Tiffany Cordero

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The road to sustainability is not an easy one, especially when it seems at times that our government has checked out of the conversation to combat climate change. Although not everyone seems to be united in the fight, New York State has made it a point to do their part to help fight climate change and push forward toward a greener, more sustainable future.

Sponsored by Todd Kaminsky in the New York State Senate and Steve Englebright in the New York State Assembly, the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) establishes aggressive mandates to ensure New York achieves a 100 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the next 30 years, keeping the state in line with UN recommendations to avoid catastrophic global warming. The CCPA also includes some of the country’s most progressive jobs and equity provisions of any green legislation in the United States.

Under the CCPA, 40 percent of state energy and climate funds used to propel the transition must be invested in low-income communities and communities of color. The CCPA would also attach fair labor standards to green projects receiving state funding, including prevailing wage standards.

“The CCPA is not just about the environment. It’s about jobs, justice, and healthy communities,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA) and NY Renews steering committee member. “We have two options: allow low-income communities and communities of color to be hit hardest by a changing climate, or let our communities lead us in building a better world. The CCPA does the latter. The Senate and Assembly must pass it without delay.”

NY Renews rally, courtesy of Indivisible Nation BK via Twitter.

Although the CCPA is currently still waiting to get passed the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, they aren’t sitting idly by.

On Monday, April 15, the NY Renews coalition and member organizations Demos, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, and Make the Road NY released a new report: “Justicia Climática: How the Climate & Community Protection Act will Increase Resiliency for New York’s Latinx Communities.”

The report offers new insights into the particular vulnerabilities NY’s Latinx communities face due to climate change and also highlights community-led climate solutions from Latinx-led community-based organizations that aim to address these risks. It also highlights the many ways in which economic disparities intensify the impacts of climate change in New York State’s Latinx communities, where the poverty rate is 24 percent.

The report also details the ways in which communities in Brooklyn are being affected. In Kings County, home to more than 500,000 Latinx people and people of color, residents are burdened with cancer risk from air pollution at a rate of approximately 11 percent higher compared to their Caucasian counterparts. In addition to this, the concentration of air-polluting facilities is 38 percent greater for people of color compared to Caucasian people in the county.  

In the report, readers can also view stories from coalition members and their efforts to mitigate risks associated with climate change that affect NY’s Latinx communities.

A major source of Particulate Matter 2.5 and high asthma prevalence in North Brooklyn is the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE). El Puente, a leading Latinx social justice and cultural organization based in South Williamsburg with an outpost in Bushwick, and a member of New York Renews, has long led advocacy efforts to address the disproportionate pollution impacts of the BQE in this part of the city. 

BQW traffic, photo by Mr. Seb.

Part of this effort has included citizen science projects involving air quality monitoring to better understand the risks in the community. Data from air quality monitoring is used to advocate for increased and improved open spaces and green infrastructure to mitigate poor air quality. One such project is the BQ Green, a proposal to deck over part of the BQE by connecting two existing parks adjacent to the BQE in Williamsburg. El Puente works with a coalition of organizations in North Brooklyn to raise awareness and build support for this project.

“As a leading Latinx social justice and cultural organization based in South Williamsburg, El Puente has long led advocacy efforts to address the disproportionate pollution impacts from traffic through citizen science and visionary project proposals like the BQ Green,” said Leslie Velasquez, Environmental Justice Program Manager at El Puente.

“This new report shows that the issues we face in Los Sures are shared by other Latinx communities in our state. To truly achieve justicia climática, we need our State elected officials to pass the Climate and Community Protection Act this year so we can build a healthy, just, and resilient future,” she added.

In addition to the plethora of health risks associated with climate change, Justicia Climática also details how climate change weather and heat strike hardest in Latinx communities in NY state.

Hurricane Sandy aftermath in Brooklyn, photo by Mike.

Over 65 percent of Latinx people report having experienced extreme weather events within the past five years; and Superstorm Sandy disproportionately affected low-income New Yorkers including 80,000 residents of public housing.

“At a time when severe weather events continue to threaten our lives, with more frequency, we must do all that we can to protect our communities and our children,” said Maria Hernandez, member of Make the Road New York. “Organizationally, we know first-hand how immigrant communities are disproportionately impacted by climate disasters. We must work to prevent the destruction of our earth and we must do more to provide support to our most vulnerable communities. The Climate and Community Protection Act does exactly that.”

It’s clear that organizations like NY Renews, their coalition and its members are not only committed to fighting climate change but are committed to ensuring a better quality of life for NY’s most vulnerable communities.

To learn how you can support the Climate and Community Protection Act go here or view the full report.

Cover image courtesy of El Puente.

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