A Change of Pace
Climate action plan released
Story by Erik Cuello
There’s a shift in the wind.
West Harlem Environmental Justice (WE ACT) has released a comprehensive Climate Action Plan (CAP) specifically for Northern Manhattan.
The plan, created with the help of the Kresge Foundation, focuses on the socio-economic impact of climate change in the area, and offers recommendations on policies and actions to take now – before an emergency.
“After years of growing social inequality in the city and no clear plan for addressing the mounting climate crisis, residents of Northern Manhattan, in partnership with WE ACT for Environmental Justice, have created their own plan to confront the impacts of climate change by addressing long-standing disparities in political and economic power,” said the organization in a statement.
The plan relied on the input of 400 community members drawn from seven public workshops held throughout the year.
“We created a newspaper from the year 2020 with a crisis and we asked people to show us how they would handle it,” said Stanley Fritz, WE ACT’s Director of Communications. “It allowed us to pinpoint the things that they felt the community was missing.”
The exercise resulted in creative strategies on how to connect people with resources and items of need.
“In case of a power outage, seniors wouldn’t have access to elevators or energy for an AC,” said Fritz, by way of example.
The solution developed by the group was the installation of a microgrid, which would act as a back-up electricity system for an area, powered by the community and independent of Con Edison.
The need for the CAP came in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and its impact on low-income communities.
“There was an inefficiency in delivering food and supplies,” argued Fritz, noting that in natural disasters, “[it is] communities of color that are hit the hardest as they are located in the most vulnerable areas.”
During the year, the participants were broken up into four groups which handled issues surrounding energy supply, emergency preparedness, the use of social hubs, and participatory governance.
The focus was on residents mobilizing to maximize resiliency and responsiveness, Fritz explained. He cited the work of Occupy Sandy members in Far Rockaway.
“[They] communicated with residents so that they were able to get them exactly what they needed. Communication helps people from feeling disconnected from their needs,” he added. “People will know exactly what and where to get these resources because we are staying active and talking to them.”
The report, for example, points to the use of the 135th Street Marine Transfer Station as a community center.
Though the comprehensive CAP was the result of work with hundreds of members of the community, there is even more dialogue to come.
“People should want to get involved and help become architects of this plan,” said Fritz, noting that the Northern Manhattan community is made of over 600,000 diverse residents.
“We want to hear more voices.”
For more on WE ACT, please visit www.weact.org.
For the full report, please click here.
WE ACT in action.
1) Energy Democracy: Building wind, solar, geothermal, and other green energy systems that are owned and managed by tenants and/or local organizations. Local ownership of distributed energy generation can ensure that energy systems are responsive during a crisis, while also creating jobs for the unemployed and cost savings for residents.
2) Emergency Preparedness: Building social cohesion among neighbors, strengthening and expanding communications systems, collecting necessary supplies, and taking other related measures that will allow for rapid deployment of emergency services at the building and block level in a future crisis. Also building climate-prepared infrastructure according to community-based plans that articulate local visions for land use, urban design, and architecture.
3) Social Hubs: Creating new community spaces where people can hold meetings, use workspace, store supplies, attend seminars, and carry out other movement building activities.
4) Participatory Governance: Increasing community power in policy-making processes by training local leaders, building partnerships with City agencies and elected officials, organizing direct actions for the implementation of climate policies, expanding participatory budgeting, and elevating the voice of low-income groups within the public sphere in other ways.