TIME Innovation

Fighting Climate Change Will Take Economic Innovation, Too

manhattan-skycrapers
Getty Images

The local community is key to a successful outcome

If any of us want to make a dent in the adverse effects of climate change in our lifetimes, we’ll need all hands on deck. That, in fact, is one of the core tenants of the contemporary environmental justice movement.

Proponents of environmental justice point toward crises looming on the horizon: President Obama is urging new and quick action in reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases; California is strategizing a way past its crippling drought; and urban megacities are searching for new models of development that use less resources and generate less waste.

But the project of ensuring a secure future for our planet can’t rely on the innovation of science alone. We need economic innovators, too. That was the message from Peggy Shepard, executive director at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a New York-based advocacy organization, at a recent event at The Museum of the City of New York, co-presented by the Museum and New America NYC.

Shepard was joined in discussion by Ashley White, a young graduate of the Green City Force Corps; Bomee Jung, Deputy Director of the New York City Office of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.; and Donnel Baird, founder of BlocPower, all of whom confronted head on common assumptions that sustainable development is more expensive and makes little economic sense. On the contrary, a healthy environment requires — and helps reinforce — a healthy economy.

Shepard, who co-founded WE ACT almost 25 years ago, first got turned on to the intersection between environment and economy as the Democratic district leader in her West Harlem neighborhood, where various utility mismanagement struggles came across her radar. Long-neglected and releasing noxious emissions into a residential neighborhood already plagued by poor levels of air quality, the North River Sewage Treatment Plant was a particular problem in Shepard’s district. Another was the absence of an efficient and functional bus depot in northern Manhattan.

The green benefits for the community in advocating for a more environmentally compliant treatment facility and an alternative fuel-operated bus depot were obvious. But WE ACT managed to achieve those benefits while simultaneously creating new jobs and ensuring more long-term government accountability in maintaining both facilities. In both cases, the community was key to a successful outcome, Shepard said. WE ACT’s wins were directly born out of using “models of community organizing and public policy [that allow] residents [to] integrate in and directly influence policy.”

WE ACT’s community-centered approach has caught on in addressing all types of environmental and economic issues — affordable housing development, urban gardening and food distribution, and alternative energy, to name a few.

With her work with Green City Force Corps, White acknowledged the constructive power of the community in the huge gains her organization has made. They have planted urban farms in otherwise unused lots which have yielded 3.6 tons of new of produce by and for residents of Red Hook, Brooklyn, a lower-resourced neighborhood often considered a “food desert.”

In many of the same communities, Jung’s work has transformed amassed assets – the resources accrued by developers through market-race contracts along with the government and tax incentives they receive for committing to new ownership and new building within the city — directly into policy solutions by adjusting city planning regulations for building contracts to include provisions for affordable housing developments that adhere to higher environmental standards. At BlocPower, Baird is leading the effort to invest in public-private partnerships and employ solar and energy efficiency technology to slash both energy consumption and cost.

Taken together, these four pioneers are just a few of the cohort of entrepreneurs working to prove that—through the right combined forces of local empowerment, public and government investment, and private sector support—we can be greener, healthier, and more productive while becoming more economically viable.

To be sure, there’s still work to be done. Shepard observed that government still hasn’t become effectively responsive to community needs. If our environmental footprint is going to get any better, Shepard noted, residents and neighborhood stakeholders have to be put at “the center of efforts for change so they become informed and empowered enough to take their own actions.” Just think: if more residents and fewer bureaucrats were invited to testify in front of city planning commissions and participate in green task forces, how much more consensus and momentum could be generated?

If urban green innovators like Shepard, White, Baird, and Jung are any indication, the environmental-economic future looks bright, but that doesn’t mean they they’re resting comfortably on the laurels of their breakthroughs. To the contrary, they’re always thinking about the next big benchmark for progress. In a society where dollars gained and lost are the go-to arbiters of risk and success, there are still too few companies that see their business impacts outside of environmental terms, and vice versa. But if we see environmental justice as connected to — and often the same as — economic justice, they both win.

As Shepard put it, environmental activism isn’t just about “stopping the bad stuff,” but about cultivating a system that creates the new — new technology, new partnerships, and (sooner than we think) new ways of thinking about the world we all want to live in.

Tyler S. Bugg is the New America NYC associate for New America. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME New York

No Charges Against Engineer Who Caused Deadly NYC Derailment

In this Dec. 1, 2013, file photo, a police officer stands guard at the scene of a commuter train derailment in the Bronx borough of New York
John Minchillo—AP A police officer stands guard at the scene of a commuter-train derailment in the Bronx borough of New York City on Dec. 1, 2013

"There was no criminality in the act, therefore no criminal charges"

(NEW YORK) — No criminal charges will be brought against the engineer who fell asleep at the controls of a New York City commuter train in 2013, leading to a derailment that killed four people, prosecutors said Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded last year that the Metro-North Railroad engineer, William Rockefeller, nodded off because he suffered from an undiagnosed sleep disorder and had a drastic shift in his work schedule.

“There was no criminality in the act, therefore no criminal charges,” said Terry Raskyn, spokeswoman for Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson. She said Johnson had decided several months ago not to bring charges.

The decision was made public in the midst of an investigation into a similar railway accident, the derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia that killed eight people this week.

Rockefeller’s lawyer, Jeffrey Chartier, said the district attorney “came to the only logical conclusion, which is the same as the NTSB — which is that there’s no criminality on the part of Mr. Rockefeller. It was simply a tragic accident.”

He said Rockefeller is struggling with post-traumatic stress stemming from the crash and is unable to work.

“It’s something that haunts him every day, and I’m hoping the public acknowledgement that he didn’t do anything wrong will be some healing and closure for him,” Chartier said. “His heart is still broken for all those people who were affected by this.”

The dead were Kisook Ahn, a nurse returning home to New York City from an overnight shift in Ossining; Jim Lovell, a “Today” show lighting technician on his way to work on the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree; Donna Smith, a paralegal heading into the city to hear her sister sing Handel’s “Messiah” with a choral group; and James Ferrari, a building maintenance worker putting his daughter through college.

Calls to several survivors of the victims were not immediately returned.

In the crash Dec. 1, 2013, Rockefeller’s train was headed for Grand Central Terminal from Poughkeepsie when it derailed as it hit a curve in the Bronx at 82 mph, the federal investigators said. The speed limit on the turn was 30 mph. In addition to the four people killed, more than 70 were injured.

Rockefeller told investigators that right before the crash, “it was sort of like I was dazed, you know, looking straight ahead, almost like mesmerized.” He said he was roused only when he sensed “something wasn’t right” with the train and threw on the emergency brake.

After testing, the NTSB concluded he had undiagnosed sleep apnea, which robs its victims of rest because they are repeatedly awakened as their airway closes and their breathing stops. The NTSB said Rockefeller’s apnea interrupted his sleep dozens of times each night.

The board recommended better screening for sleep disorders in engineers.

Chartier said New York allows for charging someone who knowingly or recklessly disregards a risk or fails to perceive one when a reasonable person would. But “none of that existed in this case” because Rockefeller didn’t know of his condition, Chartier said. “He couldn’t be held responsible for something he had no knowledge of.”

Meanwhile, investigators are trying to determine why the Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night was careering through the city at 106 mph before it ran off the rails.

Associated Press Writer Jim Fitzgerald in White Plains, New York, contributed to this report.

TIME Fine Art

Christie’s Just Sold Over $1 Billion Worth of Artwork in Three Days

Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's, takes bids at an auction for the art work, "Les femmes d'Alger (Version O)" painted by Pablo Picasso, at Christie's on May 11, 2015 in New York City
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's, takes bids at an auction for the art work, "Les femmes d'Alger (Version O)" painted by Pablo Picasso, at Christie's on May 11, 2015 in New York City

And they still haven't finished their sales for the week

With paintings like Mark Rothko’s “No.10″ going for $82 million or Andy Warhol’s “Colored Mona Lisa” topping $56 million, it is no wonder Christie’s made history Wednesday by becoming the first auction house to cross the $1 billion mark in total art sales in one week.

According to the auction house, 72 postwar and contemporary artworks sold for just under $660 million in a New York evening auction. This comes on the heels of Christie’s “Looking Forward to the Past” event that made over $705 million on Monday. Among the latter’s sales were Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger, Version O” becoming the most valuable single piece of artwork sold at an auction when it fetched over $179 million.

Christie’s is set to add to the record on Thursday with a day and night sale. They will have another day sale on Friday.

And it isn’t just Christie’s raking in the dough. Competitor Sotheby’s notched up $380 million on a Tuesday evening sale and over $90 million on a Wednesday day auction.

TIME Courts

Judge Declares Mistrial in Case of Etan Patz, Missing 36 Years

Missing NYC Boy
Bebeto Matthews—AP Stanley Patz, father of Etan Patz, pauses during a news conference, after a judge declared a mistrial for Pedro Hernandez at Manhattan Supreme Court in New York on May 8, 2015.

A judge declared a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict for the third time

Prosecutors’ attempt to finally close a missing child case that has mystified New York City for more than three decades collapsed on Friday, after jurors failed to reach a verdict for a third time.

A judge declared a mistrial in the murder case trial of Pedro Hernandez, 54, a factory worker in New Jersey who confessed to killing 6-year-old Etan Patz 33 years after Patz disappeared in 1979.

Prosecutors must now decide whether to attempt a new trial against Hernandez or let him go free. “We believe there is clear and corroborated evidence of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement, without indicating whether he plans to retry Hernandez.

Patz’s family expressed outrage that the jury failed to reach a verdict. “This man did it. He said it. How many times does a man have to confess before you believe him and it’s not a hallucination?” Stanley Patz, Etan’s father, told reporters on Friday.

TIME On Our Radar

The Real Humans of New York: Jerome Liebling Remembered

Celebrated photographer and teacher Jerome Liebling sought out the real New York

Jerome Liebling, a creator of intimate documentary photography and films who died in 2011, is remembered in a new exhibition of 50 photographs shot over 50 years in New York City.

“His parents were immigrants, and for them, America was the savior,” his daughter, Rachel, tells TIME. “But he was the first generation, born poor. He didn’t believe the American dream, as it was being foisted, was the truth. So he wanted to show other perspectives.”

Jerry quit college to fight in World War II, a cause he believed in. But his experience, serving in the glider infantry in Europe and North Africa, was horrendous.

“They called them ‘Flying Coffins’,” Rachel says, “The gliders were sent in as a surprise advance element to get soldiers in behind enemy lines.” The mortality rate was terrible. The gliders often “crashed, they got strafed; they’re flying in and they’re just being riddled by bullets and half the people are shot. I know for certain that some of his close friends were killed.”

Jerry returned staunchly anti-war, and with a burning need to, in his words, “figure out where the pain was, to show things that people wouldn’t see unless I was showing them.”

He hit the streets—not the tony treelined streets of the Upper East Side, but the crowded and dingy immigrant streets of the Lower East Side and working class Brooklyn.

“My sympathies have always been with the everyday people,” Liebling said, “they are the center of my photography.”

So the Photo League, a band of socially progressive New York documentary photographers, was a natural fit. Liebling became one of the youngest members of this group that included photography giants such as Paul Strand, Berenice Abbott and Arthur “Weegee” Fellig.

Early in his career, Liebling tried to bring his sensibility to the world of magazines by shooting politics, but quit in frustration over what he felt were the editors’ anodyne picture choices.

Instead, Liebling’s skills as a teacher of photography and film, first at the University of Minnesota, then Hampshire College, supported him for decades—and inspired generations of young people.

“He wasn’t a hustler, he didn’t pitch himself,” his daughter recalls, and yet he found great success in the museum world; his photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Steven Kasher, the gallery owner showing Liebling’s work, says the photographer “wanted to emphasize that shattering of community through those images. If you look at the work from the late 1940s, there’s much more of a sense of community: people living together, banding together, going to church, going to rallies. In that Bronx work, you see isolated people and devastated cityscapes.”

In the late 1970s, Liebling began working exclusively in color—and he rediscovered the old Brooklyn he once knew. When he went to Brighton Beach, his daughter says “this feeling he had about New York, this certain vitality: he found it there. He had wondered where it had gone. It felt familiar and right to him.”

You sense the world coming back from the brink in this work: streets are repopulated with life and color. Most memorable are the old ladies he came across: decked out in cat-eye sunglasses, big hair and fur coats, they are genuine New York characters.

His daughter says it best: “There was nothing as exciting as wandering the streets of Brooklyn with my father. He found mystery and intrigue around every corner. The people on the streets—with their indefatigable energy and their human foibles—became larger-than-life through his lens. Human struggle took on mythical proportions; the perseverance and ingenuity of everyday people was heroic in his eyes.”

Jerome Liebling (1924-2011) was a photographer and teacher. His retrospective runs until June 6 at Steven Kasher Gallery.

Myles Little is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME.

TIME Crime

Security Camera Shows Inmate Brawl at Rikers Island Jail

Rare surveillance video shows violence in troubled New York City jail

Rare security camera footage from inside New York City’s Rikers Island jail shows a guard throwing an inmate to the floor and a gang-related brawl at a juvenile facility involving close to a dozen prisoners.

The New Yorker has obtained video surveillance from inside New York City’s main jail that shows Kalief Browder, who was arrested in 2010 at the age of 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack, being pushed to the ground by a jail official as he was being taken to the shower. The incident occurred Sept. 23, 2012, and the Department of Correction says it is looking into the video.

In an earlier incident captured on the jail’s surveillance cameras in October 2010, Browder is beaten by numerous inmates. That episode occurred in a housing unit at Rikers’ adolescent jail, which the New Yorker reports was run by a gang.

Rikers Island has been plagued by violence for years. In December, the federal government sued the city over civil rights violations against teenage inmates. That same month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an end to solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year-olds at Rikers. The mayor is now trying to reduce the jail’s population by speeding up the process for Rikers inmates who are awaiting trial.

Read more at the New Yorker

TIME Travel

Inside 13 of New York City’s Stunning Landmarks

Shining light on some of the city’s most overlooked protected spaces

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Law, the New York School of Interior Design has launched an exhibit called “Rescued, Restored, Reimagined,” which shines light on some of the city’s most overlooked protected spaces.

“Often, when we think of landmarks, we think of exterior architecture,” said NYSID President David Sprouls in a release. “A building’s exterior may be protected, but the interiors are frequently disregarded. This exhibition turns that notion on its head by focusing on the important role that interiors play in our lives.”

So what makes an interior worthy of the protective designation? New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (or LPC, for short) recognizes that “the definition of a landmark could hardly be broader.” The criteria for interiors—a classification established by an amendment in 1973—only requires a space be 30 years or older, have “special historic or aesthetic interest or value,” and be “customarily open or accessible to the public, or to which the public is customarily invited.” But despite the liberal qualifications, only 117 interiors hold the title out of 31,000 total landmarked properties in the city.

The show pays tribute to 20 spaces, dividing the interiors into the three categories of its name: rescued, restored, reimagined. By displaying more than 80 photographs—some archival, some newly commissioned—the exhibition hopes to illustrate that while “interiors are sometimes out of sight, but they should not be out of mind.”

Admission is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., now through April 24. For more info, head over to landmarkinteriors.nysid.net or read on for a few of our favorite spots included in the show.

Should you feel passionately about a space that hasn’t yet made the list, propose a landmark by submitting a request to the LPC to start the evaluation process.

  • The Beacon Theatre

    The Beacon Theatre Photograph by Larry Lederman
    Larry Lederman

    One of the last “great movie palaces of New York,” The Beacon Theatre was designated a landmark in 1979. Art Deco in style with a lavish rotunda lobby, the space still functions as a theater with a regular calendar of music and comedy performances.

  • Dime Savings Bank

    Dime Savings Bank, 9 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn. Photograph by Larry Lederman © All rights reserved.
    Larry Lederman

    Once the busiest savings bank in Brooklyn, the grand Williamsburg space has adapted to include modern technologies like ATMs and security cameras, but key historic architectural features—including columns adorned with oversized dimes—remain preserved.

  • Film Center Building

    Film Center Building, 630 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan. Photograph by Larry Lederman
    Larry Lederman

    Tourists could walk right past this 9th Avenue office building, never knowing that a colorful interpretation of Art Deco design lies hidden on the first floor. Like something straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, the ceiling is gilded and a colorful geometric pattern brightens one wall of the elevator bank.

  • City Hall

    City Hall, Manhattan. Photograph by Larry Lederman © All rights reserved. - Copy
    Larry Lederman

    City Hall in downtown Manhattan was among the first interiors designated after the amendment passed, and its two-story rotunda remains one of New York’s best-preserved examples of neoclassical architecture.

  • Della Robbia Bar

    DELLA ROBBIA BAR Photograph by Larry Lederman
    Larry Lederman

    With a vaulted ceiling of Guastavino tile accented by ornamental pieces from the Rookwood Pottery Company, the Vanderbilt Hotel’s former underground bar and restaurant now functions as part of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse.

  • Ford Foundation

    Ford Foundation, 321 East 42nd Street, Manhattan. Photograph by Larry Lederman © All rights reserved.
    Larry Lederman

    The youngest of New York City’s designated interiors, the cube-like Ford Foundation headquarters feature an atrium at their center, and each glass-walled office within the building can be seen (to some degree) from every other.

  • The Four Seasons Restaurant

    The Four Seasons Restaurant Photograph by Larry Lederman
    Larry Lederman

    The interior of The Four Seasons Restaurant reflects the modular style of the Seagram Building’s exterior. Designed by architect Philip Johnson, the space is outfitted with marble, French walnut, and bronze details and is currently undergoing restoration.

  • Loew’s Paradise Theater

    Loews Interior
    Larry Lederman

    Designed to represent a 16th century Italian garden, the 4,000-seat theater is recognized for its plasterwork and vibrant sky-like blue ceiling, complete with light-bulb stars. The space was closed for many years for restoration, but re-opened in 2012 as a church and meeting space.

  • Marine Air Terminal

    Marine Air Terminal, La Guardia Airport, Queens. Photograph by Larry Lederman © All rights reserved.
    Larry Lederman

    LaGuardia Airport might not leave travelers awestruck today, but back in the ‘30s and ‘40s, visitors would crowd the Marine Air Terminal observation deck, hoping to catch a glimpse of airplanes taking off and landing. During the Great Depression, the Work’s Progress Administration commissioned a mural by James Brooks for the ticketing hall, a piece which was restored by the artist in 1980.

  • Mark Hellinger Theatre

    MARK HELLINGER THEATER Photograph by Larry Lederman
    Larry Lederman

    A classic movie palace built in Times Square, the Mark Hellinger Theatre features a domed ceiling, extensive plasterwork, and gilding throughout the auditorium, culminating in an opulent central chandelier.

  • Radio City Music Hall

    The Showplace of the Nation is the largest indoor theater in the world. Home to The Rockettes, the auditorium’s geometric Art Deco design was given landmark status in 1978, saving the iconic space from demolition.

  • Surrogate’s Court Hall

    Originally designed by John Thomas to be a new City Hall, the elaborate courthouse in actuality became the city’s Hall of Records, and in 1962, the upper-level courtrooms were occupied by the Surrogate’s Court, hence the modern moniker. Despite its landmark designation, the space has deteriorated over the years, but a renewed interest in repairs and restoration appears promising.

  • Williamsburgh Savings Bank

    Architect George B. Post designed this Brooklyn bank to resemble a cathedral, not in reverence to god, but instead to “the almost religious act of the savings bank depositor.” After changing ownership multiple times, the building’s iconic tower was converted into condominiums, and the floor and vault below now serve as a special-events venue.

    Read the original list HERE.

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TIME viral

This DJ Turned a Subway Car Into a Dance Party

Party on, NYC

As any commuter can tell you, riding the New York City subway is normally “a small death.” After suffering through endlessly bleak trips on the train, one DJ decided to shake things up by turning a subway fare into the hottest ticket in town.

With the help of a few strobe lights, a portable DJ set-up and even a velvet rope, YouTube user AMK Production turned a crowded subway car into a happening nightclub. While New York commuters are a blasé bunch who have seen it all, from breakdancers to pants-free riders to Helen Mirren to spa days, the moving dance party seemed to enliven the riders. As the party rolled on, riders jumped into conga lines, waved glow sticks and busted some moves.

The video of his subway party is going viral, and for good reason — it’s fun.

TIME Internet

New Google Doodle Honors Opening of Eiffel Tower

Floriane Marchix—Google New Google Doodle honoring the 126th anniversary of the public opening of the Eiffel Tower

The Parisian centerpiece was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over four decades

Once contemptuously referred to as “a truly tragic street lamp,” the Eiffel Tower of Paris, France, was opened on March 31, 1889, and to celebrate the 126th anniversary a new Google Doodle has been created in its honor.

Construction of the iron lattice structure, named after engineer Gustave Eiffel, began on Jan. 28, 1887. Despite the early protests, the tower was an instant hit, with an estimated 30,000 people climbing its steps in the first weeks — before even an elevator was installed.

Eventually, it grew into a worldwide landmark; as TIME wrote during last year’s 125th anniversary celebrations, “the tower became more than a tower, and more than a symbol of Paris.”

At 1,063 ft. high, it was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over four decades, until it was surpassed by New York City’s Chrysler Building in 1930.

The Doodle itself features a group of supposedly French painters hanging precariously from the tower as they beautify the Grande Dame of Paris.

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