City “Leading the Charge” to Update Schools to More Efficient Heating and Lighting

Mayor Adams makes the “Leading the Charge” announcement on October 28, 2022. Image Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

Cutting-edge improvements to environmental consciousness and efficiency come only 20 years after New York schools stop burning coal. On October 28, 2022, Mayor Eric Adams announced a $4 billion investment in school upgrades, conversions, and retrofits to phase out the use of No. 4 heating oil in more than 200 schools across the five boroughs. The plan, dubbed “Leading the Charge,” will contribute significantly to the City’s goals of 50 percent carbon emission reduction by 2030—in fact, the retrofits are expected to be complete in just four years, by 2026.

Although “Leading the Charge” is advertised as a full conversion to electric power, only 19 existing schools will actually make the transition directly. Over the next two years, $520 million will be devoted to equipping those schools with electric heat-pumps and improved ventilation systems. Other schools covered by the plan will be updated to use ultra-low sulfur biofuel, rather than No. 4 heating oil, as an intermediary step to reduce carbon emissions partially.

“In ‘Leading the Charge,’ we are making a $4 billion investment in the health, education, and prosperity of our young people,” said Adams.

Effects on School Life

The changes are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 120,000 tons annually. The City’s new initiative aims not only to reduce carbon emissions, but also to reduce pollution more generally in schools and the neighborhoods surrounding them. With estimates that over 20,000 pounds of harmful, disease-causing particulates will be removed from the air, the city hopes to improve students’ access to clean air and healthier green spaces. High-efficiency LED retrofits will also serve to improve lighting conditions and brighten the spaces in which students and teachers alike spend most of their days.

Alongside infrastructural changes, “Leading the Charge” sets aside $13 million in funds to hire and train skilled workers who will work on implementing the project. The new cohort of skilled trade hires—”including union electricians, plumbers, steam fitters, and machinists”—will grow with schools to support continuing clean energy and emission reduction efforts.

“Schools are the centers of our communities, and it is paramount that our buildings and facilities operate in a way that bolster healthy learning environments for our students and support a cleaner city for New Yorkers, young and old,” said New York City Department of Education Chancellor David C. Banks.

“Today’s announcement of a major investment in school electrification shows that this administration is serious about combating climate change and creating healthy learning environments for our city’s children,” said First Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo.

By: Kyle Hunt (Kyle is a CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)

Mayor’s Office: Mayor Adams Announces $4 Billion Plan to Make new Schools All-Electric, Electrify 100 Existing Schools October 28, 2022.



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