Newly permanent sustainability office plans for Philly future

    Philadelphians earlier this month voted to make the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability a permanent fixture at City Hall.

    Sustainability director Katherine Gajewski said knowing her office will exist after next year’s mayoral election allows for longer-term planning in areas of greenhouse gas reduction and climate adaptation.

    “We have great assurance that projects that go beyond the end of this administration should continue, and that’s work that is going to have a home in years forward,” Gajewski said.

    Over the next year, the office will undertake a deep analysis of greenhouse gas emissions in Philadelphia to pinpoint possible areas of reduction.

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    It will also start climate adaptation planning to prepare the city for future extreme weather events.

    In New York City, similar planning has lead to blueprints for a $335 million dike around lower Manhattan to hold back storm surges and rising oceans.

    Here, the risks are different, as are the potential solutions.

    “In Philly, a big concern for us is flooding,” Gajewski said.

    Instead of one giant project, her office is focusing on lots of smaller green infrastructure changes.

    “What you’re going to see in the coming years is a huge escalation in the amount of projects happening as part of our Green City, Clean Waters plan,” Gajewski said.

    The plan focuses on green stormwater management and infrastructure, including building rain gardens, porous pavement and basins, to catch or absorb stormwater instead of sending it into sewers.

    Funding for the office under a new mayor will remain a lingering question for Gajewski and her staff.

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