NYC eco-conscious Photo: Guian Bolisay/Flickr

If you’ve been to Times Square at night, you might have been struck by just how bright it is. It seems like daytime. That may no longer be the case if a new NYC City Council bill goes through, seeking to limit light-based energy across commercial buildings in Manhattan. As more and more people move into cities, environmental impact considerations become more and more pressing. Here are some of the latest proposals that could affect New York City.

Legislation to Dim the NYC Skyline: The New York City Council recently considered a bill limiting external and internal light in commercial buildings. If the bill passes, around 40,000 structures could be affected. Considerations would probably be made for buildings of noted historic or cultural significance—a move that could become a political minefield.

“The mandate to curate, if you will, the skyline of the city of New York is not something the commission does currently,” said Mark Silberman, general counsel for the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. The proposal, he added, “does put the commission in a slightly uncomfortable position, perhaps, of choosing between landmarks.” Other concerns include visibility for people who actually use these buildings at night as well as adequate lighting for pedestrians. The Real Estate Board of New York has come out against the bill, noting that a number of energy code changes have already made sykscrapers’ energy use much more efficient.

Mandated Urban Agriculture Through Zoning: Most of us are familiar with the term urban farming — possibly conjuring up images of a community garden nestled among more developed lots. But many consider urban agriculture to be a sustainability imperative as more and more people move into cities. The National League of Cities Sustainable Cities Institute proposes that urban agriculture can be mandated by using local zoning measures.

“Local governments can use urban agriculture as a tool to address many financial, health, and environmental issues. For example, agriculture in and close to major cities can help the environment by, among other things, reducing the distances food travels. Community gardens can keep people active while providing them with natural, locally grown food. Municipal policies can help community gardeners make money by allowing them to sell excess produce. Moreover, community gardens can beautify neighborhoods and serve as a focal point that promotes resident interaction.”

More Aggressive Tolls: Many already consider New York City bridge tolls to be unfair, but the Metropolitan Transit Authority recently warned of a potential 15 percent increase in tolls. This increase is ostensibly an ultimatum if state lawmakers do not provide funding for the agency’s five-year capital plan. However, tolls are a way to deter automobile traffic as well, encouraging people to choose public transportation. A new plan calls for new tolls on the East River bridges in Manhattan.

Indeed tolls have been one reason for increased public transit ridership. In 2014, subway ridership had increased 2.6 percent last year compared with 2013. Ridership had increased 3 percent on the Long Island Rail Road last year and 1.5 percent on the Metro-North Railroad. Metro-North had 84.6 million riders in 2014, the highest ridership in the railroad’s history.

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