City and State: “Clean Air Policies For All New Yorkers”

Clean Air Policies for All New Yorkers

By: Norris McDonald
April 22, 2015

Whether is it Hunts Point in the Bronx, East Harlem in Manhattan, Arverne in Queens, or Red Hook, Brooklyn minority neighborhoods are surrounded by congested transit routes, riddles with dirty fossil-fuels infrastructure, or entangled by a network of high voltage transmission lines. More needs to be done to protect these communities and all New Yorkers from harmful toxic emissions hidden in plain sight.

Pollution carries a hefty price tag. According to a report by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, approximately 1.4 million New Yorkers suffer from asthma, which the Department of Health estimates costs $1.3 billion in direct medical expenses, lost productivity, and the priceless loss of life.

Policymakers can make an equitable difference by committing to cut emissions from power plants, preserving access to low-and non-emitting baseload power sources, as well as transitioning out cars and trucks to alternative fuels including electricity and compressed natural gas. These policies prioritize air quality and work to re-distribute the disproportion burden that vulnerable populations shoulder for clean energy enthusiasts.

This is why increasing access to infrastructure to recharge electric cars or refuel CNG trucks is of urgency. This can take a significant bite out of tailpipe emissions, and clear the air along densely populated transit corridors. This would directly benefit minority neighborhoods.

Further, new energy initiatives should not cloak efforts to subtract nuclear power from New York’s fuel mix. Germany, Japan, and California offer cautionary tales of creative clean energy funds backfiring. Each prematurely closed nuclear power plants and are now grappling with some of the highest emissions ever recorded, increased electric prices, and tenuous grid reliability.

New York must take care not to make the same mistake with Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant that supplies over 25 percent of New York City’s power and 11 percent statewide.

Clean air should not be packaged as a luxury good for the well to do. It should be available for all New Yorkers.


Norris McDonald is the Founder and President African American Environmental Association (AAEA) and a member of the New York Area Advisory Board.