Page 1

Fighting Climate Change & Inequality Annual Report OCTOBER 2016 - JANUARY 2018

What a Year! In the Fall of 2016, New York Communities for Change launched our new program to fight inequality and climate change. To be honest, we didn’t think we’d win anything big anytime soon, but now it’s 2018, and thanks to our hard-hitting and intense campaign alongside our allies, NYC will stop financing climate destruction through its massive pension fund. It’s a stunning victory. The city’s $190 billion pension funds will divest about $5 billion from the likes of ExxonMobil over the next five years. It’s a shot in the arm to the worldwide movement fighting the oil, gas, coal and pipeline corporations, and a major blow to this death-dealing industry. The announcement created worldwide news and is prodding other large investors to consider divestment. They even lit the Empire State Building green for #DivestNY the night of the announcement. The #DivestNY campaign could not have won without NYCC’s work, detailed in the following pages. Read about our role in this great writeup of the activist story. Last Spring, we also successfully convinced NYC to cut off Wells Fargo – which finances the Dakota Access pipeline – from the city’s banking business.


In all, we organized (or the co-led organizing) of over 40 protests dating from our launch in October of 2016 to January of 2018. That’s more than one protest every two weeks. Our campaigns generated turnouts ranging from a small picket line to the #Sandy5 protest march of thousands of people over the Brooklyn Bridge on the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. We also trained over 100 NYCC members to deepen their knowledge of these issues and are developing activist leaders. We’re generating real and deep involvement from communities of color alongside our progressive climate allies in the fight against climate change – delivering victories through community power.

Marie Pierre, Chairperson

Pete Sikora, Climate Change & Inequality Campaigns Director

Jonathan Westin, Executive Director

In 2018, we plan to build our movement! Please read this report for details.

Our youth members leading the #Sandy5 March over Brooklyn Bridge.


Transformative Change for Our Communities We’re seeking to: 1. Win policy and corporate campaigns 2. Increase street-level activism on climate change and inequality, particularly in low and moderate income communities of color, to pressure the political and corporate worlds to make the transformative change we need. Our model is the Fight for $15, a campaign for a $15 an hour minimum wage which NYCC pioneered.

Unlike other organizations who praise politicians for tiny, inadequate baby steps in the right direction, we won’t settle for policies that do not rapidly slash climate pollution and fight inequality. As 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben puts it, “winning slowly on climate change is the same as losing.” The chart on the next page shows why: we need *rapid* pollution cuts now to stave off catastrophe. Climate change is a horrific problem. Inequality even tougher: in New York City, the top 1%, who are overwhelmingly white, take 40% of the income generated in the city, while the bottom 50%, who are overwhelmingly people of color, get only about 5%.

Sandy Survivor and NYCC Member Rachel Rivera Speaking at the #Sandy5 March

Johnson, who are Sandy survivors who lost everything in the storm – and who need good jobs and affordable housing. (Read Rachel’s inspiring story of activism in The Intercept)

Inequality and climate change are the two great moral crises of our time. Our campaigns are geared at solving these problems for NYCC members like Rachel Rivera and Michael 3

Incremental, technocratic fixes that politicians tend to puff up as dramatic new programs don’t represent the bold change we need… we don’t want policy that’s a “good first step”.

Instead, we’re fighting for bold, transformative change at the pace and scale needed to meaningfully improve our members’ lives.

A Very Scary Chart: Worldwide Climate Pollution Levels Must Plunge to Stave Off Catastrophe. We Need Radical Change Now.


2020 2016


2025 peak year




600 Gt from 2017


800 Gt

without net-negative emissions

20 15 10 5

1,5 - 2˚C implies a CO2-Budget of 150-1050 billion tons (Gt)

0 1990


2010 2020







Winning #DivestNY… or 5,000,000,000 Reasons Oil & Gas Companies Hate Us 350.org – the global environmental organization – leads a growing movement to get large, institutional investors worldwide to dump fossil fuels. The campaign was inspired by divestment from South African apartheid, which helped topple that racist regime. Now, we’re applying the same tactic to the fossil fuel industry: stigmatize them and interfere with their operations by taking away financing. We thought we could win in New York City – so we joined 350’s effort. After an intense, hard-hitting campaign, NYCC and our allies convinced the nearly $200 billion NYC pension funds to end fossil fuel investments. Corporations like ExxonMobil will now lose $5 billion in city investments, which is a globally significant victory in the fight against climate change that has shaken the industry. We’re extraordinarily proud of our members’ and organizers’ work, which was a core part of the #DivestNY campaign. Public Advocate Tish James and D.C. 37 paved the way for Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer to listen to us — not Wall St. and the oil and gas companies. Now, the city is pushing other big institutional investors globally to divest from climate destruction.

We only had about 10 seconds to take photos with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio – and we didn’t know where to look – but these are some of the activists winning #DivestNY, including NYCC member and Sandy Survivor Michael Johnson

Sure, we had intelligent briefing papers on the financial impacts of the issue – and we did plenty of meetings with pension fund trustees to make both the moral and financial case for divestment. In the end, though, it required an

We won through old-fashioned organizing. 5

aggressive, hard-hitting campaign. Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer deftly credited the intense pressure from activists with pushing them to focus on and consider this issue thoroughly.

Public Advocate James Endorsing #DivestNY in June of 2017

#Sandy5 March Approaches Brooklyn Bridge


In particular, NYCC led or co-led the organizing for the most-impactful events that moved the politicians to take much-needed action:

May 2017: 150 person high-visibility teach-in inside of Trump Tower on divestment – an energetic, creative, in-your-face and very fun event inside the tower, which was social media gold and also generated media coverage. May 2017: 600 person town-hall style accountability forum which Public Advocate James and Comptroller Stringer attended - this public grilling was a real show of power, numbers and intensity. June 2017: 1,500 person rally and march in reaction to Trump leaving the Paris Agreement - the day of Trump’s horrid announcement on Paris, we organized a fast reaction event that protested Trump and called on Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer to act, in particular on divestment. At this event, Public Advocate James, who casts a vote on the pension board, saw a large crowd chanting for divestment, and she came out in public for divestment for the first time on the spot. Driven almost entirely digitally that day, the turn-out was 1-2k and it was so energized it took over an hour for the crowd to disperse after we marched to City Hall. June 2017: Direct action at the pension board meeting – along with 350.org, we organized a die-in that disrupted the pension funds quarterly meeting for a few minutes with a loud flood warning alarm as we held a banner and performed a die-in to dramatize the effects of climate change before marching out. October 2017: Thousands Join #Sandy5 March on the 5th Anniversary of the Storm – the People’s Climate Mobilization, 350.org and NYCC led the organizing for this big march, which included thousands of people in a spirited rally followed by a large march over the Brooklyn Bridge. Over 100 NYCC members joined the march and our organizing staff spent much of the previous month building the large turnout city-wide from many groups. November 2017: Public Advocate Tish James’ hearing – these events and our lobbying and relationships helped convince Public Advocate James to conduct a public hearing that, as planned, effectively turned into a rally for divestment, with a large overflow crowd and spirited pre-hearing rally. Indigenous leaders, experts and impacted community members testified.


Thousands Rally Before #Sandy5 March over Brooklyn Bridge

In Summer and Fall 2017, we also handed out about 10,000 leaflets - not as sexy, of course, but handing out a ton of leaflets on the street and at events helped educate the broader public - as well as protest Comptroller Stringer at his events - we got up close and personal at his events several times with protesters, banners and leaflets.  While Public Advocate James and municipal workers union D.C. 37 were the first pension fund trustees to endorse divestment, Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer deserve real credit for seizing the moment and moving forward. The Mayor and Comptroller are pushing other large investors to divest, helping to spark what we hope will be

the next big wave of divestment by large funds. We’re very grateful for their advocacy!

NYC’s announcement made news globally and the clips are still coming in weeks later. The announcement videos have been viewed nearly half a million times on facebook. Most importantly: the industry is reeling. As one energy industry analyst put it: “Divestment was once a little marginal. Now [after NYC’s action] it’s mainstream.” The financial markets are noticing and the fossil fuel industry has been shaken. Read about the movement Patrick Houston, activism that led to this amazing win in Climate and Inequality Nexus Media: https://nexusmedianews. Organizer, interviewing with CBS News com/bright-lights-green-city57203cb6b20e 8

Winning: NYC Cuts Off Wells Fargo Wells Fargo – among other sleazy practices – finances the Dakota Access pipeline. After NYCC organized pressure on Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer, they cut the bank off, ending the City’s banking business with Wells for at least a year. Here’s how we won: for years, the Committee for Better Banks, which NYCC helps lead, has battled Wells Fargo (the bank’s fake accounts scandal came to light through this campaign). Since Wells Fargo also funds the Dakota Access pipeline, we decided to target the bank in support of the indigenous communities fighting to protect their water and land. NYCC researchers Cea Weaver and Jose Gonzalez analyzed the City’s records, showing that Wells benefitted from a variety of NYC business, including bond business and traditional banking services.

Overnight Protest Encampment at Wells Fargo Begins

We then organized over 30 groups to write to the Mayor and Comptroller, who direct the city’s banking business. Working with indigenous groups and other allies, we put together a series of protests, including an overnight encampment outside a Wells Fargo and a march on City Hall. NYCC played the lead role organizing these events, which all generated media coverage and social media that pressured the elected officials.

climate change, jobs and justice, which NYCC had proposed and organized. Comptroller Stringer was under pressure from our main divestment campaign, which was pushing the city’s pension funds to drop *all* fossil fuel and pipeline investments. At the forum, under pointed questioning from the big crowd, Comptroller Stringer hinted that he’d consider re-evaluating the city’s business with Wells Fargo. The Mayor also told media at an unrelated press conference that he’d be open

The first sign that the dam was breaking was at a 600-person accountability forum on 9

to punishing the banks financing Dakota Access. A few weeks later we won when the Banking Commission quietly announced it would pull its banking business from Wells Fargo. We could not have won without local indigenous leaders’ willingness to join with NYCC in these protests – and without so many non-indigenous NYC activists’ fight against Dakota Access. And of course this

fight was sparked by the Standing Rock Sioux’s courageous stand against the pipeline. They are heroes to us. Nonetheless, we are reasonably certain that without our organizing and campaign work, New York City would not have pulled its banking business from Wells Fargo. It’s our first concrete victory for our new program fighting climate change and inequality!

600 People Jammed Our Town Hall Event to Put Pressure on Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer to Divest


Our Priority for 2018: Creating Good Jobs to Fight NYC’s Climate Pollution Energy use in buildings generates about 70% of NYC’s massive climate pollution footprint. Old, inefficient buildings need to be overhauled and upgraded to reach modern energy efficiency standards, which creates thousands of new jobs. We’re lobbying and pushing Mayor de Blasio and the Council hard to require all large buildings to upgrade to high energy efficiency.

The Mayor introduced his proposal in September of 2017, which we blasted because it is far too weak since it cuts the city’s climate pollution by only 7%. NYCC organized a protest the day of the Mayor’s announcement with our environmental and housing group allies, generating media coverage and getting the Mayor and Council’s attention. Since then, we’ve stopped his proposal in the Council, demanding that it be greatly strengthened to slash climate pollution and create good, union jobs hiring locally – and without threatening affordable housing.

Activists Rally Outside City Hall

Right now we are preparing a campaign to push the Council to pass our legislation in 2018. Even with the deep-pocketed real estate industry lobbying hard against us, we’re dragging them kicking and screaming in the right direction. It’s going to be a fight in 2018. 11

#NYRenews NYCC is part of the www.nyrenews.org coalition, which is pushing Governor Cuomo to enact an ambitious climate/jobs/justice agenda. We’re pushing a transformative package of legislation that would lead to 100% renewable power by 2050 in all sectors, including transportation, and over 100,000 good, new jobs funded by $6-7 billion in yearly state investment into renewable energy and energy efficiency. We’re proposing the state require corporate polluters to pay for the pollution they’re currently dumping into our air and use the proceeds to transition fast to renewable energy. The legislation would also establish

NYCC Member & Sandy Survivor Michael Johnson Introduces Attorney General Schneiderman, Who Announced Support for a Corporate Polluter Fee

strong labor standards and ensure that disadvantaged black and LatinX communities get large, direct investments. NYCC has coorganized or led the organizing for many of the coalition’s event. In December, NYCC helped convince Attorney General Schneiderman to announce support for a corporate polluter fee (aka a “carbon tax”) at an event helping to promote this campaign. The Attorney General’s bold endorsement of making polluters pay will help assemble more pressure on Governor Cuomo to act boldly to fight against climate change and inequality. Our plan, if enacted, would catapult New York far past any other state as the nation’s leader on these issues.

NYS Attorney General Schneiderman Speaks At #NYRenews Event We Co-Led


press conferences were held to oppose gas projects in all corners of the state, from a power plant under construction in Orange County and a long-delayed propane storage project in Schuyler County, to a proposed micro-grid in Albany and a pipeline expansion to feed growing demand in New York City.”

#OffFossilFuels We’ve put together a statewide campaign with environmental allies to push Governor Cuomo to stop all fossil fuel infrastructure projects in the state and move rapidly to 100% renewable energy. The campaign launched in mid-November of 2017 with 13 protests in one week across the State, generating media coverage across the state. We got the fossil fuel industry’s attention, too, with one of their trade newsletters writing:

Alongside our allies statewide and in the directly-affected communities, we’re opposing projects including the proposed Williams fracked gas pipeline off the Rockaways, the large fracked gas CPV and Cricket Valley power plants, and the Governor’s plan to run the Empire State Plaza and Capitol complex with a fracked gas plant in a community of color. These projects, if built, will massively raise the state’s climate pollution, and lock us into decades of burning more climate-heating fracked gas and oil.

“The opposition has stepped-up its efforts. National, state and local environmental groups banded together earlier this month for a “week of action.” Demonstrations and

Our campaign is now organizing call-in days to the Governor every Monday, with between 200 and 600 calls places by activists each Monday. We organized hundreds of protesters to picket two of Governor Cuomo’s high dollar fundraisers and a protest outside the corruption trial of Cuomo’s top staffer, Joe Percoco, who is accused of taking bribes from the gas plant developer behind the CPV power plant. On April 23rd, 2018, we’re organizing a large march, rally and civil disobedience event that will shut down parts of the state capital to push Cuomo. We hope it will be the largest climate change demonstration ever in Albany.

Photo of NYCC and other groups from Long Island Newsday Story “Activists Call On Cuomo to Stop Pipeline Off Rockaways” with link https://www.newsday.com/ long-island/nassau/rockaways-pipelinefracking-1.15029951


Taking on Corporate Power: Civil Disobedience Action Targeting Goldman Sachs We pressured Goldman Sachs to stop investing in fossil fuels by blocking the entrance to their headquarters the day of the banking giant’s energy and pipeline finance conference. This civil disobedience action included 5 arrests, and was highly motivating to the 100-200 activists who attended. We generated wide social media coverage, with over 50k views on face-book of the various live feeds and a great story from Democracy Now!.

While the event didn’t move the bank’s position, it was very visible and disruptive at the bank’s West Street HQ that morning. We’re sure we got the attention of their top executives, including Lloyd Blankfein. This particular protest, while a one-time event, is part of our strategy of pressuring banks to stop financing climate destruction. Worldwide, activists are pressuring banks, and starting to win results, with the world’s eighth largest bank, BNP Paribas, recently announcing it will stop financing tar sands and fracked shale oil and gas production. NYCC also crashed a fossil fuel corporate finance conference to protest the large private equity firm Ares financing of the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline. This year, we hope to organize more support for worldwide campaigns with actions in New York City.

Activists (Behind Large Panels) Block Off Entrance to Goldman HQ Leading to Five Arrests

Getting Arrested


Fighting Climate Change & Inequality Annual Report OCTOBER 2016 - JANUARY 2018

One Metrotech Center North 11th floor Brooklyn, NY 11201 info@nycommunities.org 347.410.6919 nycommunities.org f t /@nychange

Profile for nycommunities4change

Fighting Climate Change & Inequality Annual Report  

New York Communities for Change Climate Campaigns Annual Report October 2016 - January 2018

Fighting Climate Change & Inequality Annual Report  

New York Communities for Change Climate Campaigns Annual Report October 2016 - January 2018