Vision 3 Goal

Air Quality

Artboard 3

New York City’s air quality has reached its cleanest levels in more than 50 years and continues to improve as measures are put in place to reduce emissions from regional and local sources. Citywide air quality monitoring indicates that since monitoring began in 2009, levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitric oxide (NO), and black carbon (BC) have considerably declined. Over the same period, levels of sulfur dioxide have also declined sharply, largely due to new City and state rules reducing emission from heating oils. Some of the largest improvements in air quality have occurred in the City’s historically polluted areas and in low-income neighborhoods.

Despite this progress, air pollution remains a leading environmental health threat to all New Yorkers, particularly the City’s most vulnerable residents such as the elderly, children, and people with preexisting health conditions. Exposure to PM2.5 and ozone currently contribute to thousands of premature deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits in the city each year. These health impacts are found at disproportionately higher rates in the city’s low-income neighborhoods.

The City is pursuing additional measures to improve air quality citywide and reduce inequities in pollution health effects through measures described here and in other sections of OneNYC, including more efficient and cleaner buildings, lower emissions from motor vehicles, increased access to active and sustainable modes of transit, achieving zero waste to landfill, and controlling smaller and more distributed sources of pollution like commercial charbroiling.

IndicatorAir-quality ranking among major U.S. cities Disparity in SO2 across city neighborhoodsDisparity in PM2.5 levels across city neighborhoods
Latest Data5th
0.5 ppb
range in winter average across community districts (2016)
5.4 μg/m3
range, annual average across community districts
Previous Data5th
1.6 ppb
range in winter average across community districts (2015)
5.1 µg/m3
range, annual average across community districts

Continued to operate one of the world’s largest alternative fuel fleets

Through its NYC Clean Fleet initiative launched in 2015, the City now operates one of the largest alternative fuel fleets in the world: 18,314 units using electric, solar, hybrid electric, natural gas, or biodiesel. DCAS deploys 1,224 electric vehicles on the road, up from about 200 in 2014, and is served by nearly 500 EV chargers—37 of which are solar carports powered entirely by renewable energy. Last year the City implemented its largest-ever biodiesel program, using 16 million biodiesel blended gallons. It is also the largest fleet user of car share in the country. To help green private sector truck fleets, the City continues to provide incentives to trucking companies to replace or retrofit older and dirtier trucks through the Hunts Point Clean Truck Program, which won the 2017 C40 Cities4Mobility Award. The program has funded over 550 truck replacements, offsetting more than 5,200 tons of CO2 per year.

Converted over 400 buildings to cleaner fuels

Since 2015, the NYC Retrofit Accelerator and Community Retrofit NYC have engaged with 5,000 buildings to assist them to implement energy and water-saving retrofits. This includes helping over 400 buildings complete conversions off of #4 heating oil to cleaner fuels and continuing to assist an additional 850 buildings that are in the process of conversions. As a result of the conversions completed since 2015, the City has reduced particulate matter by over 14,000 pounds annually. Last year, the City launched the High Performance Track of the NYC Retrofit Accelerator to help building owners phase in even deeper energy retrofits that will transition building heating and hot water systems completely away from fossil fuels to high efficiency electric options. As detailed in the 80×50 goal, the City is also implementing a $2.7 billion program to reduce demand and improve the energy efficiency of its buildings, which will further reduce criteria air pollutants.

Promoted research on and community engagement in neighborhood air quality

In November 2015, Mayor de Blasio signed a law codifying the New York City Community Air Survey (NYCCAS), the longest ongoing urban air monitoring program of any U.S. city. Each year, NYCCAS data is used to produce a report on neighborhood air quality which is shared through the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) environment and health data portal. In partnership with Queens College at the City University of New York, in November 2017 DOHMH launched a “citizen science” pilot study to develop toolkits for communities to conduct air quality evaluations. DOHMH and CUNY will begin by evaluating new low-cost air quality monitoring technologies for suitability and use in neighborhood air quality monitoring, and will conduct pilot studies with local institutions over a two-year period.

Enacted and enforced new rules to reduce air pollutants

Since the initial release of OneNYC, Mayor de Blasio signed the Air Pollution Control Code of 2015 and the City has begun implementing new regulations to limit particulate emissions from previously uncontrolled sectors, such as charbroilers and wood- and coal-fired ovens. These rules will help reduce up to 1,400 tons of particulate matter from the city’s air and will have significant health benefits. Over the next year, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will conduct extensive outreach to the restaurant industry to develop new rules that govern existing underfired commercial broilers, which were excluded from the new rules.