Mayor Adams Appoints Climate Leadership Team

Mayor Adams announces his administration’s climate resiliency team. Image Credit: Ed Reed/ Mayoral Photography Office.

The combination of agencies aims to reduce redundancy and enhance integrated work. On January 31, 2022, Mayor Eric Adams announced his administration’s climate leadership team and changes to the City’s executive agencies that handle environmental justice. Three appointments were announced: Rohit T. Aggarwala as the chief climate officer and Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); Vincent Sapienza as the chief operations officer of DEP; and Kitty Charles-Guzman as the executive director of the new Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ). 

Rohit T. Aggarwala 

Rohit T. Aggarwala holds his PhD, MBA and Bachelors from Columbia University, with a Masters from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. 

He is an expert on urban sustainability, technology, and mobility. Under the Bloomberg administration, he led the establishment of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. He founded the environmental grantmaking program at Bloomberg Philanthropies, and previously served as president of the Board of Directors of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. He helped found Sidewalk Labs, Google’s urban technology startup. He was a senior urban tech fellow at the Jacobs Cornell-Technion Institute. 

As DEP Commissioner and Chief Climate Officer, he will report to Deputy Mayor of Operations Meera Joshi. 

Commissioner Aggarwala stated, “Making progress on climate requires not only good policies but also driving resilience, decarbonization, and environmental justice into daily city operations. I’m excited to shape the city’s climate work on behalf of Mayor Adams and Deputy Mayor Joshi and am honored to lead the 6,000 men and women at DEP who ensure that New York’s drinking water, harbor, and air are safe and clean, and who are our front lines on managing stormwater. I’m especially grateful to Vinny Sapienza for agreeing to stay on at DEP, so I can rely on his deep operational expertise in managing this mission-critical agency.”  

Vincent Sapienza

Vincent Sapienza holds a Bachelors in Science from Columbia and a MBA from Hofstra. He is a New York State licensed professional engineer. 

He has previously served in three senior positions at DEP. Sapienza led the Bureau of Wastewater Treatment from 2009 to 2014; the Bureau of Engineering, Design and Construction from 2014 to 2016; and most recently served as the Commissioner for DEP for the past five years. 

As the Chief Operations Officer at DEP, Sapienza will report to Commissioner Aggarwala. 

Chief Operations Officer Sapienza stated, “Increasingly intense storms, warmer temperatures, and rising sea levels threaten the ability to provide ample amounts of high-quality drinking water and keep city streets from repeatedly flooding. I’ve had the great privilege of working shoulder-to-shoulder with an incredibly talented team at DEP, and I’m eager to continue working with them alongside Rit and Kizzy to coordinate and accelerate our environmental initiatives and combat these issues.”

Kitty Charles-Guzman

Kitty Charles-Guzman is a graduate of Carleton College and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. 

Her work experience draws on the intersection of climate policy, public health, racial equity, resiliency, and sustainability. She developed Cool Neighborhoods NYC, New York City’s first strategy to deal with heatwaves and rising temperatures. She also worked on several adaptation initiatives to help New Yorkers be prepared to handle and withstand the impacts of climate change. 

She served as a deputy director at the Mayor’s Offices of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency, as director of the Climate Change and Health Program at the New York City Department of Health, and also served as policy advisor on air quality during the Bloomberg administration. Charles-Guzman received received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Quality Award and a Champion of Change Award from the White House for her work.

As Executive Director of the new Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, Guzman-Charles will report to Aggarwala in his role as the Chief Climate Officer. 

The Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice consolidates four agencies (the Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency, the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability, the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination, and the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation) into one streamlined office. The previous agencies independently addressed the issues of resilience, sustainability and environmental justice, environmental review, and remediation. The new office will address these with an integrated approach. 

Executive Director Charles-Guzman stated, “I am thrilled and honored to continue to serve my city, doing urgent and critical work in the face of a climate crisis. My team will focus on helping New Yorkers access the benefits of our climate actions and investments today, while also improving our environment, adapting our neighborhoods, and preparing for the challenges of tomorrow.”

During his announcement, Mayor Adams reiterated that the new office will help work on completing the city’s first comprehensive study of environmental justice; see to the ground breaking of a clean energy complex at Wards Island Water Resource Recovery Facility; expand citywide resiliency projects and infrastructure; and help install 100 megawatts of solar on schools, libraries, community centers and other public buildings, among other initiatives. 

Mayor Adams stated, “It is evident to anyone who opens their eyes that we are in the midst of a climate crisis in this city and around the world, so it’s time to think outside the box and determine how we can handle the crisis before it’s too late. This past year alone, we have experienced extreme weather anomalies and rising sea levels, which have endangered New Yorkers’ lives, their homes, and their livelihoods. The remnants of these different calamities are still being repaired to this day, but my administration is committed to transforming the city’s quality of life and fighting for environmental justice for all New Yorkers, and this team is exactly who will get the job done for New Yorkers.”

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)



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