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Mayor de Blasio Advances Citywide Environmental Justice Efforts

February 20, 2020

Appoints Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice, convenes inaugural advisory board, and establishes interagency working group to embed environmental justice into City actions

NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio today announced a number of efforts to advance New York City’s environmental justice efforts, including the appointment of Adriana Espinoza as Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice, and appointing Peggy Shepard as Chair of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board.

“New York City is leading the nation in fighting global warming, because we owe it to our children and grandchildren,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Adriana has shown an unparalleled commitment to climate justice and I am confident she will ensure every New Yorker is involved in the fight to save our city.”
“As New York City demonstrates global climate leadership, it is also making sure that progress is felt in every community across the city. That work starts with building principles of justice and equity into the foundation of every city agency to ensure environmental burdens and benefits are fairly distributed across the city,” said Adriana Espinoza. “I am honored to join the Mayor’s Climate Policy and Programs Team and look forward to working with the experts on the advisory board and interagency work group to advance environmental justice in New York City.”

“Delivering on NYC’s Green New Deal demands that we embed justice into the City’s world-leading climate actions,” said Daniel Zarrilli, NYC’s Chief Climate Policy Advisor. “I’m excited to welcome Adriana Espinoza to this work of fighting environmental injustice across the city. Her ability to work collaboratively across diverse stakeholder groups will ensure that we are building a strong and fair city for every New Yorker. Congratulations as well to Peggy Shepard for her appointment as Chair and to the entire Environmental Justice Advisory Board. The City looks forward to working with you.”

These appointments comes alongside a wave of Environmental Justice efforts from Mayor de Blasio. As Senior Advisor, Espinoza will spearhead the City’s environmental justice actions, including conducting the first-ever citywide study of environmental justice, establishing an online data portal, and implementing a plan that will provide guidance for permanently incorporating environmental justice into city decision making. The Mayor and City Council have appointed 14 members of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board and the Mayor, in consultation with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, named Peggy Shepard of WE ACT as its Chair. The Advisory Board will be collaborating with the interagency working group to develop a design and scope for the citywide environmental justice study, establish a publicly accessible online data portal and interactive map, and develop a citywide environmental justice plan. The board will also be working with the City to ensure public engagement, input, and participation are included in the development and implementation of all of these initiatives.

About Adriana Espinoza
Espinoza comes to the Mayor’s Office from the New York League of Conservation Voters, where she has worked on a wide variety of environmental health and justice issues including successful advocacy and public education campaigns from clean school buses to LeadFreeNYC. She has extensive experience building broad-based coalitions which will serve her well in the Mayor’s Office. Espinoza will also deepen important relationships with advocates, community leaders, and cross-sector partners to ensure environmental justice concerns are incorporated into citywide policy decision making and implementation.

About Peggy Shepard
Peggy Shepard is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and has a long history of organizing and engaging Northern Manhattan residents in community-based planning and campaigns to address environmental protection and environmental health policy locally and nationally. She has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, and environmental health community-based participatory research to become a national leader in advancing environmental policy and the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities – to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment extends to all.

Environmental Justice Advisory Board Appointees include:
Christine Appah, Senior Staff Attorney, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
Eddie Bautista, Executive Director, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance
Rebecca Bratspies, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law and founding Director of the CUNY Center for Urban Environmental Reform
Shoshanah Brown, founder and CEO, AIRnyc
Dr. Luz Claudio, Professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health and Chief of the Division of International Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Omar Freilla, Co-op Academy Coordinator, Green Worker Cooperatives
Diana Hernandez, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Anhthu Hoang, New York City Resident
Albert Huang, Senior Attorney, Environmental Justice, Healthy People &Thriving Communities Program, Natural Resources Defense Council
Tina Johnson, Community Organizer, WE ACT for Environmental Justice
Beryl Thurman, Executive Director, North Shore Waterfront Conservancy of Staten Island
Angela Tovar, Board Member, The Point CDC
Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director, UPROSE

“When the council passed the Environmental Justice Act in 2017, we knew that it was critical to have the right person leading the discussions between government and communities,” said Costa Constantinides, Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection. “Adriana has a proven track record of fighting to get a seat at the table for marginalized groups, and I know that she will bring her experience and passion to the role as she works to bring true environmental justice to all New Yorkers.” 

“I’m pleased to see the Mayor is moving to effectuate the intent of the EJ bill that was originally sponsored by my husband, State Assemblyman Charles Barron when he was a Council Member and reintroduced by me. For too long our communities have been burdened by the injustices of environmental racism and we now look forward to addressing and correcting this problem thru an equitable distribution of funding, resources and policies. Congratulations to both women on their recent appointments. Through her work with the New York League of Conservation Voters, Adriana Espinoza has done a great job seeking to advance legislation and hold elected officials accountable based on their sponsorship or co-sponsorship of legislation that seek to protect our environment. Peggy Shepard has a long track record of protecting and advocating for low income and communities of color disproportionately affected by pollution and environmental racism. I look forward to working with both women in their new positions as we advance my EJ bill,” said Council Member Inez Barron.

“I am honored to have been appointed Chair of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board for New York City, and look forward to working with my colleagues to develop a study of environmental justice concerns impacting our communities and then make policy recommendations to address them,” said Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “As someone who has been at the forefront of the campaign for environmental justice for more than three decades, I am eager to move forward with this vital work, providing our elected officials with the guidance needed to ensure that a New Yorker’s zip code will no longer be a determining factor in their environmental health.”

Christine Appah, Senior Staff Attorney at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest said, “With the leadership announced today New York City is embarking on an important project to ensure its actions across all agencies advance environmental justice. As we face climate and affordability crises, there is much work to be done to ensure an equitable transition to a renewable energy economy, reduce pollution and public health impacts in communities of color, and combat displacement of low-income residents. The Environmental Justice Advisory Board will steer the city’s planning process in the right direction.” 

Rebecca Bratspies, Professor at CUNY School of Law and founding Director of the CUNY Center for Urban Environmental Reform said, “By naming Peggy Shepard chair of this committee, New York City has signaled a real commitment to meaningful change.  It is an honor to serve under her leadership and alongside so many fierce advocates for environmental justice.”

Shoshanah Brown, founder and CEO of AIRnyc said, “Well before most of the world began paying attention to the environmental injustice we now see all around us, Peggy Shepard was fighting toxic policies and practices that disproportionately impact the health and well-being of communities of color. We are lucky to have her wisdom, experience and leadership to guide our work on this Environmental Justice Advisory Board.”

“I expect that my appointment to this Advisory Board will allow me to continue and to expand our work towards reducing health disparities caused or aggravated by environmental exposures in New York City,” said Dr. Luz Claudio, a Tenured Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.  “Our goal will be to include scientific evidence to support sound environmental decisions that protect the health of all populations in New  York City”.

“These are two wonderful appointments!  Adriana Espinoza is a star – a talented advocate who cares deeply about improving environmental conditions for all New Yorkers and knows the importance of connecting with the grassroots communities of color that have suffered most from environmental injustice. And Peggy Shepard is a legendary figure who has been one of the leaders of the national environmental justice movement for decades.  Adriana and Peggy will be great assets to the de Blasio Administration’s efforts to advance environmental justice and develop strategies to curb global warming emissions,” said Eric A. Goldstein, New York City Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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