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Philadelphia’s new city commission is focusing on environmental justice communities

Philadelphia’s new city commission is focusing on environmental justice communities

On Wednesday, Philadelphia elected 18 members from different backgrounds to its first ever Environmental Justice Advisory Commission. Mayor Jim Kenney stated that the goal was to correct a legacy of discriminatory and racially biased policies, such as exclusionary zoneing and racial covenants, in the past.

Kenney said that this can lead to inequal health burdens, such as asthma, heart disease, and early death. When designing policies and programs, it is too often that the voices of those who are at the frontlines of environmental risk are not heard.

The legislation creating the commission was passed in 2018, but the city started accepting applicants around one year ago through its Office of Sustainability. The city received applications from at least 140 people in 38 zip codes. The list was narrowed down to 17 people, many of whom are well-known for their work in their communities.

The commission will hold community meetings in Eastwick, beginning Thursday evening. This area is plagued by flooding due to its low-lying location to Darby and Cobbs Creeks. It is also bordered by a Superfund Site. One section is witness to the sinking of many homes. It was built on silt dredged decades ago, activists claim.

Carolyn Moseley is the executive director of Eastwick United Community Development Association. She is currently on the new commission. She is a former executive director of the Eastwick United Community Development Association. Leading an effortTo get $500 million from federal infrastructure money for the city to buy out residents who are willing to move to new homes that she hopes will be built on higher ground bordering the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

The other new members include: Carlos Claussell and Ebony Griffin, Gabriella Gabriel Paez; Jerome Shabazz; John A. Armstead; Joyce Lee, Kermit O. Kinteshia Scott, Mariel Di Diana Featherstone. Nahdir Austin, Paul Devine Bottone. Radika Bhaskar. Radika Thomas. Su Ly, Syreeta Tom, Terrill Haigler, and Tyler Ray.

Volunteers receive a $240 annual stipend to cover expenses.

Gabriel Paez, 31, a Hunting Park native who now lives in Northeast Philadelphia, expressed his hope that the commission could be the voice for the communities it represents.

Gabriel Paez stated that Hunting Park has been hard hit by climate change. Data show that some areas of the city are 20 degrees more warm than others because there isn’t enough shade and concrete and asphalt.

READ MORE: Why Philly Trees cast more shade upon the wealthy

She stated that I will be working with neighbors to find solutions to the problem, such planting more trees.

Gabriel Paez works in community involvement The nonprofit EsperanzaServed on an advisory panel with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to plant trees in the city.

Ray, 24, is from North Philadelphia and has worked with Urban Creators, a nonprofit that has helped to establish urban farms in the area.

Ray stated that I was shocked by the disparities in low-income neighborhoods, particularly those of color, who don’t have easy access to fresh food and vegetables. This commission will hopefully help me to make the city aware that urban gardens are vital for communities.

Katherine Gilmore Richardson (at-large Councilmember) and chair of the councils environment committee called Philadelphia a city struggling with inequity.

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Gilmore Richardson said that your zip code is the most important factor in determining your life expectancy. The life expectancy of those living in the most financially secure areas can be as much as 20 years lower than that of those who live in the poorest neighborhoods. These communities suffer from the cumulative effects of poverty and crime, extreme weather, lack access to healthy food, and exposure to toxic pollutant. These residents have had to develop their own solutions for a long time.

She stated that the commission will coordinate efforts with city departments to find solutions.

Cheryl Bettigole said that her office is working on an environmental justice complaint policy and better ways to communicate health concerns to residents, particularly when it comes down to air quality.

Well be creating a community organization and notifying community leaders by zip code to quickly disseminate any air quality emergencies. Gail Carter Hamilton, who is also the first chief of racial equity, was hired by her office as part of other environmental justice initiatives.

During the news conference that introduced the commission, other officials from other city departments presented similar new policies and initiatives.

Separately at a news conference held in South Philadelphia, Helen Gym, Councilmember announced that she would introduce an Ordinance Thursday requiring the Department of Public Health (or another city office) to develop an Environmental Justice Map in consultation and approval by the Environmental Justice Advisory Commission.

The map would identify areas in Philadelphia that are vulnerable to environmental toxins and stressors, and therefore bear an undue health burden or environmental impact.

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