reduction are key parts of the historic $3 billion Environmental Bond Act.
Clean water and flood reduction are key parts of the historic $3 billion Environmental Bond Act. © Jonathan Grassi

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New York Lawmakers Pass Historic $3 Billion Environmental Bond Act As Part Of 2020-2021 State Budget

Coalition of 100+ Organizations Supported Historic Commitment to Clean Water and Flood Reduction for New York Communities

The New York State Legislature today passed a historic $3 billion Environmental Bond Act as part of the 2020-2021 state budget, providing funding for key investments in local infrastructure and environmental restoration that will help communities across New York prepare for flooding, rising seas and dangerous extreme heat. The bond act will now go to voters for approval on the ballot in November.

“During a time of exceptional crisis and uncertainty for New York, we applaud lawmakers for strengthening New York’s position as a national leader in the fight against climate change and for recognizing the need to continue investing in defeating not only the challenges of the day, but the long-term threats facing our children and grandchildren,” said Jessica Ottney Mahar, New York Policy Director for The Nature Conservancy. “We face a future with a lot more water – from more frequent severe storms to flooding occurring even on days with no rainfall. The bond act is a critical opportunity to safeguard vulnerable communities across the state and a tremendous step forward for New York’s future.”

“New York is once again leading on the environment. We are thrilled that Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature came together to pass a Bond Act to mitigate the impacts of climate change and protect our communities, nature and water quality. In the past 10 years alone, our state has seen the detrimental effects of 15 severe storms, five major winter storms and two major floods. The Bond Act will help us restore and protect ecosystems in every corner of New York State,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

“Coastal communities from Lake Erie to Long Island are on the front lines of flooding and extreme storm threats caused by sea level rise and climate change. We know all too well the need to fortify our shores, restore wetlands and coastal buffers and protect our water and land resources. Today we are all battling the threat of COVID-19, but the need to continue critical efforts to protect our drinking water, fight climate change and prepare New York for a safer future is ever present,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We are thankful that the Governor and the Legislature have advanced this essential program.”

"Every single county in New York State has had major disaster declarations for flooding in the past 10 years. Those problems will only get worse with aging infrastructure and climate change," said Amy Chester, Managing Director of Rebuild by Design. "We applaud the governor and legislature for taking this important step forward for our climate crisis, during this critical health crisis. A Bond Act will enable communities to design and build infrastructure that will reduce flooding, restore ecology and pump much needed money into our state's economy."

“Thank you Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders for including a once-in-a-generation environmental bond act to restore New York’s water, air, wildlife and natural areas, while helping communities prepare for climate change,” said Riverkeeper’s Legislative Advocacy Manager Jeremy Cherson. “After approving nation-leading commitments last year to clean water and climate action, New York State leaders are once again at the forefront of environmental protection by approving a bond act and allowing New Yorkers an opportunity to vote for this critical investment to prepare for future crises caused by sea-level rise, storm surge and climate change.”

"Protecting our communities and securing our economic future is job number one for New York at this time. That's why we're grateful for the Governor's and State Legislature's leadership in advancing the environmental bond act and evaluating whether it should be sent to voters at the general election in November. In uncertain times such as these, it is important that we safeguard clean water and ensure that the parks and our outdoor spaces provide solace and create memories for our loved ones. These investments also create jobs and economic stimulus.  Scenic Hudson is committed to working with the Governor and our partners to ensure the public understands the benefits of this investment in a secure future for our children and grandchildren," said Ned Sullivan, President of Scenic Hudson.

“It’s never been more critical to protect the things we cherish most, and it’s reassuring that Governor Cuomo and our legislative leaders are acting with that urgency in mind,” said Rich Schrader, New York Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The days ahead will no doubt present more unpredictable challenges, but the bond act is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get ahead of the curve, safeguard our most treasured assets, like the air we breathe and water we drink, harden our communities, and help New Yorkers weather the storm. We can't have any regrets—the bond act is the opportunity we desperately need to ensure that we don’t.”

“We are grateful to the Governor and Legislature for their support of this historic bond act and their recognition of the need to invest in our natural world,” said Kim Elliman, President and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “In recent weeks, legions of New Yorkers expressed their deep appreciation for parks and open space, seeking comfort in nature. As we move on to November, we look forward to the voters of New York State having the opportunity to enact a once-in-a-generation initiative to protect water, fight climate change, mitigate the effects of extreme weather and save wildlife habitat through smart and effective land conservation.”

“Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have shown remarkable leadership as New Yorkers weather the uncertainty of these troubled times, and we thank them for extending that leadership by continuing to make critical investments in our environment. We must ensure that our communities are protected from all of the risks that are facing them now and in the future,” said Ana Paula Tavares, Executive Director for Audubon New York. “We are most appreciative for the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, which will provide a critical source of recurring funding for protecting our environment. This funding will restore our streams, wetlands and coasts, and support the communities and wildlife that depend on them.”

“As President Trump moves to repeal environmental safeguards during the pandemic, New York lawmakers are leading with the foresight that the public health crisis only deepens if we do not live up to our environmental and climate commitments,” said Roger Downs, Conservation Director, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “Projects funded through the ‘Restore Mother Nature Bond Act’ will not only protect critical habitats, restore wetlands, prevent floods, safeguard our drinking water and ultimately support public health — they will also provide thousands of New Yorkers with good climate resiliency jobs when the COVID-19 emergency finally passes.”

“The Land Trust Alliance applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature for their remarkable commitment to land conservation during these extraordinary times,” said Land Trust Alliance Senior Program Manager Meme Hanley. “A $3 billion environmental bond act will advance the Empire State’s proud tradition of conserving and restoring open spaces across New York to benefit local communities. Land trusts stand ready to help protect critical water resources, prime agricultural lands, forests and urban open spaces and enhance public access for recreation.”

"Every dollar spent on the Environmental Bond Act is many dollars saved," said Kathleen Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York. "Now more than ever, it should be clear that proactive investment in environmental health is cheaper than retroactive disaster management."

“Today’s public health crisis has not erased the impacts of climate change, especially for our vulnerable communities. Increasing resiliency by protecting our water and restoring our natural defenses against future flooding, heat and drought is critically important if we want livable communities. We thank Governor Cuomo, the Senate and the Assembly for putting environmental protection on the ballot this fall,” said Maureen Cunningham, Senior Director for Clean Water, Environmental Advocates of New York.

“It’s going to take smart infrastructure investments to make our communities more resilient in the face of climate change,” said Carter Strickland, Director of The Trust for Public Land’s New York State Office. “We applaud the Legislature for including funding in the Environmental Bond Act for outdoor recreation and innovative measures like green infrastructure, which will allow us to address more intense storms and soaring summer temperatures. Millions of New Yorkers will benefit from quality close-to-home parks and stormwater control measures, and our communities will be better prepared for a changing climate.”

“Our farmers are on the front lines of climate change, bearing the brunt of the impacts of extreme weather while trying to remain financially viable to continue to feed us all,” said Samantha Levy, New York Policy Manager for American Farmland Trust. “As we face this current crisis, the importance of healthy food and a resilient local food system is more apparent now than ever. We applaud the leadership and foresight of Governor Cuomo and leaders in the legislature for including this Bond Act in the state budget, and for carving out $100 million in dedicated funding for permanent farmland protection, as well as other projects that will ensure our farmers are able to continue to produce healthy food while remaining resilient to and helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change!”

A broad coalition of more than 100 environmental organizations, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, business groups and others supported the inclusion of the Bond Act in the state budget, including Riverkeeper, The Nature Conservancy, Scenic Hudson, New York League of Conservation Voters, Rebuild by Design, New York Building Congress, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, Associated General Contractors of NYS and more.

If approved by voters in November, the funding will support restoration of wildlife habitat and natural areas that act as flooding defenses and upgrade outdated infrastructure. For example, local and state governments will be able to reconstruct and enlarge road and stream crossings that currently end up flooding during storms. Other projects will restore streams, wetlands and shorelines to reduce the risk of flooding and improve water quality; upgrade drinking water infrastructure; help farmers reduce their pollution; and create new outdoor recreational activities that will drive economic activity across the state.

A January Siena Poll showed more than 70 percent of New York voters support this kind of investment, and they will now be able to vote to approve the bond act during statewide elections in November.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.