Jacque Medina


It’s no secret that Councilman Rafael Espinal has been a very vocal advocate for affordable health care, immigration reform and environmental sustainability since he was elected to the New York City Council in 2013. In the face of the white house’s disavowment of climate change, Espinal and other NYC political agencies have worked to create legislation that would require and encourage businesses and citizens in District 37 to practice environmentally sustainable practices.

One of Espinal’s main focuses, especially since the start of the new presidential administration, has been enacting environmentally-conscious legislation. Last month, Espinal received a perfect score for supporting significant environmental legislation from the  New York League of Conservation Voter (NYLCV).

Of the proposed legislative measures, there are three that would affect Bushwick and surrounding North Brooklyn neighborhoods directly. The first is the promotion and regulation of urban agriculture.

I asked Erika Tannor, Espinal’s director of communications whether or not a plan involving urban agriculture would even be feasible in a neighborhood as industrialized as Bushwick. “Potentially!” she said. “It’s the idea that we can use our local infrastructure to produce vegetation, fish, produce, and other resources to supply our community and create jobs. Local infrastructure includes spaces such as: abandoned land, industrial sites, open spaces, urban gardens, etc. where we could potentially grow, manufacture, and sell local produce to supply the local communities.”

Evidently, the implementation of urban agriculture practices would require specific regulations and zoning laws, so local officials are reportedly in talks with the NYC Department of City Planning to get a plan in order. 

New environmental legislation also includes green and solar panel roofing on city buildings. In July 2016, Espinal introduced a bill that may require roofs of new commercial businesses to be covered in plants, eco-friendly materials or solar panels. The bill would apply to private businesses and government entities like banks, post offices, and retail stores.

Tannor says the bill is still in review, and officials are anticipating suggestions from scientists, architects, lawyers, policy analysts, and other experts to nail down what this kind of large-scale environmental legislation might look like in practice.

Finally, according to Tannor, members of the 37th disrict council are working with Brooklyn Microgrid to “enable an expansion of solar energy in the neighborhood through the creation of a sustainable, market-based solution not dependent on recurring government funding.” 

Microgrids are a solar technology that would allow citizens to build, buy and sell local community-generated energy directly to neighbors so that there is an affordable, flexible method for them to get clean energy.

After Hurricane Sandy, many local politicians have stressed that mircogrids may be a solution to mass power outages. Of course, implementation of microgrids would have to be cleared with private energy providers like Con Edison and National Grid. 

In January, Councilman Espinal released a statement regarding all of these new proposals: “Climate change is real and environmental sustainability must be our top priority. it is my obligation to think creatively about ways we can protect our environment and secure a healthy future for our children. I look forward to enacting legislation and spearheading proactive programs that will use local solutions to enable long-term environmental and economic sustainability for our communities.”

Bushwick may very well become a bastion of sustainable energy and progressive environmental action in the next few years.

Featured image courtesy of Bushwick City Farm