City Hall will soon have its very first green czar.
A committee of top city administrators will announce the creation of a new sustainability department and the appointment of a new director of sustainability late next week, said Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts ’01, who will oversee the new office. He added that the director will coordinate existing and future City Hall sustainability projects, including New Haven’s new recycling program, energy conservation and waste reduction programs.
“We have one of the most aggressive energy conservation programs in the Northeast for air and water quality, building designs and sustainable transformation practices,” Smuts said. “The challenge in New Haven has been that they haven’t been really part of a coherent framework.”
Smuts said City Hall secured federal funding last year to start the office. As soon as the funding was secured, City Hall saw an outburst of interest in the sustainability director position, receiving 2oo applications for the job, city officials said. City Plan Executive Director Karyn Gilvarg ARC ’75 said staff from the Smut’s office and city departments will serve in the new sustainability office.
Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar said the initiative had been “a long time coming.” He said having a single coordinator of city sustainability issues would be able to implement a broader green vision than single-issue groups.
“We weren’t hitting a lot of bigger items [before], because we just didn’t have staff support,” he said. “Sustainability is not something you can legislate — it’s very difficult to handle on a piecemeal approach, so having broad and dedicated oversight over substantial policy development is a great opportunity.”
Having a centralized approach to sustainability will encourage New Haven residents to be more environmentally responsible, Gilvarg said. Until now, citizens had no central information source to track city green initiatives.
Melissa Goodall, assistant director of the Yale Office of Sustainability , said the new unification of sustainable task forces across New Haven will make the University’s cooperation with the city more streamlined and may lead to more organized outreach to off-campus students.
“Now that they have a director, we anticipate working with them in a much more holistic sense,” she said. “We are working on outreach that reaches out to all students no matter where they are living. It will be hugely enhanced by having a sustainability coordinator.”
In interviews Thursday, city officials and Yale student environmental leaders provided various visions for what they would like to see the new office introduce.
Erin Sturgis-Pascale, a former Ward 14 alderwoman and former chair of the aldermanic city services and environmental policy committee, said she hopes the city will develop a traffic management program that would subsidize public transportation and the purchase of bikes to discourage employees from driving to work.
“The recycling program is just the beginning,” she said.
Lemar said he hoped for the office to create a citywide energy efficiency program, which would reduce energy use across all local businesses and residences. Jimmy Murphy ’13, the Davenport College co-coordinator of the Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership, said he hopes the new office will enable residents and Yale dining hall workers to compost waste within the city. Currently, he said, much of Yale waste is not composted because its transportation would be too expensive.
Currently, city officials are revamping the New Haven recycling system and pushing for reduction in energy consumption. In November, aldermen approved an initiative in which city officials attach tracking devices to garbage trucks and recycling bins to gather information about community recycling habits.