Ithaca's Green New Deal

  • 06:32 PM ET - 10/20/2021
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    The City of Ithaca's Common Council will be meeting shorty to discuss and vote on the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting and Thermal Load Electrification Program, part of Ithaca's Green New Deal. The vote will determine whether the city will be moving forward with this plan and results should be available tomorrow morning!

  • 06:34 PM ET - 10/20/2021
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    Ithaca's Green New Deal was originally passed in 2019, with a goal of the city becoming completely carbon neutral by 2030. The Energy Efficiency Retrofitting and Thermal Load Electrification Program is the first step and involves electrifying 1,600 buildings, which are the highest source of carbon emissions in the city, said Luis Aguirre-Torres, Ithaca's director of sustainability.

  • 08:31 AM ET - 10/21/2021
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    The vote for the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting and Thermal Load Electrification Program was unanimous in support of the program! The vote took place around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20.

  • 09:24 PM ET - 10/24/2021
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    The meeting was live-streamed on the City of Ithaca's YouTube channel and the video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clDs84kCOHM&t=8728s.

    www.youtube.com
  • 09:59 PM ET - 10/24/2021
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    In attendance was Aaron Lavine, city attorney, Steven Thayer, city controller, staff from economic development, the planning division and sustainability and 5 Ithaca Common Council members who voted on the plan: Seph Murtagh, Cynthia Brock, Laura Lewis, JoAnn Cornish and Donna Fleming. The meeting was open to the public, and there was designated time for public comment, with individuals who signed up receiving two minutes to share their concerns, feedback, suggestions, etc.

  • 10:19 PM ET - 10/24/2021
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    With this vote, Ithaca officially became the first city to pass a plan of this scale, Aguirre-Torres said. Final approval for the plan is set for Nov. 3.

  • 12:59 PM ET - 11/3/2021
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    The final approval vote for the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting and Thermal Load Electrification Program will take place tonight, Aguirre-Torres said. All 10 Ithaca Common Council members will be voting tonight, compared to the five that voted Oct. 20 to move the plan forward.

  • 01:01 PM ET - 11/3/2021
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    "I am incredibly excited and, you know, I'll be stressed to be honest ... I'm cautiously optimistic, that's the phrase people love using ... but I'm very hopeful," Aguirre-Torres said.

  • 01:05 PM ET - 11/3/2021
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    The previous vote was unanimous in support of the program, meaning that five of the 10 council members are expected to vote in favor of the program again. The plan only needs a six member majority, or one additional out of the remaining five members to vote in favor, for it to pass.

  • 01:16 PM ET - 11/4/2021
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    The Nov. 3 vote passed last night in favor of the electrification program. The vote was unanimous with all 10 City of Ithaca Common Council members supporting the vote.

  • 01:17 PM ET - 11/4/2021
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    “The unanimous vote to approve the electrification program shows Common Council’s commitment to continue supporting the Ithaca Green New Deal," Aguirre-Torres said via email. "The successful implementation of this program has the potential of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in a matter of years. This will enable us to meet the main goal of decarbonizing the entire city before 2030.”

  • 11:33 PM ET - 11/7/2021
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    The final vote solidified the city's partnership with BlocPower, program manager for the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting and Thermal Load Electrification Program. The role of the program manager is to act as the subrecipient of investments, help create and manage finances, identify risk mitigation strategies and work closely with the Ithaca Green New Deal project, according to an article from the Ithaca Voice.

    ithacavoice.com
  • 11:40 PM ET - 11/7/2021
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    BlocPower is a Brooklyn-based energy technology startup company. Donnel Baird and Keith Kinch founded the company in 2012 and have since electrified approximately 1,000 buildings.

    www.blocpower.io
  • 11:56 PM ET - 11/7/2021
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    Kinch also serves as general manager for BlocPower. He said the startup is different from other energy technology companies because of its focus on historically underserved buildings that other firms are not speaking to, like housing, worship and residential buildings. He said BlocPower focuses on these small and medium sized buildings because they often have the highest carbon output.

  • 11:57 PM ET - 11/7/2021
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    "How do we make sure that we're making sure the buildings are healthy, not just healthy in terms of financially healthy, which is important, but healthy for folks in the buildings that are living there, working there, learning there?" Kinch said. "That's what makes us very different and that continues to be our focus."

  • 12:03 AM ET - 11/8/2021
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    Kinch said he thinks this is an amazing moment for both the City of Ithaca and BlocPower. He said he was very excited to learn about Ithaca's electrification program.

  • 12:03 AM ET - 11/8/2021
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    "I thought about how can we do this in 20 other cities, right, how can Ithaca be the example for 20 other cities that look and have the same feel of Ithaca?" he said.

  • 04:09 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    Kinch said he thinks everything about the City of Ithaca makes this electrification project exciting for BlocPower and for him personally.

  • 04:10 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    “When you have leadership across the board, from the mayor down to you know every resident in Ithaca, saying, ‘This is what we want to do and this is how we want to do it and you’re going to set the bar,’ I think that’s what makes it exciting and amazing,” Kinch said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

  • 04:11 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    Kinch said that the company’s electrification process starts with gaining more information and insight into the buildings themselves. There is a building intake form on the BlocPower website that allows building owners to provide basic information on their building, like square footage and an idea of what the building looks like, as well as any concerns they may have with electrifying their building, like temperature and heating regulation.

  • 04:13 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    Kinch also said BlocPower will be hiring local contractors to help boost the local economy. He said he thinks considering making sure that children have a future and a world to live in that is safe from climate disaster made this decision to partner with Ithaca very easy for BlocPower. Kinch said he has two children, an 11-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son.

  • 04:13 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    “What does the world look for them in 20–30 years, right, and what can I say that I’ve done to leave them in a better place?” Kinch said. “So, when thinking about this opportunity to work with the City of Ithaca, this was one of the easiest decisions I’ve made in my life … This is not just about me; this is about the children of Ithaca … we’re thinking about the next generation, how do we make sure they’re all living in sustainable communities?”

  • 04:23 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    Kinch said that he grew up in East New York and that there was a lot of low-income families and crime in the neighborhoods in which he grew up in during the 1980–90s. He said that he witnessed a lot of racial health disparities with buildings and that he has always had an interest in social impact and outrage as a result.

  • 04:23 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    “For me, I lived it and I understand what it is to live in a building that may not be heated properly or cooled properly or worrying about the air quality not being the best for myself when I was young, or for my mother, who’s a senior now,” Kinch said. “So that to me is personal, right, and thinking about, you know, the buildings that we’ve worked in and the buildings we will work in, they look and feel like buildings I lived in, I worked in, I played basketball or soccer around. So, I think about it every time, like, how is this helping a community become sustainable, not just for now but for the future?

  • 05:25 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    In order to bring voices from the Ithaca community into the Ithaca Green New Deal and other sustainability projects that the city is working on, a project called 1000 Conversations was created by Aguirre-Torres and his team.

  • 05:25 PM ET - 11/21/2021
  • 05:36 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    1000 Conversations was created to be a place where members of the community can engage in conversation, instead of consultations with experts and people in the local government. Right now these conversations are happening virtually, and there are currently six different conversations posted online that anyone can view.

  • 05:50 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    Aguirre-Torres said the idea behind 1000 conversations is to not only be able to have these conversations, but to be able to extract actionable ideas from them that can be used to improve the community.

  • 06:00 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    Aguirre-Torres said that this idea came to him months ago, when he first accepted the job as director of sustainability for the City of Ithaca, back during March of this year. He said he realized that he had too much time on his hands in the beginning.

  • 07:10 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    "I started thinking about what was needed to make [the Ithaca Green New Deal] a reality, and the first thing I saw was that I didn't know anything about the community, so I needed to better understand that,” he said.

  • 07:10 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    Aguirre-Torres said he set a goal for himself to meet as many new people as possible, meeting 157 new people during his first month at the job.

  • 07:13 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    “The one thing I realized is that even though a lot of people are interested in the environment, that are interested in the Green New Deal, it was very fragmented and the way that people were perceiving all the efforts and everything we’re doing was also very fragmented, very difficult to put together,” Aguirre-Torres said. “I always described it as a bunch of people running parallel, in the same direction, but in parallel like you had a highway with, you know, multiple lanes.”

  • 07:13 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    Aguirre-Torres said it can be difficult sometimes to have genuine conversations with community members because some can get intimidated when talking to people who represent the government. He said he thought the way to combat this was to remove himself from the equation but was then presented with the problem of not being present for the conversation and therefore not knowing what it was about or what was discussed.

  • 07:14 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    “The idea was to create a proper environment for people to cross lanes and people on the site to jump in and, you know, start to engage,” Aguirre-Torres said.

  • 07:14 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    Aguirre-Torres said that using the name "1000 Conversations" gives people an implicit goal of having a lot of conversations, rather than an explicit goal. He said people tend to not follow through with explicit goals and wanted to make sure that engagement was possible, for maybe even more than 1000 conversations.

  • 07:14 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    “When you tell people, you know, ‘Let’s have a conversation about the future,’ normally people, sometimes they talk about the future, but the reality is they talk about the present,” Aguirre-Torres said.

  • 07:15 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    He said people have been sending in their conversations, but his team doesn’t have enough staffing to regularly upload all the conversations that they do have on hold onto the website.

  • 07:16 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    “My goal is toward the end to curate the content, get probably a few volunteers so we can watch every single video and then, you know, get the key message from each one of them, either people worried about things or people thinking that there could be a better way of doing things, and toward the end try to see, we can translate that into a document, a book perhaps that we can share with the community,” Aguirre-Torres said.

  • 07:17 PM ET - 11/21/2021
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    Community members can visit the website to get involved with 1000 conversations, receive email updates about the project and contact the project team.

  • 11:27 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    Many Ithaca residents are familiar with the Ithaca Green New Deal. Even those outside of Ithaca are becoming more aware of the city's plans for sustainability, especially after the final approval of the electrification program on Nov. 3. gained national attention in an article published by the Washington Post.

    www.washingtonpost.com
  • 11:29 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    Anne Rhodes said she is an engaged resident of Ithaca. She said she has been keeping herself informed about the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting and Thermal Load Electrification Program for a while now.

  • 11:30 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    “I follow it closely so I can keep track of what’s going on and most of, almost all of the meetings with the council and council committees are public so we can go and listen to council members and, you know, figure out what’s going on,” she said.

  • 11:30 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    Rhodes said she supports both the Green New Deal and the electrification program.

  • 11:32 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    “I think it’s a fabulous program,” Rhodes said. “I think the city has done an amazing job of putting together a financing package that allows this work to move forward without the city having to put any money upfront. So, it’s all coming from private investors and guaranteed by insurance entities, and it looks like it’s going to really at least launch us.”

  • 11:34 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    Rhodes said the location of Ithaca, in New York state, helps with the financial aspect of the project. She said New York state has excellent financial incentives, especially compared to other states like Wisconsin that do not have sufficient financial incentives.

  • 11:35 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    “We’re very lucky in New York state to have the state government put enough money up front to give people grants and loans, very low interest loans, to be able to do the work,” Rhodes said.

  • 11:39 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    Rhodes said that as part of the program there will be hundreds of low-income property owners who will get free, or nearly free, upgrades of their homes’ heating and cooling systems and switch over to heat pumps.

  • 11:39 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    “Energy bills going forward will be vastly reduced and you’ll be off of fossil fuels, so that is a great benefit in two different ways,” she said.

  • 11:43 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    Rhodes said a third benefit is that more people will know about the project in general and that everybody will know somebody who had this work done. She said some of the buildings that are at the front of the line to be worked on are community buildings, like the Southside Community Center.

  • 11:45 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    “It’s going to become very visible pretty quickly and that’s going to help the uptake of people who might not know what a heat pump is, might not think heat pumps work in this part of the country, might not think that they could ever afford such a thing," Rhodes said. "All those people will see that none of those things are true and that they can move forward and get support from the state to do it in their own home or their own business or their congregation, you know, or their community center or whatever.”

  • 11:47 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    Heat pumps use electricity and refrigerant to move heat from one place to another, according to Bloc Power’s website. Heat pump technology can be used to heat and cool buildings year-around. With heat pumps, warm or cool air is transferred from one part of a building to another, instead of using more energy to heat or cool the existing air in that area.

    www.blocpower.io
  • 11:48 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    Rhodes said she thinks there is quite a strong activist community in Tompkins County, which has helped with support for the Green New Deal and the passing of the electrification program. She said she has been working with other activists in the community for about 10 years.

  • 11:49 PM ET - 11/29/2021
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    “I meet regularly with two or three different activist groups who are keeping track of what’s going on and are very engaged with Ithaca Green New Deal and want to support it however we can,” Rhodes said. “So, it’s not just me individually, I don’t think we could have gotten this far if everybody was just acting individually. I think what has really moved us forward is the collective work, is working together, building relationships, working together as a community, staying engaged, staying accountable to each other.”