Advocates from the Lead Free Kids NY Coalition,
JustGreen Partnership, and Cumulative Impact Workgroup Join with the New York State
Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus to Support Landmark Legislative Action to Curtail Exposure to Toxics
$1 Billion Legislative Package to Prevent Lead Poisoning and
Legislation to Revise SEQRA Process to Reduce Cumulative Impacts
Albany, NY – Today representatives of the New York State’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus (BPHA) stood with advocates as they announced two of the Caucus’ 2022 legislative and budget priorities at a press conference in the Senate Chamber of the New York State Capitol.
They voiced their support for a proposed $1 billion budget investment paired with a legislative package to address primary prevention of the childhood lead poisoning crisis in New York State, which has more children with elevated blood lead levels than any other state in the nation. The bills in this package include:
- 2142 (Kavanagh)/A.6608 (Rivera) to require testing for lead paint at the point of real estate sale
- 6554 (Bailey)/ A.7117 (Bronson) to increase lead-safe renovations, and
- 3079 (Ryan)/A.7488 (Rivera) to ensure landlords carry insurance that covers any lead poisoning of tenants.
New York State not only has significantly more children with elevated levels of lead in their blood, it also has the highest percentage of old housing stock. Over five million homes were built before lead paint was fully banned in 1978, and a significant portion likely still contain lead paint.
The Caucus also announced its commitment to passing two key bills to address the cumulative impacts faced in low-income communities and communities of color.
- 1031B (Stewart-Cousins)/A.2103 (Pretlow) requires agencies to prepare an assessment of the existing burdens on a community as part of an application process to site facilities in these communities, often referred to as environmental justice communities.
- 3211A (Ramos)/A.6530 (Barnwell) will ensure that communities are meaningfully engaged in this process by requiring applicants to involve the public at three points in the permitting process, and to respond to concerns and justify actions taken or not taken in a response to this public input.
Low-income communities and communities of color are often exposed to multiple environmental hazards due to decades of inequitable siting of polluting facilities in their communities. Individually, each facility has a negative impact on the health of residents, including such as asthma, lung and heart disease, increased birth defects, and learning impairments. They also have a negative economic impact on the community, driving down property values, which erodes the tax base and thereby limits the quality of schools, healthcare facilities, and other critical services. And when you combine a number of these facilities and other sources of exposure in a community, the health and economic impacts – referred to as cumulative impacts – are compounded.
“Every New Yorker deserves a healthy environment to learn, grow, and live in. That is why the Caucus’ People’s Budget sets out a list of priorities aimed at reducing human-made pollutants that harm marginalized communities,” stated New York State Assemblymember Michaelle Solages, Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus. “We moved efficiently to remove lead poisoning from schools, and we need to keep that same energy for the predominantly Black children that are dealing with lead poisoning in housing.”
“I am honored to stand with colleagues from the Caucus, The Lead Free Kids NY Coalition and WE ACT For Environmental Justice, a dynamic group that I am a proud longstanding member of, to demand $1 billion to eradicate lead from our homes, from our soil and from our water supply,” said New York State Senator Cordell Cleare. “And this commitment must be a generational one, with funds that revolve and are replenished each and every year, for as long as it takes to make us all whole.”
“Environmental injustice has plagued black and brown communities for decades, especially in my Bronx district. It has caused health problems among my constituents, as the Bronx has one of the highest asthma rates in the country,” said New York State Assemblymember Kenny Burgos. “We cannot allow the horrors of the past to continue hurting our communities. Instead, we must take bold steps and invest in the health and safety of all New Yorkers and our children’s futures.”
“The legislative priorities are critical for New York’s communities of color, who have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sonal Jessel, Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “Studies show that Black children are nearly three times more likely to have highly elevated blood-lead levels, and due to redlining and other long-standing forms of systemic racism, people of color are far more likely to live in communities that are exposed to multiple environmental hazards due to the polluting facilities in their neighborhood. Allocating $1 billion of the State budget for addressing lead hazards and passing legislation to make the SEQR process more equitable will reduce the cumulative toxic burden that has been harming the health of New Yorkers of color for generations. We thank Chairwoman Assemblymember Solages and the whole BPHRA Caucus for championing these important legislative priorities.”
“We are proud to stand here today with these outstanding legislative leaders to call on the Senate Majority Leader, the Assembly Speaker and both houses of our government to add $1 billion dollars to the state budget and policy proposals to ignite rapid, primary prevention action to address the ongoing problem of childhood lead poisoning in New York State,” said Paul Webster, Program Director for Clean and Healthy New York, a statewide environmental health and justice organization. “Communities with an enduring lead paint crisis also often face numerous other environmental health hazards, and these concerns need to be addressed cumulatively – which is why we applaud the Caucus’ commitment to policies that address cumulative impacts and public participation in New York’s low income areas and communities of color.”
“It is time for New York to ensure the health of low-income communities and communities of color is no longer disproportionately harmed by the oversaturation of polluting facilities and concentrated truck traffic,” said Courtney Bowie, Northeast Managing Attorney for Earthjustice. “New York’s environmental review process under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) currently fails to explicitly require examination of the cumulative impacts of any proposed project in an environmental justice community – S.1031-B (Stewart-Cousins)/A.2103-B (Pretlow) would rectify this longstanding injustice. Earthjustice is proud to join our partners and legislative allies in the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus to urge passage of this bill this session.
Advocates Comment on Cumulative Impacts and Extended Public Participation
Arif Ullah, Executive Director for South Bronx Unite and co-leader of the Cumulative Impacts Workgroup says: “Under-resourced communities and people of color have shouldered the burden and effects of the fossil fuel economy, of pollution, of climate change, and of other environmental injustices for many decades. In the South Bronx, generations of Black and Brown folks have grown up overburdened with air pollution from polluting facilities, including a disproportionate number of peak power plants and waste transfer stations. This has resulted in asthma hospitalization rates eight times higher than the national average, among other health inequities. The Cumulative Impacts and Public Participation bills will play an important role in addressing these inequities, and allowing our community to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives.”
“The nexus between public participation and adverse, cumulative impacts is axiomatic and concomitant. Too often, proponents of dirty projects that disproportionately assault environmental justice communities with toxic air and waste get away with insouciant public participation initiatives leaving those most impacted ostracized and excluded,” said Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright, Director of Environmental Justice with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. He continued, “We need both of these bills to ensure that Indigenous, Black, Brown, and poor communities are no longer silenced nor treated as energy and pollution sacrifice zones while sending a stark message to polluters – if the people don’t have a say, you don’t get to play.”
Advocates Comment on $1 Billion Package for Lead Poisoning Prevention
“We look forward to the passage of these bills and the day when no child will live under the threat of lead exposure,” said Ben Anderson, Director of Economic Mobility and Health Policy at the Children’s Defense Fund-New York, and co-founder of Lead Free Kids New York. “We are grateful for the support of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus in championing these efforts. Lead exposure disproportionately hurts Black and Latinx children, and New York has identified more children with elevated blood lead levels than any other state in the U.S. Ending this completely senseless and preventable tragedy is a matter of racial equity that needs to be a top priority for New York.”
“At a time when we are in a lead crisis, our lead poisoning funding in Onondaga County was cut,” said Oceanna Fair, Southside Branch leader of Families for Lead Freedom Now, a Syracuse based Lead Advocacy Organization. “My family has dealt with this for over 40 years. First with my brother being lead poisoned, and now, having two grandchildren identified with childhood lead poisoning.”
“Many families in our older upstate cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Albany are unknowingly doing harm to the health of their children because they live in housing that is poorly maintained,” said Bobbi Wilding, on behalf of the Lead Free Kids New York Coalition. “We need to end New York’s lead poisoning crisis so our children’s children will not have to live through this. Working with the Caucus and legislature, providing the necessary resources to localities will help mitigate this blight.”
The opportunity to fully end childhood lead poisoning in housing throughout New York State is at hand, the need for the $1 billion investment is without question a must,” said Buffalo activist Jim Anderson, a member of Citizen Action of New York. “We need action from Governor Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature to get it done in the 2022 New York State Budget. Our children and families need lead free housing now.”
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