NYC Mayor Adams Announces Climate Leadership Team Appointments

Real Estate In-Depth | February 1, 2022

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has established the new Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ), which consolidates multiple city agencies into one organization.

NEW YORK—New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced on Jan. 31 the appointments of his climate leadership team that will focus on environmental protection and environmental justice across New York City.

Rohit T. Aggarwala, chief climate officer and commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Mayor Adams appointed Rohit T. Aggarwala as chief climate officer and commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Vincent Sapienza as chief operations officer of DEP, and Kizzy Charles-Guzman as executive director of the newly established Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ), which consolidates multiple city agencies into one organization.

Mayor Adams highlighted the environmental appointees’ proven track record of promoting cleaner air and advancing climate resiliency.

“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,” said Mayor Adams. “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.”

Officials with the mayor’s office said that the appointments signal the Adams administration’s commitment to rolling out a comprehensive system that will allow this city to offset the effects of climate change and unnecessary carbon emissions. Additionally, the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice will fulfill Mayor Adams’ key commitments to climate sustainability, environmental justice, and resiliency including:

• Installing 100 megawatts of solar on schools, libraries, community centers, and other public buildings;

• Expanding citywide resiliency projects and infrastructure;

• Breaking ground on a massive clean energy complex at Wards Island Water Resource Recovery Facility; and

• Completing New York City’s first comprehensive study of environmental justice.

Vincent Sapienza, chief operations officer of DEP

The newly established Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice will consolidate the Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency and the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability, as well as incorporate the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination and the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation. This new, streamlined office will provide an integrated approach to climate leadership by uniting four offices that had independently addressed remediation, resiliency, sustainability and environmental justice, and environmental review, city officials stated.

“Making progress on climate requires not only good policies but also driving resilience, decarbonization, and environmental justice into daily city operations,” said Rohit T. Aggarwala, commissioner, DEP, and chief climate officer for the City of New York. “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.”

Aggarwala is a widely recognized expert on urban sustainability, technology, and mobility. He led the creation of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, founded the environmental grantmaking program at Bloomberg Philanthropies, and served as president of the Board of Directors of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. He was part of the founding team at Sidewalk Labs—Google’s urban technology startup—and more recently was a senior urban tech fellow at the Jacobs Cornell-Technion Institute. He has provided advice and assistance to a number of foundations and impact investment funds and chaired the Regional Plan Association’s Fourth Regional Plan for the New York region. Aggarwala holds a PhD, MBA, and BA from Columbia University and an MA from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Aggarwala will report to Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi.

Kizzy Charles-Guzman, executive director of the new Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice

Sapienza has dedicated his career to protecting and improving New York City’s water and wastewater infrastructure. Sapienza served in three senior positions within DEP, leading the Bureau of Wastewater Treatment from 2009 through 2014, then heading the Bureau of Engineering, Design and Construction through 2016, and then as commissioner for the past five years. Sapienza is a New York State licensed professional engineer and holds a BS from Columbia and an MBA from Hofstra. Sapienza will report to Aggarwala in his role as DEP Commissioner.

Charles-Guzman has spent more than 15 years of her New York City service developing and delivering work at the intersection of sustainability, climate policy, public health, resiliency and racial equity. She led the development of Cool Neighborhoods NYC, the city’s first strategy to address the impacts of rising temperatures and heatwaves, and several adaptation initiatives to ensure that New York City residents are ready to withstand and emerge stronger from the impacts of climate change. Charles-Guzman 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 as policy advisor on air quality during the Bloomberg administration. She received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Quality Award and a Champion of Change Award from the White House in recognition of her work. She is a graduate of Carleton College and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Charles-Guzman will report to Aggarwala in his role as chief climate officer.