Breathing uneasy

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007 | All Things, Books, NYC History

Back at the castle-like Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library for a book club discussion of Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice.

Jefferson Market

Jefferson Market

Julie Sze’s book studies how racial minority and low-income communities often disproportionately suffer the adverse effects of urban environmental problems. The Environmental Justice Movement, rooted in both the civil rights and environmental movements, endeavors to bring and sustain environmental quality to these neighborhoods, which often lack the political clout to effect change on their own.

Cecil Corbin-Mark, the first and current Program Director of the West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT) led the talk. In addition to his work with WE ACT, Corbin-Mark is an active board member of a number of environmental justice, parks and planning organizations. WE ACT is dedicated to protecting environmental quality, improving environmental health and combatting “environmental racism.” The organization was founded in March 1988 to address ongoing community struggles around the poor management of the North River Sewer (or “Wastewater”) Treatment Plant and the Manhattanville Bus Depot in Harlem.

According to WE ACT, the 7.5 mile area that comprises Harlem is densely populated by half a million residents, yet carries a disproportionate number of the city’s environmental burdens. Above 96th Street (which shares what’s known as an “air corridor” with the South Bronx), there are six of the seven bus depots in Manhattan, the city’s largest sewage treatment plant, and miles of truck-trafficked expressways. Each of these sites is a source of diesel fuel combustion; the toxic emissions are a known health hazard: possibly carcinogenic, according to a 2002 Environmental Protection Agency report, and an asthma irritant.

The diesel particulates have long contributed to increased rates of respiratory illness among neighborhood children, degrading the public health and quality of life in that area. According to Corbin-Mark, Harlem is in the midst of an asthma epidemic; a study conducted in 2003 cited that one in four children in central Harlem has tested positive for asthma — four times the national average of one in sixteen children. The air pollution has also been linked to lower birth weights in Upper Manhattan and South Bronx.

Author Sze, who received her doctorate in American Studies from NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science, will talk about her new book at the school on Wednesday evening April 11 in an event co-presented by Transportation Alternatives and UPROSE.

The Jefferson Market Garden, to the south of the library:

Jefferson Greening

Jefferson Greening

There are 2 Comments ... Breathing uneasy

April 11, 2007

Haben Sie zum Schloss Neuschwanstein gegangen?
Nein, nein, dass kann nicht sein.

April 11, 2007

Verzeihung, ich habe nicht recht verstanden. (Sorry, I didn’t quite understand.)

Go for it ...