Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney visited the Queensbridge Houses Friday, March 11, to discuss New York’s implementation of President Joe Biden’s climate justice executive order and assess the impacts of pollution from surrounding fossil fuel plants.
As part of a two-day series of environmental programming, elected officials and leaders visited Queens to receive community input and speak about legislation related to environmental justice. Maloney called for environmental justice in her district outside the largest housing development in the country: the Queensbridge Houses.
“We are only a few blocks away from the most polluting fossil fuel plant in New York state,” Maloney said. “It’s no accident that Queensbridge and Big Allis, the polluting power plant, are so close together. It’s no accident that there are 10 peaker plants within one mile of Queensbridge residents. And it’s no accident that so many of our children have asthma.”
Maloney argued that the overwhelming amount of peaker plants in the area had been strategically placed near Queensbridge Houses, Ravenswood Houses and other public housing, perpetuating systemic racism and the disenfranchisement of communities of color.
Members of Congress and activists mentioned that a big step in environmental justice was reached with the Biden-Harris Justice40 Initiative, which will deliver at least 40% of the benefits of climate and clean energy spending to communities most impacted by pollution and disinvestments.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards came out as well to voice his support for environmental justice in Queens County.
“Here in the ‘World’s Borough,’ we know the impacts of climate change and how catastrophic it can be,” Richards said. “Think back to just the last 10 years where our people have lived through two of the deadliest and damaging storms our city has ever seen.”
Richards mentioned his experience witnessing firsthand the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy when he was a council member representing southern Queens.
“I still carry that pain with me today,” Richards said. “That same pain that northeast families in Queens felt last summer when Hurricane Ida flooded communities that had never experienced flooding before. That same pain so many of us felt as we heard the stories of how our neighbors drowned right in their basement apartments.”
Richards said he is deeply proud of the efforts to ramp up infrastructure but recognized more needs to be done in communities like Asthma Alley in Astoria.
“There is so much more work that needs to be done, and it starts right here in our public housing,” Richards said. “Where the needs of countless families have been ignored and overlooked. Too many of our public housing families are suffering from disinvestment and if you don’t think climate change plays a whole role in this issue, you are simply mistaken. We don’t have more time to waste. The time to act is now.’
The borough president applauded the Biden-Harris Justice40 Initiative but said we need to think even bigger, noting that Queens communities have suffered losses worth more than 40%.
After the press conference outside the Queensbridge Houses, leaders visited the Ravenswood Generating Station to examine ongoing efforts to convert the plant to renewable energy.