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Black History Month

The theme for Black History Month 2023 as established by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (leaves DEC's website) is Black Resistance.

African Americans have for centuries resisted historic and ongoing oppression in all forms, including fighting for Environmental Justice in their communities. Environmental Justice is the fair and meaningful treatment of all people, regardless of race, income, national origin, or color with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Even a generation post-segregation, a long legacy of discriminatory policies resulted in Black residents, especially those with lower incomes, disproportionately living and raising their families in environmentally degraded areas. This includes communities near or adjacent to harmful emissions sources and other facilities that negatively impact quality of life such as factories, highways, railroads, and landfills.

In the face of these disparities, Black people have resisted and sought redress for the inequitable treatment and environmental racism.

Thanks to the work of community leaders who fought for solutions to uplift Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, not only does New York have a better understanding of the challenges, but more importantly, substantive progress is being made to address them.

Their resistance is bringing about change that impacts all of society, often by working closely with local, state, and federal partners. This was evident in the success of the historic investment to upgrade Mount Vernon's water infrastructure, and Governor Hochul's signing of a new law that ensures cumulative impacts are taken into consideration in the environmental permitting processes when potentially polluting facilities seek permits in disadvantaged communities.

The successful partnerships helping resist inequity and strengthen BIPOC communities disproportionately burdened by environmental impacts continue to grow, particularly since 2006 when DEC's Office of Environmental Justice was created to help support the work of the many organizations working toward positive change in New York State. Grant funding - more than $12 million for 214 projects to-date - and other initiatives led by the Office help communities develop and implement programs that address inequitable environmental impacts, harms, and health hazards, while building community consensus, setting priorities, and facilitating public outreach and education.

In addition to helping external organizations realize Environmental Justice statewide, DEC is working from within by supporting its own increasingly diverse workforce. The agency is best positioned to fulfill our mission of environmental protection with a workforce of employees from all backgrounds making valuable contributions to improve our environment and succeeding professionally in a variety of fields. Through these and any other ways each day, DEC is learning from Black leaders of today and yesterday to chart a better, healthier, and just path forward for New Yorkers and our environment.

Recent Environmental Justice Highlights:

Addressing Mount Vernon's Water Infrastructure Crisis

In April 2022, DEC joined Governor Hochul, Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, and Westchester County Executive George Latimer to announce New York State's historic $150 million investment to address longstanding water infrastructure and related public health challenges that have plagued Mount Vernon for decades, and advance environmental justice in the city. The innovative state-county-city partnership is expediting priority projects and advancing resources for this citywide effort to restore and maintain Mount Vernon's water infrastructure.

Mount Vernon leaders explaining the longstanding challenges
to the community's health and well-being from a lack of
investment in critical infrastructure

Mayor Patterson-Howard, DEC, and Environmental Facilities Corp.
officials meet the dedicated staff helping Mount Vernon residents address sewer issues

Historic Statewide Community Air Monitoring Initiative

In July 2022, Governor Hochul announced the launch of the historic statewide air quality and greenhouse gas mobile monitoring initiative that is being deployed in disadvantaged communities home to approximately five million New Yorkers in areas overburdened by environmental pollution. Working in partnership with community-based organizations in 10 communities statewide, the effort to map hyperlocal air pollution and greenhouse gases statewide at the community level is the largest ever undertaken by New York State and a critical component to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act's requirement - backed by prominent environmental justice advocates - that up to 35 percent of climate investments benefit disadvantaged communities.

Vehicle used to measure air quality in the Bronx as part of the
Community Air Monitoring Initiative

Community Impact Grant Awards

In August 2022, Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) Inc., received a DEC grant for MAP's Origins Project: Ensuring Soil and Water Safety for a Healthy Food System. The grant will help increase education and resources for safe soil and water practices for urban growers and community residents in Buffalo, while increasing healthy, affordable food access and providing jobs for young people. MAP is one of 32 community-based organizations awarded funding through the State Environmental Protection Fund to support projects that address environmental and public health concerns.

Supporters of the Buffalo-area Massachusetts Avenue Project,
Inc.'s Origins Project

DEC Office of Environmental Justice Director Alanah Keddell-Tuckey
announcing grants at VINES community garden in Endicott