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The MTA Accountability Campaign

Building the Green Bus Depot: WE ACT's Work Featured on NY1 (August 2009)

In 1997 WE ACT launched a Clean Fuel/Clean Air MTA Accountability Campaign (also dubbed the Dirty Diesel Campaign, the slogan for which was "If You Live Uptown, Breathe at Your Own Risk") that created the political will for the Governor and key state legislators to mandate that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) make hundreds of alternative fuel bus purchases and retrofit diesel depots to compressed natural gas. WE ACT's campaign was a catalyst for the MTA investing in diesel retrofits and hybrids. The MTA now boasts that it has the cleanest fleet in the nation.

Today, WE ACT is in an ongoing dialogue with the MTA regarding the closure and/or retrofitting of MTA depots. Citywide, one-third of the City’s entire bus fleet is housed in Northern Manhattan above 99th Street, and five out of six bus depots in Manhattan are above 99th Street. Organized with WE ACT’s support, the Residents Oversight Council (ROC) is composed of community residents living next door to these Northern Manhattan bus depots. Members of the ROC and their families experience the depots’ negative effects – including noise, particulate matter (soot) and nauseating fumes – in their homes on a daily basis. The ROC monitors activities at Northern Manhattan depots, such as excessive idling of buses. Members of the ROC have provided key testimony in public hearings, including a City Council Transportation Committee Hearing on Health Impacts of MTA Bus Operations held in October 2006, which was co-sponsored by WE ACT and John Liu, the Chair of the City Council Transportation Committee.

Congratulations to facilitators from the Central Harlem community, WE ACT, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Parsons Brinckerhoff for successfully organizing the September 20, 2008 charrette (community planning session) for those most affected by the MTA's rebuilding of the Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot, particularly around the Esplanade Gardens complex.

After the MTA announced its plans to rebuild the bus depot according to green building standards, WE ACT and Assemblymember Herman "Denny" Farrell organized a 30-member, community-based task force to work with the MTA to ensure that the depot is clean, green and safe for community members and workers alike.  The September 20 charrette was the end of the beginning, rather than the beginning of the end, of that process.

The task force has been meeting since February, and the agendas and minutes for the task force's February 11, 2008, March 3, 2008March 18, 2008June 12, 2008 and June 26, 2008 meetings are available online.

WE ACT's report, "Community Concerns Over the Rebuilding of MTA's Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot," is available here.  Pre-meeting Information on the September 20, 2008 charrette to address those community concerns directly with MTA officials, including three community meetings prior to the charrette between September 10 and 17, is also available.

Outlines of the goals for the charrette are available here and here.  A brief summary of the preliminary outcomes of the charrette is available here.  More extensive PowerPoint presentations on recommended outcomes for the bus depot are available on the following subjects:

Air Quality Issues

Energy Issues

Materials Issues

Site Issues

Water Issues

(Special thanks to Collette Ericsson of the MTA and Jacob Morris of the Harlem Historical Society for their assistance.)

The MTA has its own Web site describing its work at the Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot.

*NEW* Read WE ACT's Charrette report, "The Greenest, Cleanest Depot Possible: Rebuilding Mother Clara Hale Depot."

The Greenest Cleanest Depot Possible: Rebuilding Mother Clara Hale Depot (Google Doc)
WE ACT’s Comprehensive Special Report on the Campaign to Rebuild the Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot

At The Bus Depot: Can Administrative Complaints Help Stalled Environmental Justice Plaintiffs? (Student Article By Jeremy Linden, NYU Environmental Law Journal – January 13, 2008)


WE ACT Community Organizer Charles Callaway and Central Harlem resident Merle Carroll welcome attendees to the charrette. Read our charrette report here.


Signs address the way to the break-out sessions


MTA representative Tammy Petzios and Millicent Redick, co-chair of the Mother Clara Hale Task Force, lead a discussion on air quality issues

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