The Environmental Justice Alliance is getting tough with its criticism against Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying his OneNYC sustainability plan leaves out the people who need it the most. Rather than improving conditions for poor residents of the city, the EJA says that environmental projects under the plan equate to “gentrification growth” that hurts lower income residents and people of color. The community group applauds the city for taking on climate change, but says it hasn’t done enough to help those most threatened by flooding and other health issues.
The mayor’s OneNYC plan, which is widely touted as an aggressive urban attack on climate change, was designed to build infrastructure projects that protect the city from environmental damage, such as flooding from rising sea levels. In a press conference on Monday, EJA representatives pointed to a number of examples of neighborhoods that OneNYC should be helping, like Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, Hunts Point in the Bronx, and the North Shore of Staten Island. Those areas, the EJA says, are still at risk of flooding during the next major hurricane, and many are saying it is because the residents there are mostly low income persons of color.
The mayor’s office defended the sustainability plan, pointing to a $45-million investment in the South Bronx, federal support at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and the Resilient Neighborhood study in Staten Island, WPIX reports. The city took direct issue with the EJA’s complaints, dismissing them as untrue. “Our priorities and funding specifically target neighborhoods with large vulnerable populations on the front lines of climate change,” a city spokesperson told WPIX. “This includes communities like the Lower East Side, Red Hook, the South Bronx/Hunts Point, the Rockaways, Coney Island, and many more.”
In addition to criticizing the city’s environmental projects, EJA spokespeople also called for the city to take more aggressive action on lead in the water and the ground, pointing to lead contamination problems on the rise in other areas of the country. That complaint may also be related to the current investigation into health issues in the city’s public housing. The city responded by saying that lead is one of many health issues it has focused on for decades, and cases of pediatric lead poisoning in the city are down 80 percent since 2002. The city is gearing up to release a progress report on OneNYC goals later this spring.