Mayor Bloomberg this Sunday will unveil a wide-ranging plan intended to make the city healthier and cleaner as it prepares for an expected influx of 1 million new residents by 2030.
The sustainability plan, 18 months in the making, is likely to include more than 100 specific initiatives addressing the city's energy and infrastructure goals, including: creating incentives for green development, implementing caps on building emissions, and charging drivers a fee to use the city's most congested streets, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the initiative.
The mayor's Earth Day announcement is expected to include some form of congestion pricing, charging drivers a fee for using the city's most crowded roads during peak hours. If approved, the fees could bring in up to $500 million annually to fund mass transit infrastructure expansion and improvements, according to multiple sources. They said the road-pricing initiative that is likely to be implemented would be similar but "more moderate" than London's model of congestion pricing, instituted in 2003.
One possibility being tossed around is that drivers entering Manhattan's central business district below 86th Street would pay $8 during peak hours, which would be offset by any tolls paid to enter.
"We're hearing now that the proposal for congestion pricing is from 86th Street south," Walter McCaffrey, a spokesman for a group that opposes the idea, Keep New York City Congestion Tax Free, said. He called the plan a "rogue entity" under which the "public is no longer the master."
Other sources said the road pricing details were not yet finalized and that the mayor's office would be hashing out the details of the plan up until their Sunday deadline.
Council Member John Liu, who heads the City Council's Transportation Committee, said he was confident the city 's proposal would increase mass transit capacity, specifically bus service into the outer reaches of the five boroughs.
Mr. Bloomberg is also likely to pave the way toward green development by making city-owned buildings environmentally friendly, with green roofs and ambient lighting, sources said. The sustainability plan also includes incentives to encourage developers to build high-performance green buildings, they said.
"What is interesting is that the mayor of the country's largest city is proposing a plan, a large part of which addresses global warming," Peter Goldmark, the director of climate and air for Environmental Defense, an environmental protection group, said.
The 2030 plan was born more than 18 months ago from a simple question: How can New York remain competitive with other cities as it outgrows its aging infrastructure? The city, working with a consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., projected the city's population, workforce, and tourism industry would grow over the next 25 years, and analyzed the specific needs of every industry in the city.
Deputy mayor for economic development, Daniel Doctoroff, said in an interview with The New York Sun last month that the biggest piece of the puzzle still missing 18 months after work on the plan began is "really looking at the physical infrastructure of the city."
"In many ways the infrastructure that we have here, or lack thereof, is also the major contributing factor to environmental concerns, most notably global warming," Mr. Doctoroff said. He described the city's sustainability plan as the "most aggressive plan to deal with and build in the natural environment of the city," and "an intensive, analytical look at what the issues are, with hopefully real world solutions to the problems."
While environmentalists and mass transit advocates say they are excited about the initiatives that will be announced on Sunday, there are some skeptics. "2030 is a long time away," a former parks commissioner, Henry Stern, said in an interview yesterday. "The future of the city is determined by market forces, and when eight publishers turned down ‘Harry Potter,' it shows you can never be sure what people want to spend their money on." Mr. Stern called the mayor's plan "a healthy exercise in divination."