Presenters at the Metropolitan Hospital’s Environmental Justice Symposium pose on stage with the hospital’s Chief of Staff Natasha Burke, MPA (center) and Taina Traverso (far right), former chair of the hospital’s Community Advisory Board’s Environmental Justice Committee & founder of the Manhattan East Side Environmental Justice Consortium
The Consortium was conceptualized and founded by Taina Traverso, a prominent figure in the East Harlem community, more than a year ago and later formalized in partnership with the Metropolitan Hospital, which hosted an environmental justice symposium on May 25th. The symposium served as a hub for diverse stakeholders, spanning environmental organizations, environmental justice groups, academics, and representatives from the public sector. While their areas of focus varied widely, a common thread swiftly wove them together – the urgency to champion environmental justice in the heart of New York City. Traverso identified, engaged and recruited several of these stakeholders, including Energy Vision, to be a part of the consortium.
At the symposium, Energy Vision conducted a workshop on how the community can take advantage of the nutrient and energy value of the organic wastes now being disposed of as garbage. We offered a comprehensive urban farming and organic waste-to-energy project proposal that promises to put organic wastes to beneficial use, invigorate community participation, stimulate urban farming, facilitate skills training, and create jobs. One of the project’s key goals would be to significantly reduce truck traffic, as organic waste would be put to use onsite rather than hauled away. This would mean cleaner air for the community, which is the Consortium’s top priority and a vital goal for residents’ health and wellbeing.
A Dual Approach: Bottom-Up and Top-Down
EV’s approach to environmental justice is dual-pronged. We actively engage with policymakers and private sector entities to clarify the commercial and cost-effective options for the community to cut greenhouse gases, reduce truck traffic, and convert truck fleets off of highly polluting diesel fuel. We also recognize the importance of a bottom-up approach to decision-making – ultimately the communities most affected must make the changes that suit them best, based on their cultural values and unique needs.
This bottom-up approach encourages stronger participation in environmental decision-making processes. Initial reactions to our proposal have been very positive, and we look forward to working with community members and our Consortium partners to tailor the details to East Harlem’s specific needs.
The Road Ahead
The Manhattan East Side Environmental Justice Consortium’s next steps include mapping out how the group will function and assessing the existing programs of each member. At its December meeting, the goal is to agree on a firm plan for moving forward.
We encourage Energy Vision members who would like to learn more or may have ways of supporting this initiative to be in touch.