Queens marches against environmental racism

By Gabe Falsetta

While over 200,000 people marched in D.C. for Climate, Jobs, and Justice, hundreds of thousands more in other cities around the country also marched. Several hundred Queens residents turned out for the People’s Climate March in Woodside, walking six miles in the warm sun to Astoria. Many of us whose Queens bus to D.C. didn’t show joined the Queens march organized by PCM, NYCHA and People Take Action.

Also marching were The Queens Peace Council, Veterans for Peace – Chapter 34, Make the Road, and others.  The march started at the Woodside New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) complex and snaked through the six-mile procession, stopping at Astoria Houses, Ravenswood houses, and Queensbridge Houses.

Council member Costa Constantinides of District 22 spoke to the crowd. Pointing to the waste plant in their neighborhood, he said, “This plant burned six million gallons of No. six oil this year and 12 million gallons last year. This grade of oil has many noxious gasses when burned. My district has higher levels of asthma and hospitalizations. When Trump is stepping out, we have to step up!”

Costa’s is co-author of INT. 359 (bit.do/INT359), which ensures that the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Mental Health and Hygiene will identify and study environmental justice communities, neighborhoods with a significant low-income population and communities of color. The study would include sources of pollution, adverse health impacts on the pollution, the environmental impacts of city policies on communities, barriers to participation by the communities in environmental decision-making, use and potential future use of renewable energies, and policy recommendations to address environmental concerns.

A typical comment by marchers was expressed by Jane who said, “I’m marching against Trump’s cuts to the EPA and back stepping on the path to climate action; I care about planet earth!”

Mothers and fathers marched with their children alongside a beautiful rainbow of humanity sending the message to this administration that we will not go back, that we will resist at every turn, and that protecting the planet and overturning environmental racism must be at the forefront of the struggle.

Karen and Maxium came from Berkeley, CA to visit their son who lives in Astoria and joined in the march. Karen said, “This march is so important and we are happy to be a part of it.” Daniel and his friend heard about the march from the Queens Action Council, one of the march organizations.

At each NYCHA housing stop we had the opportunity to talk with residents who had set up tables with water, bagels and snacks. But most important, it was empowering for the marchers to connect with the residents and that we will be working together to stop exposing NYCHA residents to this environmental injustice.

Throughout the city, NYCHA tenants are also organizing for a People’s NYCHA Plan that would allocate $1 Billion per year to address much needed repairs to NYCHA apartments. NYCHA residents are suffering from asthma and other ailments as a result of toxic mold, poor ventilation, asbestos, failing elevators, crumbling pipes, failing heat, and leaky roofs in their buildings. (bit.do/peoplesnychaplan). A wide coalition of housing, community, and labor advocates rallied on April 20 against the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Director of the Hanock Astoria Cornerstone program, Raphael, who lives in Ravenswood housing, had this to say about the march: “This is very positive, I wish I would see more residents participating because I think the residents in New York City housing don’t realize how much power they do have when it comes to certain changes they can make moving forward.”

Jerome Nathanael a community organizer in Western Queens with City Harvest, told People’s Weekly World, “People’s Climate March, NYCHA People Take Action, organized by Queens Action Council is a grassroots [coalition] based here from Ravenswood, Woodside, Queensbridge and Astoria. We are marching for climate justice and [are] very intentional about linking this around food justice. Because if we have no earth we have no food. If we don’t have a sustainable food system, that again will impact unfortunately communities of color more than the general population or the dominant society.”

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