New Yorkers need and have rights to a local environment that is healthy and whole, which provides safety, respite, and connection to the long history of life on Earth, rooted in the particular circumstances of its place. Such rights are essential to each individual as part of the community of nature as a whole.
In spite of the biological richness of New York City at the time of its founding, the destruction of its natural resources in ways both large and small has been assumed to be an unfortunate but unavoidable cost of urban life. It is now self-evident that this assumption reflects a deep inconsistency with our ambitions, our ideals, and the facts: nature exists in the city, and given attention, management, and investment, can thrive again. We have an obligation to work together to create the social and economic circumstances necessary to lay the foundations for the long-term sustainability of the city’s nature.
To honor New Yorkers’ rights to the benefits that abundant and thriving nature can bring, we offer this draft set of nature goals to guide conservation and restoration efforts. Our overall aim is to assure that all New Yorkers experience the benefits of nature in their home city and local community by 2050. We propose that the city’s planning and development as a whole adopt the following functional goals for New York City nature:
Biodiversity and habitat
Providing suitable environments for a diversity of species
Air and water quality
Supporting nature’s ability to absorb and filter water from runoff and help clean the air
Coastal protection and resilience
Enhancing nature’s capacity to mitigate damage from coastal storms
Better enabling movements of plants and animals through the city and region
Further encouraging human creativity and appreciation of beauty through nature
To fulfill these functions, New York City nature must be composed of three crucial elements:
A diversity of ecosystems, which are interconnected, healthy, and resilient, because they are inhabited by a diverse set of species—including rare and sensitive species and species particularly important to ecosystem services—which also possess diverse genetic material to support long-term adaptation of all species to the particulars of our local environment as it changes through time.
Furthermore, the relationship of people to nature in New York City must include the following:
Accessibility of safe, healthy, and proximate natural areas for all New Yorkers, including sites for quiet contemplation and active recreation; integration with the built environment and incorporation into citywide planning and policy; and engagement through frequent and regular education and stewardship activities conducted by a range of private and public groups and individuals.