Brooklyn News Review

Adams says city will only build electric-powered schools going forward

From now on, every new public school built in the five boroughs will be fully electric, Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday.

“Our city will never again build a new school that burns fossil fuel. Never again,” Adams said. “This will be the single most impactful energy initiative under this administration to reduce emissions for city government operations.”

“No more boilers. No more burning dirty fuel. No more contributing to asthma,” he added.

Hizzoner unveiled the new program, dubbed “Leading the Charge,” at P.S. 5 Dr. Ronald McNair Elementary School in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn Friday morning. He said it aims both to combat climate change by moving the city towards renewable energy and clean up the air quality in communities typically impacted by heavy pollution.

Mayor Eric Adams announces that his administration will be converting boilers in 100 public schools from boilers to eletric heating pumps. Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.Photo courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

The program also includes a $4 billion allocation from the city to convert – or initiate the conversion of –100 existing schools’ heating systems from gas to all-electric heat pumps by 2030. Two billion dollars of those funds have already been allotted and the other half “will be identified in the coming years,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office told PoliticsNY.

The mayor said the program is expected to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 120,000 tons annually, which is the equivalent of taking 26,000 cars off of city roads.

Ronald McNair will become the first school in the city to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, Adams said. 

“I was in the basement, the boiler is loud, it burns fossil fuel, which causes a bad environment,” the mayor said, referring to the school’s basement. 

“We’re going to replace that system,” he continued. “We’re gonna ensure that cleaner air helps the environment for our students and our communities because not only does it impact the school, it impacts the community that we are living in right now.”

Mayor Eric Adams inspecting the boil in the basement of P.S. 5 Dr. Ronald McNair Elementary School in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.Photo courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

According to Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Executive Director Kizzy Charles-Guzman, the administration focussed on areas with high asthma rates when choosing the 100 schools to retrofit.

“We’re starting with environmental justice communities to improve the air in areas that suffer from high rates of asthma attributed to air pollution,” Charles-Guzman said. “This is a huge step forward in decarbonizing our buildings, and will help us reach our ambitious climate goals, while also creating healthy and comfortable learning and working environments in the near term.”

Under the program, the city will also be phasing out the use of the “highly polluting” No. 4 heating oil and replacing it with sulfur biofuel in 200 schools by 2026 – four years ahead of the timeframe required by city law. Also by 2026, the city is committing to install energy-efficient LED lighting in 800 schools – roughly half of all city Department of Education (DOE) facilities according to a release.

The plan also includes $13 million for hiring and training a group of trades workers to remove the No. 4 heating oil from school buildings. The aim is for that group to grow into a more permanent workforce who’ll work on future green projects for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“The whole concept of Leading the Charge will boost our economy [and] expand the green workforce,” Adams said. “We’re gonna continue to support the training and development for the next generation of the green workforce. So, this is more than new schools and building retrofits. We’re making big investments in our future, our children and our health.”

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