THE BAY RIDGE ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP
March 14, 2021
We are a group of Bay Ridge residents who are dedicated to advocating for solutions to local and national environmental issues. We write this letter to you to highlight some of the ways that you can use your position in Congress to push for solutions to the environmental issues we face that will not only protect your District from health hazards and property damage, but can contribute to the economic recovery of the District after the coronavirus pandemic.
We firmly believe that environmental issues, especially the existential threat of climate change, are some of the most important that Congress and the Administration will have to contend with over the coming years. However, even more critically, we believe that protecting the environment and combating climate change do not need to be partisan issues. Many of the measures we suggest below will bring new investment into your Congressional District, which will promote rather than hinder economic growth.
As a member of Congress and the House Transportation Committee, you are uniquely situated to push for bipartisan solutions to climate change and other acts of environmental protection. Therefore, we recommend you consider the following environmental priorities for your first term:
Increased Transparency on Environmental Issues- First, we simply ask you to include the environment and climate change on your Congressional webpage issues tab to instill confidence in your constituents of your continued commitment to protecting the environment and moving our country to a greener and more prosperous future. Doing so will keep your constituents, who are already so vulnerable to rising sea levels and environmental contamination, informed of your work relating to climate change and the environment.
Expand Local and National Electric Vehicle Charging Stations- Cars on our roads, especially those stuck in traffic on the Staten Island Expressway or Belt Parkway, are emitting significant amounts of greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants into the air. Fortunately, electric vehicles are a clean and cost-competitive alternative that will prevent our roads from remaining a source of pollution. Of course, adjusting to that new future and encouraging car owners to switch to electric vehicles will require abundant charging stations. Therefore, we urge you to support building 500,000 new public charging stations across the country by 2030. As a member of the Transportation Committee, you can ensure that a large number of these charging stations come to Staten Island and South Brooklyn. Doing so will not only provide jobs both building and operating the charging stations, but also encourage residents to invest in buying new electric cars and grow the economy.
Promote High-Speed Rail in the NYC Metropolitan Area- In countries where it has been implemented, high-speed rail has reduced carbon and other emissions by making public transit a viable option, even across large distances. By switching to high-speed rail, particularly in the Northeast, we can see the same advantages. Considering your seat on the Transportation Committee, we ask you to support the development of high-speed rail for the NYC area and beyond. The development of high-speed rail will encourage commuters to transition away from cars, and also make the city more accessible to workers and consumers from more distant areas, thus increasing revenue for our city’s local businesses and commercial centers.
Support a Bike Path on the Verrazano Bridge- Thinking more locally, we urge you to support installing a bike lane on the Verrazano Bridge. This will allow residents of your District to not only avoid exorbitant tolls, an issue dear to your heart, but make your District more accessible to residents who prefer alternatives to cars. Various groups have discussed the feasibility of a bike lane in-depth, and we encourage you to work with them on such a transformative plan.
Invest in Methane Capture at Fresh Kills Park- The transition of Fresh Kills Park away from being a landfill is an environmental victory in its own right, but we believe you can go farther. Landfills, even former landfills, release harmful methane into the atmosphere. In fact, methane is the second largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. Fortunately, groundbreaking new technology has provided us with a solution that not only will reduce methane emissions, but provide relatively clean energy to the citizens of your District. Methane from landfills can now be captured before it enters the atmosphere and burned, generating a local electricity supply. While this technology is still new and not as clean as wind or solar power, it is a useful step in the right direction. We ask you to push for funding that can help Fresh Kills Park, formerly the largest landfill in the world, become a global leader in this new area.
Support the Expansion of Offshore Wind in Staten Island- The development of cheap and readily available renewable energy is absolutely necessary to combat climate change. However, it can also bring jobs to your District. A number of plans have been proposed to build offshore wind turbines outside of New York harbor, with assembly stations and other necessary facilities in Staten Island. These proposals would create jobs for Staten Islanders, and also bring in additional investment to purchase the power generated at the offshore wind facilities. The creation of any offshore wind will require federal approvals, and so we ask you to move those approvals through as quickly as possible.
Funding Science Education- Improved education is a necessary element of a successful environmental policy. First, and most obviously, our children must have an adequate scientific background so that they may make informed decisions, both in their personal lives and at the ballot box, that will guarantee a sustainable future. Additionally, as new industries like renewable energy continue to develop, the U.S. will need many more well-trained engineers and scientists to push that development and keep the U.S. ahead of the rest of the world. If this is to be possible, we will need increased federal funding for education and science programs in schools.
These are just a few of the policies you should pursue in Congress, which we believe will have bipartisan support and begin putting us on the right path toward environmental justice and a green future. We also ask you to commit yourself to some general priorities that could be advanced through various policies; these include: reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; protecting biodiversity; preventing pollution in our waterways; and limiting needless subsidies to fossil fuels that keep our country reliant on them and the greenhouse gas emissions they cause.
Again, protecting the environment does not need to be a partisan issue. Most importantly, the choice between our environment and our economy is a false one. We hope we’ve proven that the policies described above will not only protect our environment, but encourage local investment, create jobs, and turn your District into a leader in innovative industries. We ask for your support in these policies, and ask that you give your support to any other reasonable solutions to climate change and other environmental issues, regardless of which party is suggesting them. We all share this planet, and only together can we protect it.
The Bay Ridge Environmental Group
The Bay Ridge Environmental Group is a group of current and former Bay Ridge residents who engage in advocacy and volunteer work to advance sustainability, environmental justice, and climate change solutions in our community and elsewhere. For more information, you can follow them on Facebook.