Column: A safer, cleaner environment

Remnants Of Hurricane Ida Move Through Northeast Causing Widespread Flooding
Last fall’s Hurricane Ida flooded Bronx walkways, parkways and roads, leading to the first flash flood emergency in city history.
Photo David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

The menacing effects of climate change have become increasingly urgent, and while climate change is often thought of on a global scale, it is imperative that we address it locally. Oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, the sea level is rising, ice sheets are shrinking, there has been a rise in global temperature, environmental degradation, and an increase in allergens, and we are seeing an increase in extreme weather events. All of these changes have a direct impact on our lives here in The Bronx.

We’ve seen firsthand the devastation of climate change on our own communities, most recently when Hurricane Ida struck our city. We experienced the first flash flood emergency in our city’s history, and the Major Deegan Expressway was covered in more than 5 feet of water. Cars submerged. Homes flooded. Lives lost. 

That’s not the only crisis that our community has endured as a result of harsh environmental factors. A longstanding issue facing our Bronx communities is the increased rates of asthma. The Bronx has the highest incidence of asthma in the country as a result of heavy traffic, construction, greenhouse gas emissions and a lack of greenery. Shockingly, Bronx children are twice as likely to be hospitalized for asthma, and are more likely to die from asthma than children in other parts of the country.

In the face of these threats, I have taken action at City Hall. I sponsored Intro 2317, which will prohibit the combustion of substances with certain emissions profiles in buildings within the city, further reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and decreasing our greenhouse gas emissions. I also sponsored Intro 0455 to require all school buses in use by Sept. 1, 2035 to be all-electric, zero emission school buses. These are just two of the many bills I have sponsored that lead us to a greater, more sustainable, and safer environment for Bronxites. I have also advocated for more investment in environmental education in our schools and the funding that accompanies that. With all of this work, we still have localized needs.

My office has worked in partnership with outstanding civic groups, including The Van Cortlandt Park Alliance and the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, and I join them in my strong support for the daylighting Tibbetts Brook. Everyday, 5 million gallons of fresh water flows into our sewer system. Daylighting will channel clean water away from the sewer, and aid in reducing combined sewage overflow on the Harlem River. This would also reduce the flooding that often happens in our basements, and help prevent flooding like the kind that submerged cars on the Major Deegan. This project would also open up park space and connect two vital arteries of a bike path, allowing for alternative modes of travel within our state, thus further reducing our dependence on motorized vehicles. Big projects like this must be built in conjunction with other opportunities for green space like more trees and bioswales, which I have funded through capital dollars.

The health of my constituents and all New Yorkers will continue to be at the forefront of my efforts as your council member. As a father and former environmental science teacher, I deeply understand the threat our city faces from climate change. Big changes to our infrastructure like the daylighting of Tibbetts Brook, concerted efforts to offset pollution and emissions, and increasing green space cannot wait. The time is now. 

City Council Member Eric Dinowitz represents District 11, which covers the neighborhoods of Bedford Park, Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Norwood, Van Cortlandt Village, Wakefield and Woodlawn.

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