Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Post-Earth Day Post: Bloomberg, His PlaNYC 2030, His Environmental Creds (Credentials and Credibility) and Population Projections

(Image above is from Bloomberg’s PlaNYC website.- The graph shown is not up-to-date. If corrected the second green triangle approximately over 2010 should be down more or less level with the blue square over the year 2000, because the city hasn’t actually grown much under Bloomberg.)

Yesterday was Earth Day and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has recently been busy getting himself into the news to claim credit as an environmentalist. On Wednesday of last week (the 13th) he and former President Bill Clinton announced that they were merging the global climate groups that they head (Bloomberg and Clinton to Merge Climate Groups, by Michael Barbaro, April 13, 2011) and yesterday on Earth Day itself, Bloomberg announced an update to his PlaNYC 2030, considered to represent his current environmental agenda (City Issues Rule to Ban Dirtiest Oils at Buildings, by Mireya Navarro, April 21, 2011.)

The announcement with Clinton got Bloomberg this adulatory lead in from the Times:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and former President Bill Clinton, two of the most influential spokesmen for environmental sustainability, will merge their global climate groups under a plan announced on Wednesday.
The Earth Day announcement respecting what is supposed to be a significant update on to the PlaNYC 2030 sustainability initiative Bloomberg launched on Earth Day in 2007 was treated more mundanely by the Times, which focused on a new ban on the burning of dirtier fuel oils that the Rent Stabilization Association has announced it will fight:
The new rule, announced on Thursday by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as part of an update to his environmental agenda, known as PlaNYC, affects about 10,000 buildings that burn the dirtiest types of heating oil: No. 6, the cheapest oil pumped into aging boilers; and No. 4, another heavy oil that is only slightly less noxious.
Atlantic Yards Report has already posted a review of the plan’s updates which notes how awkwardly the non-environmentally advised Atlantic Yards Ratner mega-monopoly fits in with attempts to openly, and transparently plan coherently for a sustainable environmentally sound future. Saturday, April 23, 2011, PlaNYC update: an Atlantic Yards mention (for water mains!) and potential reconsideration of parking requirements. The post focuses mainly on how parking should not be a prominent feature of high-density projects near mass transit facilities. The other connection with Atlantic Yards is that, from its inception, PlaNYC has called for building platforms over railyards and highways to create new areas for housing.

But for the best reference on whether Bloomberg has truly believable environmental credentials, the following Noticing New York post, beginning with a quiz on environmental political facts, is recommended: Monday, November 2, 2009, On Your Way Vote, We Quizzically Ask: How “Green” Is Our Bloomberg?

Here is one thing that, with the recently released update on PlaNYC, deserves notice for its non-updated status. The just updated PlaNYC still incorporates what are probably grossly erroneous population projections.

Noticing New York recently covered how wrong Bloomberg and his administration have almost certainly been in estimating that the population in a mere two decades (or less) will grow by another 1.2 million. (See: Wednesday, April 20, 2011, Fighting His Third Term Curse Bloomberg Now Uses His Own Money To Promote Mega-Projects That Aren’t Happening.) In fact, the city is apparently currently growing at so slow a rate that the city won’t actually grow to 9.4 million until almost 70 years from now.

What makes the continued misestimation of these figures all the more startling is that these highly dubious population projections are credited with sparking Bloomberg’s environmentalism and more or less the plan itself. Below is an extract from the Times also extracted in the original Noticing New York environmental quiz article, beginning with a quote from James F. Gennaro, chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, about how Bloomberg had an environmental change of heart (after Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”) :
“Clearly, in the fall of 2006 Mayor Bloomberg had an environmental apocalypse,” Mr. Gennaro said. “Something inspired him.”

It was not an epiphany, but federal census data that prompted the mayor to act, aides said. The numbers suggested that the city would grow by a million residents by 2030, which would lead to heavier traffic and more use of electricity at the same time that the city would be grappling with floods and other effects of climate change.
(See again: Mayor’s Environmental Record: Grand Plans and Small Steps Forward, by Mireya Navarro, October 22, 2009.)

So what was the core seed for the gestation of the plan, Bloomberg's near epiphany with respect to projected population growth, has not been changed in his plan even though it has now been found to be almost certainly incorrect.

Not only have the population projections not been changed in the plan (see the chart at the start of this post that also remains unchanged on the website), the old numbers remain firmly anchored in the plan.

For instance, we see this amongst the “Frequently Asked Questions”:

How do you know our population will grow by almost one million more people?

The Population Division of the Department of City Planning has done a detailed projection of the City's population. This analysis, done on the level of each borough, has taken into account the current age and sex breakdown of the population; birthrates by borough; immigration patterns (not based on origin); life-spans; and patterns of people moving out of the City. With this information, we strongly believe that the City's population will grow, primarily due to three factors: continued immigration; New Yorkers are choosing to stay in their city longer, rather than moving out to the suburbs or to another city; and finally, we are living longer. For these reasons, our population of school-age children will not increase dramatically, but we will have many more seniors.
That in turns links to:
• The mayor’s quite antiquated December 13, 2006 Press Release about how the city was going to grow to 9.1 million people by year 2030

• The mayor’s December 12, 2006 speech regarding planning for a sustainable future, saying that by 2030, the city population will reach more than 9 million.

• a "Full Report" (33 pages) – a detailed analysis of the total population projected to 2030, as well as the projected school-age and elderly populations (includes an in-depth description of the projection methodology).

• a "Briefing Booklet" (26 pages) – on the population projection methodology and the major findings.

The new pfd update has this language:
New York City’s population is still growing. By 2030 we project that our population will increase to more than 9 million
Why is this important? One reason is that the projections for enormous population growth have been used as a backdrop to help justify the Bloomberg-style mega-development that begins with tearing things down while not having terrific success at replacing what gets demolished. It is also interesting to note that in 2007 Bloomberg's Director or the Budget, Mark Page, was factoring in this assumed population growth when calculating his balancing of the budget.

We don't want to discourage city officials to work had and in earnest to make the possibilities of each Earth Day more promising. Certainly many of them are working very seriously in this regard. The reminders here are so that when Bloomberg sallies forth each Earth Day people shouldn't focus on automatically giving him personal credit that isn't due. In fact, this is not the kind of reaction Bloomberg can always count on. Earth Day is not always a good pres day for him.

Last Earth Day when Bloomberg was getting an Earth Day award presented to him for being "America's greenest mayor." Bloomberg was using the associated press conference as an opportunity to attack Obama on the subject of financial reform. This opened the door for WNYC’s Bob Hennelly to quiz the mayor about his off-shore investments and to post the mayor’s tax returns in his coverage. (See: The Mayor's Money: Bloomberg Pressed on Offshore Investments, Saturday- April 24, 2010.) For a lot more of Noticing New York on that topic see: Monday, May 24, 2010, Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth? An Examination of Brooklyn Bridge Park in Terms of the Politics of Development, Part I

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