David Bragdon: New York City’s Sustainability Man

David Bragdon is responsible for making sure the city meets more than 400 sustainability goals before next year.

In 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced his sweeping vision for greening the city. Called PlaNYC, the 127-point initiative seeks to increase the number of mass-transit options, energy-efficient buildings and parks, among other aspects, by 2030. Of the 127 initiatives detailed, more than 97 percent were launched within one year of the plan’s release, and almost two-thirds of its 2009 milestones were achieved, according to David Bragdon, the director of the city’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.

Now, thanks to an April update to PlaNYC, Bragdon, who is in charge of implementing it, has more than 400 specific goals to meet by the end of Bloomberg’s term in 2013. He also has 132 new initiatives to get started on, including an effort to divert 75 percent of the city’s 14 million tons of annual solid waste from landfills.

A Harvard graduate and native New Yorker, Bragdon came to the job in 2010 well prepared. He was the longtime president of the regional Metro Council in Portland, Ore., where he was an influential decisionmaker in that region’s famously progressive planning. What separates the Big Apple’s plan from Portland’s notable sustainability efforts, Bragdon says, is that “it’s very specific about short-term milestones that are the pathway to long-term goals,” like combating climate change.

Bragdon also attributes the plan’s initial successes to the mayor, who uses cross-agency collaboration to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that typically slows sustainability projects. “It’s a group effort around here,” Bragdon says.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.