Case Study - Environmental Justice Community Sustainability

Urban advocates for green jobs, a green economy, and green spaces

Sustainable South Bronx, NYC

Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx) was a non-profit environmental justice solutions organization in New York City's South Bronx neighborhood that was founded by environmental activist Majora Carter in 2001. This neighborhood handles more than 40% of New York City’s waste, and has one of the lowest park to people ratios in the nation.
This community is considered environmental justice community or a community that has been disproportionately burdened with environmental degradation caused through economic development and public services that primarily benefit other localities.

Unfortunately, race and class are have become good indicators of where high and low quality neighborhoods and amenities exist in cities and towns. For example, black people in American are 2 times more likely than whites to live in an area where air pollution poses greatest risk to their health. They are 5 times more likely to live within walking distance to a power plant or chemical facility. In this neighborhood, 1 in 4 children have asthma, asthma hospitalization rates is 7 times higher than national average, there is a high obesity rate of 27%, most residents use emergency room visits as primary care, 50% of residents live below on or poverty line, and there is a 25% unemployment rateā€”the highest in New York City. This neighborhood is a product of red lining zoning policies, continual disinvestment, and a history of antiquated planning that permits continual citing of facilitates and chemical plants in this low income neighborhood. These may seem unrelated, but economic degradation begets environmental degradation, which begets social degradation.

SSBx has initiated several projects to build community and to improve their community health and well-being. Their goal of , “greening our neighborhood” increases the focus on green jobs and brings more parks and green industry to the South Bronx.

The organization pioneered the creation of the first waterfront park in this area in 60 years, called Hunts Point Riverside Park. This organization has also pioneered a "green roof" project in the South Bronx with its own for-profit installation company SmartRoofs, LLC. They have also started a "green-collar" job-training program called Bronx Environmental Stewardship Program (B.E.S.T.). This program trains urban residents in various high paying skill areas such as ecological restoration, hazardous waste cleanup, green roof installation and maintenance, urban forestry, and landscaping. To date, 175 students are graduates of our BEST program and the program has a 90% placement rate after four years of operation. The city government currently is planning to construct a prison in the South Bronx area and SSBx are also proposing an alternative use for this piece of land--- a Bronx Eco-Industrial Complex or "a collection of businesses in which the waste and by-products of one business are the raw materials for another one."
This is one example of how environmental justice communities are reclaiming their environmental and social well being and creating sustainable communities in places where it is needed the most.

(Adapted from the work of I. Shaver, 2011)