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Great Neck Plaza adopts action plan to fight climate change

The Village Hall of Great Neck Plaza in

The Village Hall of Great Neck Plaza in the Town of North Hempstead is located at 2 Gusssack Plaza. May 29, 2013 Credit: JC Cherubini

Great Neck Plaza village officials adopted a climate action plan to face the next century when, state environmental reports show, sea levels, temperatures and extreme weather conditions could threaten Long Island.

After months of review, the village board unanimously adopted the plan at a public hearing Wednesday and will soon submit it to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The village set ambitious goals for itself, including monitoring energy efficiency to cut greenhouse gas emissions village-wide by 20 percent over the next three years. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are produced by burning fossil fuels for electricity, transportation and heat, and are cited by federal officials as a key factor in climate change.

The plan sets nine major initiatives and specific steps for the village to complete by next year, including upgrading to energy-efficient LED lighting, and installing motion sensors and temperature-timed switches in Village Hall. There are also dozens of future considerations listed, such as potentially installing electric-vehicle charging stations and reducing the size of the village’s automotive fleet.

Residents will be encouraged to sign up for home energy audits and upgrade their homes to be more energy efficient.

“These are really doable projects that we can take on,” Mayor Jean Celender said.

The plan was created over the past few months by a task force of village officials, residents who volunteered to participate, and engineering consultants provided by the state.

It is part of the village’s commitment after adopting the DEC’s Climate Smart Communities pledge in October 2012. Great Neck Plaza is one of more than 170 communities across New York that have pledged to reduce the risks of climate change, but is one of just a handful of municipalities on Long Island to approve an action plan.

“It’s certainly a multiyear process and a commitment for the community to do this together,” Celender said. “We hope to be a model with others to follow.”

The towns of Huntington and East Hampton passed climate action plans last year. The DEC did not respond to an inquiry about other municipalities that have taken similar steps.

Suffolk County passed a climate action plan in June, in which it announced that the county had saved more than $5 million annually from reduced energy use.

Ann Fangmann, the executive director of Farmingdale-based environmental nonprofit Sustainable LI, said recent weather events such as superstorm Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene prompted municipalities to take climate change seriously.

“Sandy really put into perspective a lot of these planning issues,” Fangmann said.

Gordian Raacke, executive director of East Hampton-based nonprofit Renewable Energy Long Island, echoed Fangmann’s comments, noting that Sandy served as a “wake-up call” for municipalities on Long Island.

“Everybody realizes this is a different world; climate change is a reality now,” Raacke said. “We will not be able to avoid all of the impacts anymore, it’s too late for that. But there’s still a lot that can be done to prevent the worst and I think that’s what these plans aim to do.”

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