Category Archives: Sustainability

Nassau County Executive Candidates Curran, Martins Address Environmental Issues in NYLCV Forum

Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island; Joshua F. Klainberg of NYLCV Education Fund; Adrienne Esposito of Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment; Nick Sifuentes of Tri-State Transportation Campaign; Marcia Bystryn, President of New York League of Conservation Voters; Kathleen Watchorn, coordinator of projects and programs for Adelphi University organized a Nassau County Executive Candidates Forum on Environment & Sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund hosted the 2017 Nassau County Executive Candidate Forum on Environment & Sustainability at Adelphi University in Garden City on October 15. The format was a panel of three posing questions to the candidates individually and separately, first to Laura Curran, the Democratic candidate, then, in a second session, posing the same questions to the Republican candidate, Jack Martins. With the Trump Administration and Republican Congress pulling back on environmental protection and climate action, the stand that localities take becomes more significant. What follows is a loosely edited transcription, putting the candidates’ replies together after each question—Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Opening Statements:

Laura Curran, Democratic candidate for Nassau County Executive at the New York League of Conservation Voters Nassau County Executive Candidates Forum on Environment & Sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Laura Curran: I never planned to get involved in politics. I wanted to help my schools, my community, succeed. That sparked my interest to step up and serve the community in a bigger way – I have been in the Nassau County Legislature for four years, I am proud to have worked across the aisle when it was the right thing to do for the people I represent –For example, I was able to restore 10 bus routes that were cut.

As a legislator, I have had a front row seat to the corruption, the mismanagement [of county government]. I know how hard people work, the high taxes we pay. I believe we deserve a government that lives up to us. When I hear about indictments, it’s clear that the machine is breaking down, is not accountable to the people.

Jack Martins: I believe strongly in the Kenyan proverb, we don’t inherit the land from our parents we borrow it from our children. That is motivating. It hasn’t always been the case – water quality, the way we have treated sole-source aquifer historically, the lack of comprehensive sewering, nitrogen outflow to bays and and Sound, have significant environmental issues that is our responsibility to take care of and not simply kick the can down the road. Options for us – priorities, investments in infrastructure – I have had a history of working across the aisle – with Schimel in Assembly – But if there is a critical issue for us here in Long Island it’s water. Environmental sensitivity, wind energy, opportunities for our economy, need to expand bus service.

Jack Martins, Republican candidate for Nassau County Executive at the New York League of Conservation Voters Nassau County Executive Candidates Forum on Environment & Sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Addressing Nitrogen Loading

 Adrienne Esposito, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment: You know the first question: nitrogen. The Bay Park sewage treatment plant is responsible for 85% of the nitrogen loading into the western bays and the western bays are dying – depleted fish, closed shellfish beds, wetlands degrading. The solution is to combine Long Beach with Bay Park, take treated effluent, use the water viaduct currently in place, and discharge out the Cedar Creek ocean outfall pipe. Will you expedite the process of hooking up Long Beach to Bay Park to the existing pipe to the ocean outflow pipe – so bays can be restored and thrive? 

Curran: This is a very exciting project. The county was trying to get outflow pipe for bay…. It’s expensive. The county wasn’t able to get (funding?) from the state, federal government. [But] this is an example of how government works well: smart guys had a eureka moment: they realized there is a viaduct under Sunrise Highway,100 years old from an old waterworks, so big, a grown man could stand up in it .What if we bring water up to the viaduct, out to Cedar Creek, 6-7 miles, then there is 2 mile outflow pipe already in Cedar Creek? Altogether it would be half the cost. A viability study showed the plan is viable – they would put a  polymer sleeve inside.

The key is expediting [the plan]. We have to work closely with towns and villages because we’ve got to get the treated effluent from Bay Park up the viaduct and back down. We’ve got to work with communities on either side, so we have to make sure they understand and have buy in –we  don’t want to shove it down people’s throats. It will reduce the amount of nitrogen into the bays immediately, restore the shellfish. It doesn’t take long before nature will rebound. It would be good for economy, too. A win- win.

Jack Martins: There is a critical need on Long Island, how we discharge effluent into South Bay. Right now, both Long Beach and Bay Park go to Reynolds Channel and we know the effect. Someone came up with the ingenious proposal to connect via existing viaduct – the most complicated part is how to connect from Bay Park to the water viaduct…The viaduct is viable, we can move forward immediately…There are a couple of different options. The sooner we close Long Beach sewer treatment plant …Connect Cedar Creek – lateral to plant to outflow – and discharged 3 miles out. It’s important because of nitrogen loading [which] killed the shellfish industry, killed coastal wetlands. We realized after Sandy that those coastal wetlands protect against tidal surge during these 100-year storms. That’s my commitment, that’s what we will do.

Complete Streets 

Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Eric Alexander, Vision Long Island: This issue is on human level: Nassau County has some of most dangerous roads in NYS for pedestrian, bikers, – restaurants, downtowns, growing 55-plus population, growing number of young people who don’t want to drive – what will you do to encourage walkability, ‘Complete Streets’. 

Curran – I often talk about how transit oriented development [TOD] will be what saves us as a region – it keeps young people, empty nesters, creates a tax base, jobs. But [existing] infrastructure doesn’t quite support TOD. There are places where we have to reengineer what already have.

I live in Baldwin in the town of Hempstead. We  won $5 million in funding for a Complete Streets project to redo our main road, Grand Ave, to make it more navigable for bikers, walkers, cars and buses. This is called a “road diet“:  taking two lanes in each direction and turning them into one lane in each for the part of the road that’s in the plan. There is [often] a lot of resistance because people are concerned about change, that it will take longer. But [delays are mitigated by] engineering traffic lights, making turn lanes that fan out so drivers can get to lights in time – that will make it more navigable. But when people can walk around, ride bikes, have alternatives to using a car, people tend to spend more money – they want to stop, shop – which is good for economic development. We’re built up in Nassau County, so we need to reengineer what we already have. That’s what we are doing in Baldwin. I am looking forward to working with zoning municipalities.

Martins: As we consider the next generation of downtown residents, transit oriented development, how we get around safely. I supported Safe Streets legislation in Albany – it made a requirement that when we reengineer streets, we do so in a way that is safe for cars but also pedestrians and cyclists. For us, it’s a question of who we are as a county. We have to have every option for transit – bicycles, pedestrians. We need to make sure we keep roads safe. I represented one of the most dangerous areas in New York State – Hempstead Turnpike – more fatalities – Complete Streets have to be integral to what we do. The county has hundreds of miles of county roads, some of the most heavily traveled in the country. As roads are redesigned, maintained, [we need to be] using Complete Streets [strategies]. That is my commitment. As we stress the need for transit-oriented development, Complete Streets are more important [including] connectivity to train stations.

Improving Public Transportation 

Nick Sifuentes of Tri-State Transportation Campaign © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Nick Sifuentes, Tri-State Transportation Campaign: Transit oriented development requires good transit – something that is slipping. Governor Cuomo announced an advisory council to address dual crises: congestion in/out of New York City, and lack of funding for MTA (including Long Island Railroad). As the future leader of Nassau County what are the policies and proposals you would like to see?

Curran: I would make sure we have strong advocate on the council – Suffolk has a strong guy, Nassau, we don’t even know who it is. I am happy that the third track is on track, because we need to ease getting on/off the island – how trains operate. I would also look to buses and encourage more people to ride the bus even if they don’t have to [instead of driving]. The more choice bus riders, the better we will be. There are interesting examples all over the country: ideas include creating smaller, more flexible routes, more app-based routes to make an appointment to catch a bus. I am excited to pursue these: for every $1 spent on bus transit generates many more dollars in economic activity. It’s not just poor people who need to use buses. It is obviously important for people to take buses to doctors appointments, university, jobs. That’s economic development… Also ride-sharing –I’m glad it’s [now] legal in Nassau County – young people aren’t driving as much.

Martins: Make mass transit more affordable. Use it to make LIRR more affordable, encourage people to leave their cars. As a parent, when I take my children into the city, I have to take out a loan to pay the roundtrip fare. We shouldn’t have that consideration instead of taking car. [Transit] has to be affordable . if they do something with congestion pricing, make it affordable for Nassau County.

Climate Change & Sustainable Development 

Adrienne Esposito of Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Adrienne Esposito: Climate change is real. There is no debate. And Long Island is at the forefront of impacts. New York State set a goal of 50% renewals by 2030 but we can’t get there unless offshore wind is part of the [energy] portfolio. Will you support offshore wind (with site-specific environmental assessment)? 

Curran:  Absolutely. We have to look for renewable energy. Wind is a gift and we should be harnessing it and anything we can do to harness wind. Also renewables are a growing industry, and I don’t want to be on the losing end. I fought against the LNG [Liquified Natural Gas] port off Long Beach.

Solar panels have a really hard time with permitting – people have to deal with towns, villages, all with different permits that expire differently. We have to work hard with partners –because that is right to do for the environment and the economy.

Climate change. I am concerned with the rhetoric of the president that [the US] will be getting out of the Paris Climate Accord– especially being a coastal community, we see the ravages [of superstorms, sealevel rise]. I am heartened that governors and mayors around the country say they will stick to the Paris Agreement, and I have vowed as county executive to do the same.

Trump has said it is no longer necessary to [require that tax money used for infrastructure must take climate change resiliency into account]. I would insure that every penny would be used [would take] climate change [into account, that is, sustainable development].

Martins:  Absolutely. Curious at [the goal of] 50% [renewable] by 2030. I visited Portugal a couple of years ago – toured their renewable portfolio. Portugal gets 60% of their energy from renewable – hydro, wind, solar, voltaics. We should too. I’m a big believer in offshore wind, a great resource for us – the corridor for offshore wind runs from Block Island to south Jersey. We’re in a great position to benefit from cheap energy from wind. I also understand great strides are being made in developing battery technology to store energy at Brookhaven National Labs. That would be an economic boost for us. Right now, the largest project in New York, the east end off Long Island is being staged from Rhode Island. That means jobs are in Rhode Island, economic development is in Rhode Island. It needs to be here on Long Island. If we make a commitment to offshore wind as energy, we should make a commitment to have those jobs here. We live on an island, we have a maritime history. Embrace it, make offshore wind industry here -manufacturing blades, turbines, opportunities for engineering next generation of offshore wind.

IDA Tax Incentives 

Eric Alexander: Sustainability and smart growth, but also economic development. To focus growth in downtowns, the Nassau County IDA over the last 7 years provided tax incentives to thousands of units of affordable housing, mixed-use development by train stations… In an election year, attacking IDA incentives is politically popular but they have been anchors of revitalization efforts such as in Farmingdale’s affordable housing component. Will you continue that policy?

Curran: Farmingdale is a perfect example of transit oriented development.. The biggest problem now is you can’t get parking on a Saturday night. IDAs play a serious role, but are subject to attack because if you have nine self-storage facilities getting tax breaks, they aren’t economic drivers that create jobs. But when done right, [IDA tax incentives] can be real motivator, bring the right kind of development into Nassau County. That involves land use planning, that when we do a deal with a developer or business, that real jobs are being created or real taxes being generated from an enterprise, so the investment of taxpayers is returned. We need more transparency in the IDA – open up meetings to the public, let the public give input. When I talk about getting community buy-in for projects, that’s the way. You can’t force things on communities.

IDA is a real asset but must be used properly and if a developer or business doesn’t do what was promised, that there be a muscular way of addressing that.

Martins: My experience as mayor of Mineola, master plan, transit oriented development, overlay district –I  see the effects when a community comes together – the commitment it has to expand housing stock, providing affordability for senior, next generation housing. The role for county government: it needs to work with local communities to identify areas where TOD makes sense – Hicksville, Farmingdale, Westbury, Glen Cove ….  We as a county could expedite and incentivize. What I would do differently would be to make sure developers who are seeking tax (rebates) make sure they tell communities. Communities feel let down. Developers come before zoning boards and say they need greater density, etc, and then will have the ability to build this, and the community makes a decision to support that request, gives a variance they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. [The community] expects a revenue stream and a tax base that comes back to community. But the first thing is [the developer] goes to the IDA and gets tax credits which undermines what the community expects. So there needs to be transparency, part of the discussion before the decision, not after, that causes so much friction we see.

Generating Revenue for NICE Bus 

Nick Sifuentes: How would you create additional revenue for the NICE bus?

Curran: I have suggested pots where money could come from:  there is money that was borrowed 8 and 10 years ago that hasn’t been spent (that is a one-shot); the fund balance has way more than needs to be (also a one-shot). You are talking about recurring revenue. I propose that a small piece of ride-sharing money, Uber or Lyft – say 25 cents or 50 cents a ride – to go to buses. It makes sense because all are part of transportation. We could use a small portion of MTA tax and put that toward buses. And red light cameras are $12 million over budget – use some of that for buses. That’s also within the theme of transportation.

Laura Curran, Democratic candidate for Nassau County Executive addresses issues of environment and sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Martins: One of the first things I did in in the senate in 2010 and 2011 – I was identified as one of 50 most influential people on Long Island – my efforts to secure funding for Long Island bus was underpinning – NICE bus has a $130 million budget, $66 million from New York State, $45-50 from the fare box, the county puts in $6 million and the rest from ancillary fees, etc. – unbelievable the County only provides $6 million for a system that is so critical to the economy, when years ago, the county paid $20 million. Our responsibility is to put money in place because most who take bus have no other option – we want them to leave the car home – going to work, school, doctors appointments, that they have access to vibrant bus service. I suggested that for ride hailing, we have a surcharge – Uber, Lyft – that surcharge go toward bus. 10-11 million rides a year, 50c surcharge, would put $5-6 million directly into buses. A 50c surcharge is not only appropriate, but would provide a dedicated, steady revenue for buses.

Protecting Drinking Water 

Audience Question: What is the most Important environmental issue facing the county and how would you address it?

Curran: The aquifer. We get our drinking water from one place: underground. I am concerned New York City is looking to open 70 wells in Queens. We don’t get another source of water but the city does [upstate reservoirs]. They are concerned about flooding basements so they want to bring down the watertable, but the consequences for us could be disastrous: saltwater intrusion, and could cause Grumman and Lake Success plumes [of contamination] to shift [direction. The Grumman plume is 4 miles by 2 miles and 800 feet deep, almost reaching Massapequa. I am glad to see Cngressmen King and Suozzi working together to [get the federal government] to clean it up. The fact this has gone on this long and the Navy and Grumman are not held accountable for decades….

Martins: The most critical issue facing us as a region, Nassau County, is water supply, making sure we protect our sole-source aquifer against all comers. We live on an island, and the aquifer is tied to Suffolk, Queens & Brooklyn. Our responsibility is to protect it. New York City has other options to get water from upstate reservoirs. Our only plan, A to Z is the sole-source aquifer. We haven’t treated it well over the years, with industrial and manufacturing years post World War II, a lot of damage done – Lake Success, Bethpage. We’ve seen the water supply under constant attack. We have great water providers – we do a good job in maintaining water supply –it is as clean as you get from bottled water- but we have a responsibility to do more – responsibility to surface water – protect our coastal waterways, make sure we enhance sewer systems, sewer treatment plants, make sure that years and decades of nitrogen charging, loading into bays are a thing of the past.

Preserving Open Space

Audience Question: How would you preserve open space in Nassau County from development?

Curran: A Great question because pretty much [all of Nassau] is developed. We have to keep what we have green – that is good to recharge the aquifer. We have to use space we have more wisely – in-fill. You sometimes see suburban sprawl – there is already concrete – you can in-fill with transit oriented development, with the buy-in of the community. There is a lot of new technology now. For example, the boat basin parking lot was redone with permeable pavement – that’s expensive, so you can only do it in small places but I hope it will become less expensive down the road. But in this way, it also keeps water coming into the aquifer.

Something I am excited about – with all the potential – is to look to a resiliency officer [for the county] to coordinate all these things, work with Public Works, the IDA, and other departments to coordinate efforts for environment.

Martins: The good news in Nassau County: we don’t have farms any more. We don’t have the kinds of open space issues that perhaps they have out east. We do have open space, it has to be preserved. Most of our development going forward – transit oriented – is reusing space already used, and taking and reassembling parcels. We have seen it in communities with TOD has been predicated on assembling parcels downtown – see it in Westbury, Farmingdale – we are mature communities. That development will take place not on existing open space but existing used space that is being recalibrated and brought into 21st century – to meet energy, parking, density requirements – so we have a more robust selection of housing than we have currently. Nassau County doesn’t have the housing stock, the variety, it needs – a lot will take place in downtowns around train stations to be most effective. Protect open space that exists, protect parks, invest in them, make sure are as good as ever have been.

Future of Renewables in Nassau County

Audience Question: What do see as the future of Nassau County when it comes to solar, wind, charging stations for electric vehicles? 

Curran: We should have charging stations for electric cars. We have a county employee who plugs in and was written a letter to ‘cease and desist’ from the county attorney for ‘stealing county property’. We should start by the county using electric vehicles.

Jack Martins, Republican candidate for Nassau County Executive addresses issues of environment and sustainability © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Martins: Charging stations, infrastructure wise, is easy. If we made a commitment to have more readily available – we can see best practices in other states, countries, where they have taken the initiative so we have more robust use because people trust infrastructure to be there to recharge. We haven’t done it. There is need need for a full array of renewable energy resources. We should look at the entire portfolio and see where it makes sense – voltaic cells as car canopies in parking lots – why aren’t we? Acres and acres of asphalt we can use to create energy and electricity now through EV. We have a corridor of offshore wind east of Long Island. I spoke to Deepwater Wind, no one better positioned than Long Island to build, maintain, develop that offshore wind corridor. Shame on us, New York State, if they aren’t going to prioritize those turbines, and those blades aren’t built here on Long Island. If we are going to spend billions of dollars for commitment to offshore wind, I want to make sure it is here in Nassau County economy.

Communities Impacted by Climate Change

Do you support legislation to provide for equitable distribution of resources to communities impacted by climate change specifically communities of color often left out?

Curran: We have to make sure all communities treated fairly. See the effects of climate change. The south shore still has zombie houses because of Sandy. They didn’t have an adequate advocate to help them rebuild. As legislator, I helped them connect to NY Rising, get small business funds, to get resources to rebuild.

Martins:  Tax money, investment. We have to look at how dealing with county that is predominantly viewed as affluent while understanding we have areas of significant poverty – in places you wouldn’t necessarily think of – people have a home but are struggling to pay mortgage, taxes, raise families because the high cost of living isn’t an accident. We have among highest costs, so we have people relatively wealthy given their home, but still living with challenges. How we take resources, distribute, whether having to do with infrastructure improvements, access to cheap renewable energy, water safety quality, we have that synergy. I have never seen in my experience certain areas cut out of resources that way, but we have to be sensitive to it.

Recycle Treated Effluent

Why not recycle sewage and turn into drinkable rather than dispose into the ocean?

Curran: That’s not so crazy – people who run sewage treatment plants are working on a project – try to explain in not-boring way –to  treat sewage so it looks like water – Sewage treatment plants use hundreds thousands gallons of water a day to do the work of cooling, etc. – Now, they draw that out of the aquifer. Wouldn’t it be better to take treated effluent, treat a little more and use that to do the work of sewage treatment plant, instead of drawing water out of aquifer? We are close to make this happen.

Martins: It’s an interesting point. I was happy to participate in Great Neck Water Pollution Control District – state of art facility – where they treat to a level where potable. I said, ‘You first.’

I had an opportunity to deal with different groups, where sewage can be treated and used for irrigation, plant maintenance and different things where not wasting potable water, can be reused for different purposes –  not quite ‘there’ for drinking water… But if we send [effluent out to ocean] 3 miles – dilution rate for effluent – it will have negligible effect on ocean – it is coastal wetlands that are impacted if released right there – like Reynolds Channel. I would like to see part reused – whether for irrigation. We have to focus on continuing the current process of getting it as far from shore as possible so not to impact coastal wetlands, coastal environment, coastal economy. 

Closing Statements 

Curran:  I want to make Long Island environmentally sound, safe, healthy. I moved to Nassau County 20 years ago before we had kids. I came for the Long Island dream:  single family house, great school down the block, parks, beaches. We knew we would pay high taxes, but that was part of the deal. As a taxpayer, resident, it is frustrating to see money spent on nepotism, bloated contracts when it could be used to develop technology. Your money is being wasted. I’m in this race because want to restore trust in government, make sure I hire people based on what they know, not who they know, that your money is not part of my reelection campaign. I am eager to get to work. Elect me to give Nassau County the fresh start it so richly deserves.

Martins: There are a lot of issues at play in this year’s election . I encourage you to do your homework, read up on candidates. Whether challenges are environment,t economy – up to county to pay for own budget. For 17 years, we have been under NIFA, not elected – make decisions, affects ability for us to make decisions for ourselves. We need to take control of own finances, pay bills, balance budget – get rid of NIFA so we can commit resources ourselves – whether environment, infrastructure, TOD, creating jobs we all want – so our children have the ability to come home, find jobs, rent apartment and stay here. The best years for the county are ahead, but contingent upon us making decisions about taking control of own county – an  idea we haven’t been able to do, so should be shameful to all of us, myself included. Write that check and make that commitment going forward.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

White House Smart Cities Initiative Doubles Number of Participating Communities, Gets $80 Million Infusion

 

 

New York City, with its annual TD Bank 5-Boro Bike Tour, has embraced sustainability issues and will be benefiting from DOE’s new one-stop shop for cities and counties to plug into DOE resources and AmeriCorps resources from the Corporation for National and Community Service to support them in tackling energy and climate challenges. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
New York City, with its annual TD Bank 5-Boro Bike Tour, has embraced sustainability issues and will be benefiting from DOE’s new one-stop shop for cities and counties to plug into DOE resources and AmeriCorps resources from the Corporation for National and Community Service to support them in tackling energy and climate challenges. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

FACT SHEET: Announcing Over $80 million in New Federal Investment and a Doubling of Participating Communities in the White House Smart Cities Initiative

“If we can reconceive of our government so that the interactions and the interplay between private sector, nonprofits, and government are opened up, and we use technology, data, social media in order to join forces around problems, then there’s no problem that we face in this country that is not soluble.” President Barack Obama

The White House issued a Fact Sheet on $80 million in new federal investment, and doubling in the number of participating communities in the White House Smart Cities Initiative:

With nearly two-thirds of Americans living in urban settings, many of our fundamental challenges—from climate change to equitable growth to improved health—will require our cities to be laboratories for innovation. The rapid pace of technological change, from the rise of data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and ubiquitous sensor networks to autonomous vehicles, holds significant promise for addressing core local challenges.

That’s why last September the White House launched the Smart Cities Initiative to make it easier for cities, Federal agencies, universities, and the private sector to work together to research, develop, deploy, and testbed new technologies that can help make our cities more inhabitable, cleaner, and more equitable.

The Administration kicked off Smart Cities Week by expanding this initiative, with over $80 million in new Federal investments and a doubling of the number of participating cities and communities, exceeding 70 in total. These new investments and collaborations will help cities of all sizes, including in the following key areas:

  • Climate: The Administration is announcing nearly $15 million in new funding and two new coalitions to help cities and communities tackle energy and climate challenges. For example, one Department of Energy (DOE) campaign has already signed up 1,800 buildings representing 49 million square feet with data analytics tools that could reduce their energy footprint by 8 percent or more, on average.
  • Transportation: The Administration is announcing more than $15 million in new grants and planned funding to evolve the future of urban transportation, including National Science Foundation (NSF) funding for researchers in Chattanooga to test, for the first time, how an entire urban network of connected and autonomous vehicles can automatically cooperate to improve travel efficiency and operate safely during severe weather events.
  • Public safety: The Administration is announcing more than $10 million in new grants and planned funding for public safety, resilience, and disaster response. For example, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is funding the development of low-cost flood sensor-based tools in flood-prone areas of Texas, where predictive analytics will give first responders and local officials new capability to issue alerts and warnings, and the ability to respond more rapidly to save lives when a flood strikes.
  • Transforming city services: MetroLab Network is launching a new effort to help cities adopt promising innovations in social programs, like a collaboration between three counties surrounding Seattle and the University of Washington to use predictive analytics to identify precisely when city services succeed in helping homeless individuals transition into permanent housing, offering the promise of a future of personalized intervention.

Background

The White House Smart Cities Initiative represents an example of how the Administration has worked over the past seven and a half years to develop a smarter, more collaborative approach to working with local communities—putting citizens, community groups, and local leaders at the center of its efforts. The Administration’s approach involves working together with communities to identify local needs and priorities, develop and build upon evidence-based and data-driven solutions, and strategically invest Federal funding and technical assistance.

The Smart Cities Initiative is informed by and builds on the work of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), including its Technology and the Future of Cities report. In the report, PCAST identified several actions that the Federal Government can take to help cities leverage technology, and which the initiative is already beginning to implement.

The initiative has supported a number of breakthrough activities in the last year. Two such examples are:

  • Smart City Challenge: In June, the Department of Transportation (DOT) selected Columbus, Ohio to receive $40 million to prototype the future of urban transportation, out of 78 cities that accepted its Smart City Challenge. The city’s plan, which will also leverage over $100 million in private resources, involves piloting new technologies, from connected vehicle technology that improves traffic flow and safety to data-driven efforts to improve public transportation access and health care outcomes to electric self-driving shuttles that will create new transportation options for underserved neighborhoods.
  • Fitness Tracker for Cities: With funding from NSF and Argonne National Laboratory, the City of Chicago and the University of Chicago last month began installing a “fitness tracker for the city”—500 outdoor sensor boxes called the “Array of Things” that will allow the city and public to instantly obtain block-by-block data on air quality, noise levels, and traffic. This real-time open data will help researchers and city officials reduce air pollution, improve traffic safety, and more. For example, a team is already working to build a mobile application that will alert asthma sufferers about poor air quality based on real-time measurements taken on their city block.

In addition to the initiative, the Administration has also taken several complementary steps that support local innovation, including the newly-announced Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, through which NSF is working with the private sector to invest nearly $100 million to develop four city-scale testing platforms for wireless technologies, including 5G and beyond. Additionally, the Administration’sOpportunity Project is spurring the creation of private sector digital tools based on Federal open data that help communities find information about resources needed to thrive, such as affordable housing, quality schools, and jobs. The Police Data Initiative and Data-Driven Justice Initiative are helping local authorities use data to improve community policing and divert low-level offenders out of the criminal justice system, respectively.

The upcoming White House Frontiers Conference, held in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, October 13, will further advance the initiative by bringing together some of the world’s leading innovators to discuss how investing in science and technology frontiers—including smart and inclusive local communities—can help improve lives and keep America on the cutting edge of innovation.

Key Steps by the Administration 

NSF is announcing over $60 million in new smart cities-related grants in FY16 and planned new investments in FY17. NSF is bringing together academic researchers from an array of disciplines with community stakeholders to unlock transformational progress on important community challenges. Examples of this work include an effort by researchers in Chattanooga to test an entire urban network of automatically cooperating connected and autonomous vehicles; and a flood-warning pilot project in several Maryland cities that integrates sensor data and social media posts in a novel way to potentially save lives by providing advance notice of flash floods, which kill more people in the United States each year than tornadoes, hurricanes, or lightning. The investments include:

  • $24.5 million in planned investment in FY17 and $8.5 million in new awards under the Smart & Connected Communities program. The planned investment significantly expands NSF’s research focus in this area and builds on a number of high-risk, high-reward Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research awards supporting integrative research that enhances understanding and design of our future cities and communities.
  • $10 million in new awards to develop and scale next-generation Internet applications and technologies through the US Ignite program, supporting access to the gigabit-enabled networks and services that bring data and analytics to decision-makers in real time.
  • $7 million in new Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity projects that involve academic-industry collaborations to translate breakthrough discoveries into emerging technologies related to smart communities, ranging from smart buildings to sensor networks that improve transportation efficiency.
  • $4 million in new Cyber-Physical Systems awards focused on Smart & Connected Communities. Collectively, these awards help establish the technological foundation for smart cities and the Internet of Things, which enables connection of physical devices at enormous scale to the digital world through sensors and other IT infrastructure.
  • $1.5 million in new Smart and Connected Health research awards with a focus on Smart & Connected Communities. The awards being announced today will support the development of next-generation health care solutions that leverage sensor technology, information and machine learning technology, decision support systems, and more.
  • $1 million for researchers to participate in the 2016 NIST Global City Teams Challenge, supporting high-risk, high-reward research on the effective integration of digital and physical systems to meet real-world community challenges.
  • $1 million in new research and capacity-building awards supporting lifelong learning that will be critical to cities and communities of the future. 

DOE is announcing new coalitions to build cleaner, smarter communities, and more than $15 million in new and planned funding to support smart, energy-efficient urban transportation systems and to unlock distributed clean energy sources.

  • DOE is announcing the launch of the Better Communities Alliance (BCA), a new DOE-led network of cities and counties with the goal of creating cleaner, smarter, and more prosperous communities for all Americans. Through the BCA, which is part of the Better Buildings Initiative, DOE is creating a one-stop shop for cities and counties to plug into DOE resources and AmeriCorps resources from the Corporation for National and Community Service to support them in tackling energy and climate challenges. DOE will gather key stakeholders to promote knowledge exchange and collaboration, while streamlining access to community-focused DOE resources and funding through coordinated assistance across programs and a common digital portal. Initial member communities and affiliate organizations include:
  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Broward County, Florida
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Chula Vista, California
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Dubuque, Iowa
  • Fort Worth, Texas
  • Huntington Beach, California
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • King County, Washington
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Los Angeles County, California
  • Miami-Dade County, Florida
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • New York, New York
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Roanoke, Virginia
  • Rochester, New York
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • San Francisco, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Sonoma County, California
  • West Palm Beach, Florida
  • Will County, Illinois
  • Alliance to Save Energy
  • American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  • Arup
  • C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
  • Cityzenith
  • Emerald Cities Collaborative
  • Energy Foundation
  • Global Cool Cities Alliance
  • Governing Institute
  • Hatch
  • ICLEI USA – Local Governments for Sustainability
  • Institute for Market Transformation
  • Institute for Sustainable Communities
  • International City/County Management Association
  • Kresge Foundation
  • National Association of Counties
  • National Association of State Energy Officials
  • National League of Cities
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Philips Lighting
  • Smart Cities Council
  • Solar Foundation
  • STAR Communities
  • Surdna Foundation
  • U.S. Green Building Council
  • Urban Sustainability Directors Network
  • DOE is launching a new Better Buildings Accelerator to assist local governments in developing “Zero Energy Districts” within their communities. Through the Accelerator—which will help participants overcome deployment barriers by providing a framework for collaboration among participants as well as technical assistance—DOE will work with city leaders, district developers, planners, owners, and additional key stakeholders to develop the business case and energy master planning documents needed to replicate Zero Energy Districts, which aggregate buildings’ renewable energy sources so that the combined on-site renewable energy offsets the combined building energy usage from the buildings in the district.
  • DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative is launching a Smart Energy Analytics Campaign with an inaugural group of members committing to using smart building energy management technologies to unlock energy savings. Eighteen inaugural members representing 1,800 buildings and 49 million square feet have signed up to adopt data analytics tools—known as Energy Management and Information Systems (EMIS)—that could reduce their energy footprint by 8 percent or more, on average. Some of the campaign participants and their plans include:

o   The Wendy’s Company is piloting software to move all 300 of their company-owned restaurants onto EMIS analytics.

o   Macy’s will leverage its experience using fault detection and diagnostics across their portfolio of over 700 stores to share best practices.

o   University of California, San Francisco will expand its innovative program of “Connected Commissioning” to use fault detection and diagnostics based on a consistent flow of building data analytics to help commission major building renovations and ensure they operate efficiently from the start.

o   Rhode Island Office of Energy is starting a multi-year EMIS project with 18-buildings that will leverage lessons learned through the Campaign to help streamline the rollout of EMIS to a large portion of their portfolio.

The following organizations will also provide technical assistance to the campaign partners: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Building Owners Management Association, International Facility Managers Association, Commonwealth Edison, California Commissioning Collaborative, and the Building Commissioning Association.

  • DOE is announcing $10 million in current and planned investment to expand the DOE SMART Mobility consortium to support the emergence of smart, energy-efficient urban transportation systems and establish a “Technologist in Cities” pilot. In collaboration with the DOT Smart City Challenge, and with an initial focus on Columbus, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan, DOE’s “Technologist in Cities” pilot will pair national laboratory technologists with city leaders to help cities address critical mobility needs with new capacity, tools, and technologies that significantly improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. The DOE Systems and Modeling for Accelerated Research in Transportation Mobility consortium leverages the unique capabilities of DOE National Laboratories to examine the nexus of energy and mobility for future transportation systems, including through connected and automated vehicles, urban and decision sciences, multi-modal transport, and integrated vehicle-fueling infrastructure systems.
  • DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability is announcing approximately $7 million in funding to support the development of sensors and modeling that allow communities to more effectively integrate distributed clean energy sources into their power grids. Currently, integration of distributed clean energy sources—and the emissions, reliability and resilience benefits they provide—is a challenge for electric grids originally designed solely for distribution of electricity, not local generation. Funding will support research and development at utilities and technology providers to harness new sensor data and improved modeling to allow for integration of these resources with greater efficiency and reliability, while aiming to deliver new benefits, such as improved grid resilience against outages in emergency situations. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is continuing to expand the smart cities movement and support technical progress in the Internet of Things.

  • NIST and its collaborators are announcing a new international coalition dedicated to developing an Internet of Things-Enabled Smart City Framework, with an initial release planned for next summer. Through an open, technical working group studying real-world smart city applications and architectures, the coalition will identify pivotal points of interoperability, where emerging alignment on standards can enable landscape of diverse but interoperable smart city solutions. Coalition members include the American National Standards Institute, the U.S. Green Building Council, the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning, the Italian Energy and Innovation Agency, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, and the FIWARE Foundation.
  • NIST’s Global City Teams Challenge is establishing multi-team super-clusters to take on grand challenges too big for any single city team to tackle. Examples include multi-city resilience to large-scale natural disasters, intelligent transportation systems that work in any city, and regional air quality improvements through coordinated local action. This initiative brings together groups of communities formed around lead cities—Portland, Oregon; Atlanta, Georgia; Newport News, Virginia; Columbus, Ohio; Bellevue, Washington; Kansas City, Kansas; and Kansas City, Missouri—to work with NIST and its collaborators, including DOT, DHS Science and Technology Directorate, NSF, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the International Trade Administration, the Economic Development Administration, IBM, AT&T, CH2M, Verizon, Qualcomm Intelligent Solutions, Intel, US Ignite, and Urban-X, to develop ‘blueprints’ for shared solutions that will be collaboratively implemented in multiple cities and communities.
  • NIST is announcing $350,000 in four new grants enabling 11 cities and communities to work together on innovative smart city solutions. The Replicable Smart City Technologies grants to teams of communities led by Newport News, Virginia; Bellevue, Washington; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Portland, Oregon focus on the development and deployment of interoperable technologies to address important public concerns regarding air pollution, flood prediction, rapid emergency response, and improved citizen services through interoperable smart city solutions that can be implemented by communities of all types and sizes. 

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the Department of Commerce is releasing a new toolkitto help communities leverage private-sector resources and expertise to advance smart cities. A core challenge that communities face when implementing smart city solutions is limited expertise and resources needed to develop and deploy new large-scale technology projects.Successful public-private partnerships can be a cost-effective way to ensure the fastest delivery of improved services to local residents. To assist local communities, NTIA is releasing a toolkit for local officials and citizen groups to use as a guide for building productive public-private partnerships that will enable smart cities to flourish. Using Partnerships to Power a Smart City: A Toolkit for Local Communitiesidentifies factors to consider when developing a partnership—including what to look for in a partner, assessing partner contributions, and how to structure the most fruitful partnership agreements.

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate is announcing an investment of $3.5 million for development of low-cost sensor technologies through its Flood Apex Program. The program is applying Internet of Things-based approaches to facilitate evacuations, flood monitoring, and resilience of critical infrastructure. For example, through a collaboration with the Lower Colorado River Authority, FEMA, and the National Weather Service in flood-prone areas of Texas, the program will share real-time data to give first responders and local officials the ability to respond more rapidly when a flood strikes and make the right preventive investments in flood protection to help save lives and protect infrastructure.

The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program is announcing a Federal Smart Cities and Communities Task Force. Recognizing the need for collaboration across agencies given the cross-cutting nature of community challenges like resilience, the task force is charged with developing a draft strategy for interagency cooperation on smart cities. It will also create a resource guide to Federal smart city programs, helping stakeholders discover the broad array of Federal funding opportunities and other resources. The draft strategy will be available for comment this fall, and the resource guide will be online in November.

New Steps Being Taken by Communities, Universities, Industry, and Others in Response to the Administration’s Call to Action

Four additional companies are joining the Administration’s NSF-led Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, collectively committing over $8 million in in-kind contributions to help support the design, deployment, and operation of four city-scale advanced wireless testing platforms. The companies joining the effort are announcing the following new steps:

  • Anritsu will contribute microwave components, spectrum analysis tools, and equipment to support testing, measurement, and service assurance.
  • Crown Castle will support the testing platforms by providing network deployment and tower siting advice and space on wireless towers.
  • Ericsson will provide resources in the form of researchers, systems and technology expertise, software-defined networking and radio network engineering support, with a focus on spectrum flexibility, spectrum sharing, security, IoT, and advanced radio technologies.
  • FiberTower will contribute mmWave spectrum services in support of selected geographic regions.

MetroLab Network, with new support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, will launch a Lab focused on the intersection of big data and human services. The Big Data and Human Services Lab will bring together stakeholders from the Network’s membership—local government policymakers and university researchers—as well as industry, policy experts, and non-profits to connect disparate policy and research efforts that harness data-driven approaches to transform human services. This effort will support coordination across communities, develop new tools and infrastructure, and help replicate what works, such as the collaboration between University of Washington and Seattle to use predictive analytics to identify precisely when city services succeed in helping homeless individuals transition into permanent housing, offering the promise of a future of personalized intervention. In addition, in the year since its launch, MetroLab has added the following new members, including four that are first joining :

  • Los Angeles, with California State University, Los Angeles (joining)
  • Greater Miami (Miami-Dade County, City of Miami, City of Miami Beach), with University of Miami, Florida International University, and Miami Dade College (joining)
  • San Francisco, with University of California, Berkeley (joining)
  • University of Pittsburgh, joining an existing collaboration between Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (joining)
  • Arlington County, with Virginia Tech-National Capital Region
  • Austin, with University of Texas at Austin
  • Baltimore, with John Hopkins University and University of Baltimore
  • Boulder and Denver, with University of Colorado-Boulder
  • Burlington, with University of Vermont
  • Charlotte, with University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • Columbus, with Ohio State University
  • Jacksonville, with University of Florida and University of North Florida
  • Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, with University of Missouri-Kansas City and University of Kansas
  • Newark, with New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Orlando, with University of Central Florida
  • Santa Fe, with Santa Fe Institute
  • Schenectady, with University at Albany, State University of New York
  • Columbia University, joining an existing collaboration between New York City and New York University 

The Smart Cities Council will award challenge grants to help five American cities apply smart technologies to improve urban livability, workability, and sustainability. For each of the five winning cities, the Council will deliver a tailored one-day readiness bootcamp, where experts from the Council, its members, and its advisors will assist each city in building or enhancing its smart city roadmap based on what works. In addition to the readiness bootcamp, the following Council members will contribute the following to each winning city:

  • Ameresco will provide consulting to help optimize smart street lighting.
  • AT&T will provide up to 25 AT&T Internet of Things Starter Kits.
  • CH2M and Qualcomm will collaborate to host a one-day follow-on workshop to develop and deploy a smart cities ecosystem.
  • Computing Technology Industry Association will provide free training, software, and access to its technology educational materials.
  • Dow Building and Construction will provide consultation on optimizing building design as part of a smart cities ecosystem.
  • IDC will assess each city’s progress through a comprehensive Smart City Maturity Benchmark.
  • Sensus will provide a citywide hosted communications network free of charge for one year.
  • Telit will provide each city free access to its Telit IoT platform.
  • TM Forum will help cities assess progress through its Smart City Maturity and Benchmark Model.
  • Transdev will provide up to three days of technical assistance to investigate new and more efficient urban mobility options. 

More than twenty cities, along with the newly formed Council of Global City Chief Information Officers, are launching a new initiative focused on ensuring responsible and equitable deployment of smart city technologies. The effort, led by the City of New York, has three primary goals: (1) provide a common framework to help governments develop and expand policies and procedures related to the Internet of Things; (2) ensure openness and transparency regarding the use of public space or assets for smart city technologies; and (3) advance the public dialogue about how government, the private sector and academia can collaborate to ensure these technologies are used in a way that maximizes public benefit. The following twenty-one cities have committed to a common set of guiding principles that emphasize privacy, security, sustainability, resilience, equity and efficiency in their use of these technologies:

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Greenville, South Carolina
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Los Angeles, California
  • New York, New York
  • Palo Alto, California
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • San Diego, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Washington, District of Columbia

US Ignite is announcing the addition of four cities joining the network of Smart Gigabit Communities. The Smart Gigabit Communities Program was announced by NSF with the launch of the Smart Cities Initiative last September. The four cities each committing to developing six gigabit applications that serve community needs are:

  • Adelaide, Australia (also the first city outside the United States to join)
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Salisbury, North Carolina
  • Washington, District of Columbia

1776 is launching the Urban Innovation Council, a coalition of cities, startups, and corporate stakeholders dedicated to overcoming challenges to building smarter cities through entrepreneurship. The council will tackle a range of enablers for startup innovation, including development of model urban regulations that enable rather than stymie innovation, and practical research that informs decisions made by entrepreneurs and city leaders. Initial members include:

  • Arlington County, Virginia
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Global Automakers
  • Microsoft
  • Radiator Labs
  • SeamlessDocs
  • TransitScreen
  • Uber
  • Vornado

Additional efforts being announced include:

  • The Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany, State University of New York is creating smart city guidebooks for small and medium-sized cities. Mayors of such cities face a wide range of financial, organizational, policy, and political challenges that can slow the pace of innovation. The guidebooks will focus on key considerations for technology adoption in the small and medium-sized city context, with a focus on critical implementation steps.
  • The City of New York is launching a new digital platform to help local governments navigate the smart city marketplace. Developed through a public-private partnership, marketplace.nyc includes information about a growing list of more than 100 companies—including new and emerging firms—and their relevant products and services. The platform helps local government employees identify innovative technologies within their respective focus areas while also encouraging interagency coordination by offering a repository of information on past or existing city pilots and contracts. The resource is designed to enable both replication and data sharing across cities.
  • City Digital, a Chicago-based consortium, is announcing results from its first pilot launched in September 2015 as part of the Smart Cities Initiative, including new technology components to create a novel digital underground infrastructure mapping platform. The pilot team has now successfully engineered the platform’s components, which will allow cities and utilities to move through construction and development processes in less than half the current time.
  • Dallas Innovation Alliance and Envision Charlotte are announcing “For Cities, By Cities,” a new collaboration that will bring cities together from around the globe over the next two years to workshop steps to become smarter, more sustainable, and efficient. Convening in Dallas, Texas in 2017 and Charlotte, North Carolina in 2018, the conferences will feature city officials sharing their perspective with peers about lessons learned regarding what works, what to avoid, how to get started, and how to define success.
  • Dallas will be launching the Dallas Innovation District in the West End neighborhood in downtown Dallas, focused on bringing together civic, corporate, and startup innovation efforts through a single district-level testbed. This collaboration will bring together the Dallas Innovation Alliance’s Smart Cities Living Lab, the Dallas Entrepreneur Center’s efforts to seed new startups, and new innovation initiatives from corporations in the technology, banking and healthcare sectors.
  • Mapbox is announcing the launch of the Mapbox Cities Lab, offering municipalities free access to Mapbox tools and support, and providing three cities with in-depth mentorship to help tackle their most pressing issues, from traffic safety to neighborhood health. Mapbox will work with each participating city to gather data on its particular challenges, and then collaborate to create insightful and actionable data-driven maps incorporating open data and real-time traffic data from Mapbox.
  • Microsoft is announcing new smart cities-related resources to help communities across the country leverage technology for public safety and transportation. Microsoft and Genetec are providing 10 U.S. cities with Project Green Light starter kits to enable local businesses to connect surveillance cameras to the cloud and local law enforcement. Working with Cubic, Microsoft also is offering a cloud-based surface transport management solution pilot to five U.S. cities to help them increase efficiency and safety.
  • Orange Silicon Valley will launch a workshop this fall on business-to-business data sharing for public and private benefit, with a particular focus on smart cities and the Internet of Things. The workshop will bring together private sector actors with other stakeholders to examine models for private sector data sharing across businesses and sectors, related challenges and opportunities, and new models for generating social value from private sector data.