NYC Commissioner for International Affairs, Penny Abeywardena (right); Strategic Relationships Manager at NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, Alexandra Hiniker (centre); and UNDP Director for Sustainable Development, Nik Sekhran (left) in the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn, New York City.

In December 2015, the New York City Mayor's Office for International Affairs launched Global Vision, Urban Action, an initiative designed to highlight the synergies between the SDGs and New York City's strategic development vision anchored in the OneNYC plan. NYC’s Global Vision, Urban Action provides an opportunity for New York City and cities around the world to share strategies that have been effective in taking forward the global goals. 

Almost two years on, the New York City municipality invited the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for a study visit to understand some of the main actions to meet the environmental sustainability goals of the 2030 Agenda, especially SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and SDG 14 (life below water).

Hosted by New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs, Penny Abeywardena, and the Deputy Commissioner for Wastewater Treatment at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Pam Elardo, the visit held on 26 October coincided with the celebration of UN Week. Located in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint community, Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest of New York City’s 14 wastewater treatment plants, which process a total of 4.9 billion liters of wastewater daily to protect the water quality of New York Harbor, and the Hudson and East rivers. In addition to treating wastewater DEP also delivers   around 3.8 billion liters of clean drinking water each day from its upstate watershed to nine million inhabitants.

According to Commissioner Abeywardena, NYC’s Global Vision, Urban Action links OneNYCwith the SDGs to “foster concerted action amongst all levels of the city government.” The Commissioner highlighted that “cities are growing faster than at any point in history. This means that solutions to some of humanity's toughest problems will be found in cities – problems like poverty and income inequality, and environmental degradation”. The UNDP study visit to the Brooklyn treatment plant emphasized the importance of commitment by local governments, with a focus on city-led action, as a key to the implementation of the SDGs as we are the first urban generation in history, with half of the world’s population now living in urban areas. By 2030, all UN Member States are expected to improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping, and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.

Nik Sekhran, UNDP’s Director for Sustainable Development, commended NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s efforts to support wastewater treatment, noting that, “understanding how this huge city works to deliver clean water, wastewater and solid waste treatment can provide useful insights for action in a world where 2.4 billion people still lack access to adequate sanitation”.  A concrete step taken by NYC to achieve the environmental targets of the 2030 Agenda was repairing the Delaware Aqueduct, which supplies approximately 50 percent of New York City’s drinking water. The Aqueduct was previously leaking up to 132 million liters of water per day. The Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, which processes as much as 5.7 million liters of sludge every day, has also been through comprehensive renovation. 

Contact information:

Francisco Filho, UNDP (; + 1 646 717 4356

Sangita Khadka, UNDP (; +1 212 906 5043


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