‘Make polluters pay’: Forest Hills High School student activists rally for the Climate and Community Investment Act

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Forest Hills High School students rallied in support of the Climate and Community Investment Act at Juniper Valley Park on April 7. (Angélica Acevedo/QNS)

A group of student activists from Forest Hills High School gathered to raise awareness and support from their local elected officials for the New York Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA) at Juniper Valley Park on Wednesday, April 7.

About a dozen students set up signs along a corner of the Middle Village park at 80th Street — with one that read “Make Polluters Pay, Pass The CCIA” attached to strings hanging from a tree and a lamp post — and spoke with community members about the newly introduced bill.

The CCIA (S4264A), which was introduced in March, is meant to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, invest in communities most impacted by climate change and pollution, and build a renewable economy in New York by taxing corporate polluters.

Rachel Rose, 17, co-president of Forest Hills High School’s Green Team club, said their event at Juniper Valley Park is just one of several actions taking place across New York City and state as part of Climate, Jobs, and Justice Action week organized by New York Renews Coalition.

“We just got it introduced into the state Senate, and so a lot of people and students are working locally to try and really make sure their local state senators are signing on to this and getting it passed,” Rose said.

(Angélica Acevedo/QNS)

Victoria Lu, the event coordinator for Forest High School’s Green Team club and member of New York Renews Coalition, said they are particularly asking for state Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. to support the bill.

“In the past he’s actually agreed to lobby with us and he has co-sponsored the [Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA)], so we’re hoping that he shows the same type of support with the CCIA, which is basically the funding for the CLCPA, and push it through the Senate,” said Lu, 16.

Lu explained that the CCIA emphasizes the connection between environmental justice and racial justice to specifically benefit Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) who have been disproportionately impacted by climate issues.

“It provides around $15 billion a year and reinvests it into BIPOC and frontline communities, it helps create more sustainable jobs, like it’s projected to create around 150,000 jobs in the next decade, [and] it would also prioritize green schools around more environmentally affected areas,” Lu said. “And an important piece of this bill is that none of the money is going to go to private prisons, the policing sector, none of that — it’s really just meant to invest in Black and Brown communities.”

The CCIA was introduced by Brooklyn state Senator Kevin Parker and is currently co-sponsored by several Queens state senators, including Jessica Ramos, James Sanders, Jr. and Leroy Comrie.

Addabbo is not a co-sponsor. The senator, who was leaving Albany after voting on the state budget on Wednesday, told QNS that while the state passed the CLCPA they are still in the early stages of the act and are “behind on hitting some benchmarks.”

But, Addabbo said that the state is “moving in the right direction,” and he continues to be a proponent of climate change measures and renewable energy in the 15th District.

In regards to the CCIA, Addabbo said he will “definitely review” the bill and added that he appreciates the young residents who are a part of the climate movement.

(Angélica Acevedo/QNS)

The student activists’ action was in coordination with TREEage, a youth-led policy and politics organization with more than 150 student activists and 35 school hubs based in New York, as well as Our Climate, an advocacy organization that mobilizes and empowers young people to educate the public and elected officials about science-based, equitable climate policy.

Rose said she appreciates TREEage’s action-based approach to lobby for the CCIA, a bill she said they can “quantify and really get done” to benefit frontline communities in the city and the borough.

“My mom is a school nurse here in Queens and she deals with a lot of kids with asthma, and [asthma] is highly concentrated here in Queens, so that actually has to do with pollution and that is an environmental issue,” Rose said. “That’s something that this bill would definitely address. So I think it’s really important, that it’s happening right here in Queens.”

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