Russell Unger's Farewell to Urban Green

Russell Unger

It has been my privilege over the past 12 years to have worked with the city's brightest minds while making significant progress on the city's most urgent problems. But now it's time for me to do something new. My last day at Urban Green will be the end of this month, and in the fall, I’ll begin work as a consultant while I continue exploring my next steps. If you want to join an informal goodbye, I hope you can make Urban Green’s September 24th Member Reception.

When I first started at Urban Green, green building was pretty novel in NYC. The Solaire at Battery Park City Authority was only a few years old. The Energy Code largely existed on paper. Almost all discussion was focused on new construction. Local Law 84 (benchmarking) was seven years away. It seemed as if the NYC green building movement could be wiped out by a few falling ceiling tiles at a key meeting.

It’s extraordinary how much has changed. The number of people now in the movement is remarkable. Ideas that were dismissed a handful of years ago, like how to plan for 2050, are part of mainstream policy discussions. Building operators are getting their due. Superstorm Sandy energized grassroots support and made climate change a tangible concern for all New Yorkers, propelling laws we couldn’t have previously imagined. The pace of climate change remains a formidable challenge, but we have the right ingredients for success.

It can be uncomfortable to listen to dissenting voices, much less incorporate their views. Of all that Urban Green stands for, I'm most proud that we offer a seat at the table for everyone invested in sustainability. Seeking consensus is an express organizational value, and this is more critical than ever. We have an energetic and driven CEO in John Mandyck, phenomenal staff, a monumentally insightful Board of Directors, and a large and growing base of supporters eager to lend a hand. Equipped with these powerful assets, Urban Green is poised to help the city and beyond in its next chapter as an organization. 

I would like to thank all of you for giving me the extraordinary opportunity and honor to launch and lead Urban Green. I look forward to staying in touch and crossing paths in new contexts. Come September, I can be reached at


Russell Unger