COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world just how harsh the inequalities in our society are. Communities that were already suffering from lack of healthcare, adequate nutrition, and lived in overcrowded residences in polluted parts of the city have been among the hardest hit by the virus.
Adem Bunkeddeko, Democrat running for Congress in NY-9 who narrowly lost to the incumbent Congresswoman Yvette Clarke last time, believes this is the time we need bold ideas and a massive investment in environmental infrastructure to rebuild Brooklyn into a more resilient city. To fund it, he proposes using some of the country’s military funds.
Brooklyn is among the least environmentally resilient counties in the country according to FEMA. Southern Brooklyn, including Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach, still has not fully recovered from Superstorm Sandy back in 2012 and remains just as vulnerable to future storms. Asthma rates are higher than average in black neighborhoods, especially in Central Brooklyn, and among the highest in neighborhoods like Sunset Park, and Greenpoint. Pre-existing respiratory illnesses put too many of our neighbors in high-risk groups when COVID-19 struck, and contributed to many untimely deaths.
It is time for the federal government to truly partner with local leaders “to fund infrastructure projects along coasts to ensure they are fortified against flooding and storm surges,” Bunkeddeko believes. And while investing in renewable energy resources would create jobs in green industries and reduce pollution, the candidate also wants to address the issues that have been so painfully brought to light by the pandemic.
“We have to address air quality in our neighborhoods,” Bunkeddeko says. “The EPA must crack down on polluters by tightening regulations, strengthening investigations, and increasing auto efficiency standards.”
But it’s not just trucks and manufacturing – the quality of housing needs to be improved as well. Lead, mold, mice, and cockroaches have plagued NYCHA developments, contributing to respiratory illnesses -asthma rates are highest in neighborhoods with dense concentrations of public housing and asthma is number one illness among children living in NYCHA developments. This could be addressed by the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, and finally fully funding NYCHA, he believes.
And on the private sector side, hard hit by the PAUSE restrictions with many facing a most uncertain future – Bunkeddeko would like to see more grants to small businesses and homeowners with an environmental focus to emerge from the pandemic more resilient and environmentally friendly.
“We must begin planning for the future and thinking creatively to find solutions. This crisis has revealed our infrastructure failings and the role environmental justice plays in our health. When we move forward, we must begin transitioning to the Green New Deal and seriously investing in our environmental infrastructure,” Bunkeddeko says.
“As states and localities are forced to cut budgets, the federal government needs to step up and fill the void. Climate change threatens global stability, and instead of investing more in our military, we need to address the root problem and center our policies to address environmental injustice that has been inflicted on communities of color,” he added.