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Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice is the principle that all people, regardless of race, disability status, age, or socioeconomic background, have a right to live, work, and play in communities that are safe, healthy, and free of harmful environmental conditions.

The Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice works to implement policies that close the gap on environmental and health disparities by taking action to advance access and inclusion for people at every level of the planning and decision-making process, and by pursuing equitable protection from environmental and health hazards.

Environmental Justice

Environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all persons, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, policies and activities and with respect to the distribution of environmental benefits.

Climate Justice

Climate justice is the recognition that it is these same historically-overburdened communities that are most vulnerable to a rapidly changing climate. Disparities that are persistent in our society, from social, to economic and health inequities, can be exacerbated by impacts of climate change like extreme heat, flooding, and catastrophic weather events. The pursuit of climate justice also means holding those with the most responsibility for the climate crisis accountable.

A three step info-graphic showing a planned approach for achieving the goals of EJNYC. The first step is to assemble an advisory board and convene a working group of City agencies. The second step is to assess by identifying EJ concerns through a study and publishing a web portal with EJ maps, data, and programs. The third step is to address, by developing a citywide EJ Plan to incorporate EJ concerns into City decision-making and identify city initiatives for promoting EJ.

Draft Map of NYC's Environmental Justice Areas

NYC’s environmental justice law defines “Environmental Justice Areas” as low-income or minority communities located in the City of New York, based on US Census data. Defining Environmental Justice Area in this way enables the City to start from a baseline of social vulnerability in the EJNYC Report. These areas have been and continue to be more vulnerable to potential environmental injustices due to factors including history of systemic racism and inequitable resource distribution. The EJNYC Report will identify and describe these injustices.

In the map, you can enter your address to see if you live in an Environmental Justice Area.

Note that some areas have been identified as a “potential Environmental Justice Area”. This means that the difference between the census data and the Environmental Justice Area thresholds are not statistically significant, therefore we cannot be certain that these areas meet the income or race thresholds to be considered an Environmental Justice Area. The City is currently updating this map with 2020 census tract data and ACS estimates. The updated map will omit “potential Environmental Justice Areas”, and will be released with the EJNYC Report and Web-Portal in 2023.

  • Chair: Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder and Executive Director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice
  • Rebecca Bratspies, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law
  • Shoshanah Brown, Founder and CEO, AIRnyc
  • Marco Carrion, Executive Director, El Puente
  • Dr. Luz Claudio, Professor of Environmental Medicine & Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine, Mt. Sinai
  • Costa Constantinides, CEO, Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens
  • Omar Freilla, Environmental Justice Organizer and Bronx Resident
  • Diana Hernandez, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health
  • Anhthu Hoang, New York City Resident
  • Albert Huang, Senior Attorney, Urban Program, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Tina Johnson, Lifelong NYCHA Resident and Community Activist
  • Morgan Monaco, Executive Director, Red Hook Initiative
  • Beryl Thurman, Founder/Executive Director, North Shore Waterfront Conservancy of Staten Island

In December 2021, the Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice released a scope of work for the EJNYC Report. The scope outlines the environmental justice concerns the report will study and our approach to analyzing them.

Read the full scope of work.

NYC’s environmental justice law includes ten requirements for the EJNYC Report. These requirements ensure that major climate, environmental, and health concerns are identified and measured, and that existing City programs to address those issues are also examined.

The Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice and the City’s Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group released a scope for the EJNYC Report in December 2021 that meets and exceeds these minimum requirements.

The EJNYC Report is required to include:

  • The locations and boundaries of the city’s Environmental Justice Areas
  • A description of environmental justice issues that may be affecting Environmental Justice Areas, including:
  • Locations within the city that are experiencing each issue, where possible
  • Recommendations for further data collection, research, or analysis that may be done to better understand which locations within the city are experiencing each issue
  • An estimate of current federal, state, and local investment per capita in renewable energy in Environmental Justice Areas as compared to non-Environmental Justice Areas in the city
  • A description of barriers to meaningful participation in environmental decision-making affecting residents of Environmental Justice Areas
  • Existing City programs and activities that advance environmental justice and allow the public to participate in City agency decision-making
  • Existing City programs and activities that allow for public engagement and participation in decision-making regarding the siting of facilities and infrastructure
  • Existing City programs, policies, processes, and activities that may cause environmental justice concerns
  • Changes that could be made to existing City programs and policies to increase participation by people in Environmental Justice Areas in decision-making that implicates environmental justice concerns
  • Latest environmental data, including (but not limited) to air and water quality, the location and characteristics of infrastructure owned and operated by the City, and violations of city environmental regulations, that may reflect environmental problems in Environmental Justice Areas
  • Environmental Justice programs proposed or in effect in other cities or states in the United States

Goal: Analyze how environmental benefits and burdens are distributed across the city, particularly among historically marginalized populations and those living in Environmental Justice Areas.

Approach: The EJ Report will identify and describe specific environmental justice concerns and assess the extent to which these concerns are present in EJ Areas and elsewhere in the city. This analysis will include existing environmental and health data, existing infrastructure, cited complaints and violations, climate change projections, and other environmental justice indicators to determine the distribution of environmental benefits and burdens across New York City and where practicable, identify, map, and discuss the neighborhoods where disparities and disproportionate vulnerabilities may exist.

Environmental Justice Concerns to be studied include:

  • Drinking water quality
  • Proximity to impaired water bodies, streams, and park lakes
  • Sewer infrastructure quality and management, including but not limited to, street flooding and drainage issues, smells, and backups
  • Potential exposure to hazardous materials
  • Solid waste management, including but not limited to illegal dumping, access to recycling and diversion programs such as Curbside Composting and Food Scrap Drop Off locations, sidewalk ratings, and litter basket maintenance
  • Proximity to and quality of non-park green resources, including tree canopy and natural areas
  • Park, waterfront, and other public open space access
  • Park and street tree maintenance and quality
  • Housing quality, including indoor air quality, exposure to indoor environmental pollutants such as mold, pests, asbestos, and fine particulates, general maintenance conditions, and energy inefficiency
  • Outdoor air quality, including proximity to major mobile or stationary sources of air pollutants regulated under the federal Clean Air Act
  • Noise, including but not limited to residential noise, and noise due to construction and proximity to heavy infrastructure
  • Land use issues or other infrastructure placement decisions which may contribute to new or existing EJ concerns, including but not limited to environmental justice considerations in environmental review processes
  • Traffic, including traffic volumes, congestion and proximity to major arterials, and traffic safety
  • Access to fresh food and nutrition, and prominence of licensed vendors offering less healthy food, alcohol, and tobacco
  • Utility affordability, including energy cost burden
  • Transit and alternative transportation access, and walkability

Read the full scope of work for more details.

Goal: Review relevant programs, processes, activities, and policies from City agencies to understand and identify how City government contributes to environmental justice and environmental injustice.

Approach: This section will analyze the City’s contribution to environmental justice in NYC. The Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group will inventory City agencies’ relevant programs, policies, and activities to understand and describe the specific ways City government plays a role in contributing to environmental justice and environmental injustice. This area of the report will also evaluate investments in key programs and projects that can advance climate and environmental justice and explore EJ initiatives being implemented in other cities and states across the country.

The EJNYC Report will assess investments and incentives supporting:

  • Renewable energy systems
  • Parks and publicly owned public space, including street trees
  • Clean drinking water standards and delivering drinking water
  • Meeting standards and improving water quality for waters in and around New York City
  • Climate change adaptation and mitigation, including but not limited to investments in existing infrastructure to improve sustainability and climate change resilience, green construction, stormwater controls, emissions reductions, energy efficiency, or climate resiliency
  • Please reference Task 2.2 in the full scope to read more about which programs and activities will be included and how they will be evaluated.

Read the full scope of work for more details.

Goal: Analyze how the City involves New Yorkers in environmental decision-making, especially on the distribution of environmental benefits and decisions, and explore ways to integrate environmental justice principles into those engagement processes.

Approach: This area of the report will assess environmental decision-making citywide with a focus on engagement with historically underserved populations in EJ Areas. It aims to understand how the City involves New Yorkers in environmental decision-making, identify historic barriers to engagement, and explore opportunities and best practices for improving engagement processes to better incorporate equity and environmental justice principles. The assessment will cover the City’s formal public engagement processes regarding siting facilities and infrastructure, such as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), as well as other environmental decision-making processes. The area of the report will also assess City processes for developing official public comments on matters related to the climate and/or environment.

The outcomes of this area of the report include:

  • Recommendations for changes to existing processes and policies to incorporate EJ principles and facilitate better participation by populations in EJ Areas
  • Development of City principles of meaningful involvement in environmental decision-making
  • A toolkit to guide City agencies involved in environmental decision-making on achieving meaningful involvement of New Yorkers
  • For more information about the types of engagement processes covered in the EJ Report, see Tasks 3.1-3.3 of the full scope of work.

Read the full scope of work for more details.

A photo of two young Black children, one boy and one girl, between the ages of 7 and 10. They are at a public town hall meeting, and are sitting next to each other on foldable chairs. Together they are filling out a paper survey.

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