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Open Space Institute calls for New York State to Maintain Environmental Funding to Create Jobs and Restart the Economy

Photo Credit: Steve Aaron

As climate crisis intensifies, state funding is essential to save lives and protect millions of vulnerable New Yorkers

Albany, NY (October 16, 2020) – The Open Space Institute (OSI) today joined the effort among New York’s environmental community to urge Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to maintain funding for environmental programs to create jobs, fortify local economies, and address the climate crisis. In a letter sent to the leaders, OSI and 175 other groups called environmental funding critical to the health, safety, and prosperity of all New Yorkers.

“The turbulent times make it especially important for state leaders to fund New York’s environmental programs that not only protect our vital natural resources, but also expand the public’s access to nature, paving the way for healthier communities and residents,” said Kim Elliman, OSI president and CEO. “As the public turns to the outdoors for comfort, enjoyment and healthy activities, now is not the time to turn our backs on environmental programs that protect clean air and water; create and maintain local parks and green spaces; address the climate crisis; and protect precious natural resources.”

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie

Public funding to protect clean air and water, create and maintain local parks and enhance recreation, tackle climate change and its impacts, and conserve natural resources is critical to the health, safety and prosperity of all New Yorkers. With the $3 billion Environmental Bond Act removed from the November 2020 ballot, it is imperative that New York State maintain environmental funding. State environmental funding furthers the goals of the Bond Act while creating good-paying jobs, strengthening local economies, and advancing environmental justice in frontline communities.

In the past, the environment has been treated like a luxury and all too often taken disproportionate funding cuts when the state faced financial crises. But environmental funding programs create jobs and economic opportunity, and, as the COVID pandemic has once again demonstrated, clear air, clean water and outdoor recreation are critical in protecting public health. When making difficult funding decisions, these resources and services must be recognized as essential. This funding also demonstrates a commitment by the state that can be used to leverage federal funds, specifically for future job-creating stimulus funding that could expand our ability to build resilience. Furthermore, the current impacts and dire threats we face from climate change remain during hard economic times and addressing them now will save money and lives, both now and in the long run. Hard economic times like these demand that we protect and enhance the environment we share, and in doing so, we can create solutions that will ensure we build a more prosperous future.

Our organizations join with New York State, local governments, and many other stakeholders to call on Congress to ensure federal assistance to state and local governments to help cover public health costs and economic impacts through COVID relief legislation Federal support for critical government services will continue to be a top priority.

Additionally, as New York State leaders continue work to address the pandemic and state budget deficit, our organizations urge that the following state programs are at least maintained at currently appropriated levels, deployed effectively throughout the state, and that no further cuts to or sweeps from environmental programs be contemplated. These programs provide essential services with unique, cross-cutting benefits for New Yorkers in every county of the state, and this work must continue.

Environmental Protection Fund (EPF)

The $300 million EPF supports 350,000 jobs across the state, and EPF-supported industries generate approximately $40 billion in economic activity every year EPF projects and programs directly address issues facing New York as we manage the pandemic and fiscal crisis. From improving water quality and community infrastructure, to providing resources for environmental justice organizations and conserving natural resources that reduce pollution and protect communities from storms, the EPF delivers programs New Yorkers need now, more than ever.

Parks 2020 and DEC New York Works Programs

Since its creation in 2010, Parks 2020 has funded $1 billion in upgrades to New York's world-class state parks system. Every dollar invested in state parks generates $5 of economic activity. During the COVID crisis, state residents have relied on these parks to recreate, get exercise, and find solace during extremely difficult times. Local construction jobs associated with park development have been an economic lifeline for many communities. Opportunities to expand these benefits by creating new parks and improving existing parks in underserved areas exist throughout the state.

Furthermore, for the last several fiscal years, NYSDEC has received approximately $40 million in New York Works funding annually for critical environmental capital projects, including approximately $55 million to support the "Adventure New York" Program, aimed at creating new recreational opportunities and infrastructure to support the record visitation our state lands are now experiencing These projects protect natural resources, enhance visitor safety and experience, and create new access to the outdoors in all regions of the state. In addition to Adventure New York, capital funding for NYSDEC supports critical health and safety projects that protect the environment and the people of New York State.

Clean Water Infrastructure Act

To date, the State has provided $3.9 billion for water infrastructure programs, including the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, and Governor Cuomo committed an additional $1.5 billion over the next three years as part of the SFY2019 budget for a total commitment of $5.4 billion. New York's drinking water and wastewater systems need tens of billions of dollars in upgrades to ensure our communities have clean, safe water and our bays, harbors, lakes and rivers are not polluted With county and local budgets stretched beyond their limits, funding for maintaining and upgrading our water infrastructure and addressing emerging contaminants threatening our safe drinking water is essential to protecting public health. In addition, this program is a strong job generator, with every $1 million in state investment resulting in 17 local jobs

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Program

Over the course of the program, $228 million of RGGI funds (that is 17% of total funding) have been transferred by NYSERDA to the state General Fund, depriving New Yorkers of funding that could have lowered energy bills and created good jobs. RGGI has received more than its fair share of cuts and it is more critical than ever that these funds be fully dedicated to implementing New York's programs focused on addressing climate change, including the Green Jobs Green NY program, and meeting the state's ambitious goals in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. A diversion of RGGI resources from NYSERDA will be economically and environmentally harmful to the state in the long run.

Each of the above programs creates thousands of jobs, saves communities and taxpayers money, and supports several multi-billion dollar sectors of the economy, including but not limited to agriculture, outdoor recreation, construction, tourism and commercial fishing These programs also leverage federal, local and private dollars to deliver important services to residents, which New York cannot afford to lose. With these many important benefits in mind, we urge the Legislature and Governor Cuomo to maintain funding for these important and successful programs, and pass legislation to reauthorize a $3 billion environmental Bond Act on a future ballot.

Sincerely,

  • + POOL, Kara Meyer, Managing Director
  • Adirondack Council, Kevin Chlad, Director of Government Relations
  •  Adirondack Land Trust, Mike Carr, Executive Director
  • Adirondack Mountain Club, Michael Barrett, Executive Director
  • Adirondack Wild Friends of the Forest Preserve, David Gibson, Managing Partner
  •  Agricultural Stewardship Association, Teri Ptacek, Executive Director
  • Alley Pond Environmental Center, Inc, Irene V. Scheid, Executive Director
  • Alliance for a Green Economy, Jessica Azulay, Executive Director
  • Alliance for the Great Lakes, Crystal M.C. Davis, Vice President of Policy & Strategic Engagement
  • American Farmland Trust, Samantha Levy, New York Policy Manager
  • Appalachian Mountain Club, Kimberly Witt, Mid Atlantic Policy Manager
  • Association for a Better New York, Steven Rubenstein, Chairman
  • Atlantic States Legal Foundation, Lhakpa Tsering, Executive Director
  • Audubon New York, Erin McGrath, Policy Manager
  • Audubon Society of the Capital Region, Teresa Murphy, President
  • Bedford Audubon, Suzanne Cahill, Executive Director
  • Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director
  •  Capital Roots, Amy Klein, Chief Executive Officer
  • Catskill Center, Jeff Senterman, Executive Director
  • Catskill Mountainkeeper, Katherine Nadeau, Deputy Director
  • Central Westchester Audubon Society, Lisa Curtis, President
  • Champlain Area Trails, Chris Maron, Executive Director
  • Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, John Jablonski Ill, Executive Director
  • Chemung Valley Audubon Society
  • Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director
  • City Parks Foundation
  • Clean and Healthy New York, Kathleen A. Curtis, Executive Director
  • Climate XChange, Michael Green, Executive Director, Coalition of Living Museums
  • Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, Carol DiPaolo, Programs Director, Water-Monitoring Coordinator
  • Columbia Land Conservancy, Peter R Paden, Executive Director
  • Concerned Citizens of Montauk, Laura Tooman, President
  • Defend H2O, Kevin McAllister, President
  • Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, Susan O'Handley, Co-President
  • Earthjustice, Courtney Bowie, Managing Attorney, Northeast Office
  •  Eastern Long Island Audubon Society, Byron Young, President Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve, Inc., Anne Rhoads, Executive Director
  • Empire State Forest Products Association, John K. Bartow, Jr., Executive Director
  • Environmental Advocates of NY, Kate Kurera, Deputy Director
  • Environmental Defense Fund, Mark Rupp, Director, State-Federal Policy & Affairs, Ecosystems
  • Finger Lakes - Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance, Kristy LaManche, Program Coordinator
  •  Finger Lakes Land Trust, Andrew Zepp, Executive Director
  • Food & Water Action, Eric Weitman, Senior Organizer
  • Four Harbors Audubon Society, Joyann Cirigliano, President/ Strategic Planning Chair
  • Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation
  • Friends of the Bay, Heather Johnson, Executive Director
  • Friends of the Upper Delaware River, Jeff Skelding, Executive Director
  • Friends of Tillson Lake, Inc., Morey Gottesman, President
  • Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve, Jay Burney, Chair
  • Genesee Land Trust, Gay Mills, Executive Director
  • Genesee Valley Audubon Society, June Summers, President
  • Genesee Valley Conservancy, Inc., Benjamin Gajewski, Executive Director
  • Grassroots Gardens WNY, Jeanette Koncikowski, Executive Director
  • Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, Laura Weinberg, President
  • Great South Bay Audubon Society, Annette Brownell, Treasurer
  • Green Ossining, Suzie Ross, Chairperson
  • Greene Land Trust, Robert Knighton, President
  • Groundwork Hudson Valley, Brigitte Griswold, Executive Director
  • Group for the East End, Robert S. Deluca, President
  • HabitatMap, Michael Heimbinder, Executive Director
  • Hampton Bays Civic Association, Maria N. Hults, President
  • Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association, Lisa Deleeuw, Executive Director
  • HEALTHY SCHOOLS NETWORK, Claire L. Barnett, MBA, Executive Director
  • Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, Eric Swenson, Executive Director
  • Hudson Highlands Land Trust, Michelle Smith, Executive Director
  • Hudson River Audubon Society of Westchester, Frances Greenberg, President Hudson Valley Fishermen's Association
  • Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, Inc., Karen Joy Miller, Founder and President
  • Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society, Simone DaRos, Board Member
  • Indian River Lakes Conservancy, Elliott D. Hillback Jr, Board Chairperson
  • Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, Christine Santora, Assistant Director
  • Keuka Outlet Trail, Tom McGuigan, Board Member - Keuka Outlet Trail
  •  Kingston Land Trust, Julia Farr, Executive Director
  • Lake Agawam Conservancy, Meghan Nadosy Magyar, Board Member
  •  Lake George Land Conservancy, Jamie Brown, Executive Director
  • Lake Placid Land Conservancy, Kerry Crowningshield, Executive Director
  • Land Trust Alliance, Meme Hanley, Senior New York Program Manager
  • Lewisboro Land Trust, Bobbe Stultz, Co-Chair
  • Long Island Contractors' Association, Inc., Marc Herbst, Executive Director
  • Long Island Pine Barrens Society, Richard Amper, Executive Director
  • Manhasset Bay Protection Committee, Sarah Deonarine, Executive Committee
  • Mianus River Gorge, Roderick G Christie, Executive Director
  • Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, Mark King, Executive Director
  • Mohonk Preserve, Kevin Case, President & CEO
  • Moms for a Non Toxic New York, Alexandra Zissu, Ulster County Chapter Head
  • Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District, David Ganim, District Manager
  • Nassau Hiking & Outdoor Club, Guy Jacob, Conservation Chair
  • Natural Areas Conservancy, Sarah Charlop-Powers, Executive Director
  • Natural Resources Defense Council, Richard Schrader, Policy and Legislative Director
  • New Rochelle, Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle
  • New York Botanical Garden
  • New York Building Congress, Carlo A. Scissura, Esq, President & CEO
  • New York City Audubon, Kathryn Heintz, Executive Director
  • New York League of Conservation Voters, Julie Tighe, President
  • New York State Assc. of Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3), Kelli Timbrook, President
  • New York State Laborers' Union
  • New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, Charles J. Ruffing, Director
  • New York State Urban Forestry Council, Karen H. Emmerich, President
  • New Yorkers for Parks, Adam Ganser, Executive Director
  • New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, Joshua Howard, Executive Director
  • Newtown Creek Alliance, Lisa Bloodgood, Director of Advocacy and Education
  • North Fork Audubon Society, Debra O'Kane, President
  • North Fork Environmental Council, Susan MacKenzie, President
  • North Salem Open Land Foundation, Jocko McKean, Executive Director
  • North Shore Audubon Society, Peggy Maslow, President
  • Northern Catskills Audubon Society, Inc., Larry Federman, President
  • Northern New York Audubon, Joan Collins, Conservation Chair
  • NY Climate Reality Chapters Coalition, Tim Guinee, Legislative Action Coordinator
  • NY Product Stewardship Council, Andrew Radin, Board Chair
  • NY Water Environment Association, William J. Nylic, Ill,
  • President NYC Audubon, Kathryn Heintz, Executive Director
  • NYPIRG, Elizabeth Moran, Environmental Policy Director
  • Onondaga Audubon, Maryanne Adams, Conservation Chair
  • Ontario Bays Initiative, Inc. (OBI Land Trust), Jim LaPlante, Board Chairperson
  • Open Space Institute, Christopher "Kim" J. Elliman, President & CEO
  • Orange County Audubon Society, Melissa Peterson, Administrator
  • Orange County Land Trust, James Delaune, Executive Director
  • Otsego Land Trust, Patricia Szarpa, Executive Director
  • Our Outer Harbor Coalition, Buffalo, Margaret Wooster
  • Parks & Trails New York, Robin Dropkin, Executive Director
  • Peconic Baykeeper, Peter Topping, Baykeeper
  • Peconic Estuary Protection Committee
  • Peconic Land Trust, John v.H. Halsey, President
  • Pollinator Conservation Association, Inc, Jay Burney, Special Projects Director
  • Preservation League of New York State, Jay Dilorenzo, President
  • Protect the Adirondacks!, Peter Bauer, Executive Director
  • Putnam County Land Trust, Judith Terlizzi, Board President
  • Rebuild by Design, Amy Chester, Managing Director
  • Renewable Energy Long Island (rell), Gordian Raacke, Executive Director
  • Rensselaeer Plateau Alliance, Jim Bonesteel, Executive Director
  • RETI Center, Gita Nandan, Chair of the Board
  • RETI Center, Tim Gilman-Sevcik, Executive Director
  • RETI Center, lsil Akgul, Director of Operations
  • Riverkeeper, Jeremy Cherson, Legislative Advocacy Manager
  • Riverside Park Conservancy
  • Rochester Museum and Science Center, Hillary Olson, President & CEO
  • Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee
  • Saratoga PLAN, Maria Ttabka, Executive Director
  • Save The Great South Bay, Robyn Silvestri, Executive Director
  • Save the Sound, Tracy Brown, Regional Director, Water Protection
  • Saw Mill River Audubon, Anne Swaim, Executive Director
  • Scenic Hudson, Ned Sullivan, President
  • Seatuck Environmental Association, Enrico Nardone, Executive Director
  • Serpentine Art and Nature Center, Inc., George Y Bramwell, Esq, Past President
  • Setauket Harbor Task Force, George Hoffman, Trustee
  • Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Roger Downs, Conservation Director
  • Somers Land Trust, Michael Barnhart, President
  • South Shore Audubon Society, Brien Weiner, President
  • Southampton Town Civic Coalition, Andrea Spilka, President
  • Southern Madison Heritage Trust, Harvey L Kliman, Ph.D, President
  • St. Lawrence Land Trust, Jessica Rogers, President of the Board
  • Surfrider Foundation, Matt Gove, Mid-Atlantic Policy Manager
  • Sustainable Westchester, Steven Rosenthal, Interim Executive Director
  • SWANA New York Chapter, Luann Meyer, President
  • Syracuse Cultural Workers, Andy Mager, Sales Manager and Social Movements Liaison
  • Teatown Lake Reservation, Kevin Carter, Executive Director
  • The Conservation Fund, Thomas R. Duffus, Vice President, Northeast
  • The Nature Conservancy, Jessica Ottney Mahar, NY Policy & Strategy Director
  • The North Shore Land Alliance, Inc, Lisa W. ott, President
  • The Town of New Castle, Supervisor Ivy A Pool, Deputy Supervisor Jeremy Saland, Council Member Lisa Katz, Council Member Lauren Levin, Council Member Jason Lichtenthal, New Castle Town Board
  • The Trust for Public Land, Carter Strickland, New York State Director
  • Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Christy Plumer, Chief Conservation Officer
  • Town of Ossining, Dana Levenberg, Town Supervisor
  • Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, Linda M. Garrett, Executive Director
  • Urban Green Council, Danielle Manley, Associate Manager, Policy
  • Van Cortlandt Park Alliance, Stephanie Ehrlich, Executive Director
  • Vision Long Island, Eric Alexander, Director
  • Wallkill Valley Land Trust, Christie DeBoer, Executive Director
  • Waterfront Alliance, Cortney Worrall, President and CEO
  • WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director & Director of Policy Initiatives
  • Westchester Land Trust, Lori Ensinger, President
  • Western New York Environmental Alliance, Lynda Schneekloth, Chair
  • Western New York Land Conservancy, Nancy Smith, Executive Director
  • Wildlife Conservation Society, John F. Calvelli, Executive Vice President, Public Affairs
  • Winnakee Land Trust, Robert S Davis, Executive Director
  • Woodstock Land Conservancy, Maxanne Resnick, Executive Director

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