April 7, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan
The city council passed two bills sponsored by Astoria Councilman Costa Constantinides Wednesday that aim to identify and address the issue that low-income areas are often located next to industrial plants emitting toxic pollutants.
The legislation calls for the study of the pollution levels in low-income neighborhoods—as well as communities of color–and the environmental issues the residents of these areas face.
The bills are expected to be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio in coming weeks, Constantinides said.
It also calls for the creation of a task force to come up with solutions to issues of pollution and to make sure that all communities have equal access to environmental protection.
“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 legislation will work to make our city services more equally and fairly distributed,” said Constantinides, who chairs the Environmental Protection Committee.
The study will focus on issues such as 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 the communities, rate of current and potential future utilization of renewable energy, and policy recommendations to address environmental concerns.
The data would then be compiled in to an online map showing the environmental data for each community.
The specific action taken by the task force once the issues are identified would vary by community, Constantinides said, but pointed out that western Queens specifically faces issues with several power plants in the area, a wastewater treatment plant, LaGuardia airport pollution, and more.
In addition to mitigating problems in the area, the taskforce would work to bring renewable energy solutions and environmental justice benefits to the area as well, Constantinides said.
The new law would also provide residents with the facts about pollution in their respective neighborhood and would help them address local environmental issues and weigh in on addressing the problems.
“As the recent executive order on climate shows, the Trump administration will choose fossil fuels over our public health and safety,” Constantinides said. “It’s up to cities to make combating climate change and reducing pollution a top priority. By voting on this legislative package, we show that New York is leading the way.”