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Jacobs Tour Highlights Environmental Justice Efforts in Harlem

harlem toxic eco justice tour

Last Saturday – September 27, a group of New Yorkers joined Peggy Shepard, winner of the 2008 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Achievement, and Cecil Corbin-Mark, deputy director of West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. (WE ACT), on a bus tour exploring issues of environmental justice in Harlem. The tour examined how noxious hazards, such as garbage and bus depots, co-exist with some of the city’s cultural treasures, such as the  museums and art institutions of “El Barrio,” Marcus Garvey Park, and the new Harlem Waterfront Park.

In addition to learning about the practice of situating environmentally harmful facilities in low-income communities of color and receiving a first-hand glimpse of how traffic congestion, noise and air pollution, and toxic odors contribute to high asthma rates among local residents, participants gained greater insight into ongoing struggles and siginficant victories. These include the bold act of civil disobedience that brought citywide attention to health risks posed by the the North River Sewage Treatment Plant. Tour takers also marveled at the remarkable architecture of the Mount Morris and Hamilton Heights historic districts.

Like Jane Jacobs, Peggy Shepard believes that community members must speak and act for themselves, and her organization focuses on putting residents back into the decision-making process that determines and affects their personal and community well-being.

Also a winner of the 2008 Jane Jacobs Medal, Alexie Torres-Fleming will lead a tour titled From Burning to Blooming: Community-Driven Projects in the Bronx on Saturday, October 18.