Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York City subway provided more than 1.5 billion rides a year. During this time, the MTA claims that it saved 19 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, only emitting 2 million tons over a 365-day period. Though fewer New Yorkers take the subway in a post-COVID world, its climate-saving effects are still present in a city changing due to a global climate crisis.

Passengers board a Classic Harbor Line vessel for a climate change boat tour

Moving from a train to a boat, climate change is still at the forefront of the conversation. Every Thursday, New York’s American Institute of Architects (AIANY) hosts a boat tour titled “AIANY Climate Change Tour: Resiliency, Sustainable Architecture and the Future of NYC.” Aboard Manhattan or Manhattan II, vessels inspired by 1920s yachts, passengers will tour New York City’s waterways and circumnavigate Manhattan while exploring the city through the lens of climate change.

Statue of Liberty as seen from a climate change boat tour

Climate Change Boat Tour

On this nearly 3-hour journey, passengers will be comfortable and have great views inside the cozy, window-lined cabin of the boats. As you cruise, the scenery before you will change from the city skyline to pockets of nature while your guide points out green buildings, sustainable parks, renewable energy sites, post-Superstorm Sandy flood walls and resiliency measures, recycling plants, and the future home of an offshore wind turbine assembly pier!

Inside the cabin of a Classic Harbor Line boat

AIANY tour guides will prompt visitors to think about the potential for sustainable design as they gaze at the city’s iconic skyline, Through the intentional use of materials, energy, and space, New York architects have the potential to build a better city. Sustainable buildings that exist today include The Hearst Tower, One World Trade Center, The Bank of America Tower, and more. Many of these buildings adhere to the LEED and Passive House standards, key standards for sustainable buildings. As New York City lawmakers push through more climate change legislation, more and more buildings will be forced to choose sustainable building materials and more efficient utilities.

Skyline of Lower Manhattan

As you cruise, you will learn about climate-based inequalities in New York City. According to AIANYC, “People of color and low-income families have often been pushed into low-lying neighborhoods that are most prone to flooding, have the highest levels of pollution, and suffer most from the urban heat island effect.”

Climate change is not a new topic, but one that New York City residents have grappled with for a long time. There have already been countless initiatives and art installations that have addressed and called attention to this topic. As part of the lead-up to Climate Week 2022, the Union Square clock was repurposed as a “Climate Clock” that showed how much time the world had left to take action on climate change. At the time, that would have been 7 years, 100 days, and a number of hours and seconds. In 2021, artist Heide Hatry crafted a climate change art installation in Central Park. Polar bear cubs made of snow sat on chairs, played guitar, and read books, among other activities, surrounded by climate-themed signs. such as “Mommy, what’s a carbon footprint?” 

The front of a boat as it passes under a bridge in NYC

Contemporary New York citizens know the answer to the question, “what’s a carbon footprint?” In order to diminish the city’s carbon footprint, New York City residents can join the environmental justice movement, a key aspect of AIANY’s tour which dives into hopeful New York City initiatives already taken on by architects, urban planners, developers, and community groups with goals of reducing fossil fuel consumption, strengthening natural habitats, and reimagining its transportation infrastructure.

As hear the captivating stories of these projects, you’ll see wetlands and tidal marshes along the shore. These areas of green land have the potential to mitigate storm surges and foster diverse ecosystems. Check out more photos of New York City landmarks and neighborhoods such as Roosevelt Island, Inwood, and more that you can see on this tour. Hosted by Classic Harbor Line, the AIANY Climate Change Tour is one of many different themed tours you can take that will get you out onto the waterways of New York City!

Statue of Liberty as seen from a climate change boat tour

Climate Change Boat Tour

Next, check out the top 10 secrets of the One World Trade Center!