Community Leaders Challenge NY Gov: Cut Pollution

Jan 2, 2018

Community leaders rallied outside the Governor’s Mansion on New Year’s Day to demand that Andrew Cuomo fulfill his commitment to Albany families to address growing pollution concerns.

Activists called on the governor to stop a proposed gas power plant in Sheridan Hollow, invest in renewable energy solutions, and join state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in supporting a corporate polluter fee in New York State.

Leaders say communities of color in Albany have had to deal with serious health problems, including oil trains running on rails bordering residential areas along South Pearl Street, diesel fumes from truck traffic in the South End as well as past exposure to the old ANSWERS trash-burning plant in Sheridan Hollow, which operated from 1981 to 1994.  Now, the state is considering a "natural gas cogeneration plant" with a microgrid to power and heat the downtown Empire State Plaza. 

Environmental justice advocate Elaine McCall says she knows many people who lost their lives due to cancer caused by the ANSWERS facility.   "In 2018 we are faced with the threat of another occurrence of the same thing. New residents in the same area will be exposed to deadly toxic emissions. A silent killer. Claiming yet more innocent unsuspecting lives. But not this time. We will not be silent. It is deliberate, it is calculated and it is inhumane. It must not be allowed to happen again."

South End resident and parent Chenille Bernard says her main concern is helping children regardless of race or social position.    "We need our school's water system updated as soon as possible, especially in the South End schools. Too many children are suffering with asthma, due to the diesel trucks and the bomb trains, which for some of us is in our own backyard. Children are suffering with extremely high lead levels due to the rusty outdated pipes, not only in our homes but in our schools. Governor, we, your neighbors of the South End need the funds for the CFE released as soon as possible."

in November, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state would award funds to replace lead water lines in several midsize cities, including Albany, where some water service lines date back to the 1820's.  The city tests for lead every three years and has found no high or unacceptable levels in water samples.

In the summer of 2016, WAMC investigated the residents' struggle with air and noise pollution at the expense of quality-of-life, what some call "environmental racism."  A year later, the state Department of Environmental Conservation erected a state-of-the-art quality monitoring system on the Ezra Prentice grounds off South Pearl Street. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan:  "We're gonna get the facts and we're gonna report those facts to the community. And then we're going to figure out what we need to do to make sure that residents here can rest easy at night. That they can see their children play at that playground across the street, and not worry about what they're breathing in."

The results of that study are expected to be released later this year.