Photograph of NYC DEP workers on a construction site in NYC.
Photograph of NYC DEP workers on a construction site in NYC.
OneNYC 2050 : Volume 9 of 9 : Modern Infrastructure

Make Forward-Thinking Investments In Core Physical Infrastructure And Hazard Mitigation

New York City’s capital program must balance financial responsibility, holistic planning, equity, and community perspectives to guide investments. Our growing economy and population require forward-thinking planning that anticipates the needs of each neighborhood. Although the City plans for what it believes each neighborhood might need, residents are often best positioned to inform that determination. These community perspectives are therefore considered in the planning process. As New York City strives to become the fairest big city in the nation, we are committed to evaluating and addressing historical inequities in investment across neighborhoods.

Capital planning is an integral part of the City’s delivery of services to residents, ensuring infrastructure meets the needs of both today and the future. With the population increasing across the five boroughs, City agencies must use up-to-date, localized population projections to better understand where development will occur in order to better plan for infrastructure needs. For example, new housing development will lead to future school-seat demand, which the School Construction Authority (SCA) must take into account in order to build out necessary capacity. This insight informed new funding needs that were included in the Preliminary Ten Year Capital Strategy and SCA’s FY20–24 Capital Plan, which will deliver 57,000 new school seats. City agencies must continue to work collaboratively, using triple-bottom-line criteria to maximize economic, environmental, and social benefits of capital investments, facilitate holistic planning, and work together with utilities to plan and deliver modern infrastructure projects that meet the needs of all New Yorkers.

  • Expand use of triple-bottom-line planning with a focus on interagency collaboration
    Since 2015, City agencies have continued to adopt triple-bottom-line principles that aim to maximize the economic, environmental, and social benefits of capital investments. The Department of Transportation (DOT) uses these criteria in a way that provides a model for all City agencies. DOT prioritizes its street reconstruction projects by assessing their anticipated contribution to each of the agency’s strategic goals. Projects that improve safety and advance Vision Zero receive greater emphasis, although mobility, livability, environmental sustainability, state of good repair, resiliency, equity, and growth are also considered. DOT applies this standard assessment to hundreds of proposed projects each year, and prioritizes those that score highest.Recently, DOT and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) collaborated to prioritize projects that fulfill the strategic plans of both agencies. With facilitation from DDC’s Infrastructure Front End Planning Unit, DOT’s prioritization schema considered input from DEP, which was able to indicate which proposed DOT projects overlapped with water and sewer assets that should be replaced. By adding scope to DOT projects before they are funded, the City can advance its comprehensive, strategic goals and improve capital project delivery through more accurate project scoping.The City, through DOT is also developing a standardized triple-bottom-line or benefit-cost framework to help prioritize the most cost-effective projects. This framework will weigh each project’s costs against estimates of the social, environmental, and economic benefits it would provide. DOT’s routine use of benefit-cost analysis is already driving a more rigorous evaluation of projects against City and agency goals.
  • Improve cooperation with utilities for long-term planning
    New York City’s infrastructure depends on the multiple public and private utilities that provide essential services to the city. As the City maintains, replaces, and upgrades its water, sewer, and roadway networks, it must coordinate with the nearby electric, steam, gas, and telecommunications networks. In recent years, there has been a concerted effort  — through monthly scheduling and planning meetings, as well as project-based meetings — to improve coordination between the public and private utilities, including the sharing of digital maps of current and planned facilities and capital projects to help align design and construction timelines and reduce disruptions to communities. Joint construction of capital projects, known as “joint bidding,” is being used by City agencies and private utilities in order to streamline cooperation. This is mutually beneficial and should be deepened to help the City and utilities conduct long-term planning, reduce multiple street cuts, and streamline capital project delivery by coordinating underground work where appropriate.
Major Planned City Capital Investments

The Fiscal Year 2020 Ten-Year Capital Strategy dedicates $104 billion to the City’s infrastructure across the five boroughs.

Map of projects and project sizes across NYC by 2020.

Upgrade City Infrastructure To Deliver High-Quality Services To New Yorkers

The City will continue to invest in the core infrastructure necessary for delivering essential urban services, such as collecting refuse, providing clean water, treating wastewater, and maintaining the streets.

New York City’s water supply provides approximately one billion gallons of high-quality drinking water each day from a system of 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes that stretches more than 125 miles from the city. The City plans to upgrade the Ashokan and Hillview reservoirs, both of which have been in continuous service since 1915. The City will comprehensively upgrade the dam, dikes, chambers, and other facilities at Ashokan, where rainwater and melting snow are collected from a 255-square mile watershed, and then brought to New York City via the 92-mile Catskill Aqueduct. The Hillview Reservoir provides balancing, storage, and chemical treatment for most of New York City’s water supply; and improvements will be made to upgrade aging infrastructure and equipment.

Today, organic waste is responsible for about one-third of the refuse handled by the City. As the population continues to grow and our understanding of the climate risks of landfill methane grow, it is more important than ever to divert this material from landfills and instead utilize it as a valuable energy source or for nutrient-rich soil enhancement. To help achieve the City’s Zero Waste goals, we will expand our ability to process organics both inside and outside the city, while pursuing expansion of the country’s largest organics management program by working with the City Council to establish mandatory organics recycling citywide. This will be phased in starting with low- and medium-density areas that already have access to organics collection and expand over time to include the whole city – so that all New Yorkers can participate. In addition, we will increase the diversion of organics from commercial establishments. For more, see A Livable Climate.

At Hunts Point Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility, four new digesters are being constructed to replace the existing ones. The new facilities will be able to handle future flow rates, provide adequate redundancy to allow for preventative maintenance, and be sized to accommodate organic food waste from the nearby produce and fish markets. The City is also piloting biogas extraction from the wastewater treatment process at the Newtown Creek facility, and is making structural repairs to the North River facility, including rehabilitating or replacing assets that have served well beyond their useful life.

Since 2014, DOT has repaved over 25 percent of the 19,000 lane miles citywide— an unprecedented pace. To continue to effectively manage and prioritize repaving work, DOT is developing a predictive model of pavement conditions. By predicting the rate at which pavement will deteriorate, the City will be able to more effectively allocate resources to preventative maintenance, thereby saving money and ensuring higher quality roads. In the coming years, the City will undertake dozens of major capital projects to upgrade and improve busy thoroughfares and bridges to a state of good repair. These include the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the East River bridges, Grand Street Bridge, as well as other bridges.

Despite a growing population, New Yorkers have reduced daily water consumption by roughly 500 million gallons, or one third, since 1979.

Line graph displaying daily water consumption in NYC over time.

Source: Mayor’s Office of Sustainability

Spur Improvements To Utility Distribution And Transmission Networks

The City has worked closely with key energy utility and regional stakeholders to invest in the resiliency of the city’s energy infrastructure. Con Edison has completed a $1 billion storm hardening program and is conducting a climate change vulnerability study that will be completed in 2019. This study will evaluate all of the key weather and climate inputs Con Edison uses to review its design standards, including daily and hourly temperatures, wind, precipitation, and other variables.

The City is an active participant in New York State’s Reforming the Energy Vision proceedings, which aim to ensure the energy system becomes more efficient through, for example, deeper penetration of renewable energy resources (e.g., wind, hydro, and solar) and wider deployment of distributed energy resources, including roof-top solar, batteries, and other on-site power supplies — while at the same time improving reliability and resiliency. In 2019, local utilities will advocate for rate increases across their gas and electric businesses. Through active participation, the City will ensure energy remains affordable as we continue meeting our carbon reduction and resiliency goals.

We must also increase the capacity of the currently maxed-out transmission lines that deliver power to New York City to access renewable power resources in New York State—including solar, hydropower, and on- and offshore wind –nearly all of which are located in other parts of the state or beyond. We will work with New York State, the New York Power Authority, and the New York Independent System Operator to build more transmission capacity into the city to accommodate renewable electricity sources.

Invest In Innovative And Resilient Transportation Networks

Emerging technologies are providing opportunities to invest in infrastructure and incentivize cleaner transportation options such as electric vehicles (EVs). At the same time, several transportation projects are underway or being planned to modernize core infrastructure that is essential to the smooth functioning of the transportation network — and thereby the economy.

A key barrier to the adoption of EVs in New York City is the lack of charging infrastructure, particularly for those who cannot readily install an electric vehicle charger at home. To reach the City’s goal of having 20 percent of all light duty vehicle sales in New York City be EVs by 2025, the public and private sector will need to collaborate and develop new business models, incentives, and requirements to spur the creation of as many as 5,000 charging outlets across the five boroughs. To expand the availability of chargers citywide, DOT and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS), working with Con Edison and other private partners, will create 50 fast-charging stations across the city and pilot-test 120 Level 2 chargers, adding to the existing 921 publicly accessible EV chargers. The City will also collaborate with the City Council to pass legislation to strengthen EV charging requirements for new parking spots in new and substantially renovated residential buildings.

The 1.5 mile section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Downtown Brooklyn is a part of a key interstate highway that underpins the regional economy. If significant repairs are not made by 2026, vehicle weight limits and truck diversions may be necessary, and likely lead to a spillover of cars and trucks onto the surrounding streets and neighborhoods. The City is convening an expert panel to evaluate strategies for dealing with the roadway. The panel will work with the local community and elected officials to evaluate concepts for the reconstruction project.

In 1950, the Port Authority first opened a bus terminal near the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel in order to consolidate and manage the proliferation of commuter and intercity buses entering Midtown. Seventy years and two major renovations later, the terminal is overcapacity, physically degraded, and functionally obsolete. A rebuilt terminal is necessary to accommodate the growing number of bus passengers, with lack of available space inside the current facility forcing many buses to resort to street loading. The new facility should be planned to manage air quality and facilitate seamless connections to local bus, subway, and bike options, as well as provide an attractive gateway to the city.

The Gateway Program is rightly considered the highest-priority transit project in the nation, and its full funding and implementation are critical to the future of New York City and the region. The Gateway Program’s first phase would begin with the Portal Bridge replacement, the construction of a new Hudson River tunnel, and the rehabilitation of the existing 110 year-old North River tunnels, which incurred serious damage from Hurricane Sandy. The North River tunnels are the lynchpin of the entire Northeast transit system, a shutdown of which would affect the commutes of nearly half a million people and cost the region billions of dollars. Additional investments will be needed at Penn Station to allow more trains to service the station through the completed tunnels, to continue the work of bringing the station up to contemporary standards by making it easier to navigate, improving safety, and making it more appealing for passengers.

Strengthen The City’s Enterprise Risk Management, Crisis Management, And Recovery Capabilities

Over its long history, New York City has faced numerous crises that have had significant impact on residents and infrastructure, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 2003 Northeast blackout, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the Great Recession. Today, we face new and imminent threats, including infectious diseases, cyberattacks, and other catastrophic events that risk the safety, security, and health of New Yorkers. We don’t have the option of waiting.

To better prepare the City for these and other threats, the City will launch a task force focused on enterprise risk management, crisis preparedness, and recovery preparedness. The Enterprise Risk Management Task Force will examine the City’s own capabilities and practices along these three dimensions- both centrally, as well as across, City agencies.

The City will build and help to enforce robust, systematic risk and crisis management practices across the City, including risk identification and risk mitigation. The City has and will continue to engage City agencies and outside partners to plan for recovery preparedness. We will enhance our recovery planning and practices, driving the development and maintenance of tools and data, such as long-term case management for those impacted by disasters. Such tools will be used post-emergency to deliver help to residents and ensure continuity of operations.

Invest in Public Health Infrastructure to be Able to respond to Infectious Diseases

Rapidly detecting and responding to a new or reemerging infectious disease, or the intentional release of an unknown biological agent, requires a strong public health infrastructure and collective action across government, health care, and community stakeholders. New York City has one of the strongest public health departments with experienced epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, and emergency managers working in one of the most robust health care systems in the country. Nevertheless, residents are still susceptible to suffering from a pandemic caused by an as-yet unknown pathogen, which could emerge from anywhere in the world and be just one flight away from our own city streets.

In a public health emergency, the City will partner with various city, state, and federal agencies, health care facilities, and community leaders and organizations to protect and meet the needs of all New Yorkers. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) will conduct robust surveillance and epidemiological investigations, along with laboratory testing to rapidly and effectively detect, characterize, and monitor the impacts of emerging diseases, and provide up-to-date public health messages to residents. In addition, DOHMH will support the health care system to meet all physical and mental health needs during an emergency, and provide widespread access to countermeasures, should they exist, such as antivirals, vaccines, and other supportive treatments.