MetroFocus

FULL EPISODE

MetroFocus: September 22, 2021

Tonight as a part of our ongoing Peril and Promise initiative reporting on the human stories of climate change and its solutions, Dutch documentary photographer Kadir van Lohuizen takes us inside his exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York along with Chief Curator and Deputy Director, Sarah Henry. We also take a look at the climate and racial justice movement in New York.

AIRED: September 22, 2021 | 0:28:39
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> THIS IS "METROFOCUS" WITH

RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND

JENNA FLANAGAN.

"METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM,

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN

GANZ COONEY FUND,

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ,

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG,

THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER,

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD,

CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN

FAMILY,

JUDY AND JOSH WESTON,

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN

FOUNDATION.

DR. P. ROY AND, THE MARK HASSE

FOUNDATION.

>>> GOOD EVENING, I'M JENNA

FLANAGAN.

WHEN THE REMNANTS OF HURRICANE

IDA TORE THROUGH OUR REGION,

MORE THAN 40 PEOPLE WERE KILLED.

ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOODS, ROADS AND

SUBWAYS WERE SUBMERGED IN WATER

AND THE WIDESPREAD FLOODING

HIGHLIGHTED THE URGENT THREAT

THAT EXTREME WEATHER AND CLIMATE

CHANGE POSES TO OUR AREA AND THE

WORLD.

THAT THREAT IS THE SUBJECT OF A

FASCINATING EXHIBIT AT THE

MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK

CALL EED "RISING TIDE: VISUALIZG

THE HUMAN COST OF THE CLIMATE

CRISIS."

THE WORK IS OF KADIR VAN

LOH

LOHUIZEN, WITH PHOTOGRAPHS,

VIDEO, AS WELL AS DRONE IMAGES

AND SOUND.

JOINING ME TO TALK ABOUT THIS

EXHIBIT AS PART OF YOUR ONGOING

"PERIL AND PROMISE" INITIATIVE,

REPORTING ON THE HUMAN STORIES

OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS

SOLUTIONS ARE KADIR VAN

LOHUIZEN.

WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

>> THANK YOU.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

>> AND WE'RE ALSO JOINED BY

SARAH HENRY.

SARAH IS THE CHIEF CURATOR AND

DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR THE MUSEUM

OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

SARAH, WELCOME.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING

US HERE.

>> SO, KADIR, I WANT TO START

WITH YOU AND JUST SORT OF ASK,

WHEN DID YOU START THIS PROJECT

AND WHERE WAS IT THAT YOU WENT,

BECAUSE IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT NEW

YORK.

>> IT'S DEFINITELY NOT JUST

ABOUT NEW YORK AND I THINK I

STARTED THE PROJECT, IT WAS 2011

WHEN I WAS WORKING ON A

DIFFERENT STORY, WHICH WAS ABOUT

MIGRATION IN THE AMERICAS AND I

WAS TRAVELING FROM THE VERY

SOUTH OF LATIN AMERICA TO THE

VERY NORTH OF ALASKA, BASICALLY,

TO TELL THE STORY ABOUT

CONTEMPORARY MIGRATION AND I WAS

IN -- ABOUT HALFWAY, IN PANAMA,

I CAME TO THESE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND

S AND I WAS INTERVIEWING PEOPLE

THERE, ON THE CARIBBEAN SIDE,

THESE BEAUTIFUL POSTCARD ISLANDS

AND PEOPLE TOLD ME THAT THEY

WERE BEING EVACUATED AND WHEN I

ASKED THEM WHY, THEY SAID, THE

SEA IS COMING.

SO, ALTHOUGH I'M SPEAKING TO YOU

FROM AMSTERDAM AND I LIVE BELOW

THE SEA LEVEL AND WE KNOW LOTS

ABOUT THE ISSUES WITH THE SEA IN

THE NETHERLANDS, I WAS NEVER

AWARE THAT THIS WAS ALREADY AN

ISSUE WHICH WAS HAPPENING TODAY.

I THOUGHT, LIKE MANY OF US, THAT

THIS WAS -- WOULD HAPPEN IN THE

NEXT FEW GENERATIONS.

SO, THAT WAS BASICALLY THE START

OF THE PROJECT AND WHERE I

STARTED TO RESEARCH, BECAUSE I

THOUGHT, IF IT'S HAPPENING

THERE, IT MUST BE HAPPENING

ELSEWHERE.

AND THAT'S HOW IT BECAME A

GLOBAL PROJECT.

>> AND SARAH, WHY WAS THIS AN

EXHIBIT THAT THE MUSEUM WAS

ATTRACTED TO AND WANTED TO MAKE

SURE THAT AS MANY NEW YORKERS

GOT A CHANCE TO SEE IT?

>> WELL, FIRST OF ALL, KADIR'S

IMAGES ARE ABSOLUTELY STUNNING.

THEY ARE HAUNTING.

THEY GET INTO YOUR BRAIN, THEY

GIVE YOU A VISCERAL FEELING OF

THE HUMAN CONSEQUENCES OF THE

CLIMATE CRISIS LIKE NOTHING

WE'VE SEEN BEFORE.

AND WE REALLY -- YOU REALLY HAVE

TO SEE IT TO EXPERIENCE THAT.

AND SECONDARILY, VERY IMPORTANT

TO US AS A MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF

NEW YORK, NEW YORK IS A COASTAL

CITY.

THAT HAS BEEN OUR STRENGTH SINCE

THE FOUNDING OF NEW YORK.

OUR WATERWAYS, BUT IT ALSO MEANS

WE'RE INCREDIBLY VULNERABLE TO

THE CONSEQUENCES OF CLIMATE

CHANGE AND RISING SEA LEVELS.

WE HAVE 520 MILES OF COASTLAND

IN NEW YORK CITY.

JUST IN THE FIVE BURROWS.

AND SO THINK ABOUT LOW-LYING

AREAS LIKE THE ROCKAWAYS OR

HUNT'S POINT OR THE SHORE OF

STATEN ISLAND, THERE IS AN

INCREDIBLE VULNERABILITY FOR SO

MANY NEW YORKERS AND IT'S

CRITICAL FOR US TO THINK AS NEW

YORKERS AND AS THE MUSEUM OF THE

CITY OF NEW YORK, HOW TO FACE

THIS CHANGE, HOW TO MITIGATE IT

AS BEST AS POSSIBLE, TO THINK

ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY AND ALSO

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE RESILIENT.

AS THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW

YORK, WE CONNECT PAST, PRESENT

AND FUTURE AND THERE'S NOTHING

MORE THAT'S GOING TO SHAPE OUR

FUTURE THAN THIS QUESTION.

>> KADIR, I WONDER WHAT IT WAS

YOU WERE SORT OF SETTING OUT TO

ACCOMPLISH OR DID YOU HAVE A

GOAL IN MIND WHEN YOU BEGAN THIS

PROJECT?

AND I ASKED THAT BECAUSE, WHAT

YOU'RE REALLY SORT OF ATTEMPTING

TO DO, AT LEAST AS I CAN SEE IT,

IS DOCUMENT SOMETHING THAT ISN'T

NECESSARILY VISUAL TO PEOPLE.

AND THE FACT THAT IT ISN'T

NECESSARILY VISUAL YET TO SOME

PEOPLE STILL LEAVES SOME ROOM

FOR PERHAPS DENIALISM.

SO, WHAT WAS YOUR INTENTION

GOING INTO THIS?

>> WELL, MY INTENTION STARTED,

OBVIOUSLY, WITH THE RESEARCH AND

I THINK IT -- THE IMAGES PROVE

THAT THIS IS HAPPENING TODAY,

BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, WE ASSUME --

I THINK MOST OF US KNOW THAT THE

SEA LEVEL IS RISING, NO MATTER

IF WE CUT OUR EMISSIONS TODAY,

IT WILL RISE ANYWAY.

BUT I WANTED TO SHOW AND I THINK

THAT THAT WAS THE CHALLENGE FROM

THE START, A WAY FOR THE WATER

TO BE PERMANENTLY IN YOUR HOUSE,

YOU KNOW, IT STARTS WITH

FREQUENT FLOODS, IT STARTS WHEN

THE WATER DOESN'T RECEDE THAT

PEOPLE -- THE SOIL GETS --

>> KADIR, I THINK HE MIGHT HAVE

FROZEN FOR A SECOND, SO, SARAH,

I'LL GO BACK TO YOU --

>> YES.

>> AND ASK, HOW DOES, AT LEAST

IN YOUR OPINION, THE IMAGES OF

THE FLOODING AND THE FIRES ARE

THINGS THAT WE HAVE SEEN WHEN

HURRICANES HAPPEN, BUT HOW DO

YOU THINK THAT VISITORS TO THE

MUSEUM WILL EXPERIENCE THIS WHEN

THEY ACTUALLY VISIT THE EXHIBIT?

>> SURE.

WELL, THE EXHIBITION WAS

ORIGINALLY ON VIEW AT THE

NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM IN

AMSTERDAM, WHO IS ONE OF OR

PARTNERS ON THIS PROJECT, ALONG

WITH THE OCEAN GRAPHIC

INSTITUTION.

THE MUSEUM IS FIRST AND FOREMOST

A SENSORY PLACE, SO, THIS IS

SOMETHING WE HEAR ABOUT, BUT NOT

NECESSARILY SOMETHING THAT WE

CAN EXPERIENCE WITH OUR OWN

EYES, THOUGH EVENTS LIKE

HURRICANES, SUPERSTORM SANDY OR

IDA RECENTLY CERTAINLY DROVE IT

HOME IN THE FIVE BOROUGHS.

SO, THAT IS ONE OF THE IMPORTANT

THINGS OF WALKING INTO THAT

STRIKING ROOM AND BEING

SURROUNDED BY THESE VIDEOS AND

IMAGES.

WE ALSO HAVE A SECTION OF THE

EXHIBITION ABOUT SPECIFICALLY

WHAT NEW YORK IS TOGETHER TO

F

DOING TO FACE CLIMATE CHANGE AND

GET PEOPLE TO THINK WHAT ACTIONS

WE CAN TAKE INDIVIDUALLY AND

WHAT WE CAN TAKE COLLECTIVELY TO

MAKE OURSELVES A MORE RESILIENT

CITY.

AND SO, WE GIVE PEOPLE A LITTLE

CHANCE TO THINK POSITIVELY ABOUT

THE FUTURE, EVEN WHILE FACING

THE E NORTY OF THE REALITY THAT

WE'RE ALL FACED WITH AND, IN

FACT, COMING UP IN THE

MID-OCTOBER, OCTOBER 17th, WE'RE

HAVING A GREEN ACTIVIST NEW YORK

SORT OF ECO-FEST, WHERE PEOPLE

CAN COME AND HEAR FROM PEOPLE

WHO ARE REALLY BEING ACTIVE IN

THIS AREA, WHETHER IT'S ON THE

VENDOR SIDE, PERFORMANCES, YOUNG

PEOPLE SPEAKING UP.

REALLY DRIVING HOME THE WAYS IN

WHICH WE ARE ALL IN THIS

TOGETHER AND I'LL SAY, AMONG THE

PLEDGES THAT YOU CAN TAKE IN THE

EXHIBITION, THERE'S A WHOLE

ARRAY OF THEM, ONE OF THEM IS

JUST TO TALK ABOUT THE CLIMATE.

AS WE LEARNED FROM OUR FRIENDS

AT THE CLIMATE MUSEUM, BREAKING

THE CLIMATE SCIENCE IS AN

IMPORTANT PIECE OF THIS, AND I

THINK KADIR'S WORK DOES THAT IN

SUCH A PROFOUND SENSORY AND

VISUAL WAY.

>> WELL, KADIR, I KNOW THAT WE

LOST YOU VERY BRIEFLY FOR A

MOMENT, BUT -- SO, I WANTED TO

GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO FINISH OUT

A THOUGHT THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE

BEEN IN THE PROCESS OF

DELIVERING BEFORE WE LOST YOUR

CONNECTION.

KADIR, I THINK YOU ARE MUTED

AGAIN.

>> OKAY.

>> YEAH.

>> SHOULD I START OVER?

>> YEAH, NO, JUST -- BECAUSE I

KNOW THAT WE LOST YOU AND I WANT

TO MAKE SURE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO

FULLY SHARE WHATEVER THOUGHT IT

WAS THAT YOU WERE IN THE PROCESS

OF GIVING US BEFORE WE HAD TO

RECONNECT.

>> WELL, I THINK WHAT'S

IMPORTANT TO -- WHAT WAS

IMPORTANT FOR ME TO LEARN AND I

THINK THAT'S ALSO IMPORTANT,

WHAT THE IMAGES EXPRESS IS THAT

WE DON'T HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE

WATER TO BE PERMANENTLY IN YOUR

HOUSE.

THE ISSUE STARTS MUCH EARLIER,

IT STARTS WITH SEA WATER COMING

IN BECAUSE OF MORE FREQUENT

HEAVIER STORMS, BECAUSE OF

FLOODS, SEA WATER DOESN'T RECEDE

AND PEOPLE CAN'T GROW THEIR

CROPS ANYMORE BECAUSE THEIR LAND

BEC

BECOMES.

THERE'S NO SAFE DRINKING WATER.

THERE'S MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN

THE WORLD ALREADY WHO ARE

RELOCATING MOST OFTEN BY

THEMSELVES TO HIGHER GROUND.

SO, YOU KNOW, I THINK, I HOPE

THAT IT SENDS AN URGENCY THAT WE

REALLY HAVE TO ACT TODAY AND I

THINK MANY OF US HAVE SEEN THE

REPORT FROM THE INTERNATIONAL

CLIMATE PANEL, WHICH JUST CAME

OUT, WHICH WAS VERY ALARMING.

VERY ALARMING FOR ANY COASTAL

REGION, FOR ANY COASTAL CITIES.

AND --

>> WELL, I DO WANT TO ASK THEN,

BECAUSE WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT, YOU

KNOW, HOW PEOPLE IN OTHER PARTS

OF THE WORLD ARE ALREADY

STARTING TO RELOCATE, THERE

DOESN'T SEEM TO BE, AT LEAST A

CLIMATE CHANGE DRIVEN MIGRATION

HAPPENING AS MUCH IN AMERICA AND

THERE CAN BE ALL SORTS OF

REASONS BEHIND THAT, BUT

CONSIDERING THAT THIS PROJECT

TOOK YOU ALL OVER THE WORLD, I'M

WONDERING, WHAT ARE THE

SIMILARITIES THAT YOU SAW IN

OTHER COUNTRIES THAT PERHAPS

AMERICANS WOULDN'T CONSIDER

THEMSELVES HAVING ANYTHING IN

COMMON WITH THAT YOU ALSO WERE

SEEING HERE?

>> WELL, I THINK EXTREME WEATHER

EVENTS ARE STILL OFTEN

CONSIDERED BY TOO MANY PEOPLE AS

BEING NORMALITY.

AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, IF YOU

LOOK AT THE FIRES IN THE U.S.,

IF YOU LOOK WHAT HAPPENED WITH

HURRICANE IDA, IF YOU LOOK AT

THE FREQUENCY OF THE TORNADOES,

THE FREQUENCY AND THE STRENGTHS

OF HURRICANES, IT'S ALL AN

INDICATION THAT WE ARE IN THE

MIDST OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS.

AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, WE OWE TO

OUR NEXT GENERATIONS THAT WE

ACT, YOU KNOW?

WE -- WE CAN'T DENY IT ANYMORE.

I MEAN, THERE'S SO MUCH PROOF

THAT THIS IS THE CASE AND THAT

THIS IS HAPPENING AND THE ONLY

WAY TO -- AT LEAST TO SLOW IT

DOWN IS THAT WE CUT OUR

EMISSIONS AND THAT WE TRY TO

STABILIZE THE WARMING UP OF THIS

PLANET.

AND OTHERWISE, IT'S GOING TO BE

VERY CATASTROPHIC FOR THE NEXT

GENERATIONS AND I THINK IT'S OUR

RESPONSIBILITY.

WE ARE THE GENERATION WHO REALLY

FLOURISHED, YOU KNOW?

WE HAD EVERYTHING WE WANTED AND

WE HAD IT BETTER THAN OUR

PARENTS, WE HAD IT BETTER THAN

OUR GRANDPARENTS AND I THINK FOR

THE NEXT GENERATIONS TO COME,

THE LIFE IS GOING TO BE -- IS

GOING TO BE DIFFERENT.

AND WE SHOULD BE READY TO DO A

STEP BACK.

>> OF COURSE.

SARAH, WE HAVE ABOUT TEN SECONDS

LEFT, SO JUST, ONE MORE TIME,

YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT IT IS THAT

PEOPLE SHOULD EXPECT OR WHY

WOULD PEOPLE WANT TO MAKE SURE

THAT THEY SEE THIS EXHIBIT?

>> WELL, FIRST OF ALL, TO

EXPERIENCE THE KINSHIP WITH

PEOPLE ALL AROUND THE WORLD, THE

WAYS THAT WE DO SHARE THESE

OCEANS TOGETHER AND IT IS VERY

MOVING AND REALLY BEAUTIFUL,

EVEN THOUGH IT'S A TROUBLING --

A TROUBLING -- DEEPLY TROUBLING

STORY, BUT ALSO TO EXPERIENCE A

LITTLE BIT OF HOPE.

AND TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT YOU

AND I AND ALL OF US TOGETHER CAN

DO.

>> ALL RIGHT, WELL, I WANT TO

THANK BOTH OF MY GUESTS, KADIR,

I HOPE I'M PRONOUNCING YOUR NAME

CLOSE TO CORRECT, WHO OF COURSE

IS THE ARTIST BEHIND THIS

AMAZING EXHIBIT TITLED "RISING

TIDE: VISUALIZING THE HUMAN COST

OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS."

AND OF COURSE, THANK YOU TO

SARAH HENRY, THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR

FOR MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW

YORK.

THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US.

>> THANK YOU.

>> THANK YOU.

>>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO

"METROFOCUS," I'M JENNA

FLANAGAN.

THIS WEEK, NEW YORK CITY IS

HOSTING CLIMATE WEEK NYC, THE

LARGEST INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE

SUMMIT OF THE YEAR.

THE EVENT COMES AT A TIME WHEN

RAGING WILDFIRES ACROSS THE WEST

COAST HAVE HIGHLIGHTED THE

CATASTROPHIC EFFECTS OF CLIMATE

CHANGE.

IT ALSO COMES AS A TIME AMID

HEIGHTENED AWARENESS OF HOW

ENVIRONMENTAL DANGERS CAN

EXACERBATE WIDESPREAD RACIAL

INEQUALITY, OFTEN WITH DEADLY

CONSEQUENCES.

A FACT MADE CLEAR THIS YEAR BY

THE DISPROPROFESSION GNAT IMPACT

OF COVID-19 ON LOW INCOME AND

COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

OUR NEXT GUEST HAS BEEN WORKING

ON THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN

SOCIAL JUSTICE AND

ENVIRONMENTALISM FOR 30 YEARS.

IT ALL BEGAN WITH HER WITH A

FIGHT OVER A SEWAGE PLANT THAT

WAS POLLUTING HER WEST HARLEM

NEIGHBORHOOD IN THE 1980s AND

SHE'S BEEN AT IT EVER SINCE.

PEGGY SHEPHERD IS THE COFOUNDER

AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF WE ACT

FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, A

COMMUNITY-BASED ADVOCACY GROUP

THAT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST

ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS IN

THE STATE TO BE CREATED BY AND

RUN BY PEOPLE OF COLOR.

SHE JOINS US NOW AS PART OF OUR

"CHASING THE DREAM" INITIATIVE

ON POVERTY, JUSTICE AND ECONOMIC

OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

AND PEGGY, I'M SO PROUD TO

WELCOME YOU TO "METROFOCUS."

>> THANK YOU.

GLAD TO TALK WITH YOU TODAY.

>> OH, THANK YOU.

SO, FIRST, I DO WANT TO SORT OF

MAYBE DEMYSTIFY, BECAUSE FOR A

LOT OF PEOPLE, ENVIRONMENTAL

JUSTICE, I MEAN, WE ALL LIVE ON

THIS PLANET, WE ALL EXPERIENCE

THE ENVIRONMENT TOGETHER, SO,

WE'RE ALL QUOTE UNQUOTE IN THE

SAME BOAT, SOMETHING WE KEEP

HEARING.

AND I WAS WONDERING IF YOU COULD

SORT OF TALK ABOUT HOW

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND RACIAL

JUSTICE, WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT

MEAN AND HOW DO THEY INTERSECT,

ESPECIALLY IN NEW YORK?

>> CERTAINLY.

YOU KNOW, WHEN WE TALK ABOUT

ACHIEVING ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE,

WE'RE WORKING TOGETHER FIGHT

ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM.

WHAT IS THAT?

THAT IS THE INTENTIONAL

TARGETING OF POLLUTION AND

POLLUTING FACILITIES IN

COMMUNITIES OF COLOR FOR A

NUMBER OF REASONS.

BECAUSE THEY ARE LESS INFORMED

ABOUT THESE ISSUES, THEY MAY

VOTE LESS, HAVE LESS POLITICAL

POWER, OFTEN LAND OR PROPERTY IN

THOSE COMMUNITIES MAY BE CHEAPER

THAN IN OTHERS.

SO FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS,

POLLUTION IS TARGETED FOR THOSE

COMMUNITIES AND A STUDY FROM

1986 CALLED TOXIC WASTE AND RACE

WAS THE FIRST DOCUMENT THAT THE

PRIMARY PREDICTOR OF WHERE TOXIC

WASTE SITE WILL BE LOCATED IS A

COMMUNITY OF COLOR AND THEN

SECONDARILY, A POOR COMMUNITY.

AND OVER THE DECADES, THERE HAVE

BEEN NUMEROUS STUDIES THAT

CONTINUE TO DOCUMENT AND CONFIRM

THAT DYNAMIC.

WE ALSO KNOW, FOR INSTANCE, THAT

OVER 80% OF LATINOS LIVE IN A

COMMUNITY THAT DOES NOT -- THAT

IS NOT IN ATTAINMENT OF CLEAN

AIR STANDARDS AND OVER 70% OF

AFRICAN-AMERICANS LIVE IN A

COMMUNITY WITH HIGH AIR

POLLUTION.

AND, OF COURSE, AS YOU SAID IN

YOUR OPENING, WE NOW UNDERSTAND

FROM THE HARVARD STUDIES THAT

BEING EXPOSED TO HIGH LEVELS OF

AIR POLLUTION HAVE INCREASED THE

RISK OF DEATH FROM COVID,

ESPECIALLY FOR

AFRICAN-AMERICANS.

>> OF COURSE.

OF COURSE.

AND ALSO, I WAS WONDERING, I

MEAN, I TOUCHED ON IT A LITTLE

BIT IN THE INTRO, BUT IF YOU

COULD SORT OF TELL US ABOUT YOUR

ORGANIZATION AND WHAT IS THE

NEED THAT IT IS AIMING TO FILL?

YOU SORT OF EXPLAINED IT A

LITTLE BIT, BUT I JUST WANT

PEOPLE TO BE REALLY, REALLY

CLEAR ON THIS.

>> WELL, YOU KNOW WHAT, I FOUND,

YOU KNOW, I GOT STARTED WORKING

IN THE JESSE JACKSON CAMPAIGN,

HIS FIRST CAMPAIGN FOR PRESIDENT

AND I DID PUBLIC RELATIONS IN

MANHATTAN AND IT REALLY GAVE ME

THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO TO

DIFFERENT NEIGHBORHOODS AND WORK

WITH LEADERS THERE AND TO

UNDERSTAND THE NEIGHBORHOODS

THAT HAD MORE BENEFITS, LIKE

GREENWICH VILLAGE, AND THE

NEIGHBORHOODS LIKE HARLEM, WHO

HAD FEWER OF THOSE BENEFITS.

AND, OF COURSE, MORE OF THE

CHALLENGING ISSUES.

AND SO, WHEN I BECAME THE

DEMOCRATIC DISTRICT LEADER IN

WEST HARLEM, VOLUNTEERS CAME TO

ME AND SAID, YOU KNOW, THERE'S

THIS SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT AND

NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT WHAT

THAT ENTAILED, WE WERE TOLD, ARE

YOU GOING TO GET US JOBS THERE?

SO I SET OUT TO GET PEOPLE JOBS

THERE, WE GOT 30 PEOPLE HIRED

AND THEN WHEN THE PLANT BEGAN

OPERATING, WE REALIZED THAT THE

EMISSIONS AND THE ODORS WERE

MAKING PEOPLE SICK.

NOW, THIS PLANT IS ALONG

RIVERSIDE DRIVE ON THE HUDSON

RIVER BETWEEN 138th AND 145th

STREETS AND IT'S LITERALLY

ACROSS THE STREET FROM PEOPLE'S

HOMES.

AND WE BEGAN AN EIGHT-YEAR

ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN AS

VOLUNTEERS TO HOLD THE CITY

ACCOUNTABLE.

BACK THEN, IT WAS MAYOR KOCH.

HE HAD A TERRIBLE RELATIONSHIP

WITH UPTOWN COMMUNITIES, HE SAID

WE WERE IMAGINING IT, MAKING IT

UP.

AND OF COURSE WHEN DAVID

DINKINS, WHO LIVED UPTOWN,

BECAME BOROUGH PRESIDENT AND

THEN MAYOR, HE SAID, THERE'S A

PROBLEM AND WE'RE GOING TO FIX

IT.

AND HE THEN THROUGH OUR

ORGANIZATIONING HE GAVE MONEY TO

A SCIENTIST TO DO A REPORT ON

THE OPERATIONS OF THE PLANT,

WHICH REALLY GAVE US FACTS TO

BEGIN TO TALK TO THE MEDIA AND

POLICYMAKERS ABOUT.

IT ALSO GAVE US AN OPPORTUNITY

TO EDUCATE THE COMMUNITY ON THIS

ISSUE.

AND SO WE WERE ABLE TO GET THE

MAYOR TO COMMIT $55 MILLION TO

FIX THE PLANT.

WE WERE ABLE TO GET A $1.1

MILLION ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFIT

SETTLEMENT FOR THE WEST HARLEM

COMMUNITY TO USE FOR

ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECTS.

AND WE WERE KIND OF OFF AND

RUNNING, BECAUSE WHEN YOU SEE

ONE PROBLEM, YOUR EYES ARE OPEN

TO ALL OF THE OTHER ISSUES GOING

ON IN THE COMMUNITY AND SO

THAT'S WHEN WE REALIZED THAT WE

WERE HOME TO OVER ONE-THIRD OF

THE ENTIRE DIESEL BUS FLEET IN

NEW YORK CITY.

>> WOW.

>> YOU KNOW, NEW YORK, MANHATTAN

IS A SMALL AREA IN TERMS OF --

>> YES, IT IS.

>> SQUARE MILES, BUT WE HOUSED

OVER ONE-THIRD OF THE LARGEST

DIESEL BUS FLEET IN THE COUNTRY.

IN THOSE NEIGHBORHOODS.

AND DIESEL FUMES ARE

CARCINOGENS, SO, THEN WE BEGAN A

CAMPAIGN THAT TOOK ABOUT 18

YEARS, BUT BY WORKING WITH THE

COLUMBIA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH

AND TRANSLATING THE RESEARCH

THEY WERE DOING ON THE IMPACT OF

DIESEL ON PREGNANT WOMEN AND

THEIR CHILDREN, WE WERE ABLE TO

BEGIN TO USE THAT RESEARCH TO

ADVOCATE THROUGH THE MEDIA, TO

THE GOVERNOR AND THROUGH TO THE

MTA ABOUT THIS ISSUE AND THEN WE

NOW TURNED UP AND TAKE A LOOK

AND EVERY BUS HAS BEEN

TRANSFORMED TO HYBRID.

AND NOW THEY'RE TRANSFORMING TO

ELECTRIC BUSES.

>> SO, THAT'S A GREAT EXAMPLE OF

NOT ONLY, FIRST OF ALL, THE

HISTORY OF THE ORGANIZATION, BUT

ALSO HOW IT ACTUALLY PUTS

ENVIRONMENTALISM INTO ACTION IN

A CITY LIKE NEW YORK.

GIVEN THAT THIS CONFERENCE, THIS

IS GOING TO BE HAPPENING THIS

WEEK, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY, FROM

YOUR PERSPECTIVE, THE BIGGEST

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE FACING NEW

YORK AND ARE THERE ANY OBSTACLES

TO FIXING IT?

>> SO, I'D SAY SOME OF THE

BIGGEST OBSTACLES, CERTAINLY AN

IMPORTANT ISSUE FOR OUR

COMMUNITIES AND ALL OF NEW YORK

CITY IS POOR AIR QUALITY.

A LOT OF THAT'S DUE TO MOBILE

SOURCES, YOU KNOW, WE HAVE WHAT,

I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY BRIDGES,

MAYBE SIX OR SEVEN BRIDGES

COMING -- THAT ARE BRINGING

TRAFFIC AND TRUCKS INTO NEW YORK

CITY USING OUR NEIGHBORHOOD

STREETS AS, YOU KNOW,

THOROUGHFARES, SO, THAT BECOMES

A BIG ISSUE.

BUT YOU KNOW, A VERY IMPORTANT

ISSUE IS WHETHER OR NOT THE MOST

EFFECTED COMMUNITIES HAVE A

VOICE IN ENVIRONMENTAL

DECISION-MAKING.

AND SO, THE THEORY OF CHANGE FOR

MY ORGANIZATION, WE ACT FOR

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, IS THAT

WE MUST ENGAGE AND ORGANIZE

COMMUNITY RESIDENTS TO BE

INVOLVED IN ENVIRONMENTAL

DECISION-MAKING.

YOU MUST HAVE THE MOST AFFECTED

PEOPLE REALLY IN THOSE

DECISIONS.

I'LL GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE OUTSIDE

OF NEW YORK.

THIS IS CLIMATE WEEK AND SO

WE'RE THINKING ABOUT CLIMATE ALL

OVER THE COUNTRY, THE WILDFIRES,

THE HURRICANES IN THE GULF

COAST.

WHEN WE THINK ABOUT KATRINA,

HURRICANE KATRINA, THAT REALLY

RAVAGED THE GULF COAST AND NEW

ORLEANS, WHEN THAT CITY WAS, YOU

KNOW, THINKING ABOUT EVACUATION

AND THINKING ABOUT EMERGENCY

RESPONSE, OBVIOUSLY, THEY DIDN'T

HAVE LOWER INCOME COMMUNITIES

REPRESENTED IN THOSE MEETINGS,

BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T SEEM TO KNOW

THAT THE LOW INCOME COMMUNITY

DIDN'T HAVE A CAR TO EVACUATE,

THEY DIDN'T HAVE A CREDIT CARD

TO GO TO A HOTEL.

SO THOSE WERE THE PEOPLE WE SAW

SITTING ON THE ROOF HOLDING UP A

SIGN SAYING "HELP."

THEY WERE THE PEOPLE IN THE

COLISEUM, OR, THE SPORTS

STADIUM, YOU KNOW, SLEEPING ON

COTS FOR WEEKS.

SO, AGAIN, WE REALLY HAVE TO

ENGAGE FOLKS.

AND HERE IN NEW YORK CITY, WE'RE

REALLY LOOKING AT A TRANSITION

FROM FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY TO

RENEWABLES.

OUR COMMUNITIES ARE GOING TO

BENEFIT FROM THAT TRANSITION.

THAT BECOMES AN IMPORTANT ISSUE

AND YES, THERE ARE OBSTACLES.

SOME OF THE OBSTACLES ARE THE

INFLEXIBILITY OF OUR UTILITY

COMPANY.

SOME OF THE OBSTACLES ARE THE

FACT THAT IN THAT TRANSITION,

OUR ENERGY BILLS MAY INCREASE,

BUT WE ALREADY HAVE 30 MILLION

HOUSEHOLDS IN THIS COUNTRY WHO

ARE ENERGY INSECURE.

SO, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN OUR ENERGY

BILLS DO BEGIN TO INCREASE DUE

TO SOME OF THIS TRANSITION AND

THOSE PEOPLE ALREADY CANNOT --

CANNOT AFFORD AN INCREASE?

>> WELL, WE'RE COMING UP ON THE

END OF OUR TIME TOGETHER, BUT

ACTUALLY MENTIONING ENERGY BILLS

AND OUR ENERGY USAGE, I

UNDERSTAND THAT IS A PROJECT

YOUR ORGANIZATION IS WORKING ON,

PARTICULARLY IN HARLEM.

>> THAT'S RIGHT.

WE HAVE A PROGRAM CALLED S.O.N.

SOLAR UPTOWN NOW.

WHERE WE HAVE TRAINED

UNDEREMPLOYED YOUNG MEN AND

WOMEN IN OUR COMMUNITY TO DO

SOLAR INSTALLATIONS.

WE HAVE CONTRACTED WITH SOLAR

INSTALLATION COMPANY AND THEY

HAVE AGREED TO HIRE THE PEOPLE

WE'VE TRAINED.

AND SO WE'RE WORKING TO KEEP

HOUSING AFFORDABLE, WHICH HELPS

TO FIGHT GENTRIFICATION, BY

PUTTING SOLAR ON AFFORDABLE

HOUSING AND HDFCs, TENANT-OWNED

COOPERATIVES, TO HELP KEEP THEIR

ENERGY BILLS LOWER, WHICH KEEPS

HOUSING MORE SUSTAINABLE AND

FIGHTS GENTRIFICATION.

>> OF COURSE.

OF COURSE.

AND ALSO, JUST VERY QUICKLY,

GOING BACK TO THE ISSUE OF AIR

QUALITY, FOR SOME PEOPLE, THEY

MIGHT SAY, WELL, BUT WE'VE --

HOW DOES NEW YORK ADDRESS THIS,

WE, YOU KNOW, MADE IDLING

ILLEGAL AND WE'VE REALLY CHANGED

SOME OF THE TAX SIIS BEING GREE

TAXIS.

HASN'T THE CITY MADE SOME STEPS

FORWARD?

>> THE CITY HAS MADE SOME STEPS

FORWARD, BUT WHEN YOU HAVE A

CRITICAL PROBLEM, THOSE STEPS

FORWARD AREN'T QUITE ENOUGH.

FOR INSTANCE, WE NEED TO THINK

ABOUT TRUCK ROUTES.

THEY CAN BE REROUTED SO THAT

THEY'RE NOT GOING THROUGH

NEIGHBORHOODS OR GOING PAST

SCHOOLS.

WE COULD HAVE DELIVERIES IN THE

EVENING, WE COULD DO A WHOLE

VARIETY OF OTHER KINDS OF THINGS

THAT REDUCE SOME OF THE IMPACT

OF AIR QUALITY.

AND THEN WE CAN ALSO WORK TOWARD

TIGHTER REGULATIONS AROUND AIR

QUALITY AND AROUND FACILITIES

THAT EMIT POLLUTION.

>> WELL, UNFORTUNATELY, WE'RE

GOING TO HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE.

BUT I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH

FOR JOINING US.

PEGGY SHEPHERD, COFOUNDER AND

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF WE ACT FOR

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

>> THANK YOU.

>> ABSOLUTELY.

"METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM,

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN

GANZ COONEY FUND,

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ,

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG,

THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER,

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD,

CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN

FAMILY,

JUDY AND JOSH WESTON,

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN

FOUNDATION.

THE JPB FOUNDATION.

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