Community stakeholders and elected officials gather to celebrate funding from the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Photo by Tatiana Pinheiro.

Three South Bronx groups will share $300,000 in state funding for separate environmental justice initiatives that include monitoring localized air pollution, tree planting and engaging young people in environmental action.

The Bronx is Blooming, Stay/Nos Quedamos Inc, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Inc., were the three South Bronx organizations chosen to receive the funds, as well two others in the North Bronx. Each organization has received $100,000 to assist their mission. 

The grants are among $3.5 million being distributed statewide to community groups in an effort to redress past environmental injustices.

Representatives from the state Department of Environmental Conservation recently joined environmental justice group WE ACT and other community partners at the corner of Cypress Avenue and E. 135th Street on Nov. 20, to celebrate the new grants.

In a series of statements, officials addressed everything from environmental racism, poor urban planning, health and more. 

Arif Ullah, executive director of South Bronx Unite, began by addressing the ongoing stream of traffic caused by the chain of overlapping highways in the area. One main highway, the Bruckner Expressway, he said, has been a direct cause of the poor air quality in the South Bronx.

“Surrounding us is polluting infrastructure, what you hear and why you can’t hear me well is because there’s a constant stream of traffic that’s going right past us. This is suffocating the people of the South Bronx and impacting their health in deep ways,” he said.

Basil Sagos, conservation department commissioner, touted the state’s significant progress in leading climate change efforts while simultaneously addressing the state’s need for improvement. 

But he noted, “Until we are addressing the conditions in every neighborhood, we cannot claim victory. We cannot claim victory when there are 17 % of kids under 13 with asthma. It is not possible to say we are leading up a state, until we are lifting up all communities.”

The $3.5 million for community impact grants statewide comes from $400 million that Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers designated for the state Environmental Protection Fund in the 2022-23 state budget.  It’s the largest amount authorized for environmental projects in the state in any previous year.

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson was on hand to thank Hochul and her administration.  “As borough president, I take great pride and privilege in all of these incredible investments and partnerships and collaborations that will truly make a difference on behalf of the residents and families that live here,” she said in a statement.

Besides the community action grants, the Environmental Protection Fund covers a wide range of programs, including land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, recreation access, and water quality improvement.

“We are literally leading the country right now on climate change, the nation’s leading climate law–we have a $4.2 billion bond act, no other state did that last year. The biggest bond act thanks to the people like the folks that are here today and voters across the state,” said Sagos.  

Last fall New York voters approved a $4.2 Environmental Bond Act to help fund environmental and community projects. Local governments, state representatives and partners have access to funding. The bond is used to protect water quality, help communities adapt to climate change, improve resiliency and create green jobs, and 35-40% is earmarked for environmental justice projects in disadvantaged communities, which are most often impacted by pollution and climate change. 

To access more information about grants offered by the Office of Environmental Justice click here: 

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