The City of Hoboken recently created a new Department of Climate Action & Innovation, to address the urgent challenges of climate change, reflecting the Hudson County city’s commitment to enhancing sustainability efforts and protecting Hoboken from the impacts of climate change.
The department was established through a reorganization of city departments, approved by the Hoboken city council by a 9-0 vote.
Hoboken is particularly vulnerable to flooding caused by rising sea levels and the increased frequency and severity of storms due to climate change. Roughly 70% of Hoboken lies within the floodplain. The new Department of Climate Action & Innovation will play a pivotal role in proactively addressing these challenges and ensuring the city’s preparedness for an ever-changing climate landscape. The department will also work to identify additional, environmentally friendly cost-saving measures that will save taxpayer dollars.
The newly formed department will be led by Chief Sustainability Officer Jennifer Gonzalez, the city’s former director of environmental services. As a part of the reorganization, the Division of Health will be consolidated under the Department of Public Safety, and the divisions of Cultural Affairs and Senior Services will be overseen by the city’s business administrator.
“The establishment of the Department of Climate Action & Innovation underscores our unwavering dedication to the well-being of our community and the preservation of Hoboken’s future,” Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said. “By creating this department, headed by Director Gonzalez, we aim to make Hoboken the most prepared, adaptable and climate-ready community in New Jersey, while setting an example for cities of similar size worldwide. Our focus on innovation and sustainable solutions will allow us to further enhance our city’s resiliency, while also identifying cost-saving measures to save taxpayer dollars. Director Gonzalez is the ideal person to lead this effort, bringing a wealth of expertise and commitment to the forefront of our efforts.”
During her tenure with the city, Gonzalez has spearheaded implementation of the city’s Green Infrastructure Plan, including the creation of the state’s largest resiliency park — ResilienCity Park — and expansion of the Southwest Resiliency Park. Her team developed the city’s first climate action plan, facilitated the Hoboken Renewable Energy Program, advanced efforts to electrify the city’s fleet, including two new electric garbage trucks, implemented the ban on plastic bags and Styrofoam products, launched Hoboken’s Community Solar Program, transitioned the city to dual-stream recycling and expanded residential and commercial composting programs. She did so while simultaneously overseeing the Department of Environmental Services, comprised of the Divisions of Sanitation, Parks, Recreation, Public Property, Fleet Maintenance and Roads/Infrastructure.
Under her leadership, the Department of Climate Action & Innovation will continue efforts to meet or exceed Climate Action Plan goals for greenhouse gas emission reductions. Key initiatives will include fleet electrification, building energy efficiency, open space development, reduction of heat islands, urban tree canopy expansion, zero waste initiative implementation, stormwater and coastal flood risk management, and more. The department will also oversee several key divisions including Sustainability and Resiliency, Capital Planning, Engineering and Water Utility, Innovation and Data, and Information Systems.
As part of this reorganization, the existing Department of Environmental Services will be renamed the Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Works, with Diana Aviles, the former deputy director of transportation and parking, at the helm.
“Diana’s impressive track record of enhancing efficiencies within the Department of Transportation and Parking, coupled with her adept management and supervision of a substantial staff, uniquely positions her for success as the new director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Works,” Bhalla said. “I have full confidence that Diana will work to address resident needs, fostering diverse programming, and elevating the overall quality of life in our city.”
To facilitate efficient cooperation between city departments on all resiliency and sustainability initiatives, each of the city’s seven directors will appoint a liaison to the Department of Climate Action & Innovation.