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Racism and Garbage in New York City

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I received a number of emails and questions on Facebook on my last post asking me to explain why I called a garbage site on the Upper East Side "racist."

I will explain below, but if this post gets up soon enough, and if you have a chance to go to it, there is a hearing today on the subject and you could ask the question of some of the city council members.

City Council Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste hearing, 250 Broadway - Hearing Room, 16th Floor2/24, 1 PM.

In a piece I wrote about a great new report on this subject, Talking Trash, I actually described careless racism. In fact it is far worse than careless.

Reporters are being carelessly racist. The outer borough environmental justice movements are being hypocritically racist. Those in government, who have all the information and the power to stop this garbage site in front of public housing are, simply, being flat out racist.

A massive Marine Transfer Station is being built less than the city-mandated distance from a public housing project containing 2,400 minority residents. (Marine Transfer Sites are the place where garbage trucks dump thousands of tons of garbage into barges.)

At the moment, there are less than 100 residents of public housing who live that close to all of the other Marine Transfer Sites sites in the entire city.

The racist equation is this:

Environmental justice movements in the outer boroughs put pressure on government to make life environmentally better for minorities living in areas where asthma rates were already high and the commercial garbage trucks driving through made it worse.

Bloomberg needed these votes which he would not get if he refused to help. So he offered a plan to relieve this suffering by putting 6 Marine Transfer Stations in Manhattan.

The only one that's actually progressing is "in the Upper East Side". It is in the Northernmost corner of it, Yorkville, a couple of blocks short of East Harlem, opposite public housing.

It is shockingly close to public housing - and almost nothing but public housing - as can be seen if you go up there or look at the map in my post or in the Talking Trash report by Plege2Protect.

In fact, this part of the Upper East Side is far less white than Chelsea and Greenwich Village, which are the whitest in the city. Because of pressure from real estate and white residents' groups, the proposed garbage sites in this part of the city have stalled.

Unable to resist these powerful political supporters in more powerful (and white) areas of Manhattan, the only Marine Transfer Station the city has managed to push forward is its worst - the one that is most damaging to the largest number of the least powerful people, most of them minorities.

Before this plan there were less than 100 public housing residents living within a quarter mile of all of New York City's Marine Transfer Stations.

After it there will be 2500 people, mostly of color, living within a quarter mile of Marine Transfer Stations, 2400 of them in Yorkville a couple of blocks from East Harlem, the most asthmatic neighborhood in all of the five boroughs.

This makes life significantly worse for a significantly larger number of minority residents.

The big question is this:

One expects government to be self-serving and corrupt, but not environmental movements.

Why then, if they are not hypocritical racists, aren't the environmental justice movements who started all this now ferociously opposed to the Yorkville/East Harlem garbage site as a matter of of both environmental and racial justice?

Perhaps some of them - like the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, for example - would like to come to the meeting today and explain.