NYC Issues Request for Expressions of Interest to Create Climate Solutions Center
On June 28, 2021, NYC announced the first step in an effort to create a Climate Solutions Center on Governors Island that would serve as a research and educational hub by issuing a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI), in the hopes of finding an entity capable of serving as an ‘anchor institution.’
Such a center is deemed to be needed as New York is susceptible to and has experienced the consequences of severe weather including flooding, excessive heat, and hurricane activity. Research and investments needed to adapt to such climate change has been lagging, according to Clare Newman, head of the Trust for Governors Island, a partner in the effort. The city’s dense urban environments and other factors also add complexities that existing models of disaster preparedness and recovery have struggled with, according to the city’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, Vicky Been.
Some of the goals outlined by the city include supporting the research and development of climate solutions, preparing communities for the impact of climate change, creating over 7,000 jobs and having a fiscal impact of roughly $1 billion on NYC. Specific details for some of these goals were added in a statement issued in December.
The city and the Trust for Governors Island will make up to $150 million available in capital funding along with 33 acres of development sites and/or up to one million square feet of adaptive reuse opportunity, which the institution running the center would lease.
Entity to Run Center to Emerge from a Team Led by CUNY, MIT, Northeastern or Stonybrook University
The city received 12 proposals in October, from partnerships that include over 30 academic and non-profit research institutions. Among the proposals was an effort led by Dan Doctoroff, former deputy mayor in charge of economic development under Mayor Bloomberg, and the finalists were announced on December 22.
The city further shared that its criteria in selecting the four finalists included assessing how the teams proposed to advance equitable climate solutions, create broader opportunities for the city’s residents, and contribute to Governors Island’s physical campus.
C3 Led by CUNY & The New School
One of the finalists is a team led by the City University of New York (CUNY) together with The New School, called the Climate Center Consortium (C3). As noted by CUNY interim executive vice chancellor Daniel E. Lemons, a major strength of this team lies in the fact that CUNY’s 25 campuses surrounding Governors Island are “deeply embedded in their respective communities.” Similarly, according to President Dwight A. McBride, The New School has functioned as a “community leader in New York City civic and cultural life,” and this team includes over 40 community based, education and environmental organizations. It would also benefit from CUNY’s experiences as the largest urban public university in the country, and its proven ability to impact social mobility as has been reported on by the outgoing city Comptroller.
If accepted, this effort would seek to fuse environmental justice with climate change adaptation and mitigation, and would include K-16 learning opportunities, degree-granting courses, career and workforce development, and continuing education credentials for educators and practitioners. It would also seek to use Governors Island itself as a ‘living laboratory,’ in developing climate solutions.
The New York Climate Exchange, the effort led by Stonybrook University would build on the efforts of its School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, which has allowed it to gather top experts and will include a focus on urban coastal sustainability.
This team would also have an emphasis on entrepreneurship. According to its site, Stonybrook would seek to build an ecosystem that would include climate focused venture capital and other sources of seed funding and would also provide incubation and co-working spaces for startups and established solution-based organizations. It would also support workforce and economic development and would aim to integrate technology and community programs.
A third effort would be led by MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI), which has extensive experience coordinating climate programs. According to its site, it has operated since 2014, has played a critical role in implementing MIT’s Plan for Climate Action and its Seed Grant Program has funded 15 multi-investigator projects. Being MIT’s institute-wide effort, it also has experience coordinating scientific, engineering, policy and design capabilities.
ESI’s research has focused on the three areas of Climate Sciences & Earth Systems, Cities & Infrastructure, and Sustainable Production & Consumption. Subcategories of emphasis include the fundamental physics of climate science, the consequences of climate change, biodiversity, the relationship between cities and nature, the dynamics involved in continued urbanization and the health impact of pollutants.
The Coastal Cities Impact Team, led by Northeastern University seeks to have a clear focus on tackling the threats facing New York as a coastal city, including deep ocean and sea level rise and the urban heat island effect on neighborhoods, according to its site. Partnerships with entities likewise situated in coastal cities such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Cape Cod, the University of Tokyo, and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, strengthen this focus and add to the depth of experience.
It should be noted that this team is also partnering with CUNY and The New School, which would hopefully allow it to make up for deficiencies when it comes to community connectivity, while being able to contribute the above expertise to NYC.
It should be noted that although not the lead partner among any of the four finalists, the Columbia Climate School is nevertheless partnered with three of the four, with Northeastern University being the exception.
The teams will be required to refine their approaches and respond to a competitive Request for Proposals Process, which the city says will be launched in Spring of 2022.