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Infrastructure funding a chance to advance environmental justice in New York, report says

The Infrastructure Act is providing $1.2 trillion for improvement projects across water, energy, building and transportation sectors. A new report looks at how officials can use funds to address environmental justice.

Authored by the National Wildlife Federation, the report provides a framework for front-line and fenceline communities experiencing environmental-justice issues such as frequent flooding to finance solutions through infrastructure dollars.

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Tatiana Eaves, an environmental and climate justice policy specialist for the federation, said the Infrastructure Act is an opportunity for decision makers.

“We must always let community leaders speak for themselves,” said Eaves, “and trust them as the experts of their own lived experience and for us to listen as many communities already know what the solutions are. They just need the resources to bring them into reality.”

This November, New Yorkers will vote on a ballot measure for approval of the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act.

The bond would leverage federal infrastructure dollars to support land conservation, environmental justice and water-quality improvement.

Shawyn Patterson-Howard is mayor of Mount Vernon, New York. For almost two decades, Mount Vernon residents have lived with raw sewage backing up into their homes, flooding streets and polluting local waterways due to old and corroded clay sewer pipes.

Patterson-Howard said the infrastructure dollars could help the Black-majority city with pipe replacement.

“Without proper maintenance and investment over the last few decades, the sewer system and the stormwater system has begun to collapse,” said Patterson-Howard. “So we have to find a way to improve regionally our stormwater system, which is definitely being impacted in light of climate change.”

Patterson-Howard estimates replacement will cost between $250 and $300 million.

In April, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $150 million for this project. The report suggests federal infrastructure dollars also could support grants to help low-income homeowners repair failing septic systems.



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