Bronx residents suffer from more chronic health issues due to environmental racism than residents of any other borough. This is personal for Councilmember Salamanca as both he and his son suffer from asthma, and the levels of pollution forced on Bronx residents must be addressed by reducing truck traffic and waste management facilities in low-income communities of color, and increasing access to open space and green space to all Bronxites. Beyond that, with over 86 miles of coastline, the Bronx needs to secure its coastal areas to prepare for coming storms and rising seas; and clean up polluted waterways that routinely face overflows of raw sewage and runoff.
Closely tied to the issue of health, environmental justice has been an issue Bronxites have been raising since the era of Robert Moses. Born and raised in an area that has been termed, ‘Asthma Alley,’ Council Member Salamanca knows these racist policies impact black and brown communities most; both Member and his son suffer from asthma. The sight of heavy industrial vehicles navigating residential streets is all too familiar for families in the Bronx. Salamanca delivered $1.8 billion in state funding to fix the racist urban planning in the South Bronx, including providing direct access for truck traffic to the Hunts Point Markets to decrease noise and air pollution; and deconstruction of the Sheridan Expressway to facilitate new riverfront and green space access. Working with Attorney General Letitia James, Salamanca worked to provide an all-electric, zero-emission fleet of delivery trucks to non-profit organizations in the South Bronx. Salamanca has also funded the career training and placement of countless Bronxites in green jobs, from Sustainable South Bronx’s CoolRoofs program to solar installation. He is the lead sponsor of several pieces of legislation to force NYC to expand air quality testing surrounding wastewater treatment plants, installing odor-free lids on trucks that transport wastewater ‘sludge cake,’ and hold monthly meetings of a citizen advisory committee consisting of community stakeholders and facility representatives to discuss local issues originating from the treatment plant.
On climate change, no issue has impacted the city’s policies moving forward than the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. With 86.7 miles of waterfront, Bronxites are fearful of what future storms will mean to the borough. Salamanca spearheaded the Hunts Point Vision Plan to plan for a revitalized, self-sustainable and resilient Hunts Point Peninsula, including defense measures to protect business and residents from flooding. With Hunts Point Markets serving as a food hub for 22 million people, Salamanca pushed for increased protections to prevent a catastrophic shut down of the city’s food hubs and delivered over $8 million in funding to shore up Market infrastructure, resiliency, and backup generators.
Salamanca's Plan to Fight Climate Change and Improve Our Environment
Climate change is having drastic effects on our borough and we must take steps to improve our communities’ resiliency and sustainability. Rafael will:
• Partner with experts, scientists, and community leaders to develop a plan to protect our coastline from future storms and improve our resiliency.
• Work with community organizations, the Department of Sanitation, and city leadership to expand access to composting, even after the program sustained budget cuts at the city level.
The Bronx faces tremendous health challenges because of pollution. As we look to achieve environmental justice, we need leaders at all levels of government who are willing to commit to developing bold and transformative solutions to ensure no Bronx community carries an unfair pollution burden. Rafael will use the Council Office to:
• Address environmental, mental health, and food insecurity issues that impact the health and wellbeing of our communities.
• Identify areas of the South Bronx with the highest levels of air pollution and work with community leaders, scientists, and doctors to address the health consequences.
• Work to expand the Open Streets Program so that communities continue to have access to open space amidst the pandemic.
• Determine the best future potential uses for Rikers Island and the Barge -- they are Bronx land, and the Bronx should be able to decide their future so that they benefit the community and gain space.
As we look to the future of our economy and infrastructure, it is clear that we must invest in and utilize green and sustainable infrastructure. Rafael will:
• Require green roofs and sustainable infrastructure for development projects whenever possible.
• Partner with organizations like Sustainable South Bronx that provide critical job training in emerging fields, like green infrastructure.
• Rethink our street designs to eliminate pollution, like we did in Hunts Point.