SCHENECTADY -- Mayor Gary McCarthy was awarded the top environmental prize for a small city by the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Friday, according to a city press release.
The award was given to McCarthy during the conference’s annual meeting in Boston during the Climate Protection Awards luncheon. The city is being honored as the top small city, as it has a population of fewer than 100,000, according to the conference statement.
Austin, Texas, was was given the Climate Protection Award as a large city, because it has a population of more than 100,000, according to the press release.
McCarthy, who was recently elected president of the New York Conference of Mayors, said he was honored to be given the award and said he plans to continue the city’s progress.
“Schenectady has a proud history of innovation, and it is more important than ever that we upgrade our technology and infrastructure to tackle climate challenges while improving the efficiency of services and increase the quality of life for residents,” McCarthy said in a prepared statement. “Emerging technologies have incredible potential to create real value while also making our communities more sustainable.”
The U.S. Conference of Mayors cited several initiatives by Schenectady, including the conversion of 38 LED "high-intensity discharge" street lights on Union Street, set on poles that also have video capabilities, sensor-based technology, and free Wi-Fi service for nearby computers.
A press release from the city indicated those upgrades are a precursor to citywide implementation of such technology, as part of the Smart Cities initiative. That initiative is expected to include conversion of all city street lights to LED fixtures that will also have a dimming function to reduce electrical costs further. They will also be able to produce traffic and pedestrian analytics.
The initiative is expected to reduce the city’s electrical costs by 50 percent, or $370,000, according to the press release.
There was also mention of the 3,029-panel, 711-kilowatt solar array installed at the Bevis Hill reservoir. According to the statement from the city, it helped reduce the city’s energy costs by $80,000 over the past two years and is expected to save the city $840,000 during its lifetime.
The conference also pointed to the two-lane roundabout created at Erie Boulevard and Nott Street. It says the traffic device helped reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions in the city.
The mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, Stephen Benjamin, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, praised the both McCarthy and Austin Mayor Steve Adler for their leadership and for creating examples for other cities to follow when combating climate change.
“We know we are the first responders, but we can’t be the only responders, with these award-winning city efforts hopefully inspiring others here in the U.S. and throughout the world to act,” Benjamin said in a prepared statement.