Green.org sat down with B.J. Jones, CEO of the Battery Park City Authority, to learn about the things he is doing to develop environmental sustainability at one of New York City’s most iconic areas, Battery Park City.
Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
As President and CEO of Battery Park City Authority, a New York State Public Benefit Corporation, I am responsible for our organization’s development and maintenance of the thriving Battery Park City neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. During my time as President and CEO, BPCA developed its first strategic plan, with a focus on resiliency, affordability, environmental sustainability, and the stewardship of vibrant public space. Over the course of my career, I’ve served in a variety of leadership roles, including in the Bloomberg Administration and in KPMG’s state & local government consulting practice. I have degrees from Gettysburg College, American University, and the University of Pennsylvania, and am the author of “What Makes Government Work Great: The Characteristics of Positive Public Service.”
What would you do with $1 Billion dollars?
We’re doing it! The Battery Park City Authority, in partnership with our local community and numerous City, State, and Federal entities, has embarked upon three resiliency projects as part of the Lower Manhattan Costal Resiliency (LMCR) Project to protect homes, businesses, public spaces, infrastructure and more in Battery Park City and Lower Manhattan from the threats of storm surge and sea level rise. These projects leverage leading scientific projections, cutting-edge sustainable design, and community engagement best practices. I would also accelerate our sustainability efforts to advance neighborhood-wide energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, and biodiversity measures.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
You don’t need to search far and wide to see the impact of climate change on our communities. It’s happening at our doorstep. Since Sandy, additional severe weather events have tragically taken the lives of more than three dozen New Yorkers, and caused untold damage to communities. The overwhelming scientific consensus tells us that storms are only getting more severe and more frequent, so it’s critical that we adapt not only our built environment but also our behavior. We all need to act in an environmentally responsible manner.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
My hope is that government and society writ large will have made the commitment, investments, and hard decisions necessary to adapt to climate change and work together to do so. But I also hope that there’s a renewed focus on creating optimal work experiences for employees in the public sector. There’s a lot of hard work ahead, which requires recruiting and retaining talented public servants. If leaders are serious about achieving ambitious public policy goals they will also need to care deeply about factors that contribute to well-being within the government workplace.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
Lots! I’m a big believer that local action can have global impact. Battery Park City Authority’s Sustainability Plan lays the groundwork for how our community can become carbon-neutral by 2050, with significant progress toward that goal by the end of this decade. It takes a comprehensive approach, and requires everyone to get involved—whether it’s taking public transportation, reducing your energy use, recycling and composting, and more. It’s also important for people to get involved in the planning of climate adaptation projects in their communities and to educate themselves. When government makes an effort to engage residents and other stakeholders in planning their work, people should participate by attending meetings, familiarizing themselves with publicly-available materials, and making their voices heard — all while also determining what sustainability actions they can take at home and in their workplace.