As a student of mechanical engineering at the New York City College of Technology, I believe that for New York City and other major cities, there are four environmental issues that I find the most concerning.
To start off, the population density is most evident. Most environmental concerns in New York City involve the people of the city. NYC is the biggest populated city in the U.S. at over 8 million people. However even with the amount of people in one area, the amount of resources that are used are low compared to other states. Even if this is true, there are always issues that may occur, some examples being air pollution and the required need for environmental reforms. In recent years, the city has focused on reducing its environmental impact. The city government is required to purchase only the most energy-efficient equipment for use in city offices and public housing.
Energy efficiency can be separated into 3 parts: general energy use, transportation energy, and green building energy. Due to the high concentration of people, NYC has the highest rate of mass transit use in the United States. This in turn made NYC one of the most energy efficient city in the U.S. Gasoline consumption is at the rate that the national average was in the 1920’s. Keep in mind that NYC no longer has any more greenfield land for devolvement. This forces the city to have very energy efficient buildings and construction.
Nevertheless, New York faces growing energy needs and demands. The city must constantly introduce new policies to address these issues. As an example of this, NYC is switching more than 11,000 traffic lights and pedestrian signals in the city to new energy-efficient light-emitting diodes that use 90% less energy than conventional fixtures. By law, the city government can purchase only the most efficient cars, air-conditioners, and copy machines. The electricity used to power the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and 22 other federal buildings in New York City, an annual electricity demand of roughly 27 million kilowatt hours, is provided by wind power. New York is distinguished from other American cities by its extensive use of public transportation. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, NYC is the only locality where more than half of all households do not own a car, In Manhattan it is 75 percent, but the national average is only 8 percent. New York was slow however to embrace green building guidelines due to the post-World War 2 construction boom. Nowadays new policies require new buildings to be built to be as efficient as possible.
In terms of air pollution, NYC had suffered severe cases of smog before the passage of the federal Clean Air Act of 1970. In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment Study states that residents in Manhattan have the third highest cancer risk caused by airborne chemicals of all counties in the United States. While the Department of Sanitation and the MTA is working on busses and trucks that use low emissions, air pollution is an ongoing political issue in neighborhoods.
Luckily the current water supply situation in NYC is in good condition. As a result, New York is one of only five major cities in the United States with drinking water pure enough to require only chlorination to ensure its purity at the tap under normal conditions. This is due to protected wilderness areas. However, this is a concern because since all the water for 8 million people come from one place, if something were to happen, a travesty could occur.
Working together, we can make NYC a more environmentally friendly place, and then do the same for the world!
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