The Council of the City of New York
Office of Costa Constantinides
For Immediate Release
April 5, 2017
Contact: Shachar Sharon
City Council Passes Most Comprehensive Environmental Justice Legislation in Nation
New York City Hall – The New York City Council today voted overwhelmingly to pass INT. 359, sponsored by Council Member Costa Constantinides, and INT. 886, sponsored by Council Member Inez Barron, the most comprehensive environmental justice legislative package of any city in the nation.
INT. 359 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 or communities of color. The study would include 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 be available publicly on a map online. INT. 886 creates an interagency working group to develop plans that ensures all neighborhoods have equal access to environmental protection against pollution as well as environmental benefits including greenspace, waterfront access, and infrastructure while including neighborhoods in the planning process.
Constantinides said, “As the recent executive order on climate shows, the Trump administration will choose fossil fuels over our public health and safety. 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. We are the first city in the nation to pass any piece of environmental justice legislation since the Trump inauguration and the only city in the nation to pass environmental justice legislation this comprehensive. 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. I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito for her support and my colleague Council Member Barron for her partnership.”
Barron said, “This bill is precedent setting and will address how citywide agencies will develop a proactive plan for communities to equitably share both the benefits and burdens of environmental concerns. This law affirms that no group should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state or local programs and policies; or receive an inequitably low share of environmental benefits.”
“For too long, the environmental impacts of industry have been felt and distributed disproportionately among New York City’s communities,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Commissioning an environmental justice study and developing a comprehensive plan to address these effects is a major step toward bringing environmental equity to our neighborhoods. I am proud of the City Council for leading the way on this issue, and thank Council Member Inez Barron and Environmental Protection Committee Chair Costa Constantinides for their sponsoring of this essential legislation.”
Low-income communities and communities of color bear the disproportionate burdens of power plants, sewage treatment plants, highways, factories, and other sources of hazardous pollution. These emissions are stagnant and therefore concentrated in these communities. Because of this pollution, these neighborhoods have worse air quality and higher rates of asthma and hospitalizations.
The legislation received support from environmental advocacy groups.
WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s Deputy Director, Cecil Corbin-Mark said, “The New York City Council just sent a big message to our city and the entire country—environmental injustice is real and it matters. These bills will provide NYC a comprehensive legislative strategy to address environmental injustices throughout the city of New York. They will also serve as a model for other cities in a Trump era, when we know local action will have a huge impact on community health and reducing health disparities. We especially want to send our gratitude to Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Member Barron, Council Member Constantinides, Samara Swanston, Counsel to the Environmental Protection Committee, and Indigo Washington, Legislative Director to Council member Inez Barron for all their hard work and support on making these two groundbreaking bills happen.”
“We commend Council Members Constantinides and Barron for taking the lead on codifying the commitments made in OneNYC for a more equitable and targeted approach to City services. Intro 359 and 886 are the start of a necessary conversation with the Administration on strategies to address environmental justice with an action plan that is S.M.A.R.T. – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters.
Council Member Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council’s 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. He serves as the chair the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee and sits on six additional committees: Civil Service & Labor, Contracts, Cultural Affairs, Oversight & Investigations, Sanitation, and Transportation. For more information, visit council.nyc.gov/costa.