Protesters rally outside assembly speaker's NYC office to demand climate action

Protesters rallied outside of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's New York City office.
Protesters rallied outside of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's New York City office. Photo credit Assemblymember Zohran Kwame Mamdani/Twitter

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Hundreds of activists rallied at Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s Manhattan office near City Hall on Wednesday to call for a special legislative session to vote on a major climate bill.

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The protesters, who were organized by the New York City Democratic Socialists of America, called for a vote on the Build Public Renewables Act following a legislative hearing on the bill scheduled for Thursday.

Heastie organized the hearing after facing backlash for letting the bill die at the end of the regularly-scheduled legislative session in early June.

He refused to bring the bill to a vote despite a commitment to vote yes from 83 members of the 151-member Assembly. It had already passed the State Senate.

The BPRA would empower the New York Power Authority, which currently operates only three major clean energy facilities, to build renewable power infrastructure and replace existing polluting power plants with green alternatives.

“Last Thursday, 522 of my constituents woke up to no electricity. On Saturday, a New Yorker died of heat exposure. And on Monday, we marked seven consecutive days of 90+ degree weather,” said Assemblymember Zohran Kwame Mamdani, a representative from Queens. “The climate crisis does not abide by the annual legislative calendar, and neither can we. We must convene a special session in the Assembly, pass the Build Public Renewables Act, and finally provide New Yorkers with energy that is reliable, renewable, and at a reasonable cost.”

The demonstrators demanded Gov. Kathy Hochul call a special legislative session for a vote on the BPRA.

They also targeted Heastie to pressure him to call for a special session, though it would take a petition from two thirds of the members of each house for the legislature to initiate a special session on its own.

Heastie did not immediately respond to 1010 WINS’ request for comment on the protest and his position on a special legislative session.

A 2019 law established a goal of generating 100% of New York’s power from zero-emission sources by 2040.

Despite having a supermajority in both houses of the state legislature for the past few years, Democrats have failed to pass any legislation in pursuit of that goal.

Green New York, a coalition of climate activism groups organized by the Democratic Socialists of America, argued in a press release that the Supreme Court’s recent decision to gut the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation powers constitutes enough of an emergency to warrant a special legislative session to pass climate legislation.

“In the absence of federal leadership and the gutting of the EPA’s powers by the Supreme Court, state climate and energy policy has taken center stage,” wrote the group.

If the legislature does not enter into a special session to vote on the BPRA, proponents will have to wait until January for another shot.

“This heat wave has reminded us that the climate crisis is here. We cannot continue to leave our response to climate change in the hands of private, profit-seeking energy corporations,” said State Sen. Julia Salazar, who represents parts of Brooklyn. “We are urging Speaker Heastie to bring the Build Public Renewables Act to a vote and the Assembly to pass this bill so New Yorkers can benefit from a clean energy future, including the tens of thousands of green, union jobs the BPRA would create.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Assemblymember Zohran Kwame Mamdani/Twitter