4806497758_0a9e7f9300_h.jpg

Rooting out

historic environmental

injustices

Environmental racism and injustice has been ever present in the Bronx. As an environmental activist and sustainability entrepreneur, I know that environmental injustices, including polluted air, are at the root of many inequities, childhood development issues, and health disparities for people of color in the Bronx. If we prioritize the impacts of our transportation decisions, we can immediately make the air cleaner.

 

Ultimately, we need to reverse years of NIMBY -  Not In My Back Yard - that forced polluting infrastructure to low income areas, with YIMBY - YES, In My Back Yard solutions to help communities thrive.

  • Improve air quality to reduce disproportionate impacts on BIPOC and low income communities.

  • Put people and health first in transportation and planning decisions.

  • Flip NIMBY to YIMBY.

Improve air quality to reduce disproportionate impacts on BIPOC and low income communities.

Reducing air pollution is important because pollution affects much more than respiratory and heart health:

  • ADHD & autism correlate highly with air-pollution rates in the year a baby is born,

  • High air pollution rates are associated  with a 10% higher risk of miscarriage, and leads to a more than 15% increase in premature births,

  • People who grow up in polluted areas see more than 5% lower lifetime earnings,

  • Children in high pollution communities record more than 10% lower test scores,

  • And have a 40% higher risk of developing dementia

Addressing issues of environmental injustice improves health, education, transportation, future incomes, and resilience. Cars emit carbon dioxide, the largest contributor to climate change, which harms all New Yorkers, but especially low-income New Yorkers and communities of color.

The New York City Council can target clean-air policies on communities that need it the most.  Science has known for 100 years that poor air quality leads to higher death rates in poor-air-quality-communities. Yet we’ve continued to allow highways to pass through neighborhoods. We’ve continued to build bus depots in poor communities and run peaker-plants.  Health outcomes will only improve when air quality is improved.  Air quality has improved in NYC, with levels of PM2.5 dropping from 18mcg per cubic meter to 10mcg per cubic meter from 2001 to 2018. This shows steps in the right direction.

But it remains true that neighborhoods with high poverty rates have levels of PM2.5 that are 50% higher than neighborhoods with low poverty rates. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are particles smaller than red blood cells that find their way into our lungs and cause or worsen health defects like asthma.

Use City Council Oversight to make sure that infrastructure is equally shared by all neighborhoods and is built sustainably so it does not cause harm.

The highways crisscrossing the Bronx are a major source of pollution, leading to bad health outcomes for residents.

NYC’s data shows that the highest hospitalization rates for asthma, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and related morbidities are found in neighborhoods next to the Cross-Bronx Expressway and I-87 N. As a Council member, I will investigate and pursue policies to reduce pollution from all sources. For example, with existing technology, we could charge large trucks driving through an asthma-alley adding to the pollution burden, and put that money toward public transportation and zero-emission transportation infrastructure.

Can we use real-time air pollution levels to adjust transit fares and congestion-pricing tolls by air pollution levels, to encourage public and micro transit?

Imagine if buses were free on Ozone-Alert days? MTA could get you on the bus and out of the car on days when we most need cleaner air by making buses free those days or reducing the fares.  And,  DOT can disincentivize drivers from driving during times of poor air quality by hiking congestion-pricing tolls. Reducing pollution from super-polluters, like the  Cross-Bronx, will require long-term investments in intra-borough transportation to reduce trips.

 

Flip NIMBY to YIMBY!

Addressing historic environmental injustices actually presents an opportunity for growth in New York City.  There is opportunity to focus the new green infrastructure in the neighborhoods that need it most, bringing job opportunities and clean air. There is opportunity to put the newest, local, clean energy and the most convenient new forms of public transit.  There is an opportunity to incubate new ideas in the communities that have been deprived of support for new ideas.

 

Yes, in my backyard, please do replace old power lines with solar panels; please do convert the streets into open streets; please do add a park if possible; please convert the alleyway into an urban farm; please swap out the peaker plant for a innovative battery storage facility - which may actually happen thanks to PEAK Coalition members and NYPA. There are countless examples of how we can create jobs and value in our community with YIMBY.

 

Green infrastructure can be a win-win; it can be sustainable, it can create resilience for the community, and it can produce the equitable opportunity for people to thrive.  We can say Yes.