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Setting the example for a 'greener' New York,0,1562445.story?coll=ny-viewpoints-headlines

Majora Carter is the environmental justice fellow at the Drum Major Institute and executive director of Sustainable South Bronx.

April 12, 2005

Chicago may be called the "Second City," but it is first in at least one very important way: mayoral commitment to creating a "green" city that is good to its environment, its businesses and its people.

Compare it to New York. I am from the South Bronx, a low-income Latino and African-American neighborhood that has been forced by city and state regulatory agencies to accommodate a disproportionate amount of New York City's regional infrastructure. Our neighbors are waste and sewage facilities. We suffer 55,000 diesel trucks per week, hauling most of the greater metropolitan area's food, as well as waste of all sorts, into the borough and out. The threat of a new power plant, capable of generating far more megawatts than the Bronx is ever projected to need - with polluting emissions to match - looms on our horizon.

And this profile is not exclusive to the South Bronx. Other low-income communities suffer similar burdens. Southeast Queens and Williamsburg-Greenpoint in Brooklyn join the South Bronx in handling almost 80 percent of the city's solid waste. Brooklyn's Sunset Park, along with Williamsburg-Greenpoint, hosts a plethora of power plants and diesel truck traffic.

The health of low-income communities of color is directly related to the quality of our environment. Columbia University's recent study concluding that prenatal exposure to urban air pollutants causes genetic alterations is only the latest in a series demonstrating the urgency for a solution to this uniquely urban problem.

Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley has taken the lead in passing policy to improve the short- and long-term health of his city, and our Mayor Michael Bloomberg should learn by his example. Chicago established new laws requiring recycling of waste at construction sites to divert up to 50 percent of waste from landfills and created meaningful tax incentives that encourage developers to build green from the very beginning. Its new municipal buildings must incorporate a new set of construction standards that will help provide healthier indoor environments, reduce operating costs and conserve energy and resources.

Chicago passed an alternative green building code that expedites the permitting process so that developers can build more quickly. And it has created a multifaceted, multimedia public education campaign to let homeowners and business owners know about these new opportunities.

Behind environmental innovation, there must be policy innovation; and behind policy innovation there must be a strong mayor. Mayor Daley ensured that the dream of a greener Chicago became a reality because he charged his administration to come up with policies that actually have teeth.

New York City needs the kind of leadership that will stand up to the false claim that sustainable development cannot be done economically. The idea that environmental activists and business leaders have competing interests is outdated. Daley has shown business and political leaders that their interests are best represented by long-term energy policies that strengthen the communities upon which their entire region depends.

Chicago has shown that the debate isn't theoretical. Whether or not one believes that global warming is a serious threat or that new landfill sites and fossil fuels sources always will be available, those of us in communities like the South Bronx, southeast Queens and Greenpoint have to deal with these issues now. That's why grass-roots activists have taken into our own hands the modeling of environmentally sound policy.

We are advocating for green and cool roofs on top of our buildings; alternative transportation systems, such as greenways, that promote healthy lifestyles without polluting the air; and recycling industrial parks, in which one business' waste is another's raw material. These projects would save energy - reducing the need for more and bigger power plants - and prevent pollution and reduce waste.

Last month, Bloomberg visited Hunts Point to release his "Vision Plan," an initiative to promote a competitive business environment and sustainable community in my area. Now he must lead the way in taking his plan from the page and bringing it to life, as well as implement improvements for other overburdened neighborhoods. If Bloomberg isn't able to learn from community activists or from his colleague in Chicago, New York will soon find itself labeled a "Second City" when it comes to caring for the environment and its citizens.

395 Posts
ThirdCoast312 said:
I am almost positive that williamsburg/green point is not low income area like the article claims it is
I can positively state that williamsburg, brooklyn is not a low income area, I was just there last October. It used to be, but certainly not anymore.
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