By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed two pieces of legislation Tuesday to better promote environmental justice through the work of city agencies. One of the bills was sponsored by City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) to help improve the lives of his constituents in “Asthma Alley,” the area of western Queens that is home to almost half of the city’s power plants.
“These bills recognize the historic injustices that have disproportionately fallen on low-income residents and communities of color — the burden of pollution and the effects of climate change — and offer a different patch forward,” de Blasio said. “While our sustainability and resiliency programs have been driven by the need to create environmental justice, the city with these two bills will now have new and stronger tools to empower communities as we build a more equitable city to meet the challenges of climate change.”
Constantinides, the chairman of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, explained the legislation de Blasio signed into law would ensure that the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene will identify and study environmental justice communities, neighborhoods with a significant low-income population or communities of color. The study would examine sources of pollution, adverse health impacts of the pollution, the environmental impacts of city policies on communities, barriers to participation in environmental decision-making faced by communities, rate of current and potential future utilization of renewable energy, and policy recommendations to address environmental concerns.
“As the recent executive order on climate shows, the Trump administration will choose fossil fuels over our public health and safety,” Constantinides said. “In honor of Earth Day and the People’s Climate March on Washington, our cities must make combating climate change and reducing pollution a top priority. INT. 359 and INT. 886 make up the most comprehensive environmental justice legislative package of any city in the nation and will be a role model for other cities to follow. For far too long, environmental justice communities have had more sources of pollution and fewer environmental amenities in their neighborhoods, leading to adverse health effects. This legislative package will more equally distribute benefits throughout all communities in our city.”
The second bill signed into law will promote public engagement, transparency and participation regarding environmental justice concerns and will maintain data for the areas surrounding facilities and sites.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr