Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Nicola Armacost
Cities, towns, and villages across the United States continue to face a host of challenges entering the Summer of 2020. Cases of COVID-19 are rising in regions of the country that have not felt the full brunt of the virus to date. The economy remains under severe pressure given the nature of the virus, and the number of jobless claims continues to stagger the mind. And we see both these issues as contributing and related to the broader issue of systemic racial injustice that has led to protests across the country. All of these are combined with and compounded by the risks of a changing climate.
We must meet these crises head on and embrace policies and programs that simultaneously address COVID-19, economic growth, racial and environmental justice, and climate change. The technologies are available to us to build back better. We need to take advantage of them, seizing the moment to reimagine our communities so that they are healthier and more resilient to future shocks.
To that end, the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson has been prioritizing policies and programs that have multiple benefits for our environment and our economy. In 2009, New York State launched the Climate Smart Communities (CSC) program, an interagency initiative that encourages local communities to take action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. In 2010, Hastings-on-Hudson was designated as a Climate Smart Community (CSC) by the state. The Climate Smart Communities Certification Program is a set of 100 actions, developed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, that provides a transformational roadmap for municipalities. Under this program, Hastings-on-Hudson, together with participating communities across the state, has committed to transitioning to zero carbon emissions, investing in community resilience, restoring ecosystems, building a more just, healthy, and livable future, and doing our part within our region and beyond to contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation.
In September 2019, we established a Climate Smart Communities Task Force (CSC TF) to help document actions taken to mitigate against or adapt to climate change. The CSC TF also planned a broad suite of new initiatives that will ensure a climate-resilient environment for the future. Since its establishment, the Hastings-on-Hudson CSC TF has documented and secured approval for 48 actions and, as a result, the Village was designated a bronze-certified Climate Smart Community in March 2020.
In spite of the challenges posed by the COVID crisis, Hastings-on-Hudson has been pursuing a number of cutting-edge green initiatives that are very much aligned with the principles outlined in Governor Cuomo’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Here are a few examples of the initiatives we have been pursuing while everyone was in lockdown.
On June 18, 2020, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution to adopt the New York Stretch Energy Code. Hastings-on-Hudson is one of the first municipalities in New York State to adopt the Code and is the first in Westchester County. We plan to integrate the NY Stretch Code into a planned update of the Green Building Code that was adopted on October 1, 2013.
On the same day, the Board of Trustees also passed a local law known as “A Local Law to Establish a Sustainable Energy Loan Program (Open C-Pace) in the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson”. The local law establishes a program that will allow the Energy Improvement Corporation (EIC), a local development corporation, to act on behalf of Hastings-on-Hudson to make funds available to qualified property owners that will be repaid through charges on the real properties benefited by such funds. Qualified property owners (commercial property owners and not-for-profits) will be able to access financing for the installation of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency measures. This local law provides a method of implementing this arrangement, thereby allowing qualified property owners to receive low-cost, long-term dedicated financing for the installation of clean energy systems.
And lastly, in May, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution committing our local government to promoting the use of low embodied carbon concrete products in building and infrastructure projects within Hastings-on-Hudson. This resolution is part of a larger effort to reduce the Village’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The simple act of switching to low-embodied carbon concrete can make a radical difference in lowering carbon emissions. Low-embodied concrete is concrete that has been verified, as measured by a Global Warming Potential (GWP) metric to embody lower carbon emissions as compared to the baseline embodied carbon emissions of conventional concrete. Lowering the embodied carbon emissions from concrete can be achieved through diverse methods and processes, including but not limited to: (a) using less cement in concrete mixes; (b) replacing or substituting cement with supplemental cementitious materials (SCMs) such as fly ash, blast furnace slag, or ground glass pozzolan; (c) using locally produced cement and other concrete components resulting in reduced emissions from transport; (d) the utilization and mineralization of carbon in concrete materials. The Village of Hastings-on-Hudson is the first municipality in New York State to publicly commit to promoting the use of this technology.
These are meaningful actions that lay the foundation for our municipality to build back better. Through the work of our CSC TF and other Boards and Commissions of the Village we plan to continue pursuing ambitious polices so as to ensure the systemic change necessary to meet the full scope and scale of the climate crisis.