Jul 28, 2014
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Op Ed: Comptroller Liu Devises Plan to Rid Schools of PCBs

City comptroller proposes the city issue Green Apple Bonds to get PCB-carrying light fixtures out of schools.

Op Ed: Comptroller Liu Devises Plan to Rid Schools of PCBs

City Comptroller John Liu has submitted an op ed piece to Patch on ridding the city's schools of light fixtures that carry PCBs. Here is his piece in full:

Recently, I proposed that New York City issue Green Apple Bonds to get the thousands of toxic PCB-carrying light fixtures out of our public schools.

PCBs are known carcinogens that are contained in the outdated light fixtures that hang over the heads of our students, teachers, and school employees. A product of a bygone era, these toxins exist in 772 public school buildings.

In Queens, PCB-carrying light fixtures exist in I.S. 238, I.S. 025, M.S. 053, P.S. 223, and P.S. 079, among others.

The city plans to remove these light fixtures by 2021, but that timetable is unacceptable. That’s not just our opinion - that’s the determination of the Environmental Protection Agency.

My proposed Green Apple Bonds would rid our school buildings of toxic light fixtures by 2015 - six years ahead of the city’s schedule. It would also lower New York City’s carbon footprint and boost the city’s economy. How?

  • It would eliminate the harmful PCBs by replacing light fixtures at 772 public-school buildings citywide.
  • It would turn these schools into green buildings by upgrading their heating and cooling systems, replacing old boilers, and installing new smart meters.
  • It would create 3,000 jobs in the process.

All this can be done at while saving city taxpayers $719 million over the life of the bonds from energy efficiency, lower interest rates, and federal subsidies for energy conservation. The savings will far outweigh the expect $380 million cost of the bonds. By going green, we’re saving green.

Every day, our children, our teachers and school workers are at risk that a crack in a light fixture will leak PCBs into the classroom as was the case recently on Staten Island.

Parents should not be forced to send their children to schools where overhead light fixtures threaten to ooze toxic juice. The only thing above our students’ heads should be a graduation cap.

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, we are all keenly aware of the deadly effect of climate change and that we must do more to battle its effects.

Green Apple Bonds will make schools safer and save tax dollars, but we will also be reducing the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions by an additional 1.4 million metric tons through 2021, 47 percent more than the city’s current plan.

That’s equivalent to taking 10,000 more cars off the road every single year.

I look forward to working with my colleagues at City Hall and at the City Council to make Green Apple Bonds a reality.

After all, our students should learn about PCBs in class through their textbooks, not through firsthand exposure.

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