The real-estate led development of New York City has brought new people into the city, while displacing others, and boosted demand for services, while those providing them struggle to get by on minimum wages, tips, and docked hours. The one-sided focus has failed to take care of problems of overcrowding, and an antiquated subway system is crumbling under the weight of neglect, punishing commuters.
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.
Knowledge is empowerment, she believes. Callers almost always “feel that they have control over their situation” and that their concerns are valid after speaking to a volunteer, she says. “All we talk about in this city in terms of housing is building new developments. Meanwhile, people are suffering in their housing situations now, and there’s no one out there saying, ‘you should be mad and stand up to your landlord if they are doing something wrong.’”
With the City Council having taken no action in almost a year on 12 bills intended to curb “construction as harassment,” housing activists are pressuring it to move.