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The dominant narrative is that New York City's economy is booming. But it's only booming for some. In places like Brownsville, Brooklyn and University Heights in the Bronx, unemployment is still more than 10%, compared to the city-wide rate of 4.3%.
Dirty, Wasteful, and Unsustainable: The Urgent Need to Reform New York City's Commercial Waste SystemApril 1, 2015
New York City's sprawling commercial waste system performs significantly worse on recycling and efficiency than previously believed. Under an inefficient and ad-hoc arrangement that developed over the past several decades, hundreds of private hauling companies collect waste from restaurants, stores, offices, and other businesses nightly and truck it to dozens of transfer stations and recycling facilities concentrated in a handful of low-income communities of color. This waste is then transferred to long-haul trucks and hauled to landfills as far away as South Carolina. Previously unpublished studies and new data reveal just how chaotic this system is and make clear that fundamental reform is needed if we are to follow through on the City's recently adopted commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050.As recognized by city officials, meeting this ambitious but attainable GHG goal will require rapid and substantial increases in the efficiency of our buildings, power production, transportation, and solid waste systems. In the solid waste sector, there is tremendous need for improvement and the City will fall far short of the progress it needs to make in reducing the environmental and public health impacts of our garbage if it focuses only on residential recycling while ignoring the failures of a larger, highly polluting and inefficient commercial waste system.
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City on October 29th, 2012, approximately 80,000 people residing in over 400 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings lost many essential services such as electricity, use of elevators, heat and hot water.The City's response to Hurricane Sandy was slow and communication to residents before, during and after the storm was inadequate. As a result, many community-based organizations stepped in to provide relief to residents in need. More than a year after Sandy, residents in hard hit areas across New York City still face serious problems related to the storm such as mold, elevator malfunction and rodent infestation. 24 temporary boilers which remain in 16 developments break down easily leaving residents with sporadic heat and hot water. These problems were uncovered and exacerbated by Sandy but they are not new; policy choices and disinvestment over the last decade have caused NYCHA residents to live in an ongoing state of neglect. As an estimated $3.2 billion federal dollars comes into New York City6 for relief and resiliency efforts (including $308 million for NYCHA) and NYCHA revamps its Hurricane Emergency Procedure, several community organizations across the City, in conjunction with the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, including Community Voices Heard, Good Old Lower East Side, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, Red Hook Initiative, Faith in NY and NY Communities for Change have come together with research support from the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center to assess how NYCHA residents living in storm-affected zones are faring and to develop solutions for how NYCHA and the City can address the issues exposed by Sandy.
Just over six months ago, Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of New York, bringing floods and standing water to neighborhoods across the tri-state area. But if the destructive capacity of flooding and water damage was bad, it soon became clear homeowners were faced with an even greater threat. Flooded homes not dried out within 24 to 48 hours were at serious risk of developing mold infestations, threatening the health and safety of thousands of New Yorkers. At the end of January 2013, city administrators created the privately funded Neighborhood Revitalization NYC program ("NRNYC" or "the program") to remediate 2,000 homes, responding to growing reports of mold contamination in the press.The organizations that drafted this report have engaged with the City and the non-governmental agency administering the Neighborhood Revitalization NYC program throughout the several months it has existed, and have been able to provide feedback on the effectiveness of the program. The city and program administrators have been extremely open to feedback, and many obstacles have been improved because of that openness. However, as the results of this study indicate, for a variety of reasons, the city's current approach to mold remediation post-Sandy needs expansion and improvement. Six months later, the acute need for mold remediation across New York City has not abated, and mold's disproportionate impact on low-income and immigrant communities has resulted in displacement, sickness, and continued crisis in Sandy-affected neighborhoods. Major community-based organizations with roots in those neighborhoods have stepped in to help construct solutions. Members of the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, a coalition of labor unions and community, faith-based, environmental and policy organizations across New York, have begun to survey residents in order to meaningfully assess the post-Sandy mold crisis across the city. In March and April, Faith in New York (formerly Queens Congregations United for Action), Make the Road NY, and New York Communities for Change conducted phone and door-to-door surveys across the Rockaways and in Staten Island, reaching almost 700 households. Feedback from residents forms the basis for this report's analysis of the threat of mold in hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods and our recommendations on how city leaders should respond to the crisis.
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