On November 12, 2014, NAG held the second event in its Environmental Health and Justice Community Mapping Project event series. The event was held at the MS 50 Auditorium in South Williamsburg and focused on air pollution in North Brooklyn. Air pollution was discussed from a variety of perspectives.
The event started with an update on NAG’s mapping project. NAG’s GIS intern Carimaxy Benitez discussed the map layer that NAG chose to represent air pollution: particulate matter (PM) 2.5 data that incorporates land use regression (LUR) prediction models for PM 2.5 provided by the NYC Community Air Survey. Ryan Shanley, a NAG volunteer and PhD student studying air pollution epidemiology at NYU, also gave a brief talk on the health effects of air pollution.
Next, John Filippelli, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2’s Clean Air Division Director gave a presentation on a new proposed rule to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants – a rule that addresses air pollution as well as climate change. Some of the local facilities likely to be covered under the Clean Power Plan include: Arthur Kill Generating Station-Staten Island, Astoria Gas Generating Station- Astoria, Brooklyn Navy Yard- Brooklyn, East River Generating State-Manhattan, and Ravenswood Generating Station-Long Island City. This new proposed rule is unique because it focuses on reducing emissions from existing power plants, which make up a large proportion of plants and are more likely to be in heavily populated urban areas.
During his presentation Mr. Filippelli held up a newspaper with a headline noting that on that same day the U.S. and China had officially reached a climate accord. This announcement also comes nearly two months after the People’s Climate March elevated the climate issue in the media – NAG is an official partner organization of the the People’s Climate March and is happy to see concrete steps being taken to address climate change.
The event was co-sponsored by El Puente and St. Nick’s Alliance, and O.U.T.R.A.GE. Organization United for Trash Reduction & Garbage Equity). Anusha Venkataraman from El Puente spoke about their Green Light District projects. Laura Hofmann from O.U.T.R.A.GE. spoke about their work to reduce of waste transfer stations and waste truck traffic in the communities of Williamsburg & Greenpoint.
Next was a presentation by Michael Heimbinder, Brooklyn native environmental and health activist, founder of HabitatMap and AirCasting, a platform for interactive pollution testing. The AirCasting platform consists of wearable sensors that detect changes in your environment and physiology, including a palm-sized air quality monitor called the AirBeam and wearable LED accessories. Check out this recent Brooklyn Paper article discussing Mr. Heimbinder’s AirCasting project.
The evening concluded with a lively discussion of specific local air pollution issues and related health concerns in the neighborhood. Community members discussed their frustrations with the available mechanisms for reporting air pollution emission events in real time and other community members offered advice based on their own experiences. NAG plans to follow-up on these discussions and give updates at our next Environmental Health and Justice Community Mapping Project event, which is set for early 2015.