyond the current plant’s pollution. It’s the latest large proposal for a new gas plant. NYCC jumped on this new announcement, helping to organize local and statewide opposition to the new proposal. In August, NYCC and the Public Accountability Initiative teamed up to produce a deeply-researched report exposing the project – and its Trump-linked backers. Our report generated media coverage on the issue locally and in statewide media. We’re also supporting the local communities fighting the plant’s proposal. We expect that Danskammer will formally apply for a permit to build the facility in January, which will lead to a heightened battle to convince the Governor to stop this polluting proposal – and instead move the state to 100% renewable energy.
Protesting the proposed Danskammer plant
Climate and Community Protection Act With the New York State Senate finally going Democratic, it’s time to pass legislation to move New York to 100% renewable energy while maximizing good, union jobs and investments into low income and communities of color. The CCPA accomplishes these goals. NYCC has been pushing for passage of the bill, which has passed three times in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, only to stall in the Republican-controlled Senate. Now, with Democrats in charge of both chamber, it’s time for them to deliver, even though Governor Cuomo opposes the legislation. NYCC has been pushing elected officials to support the CCPA. NYCC also played a crucial role in the defeat of the Republican-allied Independent Democratic Conference or “IDC”, whose Senators, elected as Democrats, handed the Senate to Republicans in return for patronage and other favors. In the September primary election, we helped to defeat the IDC by electing six new progressive Senators who booted them out of office. We also helped elect Julia Salazar, who defeated another corporate Democrat who, although not a IDC member, had undermined progressive legislation by siding with corporate lobbyists over his constituents. After the primary, Democrats gained eight Senate seats from the Republicans, gaining a large, new majority in a blue wave. We’re pushing the Senators we helped elect to deliver results for their communities, including passage of the CCPA in 2019.
Member Spotlight: Rachel Rivera During Hurricane Sandy, Rachel Rivera, a mother of six, heard a loud crack from her ceiling above her youngest daughter Marisol’s bed. Grabbing Marisol, she lifted her out of bed just minutes before the ceiling caved in onto her bed. The family fled into the night with nothing, losing their home and almost all of their possessions. They entered into the dysfunctional shelter system, becoming homeless in a city where affordable housing is all-too-scarce. Marisol still has anxiety issues stemming from Sandy. The climate crisis then upended Rachel and her family’s life, when Hurricane flooded out her mother and aunt’s homes in Puerto Rico – and killed a close family friend. But Rachel has turned her family’s tragedy into a powerful motivation to fight for what’s right. She’s become a housing and climate activist with NYCC. Rivera is now a well-known leader in the city’s climate justice community. She is also
a member of NYCC’s board of directors, helping to direct NYCC’s overall programs and organizations. At rallies, protests and public hearings, Rachel often tells her family’s story, helping to make clear the reality of the climate crisis for New York City’s communities of color. Rachel is the most active Sandy survivor in the city’s politics. Her relentless advocacy is a big part of NYCC’s successful campaigns because she’s able to inspire action by her example. People know that Rachel’s family tragedy could be a similar tragedy for their family, inspiring them to take action. Her activism also helps move elected officials by bringing home the struggle New Yorkers face. NYCC and our partner’s victory on divestment would not have been possible without Rachel’s activism. Rachel is also a critical force that helped push the Council to introduce Intro 1253, which we hope to pass in 2019. Rachel Rivera and her daughter Marisol
Transformative Change for Our Communities = Angry Elected Officials
#Sandy5 thousands march over the Brooklyn Bridge
At NYCC, we’re pushing for big, transformative policy changes, because little stuff doesn’t make hardly any difference for our members. And there’s no time left on climate change: it’s time to go big or go home because radical cuts in pollution are needed… now. Our approach, frankly, is very different from most mainline advocacy groups. All-too-many advocacy organizations call it “leadership” when an elected official takes some marginal action in support of a public policy that’s really just a small, tentative baby step in the right direction. When we hear that, we think: this ain’t it, chief. Climate change demands radical action, immediately, to give us a fighting chance at avoiding worldwide catastrophe. The chart pictured here shows the deep and massive pollution cuts needed, immediately. There’s simply no time left for policy that’s a “step in the right direction.”
policies that don’t get the job done – and don’t seriously take on the powerful special interests that need to be overcome. Perhaps that makes some sense as a political strategy in red or purple states, but not in New York. We’re also unafraid of angering politicians. Seriously: most elected officials get mad when we pressure them in public. And they aren’t shy about calling and complaining, or even threatening our organization. We won’t name names, but we’ve taken some angry calls in the past 2 years as a result of our aggressive, results-oriented campaigns.
At the end of the day, though, while many groups prioritize access to elected officials, we prioritize results. As an organization, we don’t need to get a meeting. We don’t particularly care if they return our phone calls. It doesn’t matter to us if they list us in their press releases. While we NYCC demands real leadership on the issue, certainly prefer to be on good terms with elected which involves bold, transformative policy that leaders, we only truly care about results: serious actually slashes pollution while also taking on action that’s at the scale of the climate and ininequality… and that means overcoming oppo- equality crisis – and matches what our members sition from powerful, deep-pocketed corporate and their constituents want and need to get done. interests such as the real estate industry and/or Only building and deploying power through orgathe oil and gas companies. nizing and campaigns can win transformative results. So when they get mad and threaten us, we But you won’t catch us praising blue-state elect- don’t flinch. And funny enough, when they then ed officials who duck their responsibility to take turn around and do what we want, we’re besties on the climate crisis by only passing small bore again!
Front of #Sandy5 March
Raising the Money to Run These Campaigns This past year, NYCC raised almost $200,000 to support our climate and inequality programs. That’s enough money to support our 2 full-time staff devoted to these campaigns; a share of organizers’, researchers’, administrative, development and supervisory staff time; travel and materials costs; and office rent, translation (we use a worker-owned cooperative service for simultaneous English/Spanish translation at our events), phones, internet and other expenses.
tions and campaigns that we supported for a mix of work that helped to enable the campaigns described above. We also greatly appreciate those funders, including the Park Foundation, the 11th Hour Project and the NYRenews campaign. We also received generous support from 350.org, whose co-founder Bill McKibben – along with former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck – graciously agreed to be our honoree and headliner at our annual fundraising gala. Thank you!
About $50,000 per year comes from small, individual donors, mostly over 200 sustaining donors who give by credit card each month. That’s by far the most important source of our funding for climate/inequality work because it’s predictable and unrestricted; we can use all of those funds for political and lobbying work. Chances are, if you are reading this report, you are a donor. Your generous support makes all of this work possible. We also began to develop a large donor program for this work, with five people generously giving $2,500 this year, which is also greatly appreciated. Thank you very much!
As an organization we spend a lot of time raising money, but it’s time well spent – and it enables us to crank out strong campaigns and organizing work. This coming year, we will try to raise $300,000, which would allow us to devote even more staff and organizing time to these efforts. Right now, we’re involved in six campaigns in which we play a major role, so it’s quite busy. We’re feeling a little stretched. Another staffer devoted to this work would enable to recruit more new NYCC members from Black and LatinX communities specifically on fighting climate change and inequality, which would also help build up NYCC’s base of involved activists and members on all our campaigns.
We also received almost $150,000 from founda-
Highlighted Media Coverage
The Intercept “First Sandy, then Maria. A Mother and Daughter Marked by Both Storms Find Hope in Climate Activism,” which profiled NYCC board member Rachel Rivera.
The Huffington Post “New York City Just Unveiled A Historic Bill To Cut Its Biggest Source Of Climate Pollution,” and The Nation “New York Has a Plan to Tackle Some of Its Worst Carbon Polluters,” which put the #GreenNewDeal4NYC legislation to clean up #DirtyBuildings in context as a first-of-its-kind effort worldwide.
WNYC, Sludge and Capital & Main “New York Pension Fund Chief Cashes in on Natural Gas,” which exposes Comptroller DiNapoli’s former CIO’s conflict. While the story does not directly quote NYCC, it reports on the formal corruption complaint we crafted with 350.org. WAMC “Report Takes Issue With Plans For Danskammer Power Plant,” covered the release of our report documenting the Trump-supporting Wall Street financiers pushing the large new proposed Danskammer fracked gas power plant.
And this video 350.org produced after the April 23rd #CuomoWalkTheTalk march and rally of 1,500 activists in Albany is just super.
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New York Communities for Change Climate Campaigns Annual Report 2018