In my own backyard there is an issue brewing that has all the elements of what is wrong in America today. The Governor of New York, George Pataki, appoints a siting board which then decides where power plants go in New York State. He appoints those who decide what he wants done. What they want done is to place 11 new generators in New York City by the beginning of the summer, a major portion of them in Western Queens within a stretch of waterfront property already known as "asthma alley."
Recent Songs of Freedom shows have been devoted to this issue and what community activists are doing about it. A judge's decision last week to stop the construction of the generators on Vernon Boulevard was appealed by the New York Power Authority and this week another judge ruled that the construction of the generators will continue as the case is being decided.
Western Queens has tunnels and bridges and airports causing air pollution. This part of New York City already supplies 49% of the city's energy. More generators and smoke stacks are planned. Why does the Governor propose more pollution and respiratory problems for this part of the state and this part of the city? And whose side is the mayor on? Need we ask??
Why does the Governor do it? Because he can. He has given himself the power to override any local and federal statutes requiring comprehensive environmental impact studies (Article 10). The Long Island City and Astoria neighborhoods involved are low income neighborhoods with a history of being targets for power hungry power authorities and arrogant politicians.
And business goes on as usual. The game isn't over yet, however. Community groups such as C.H.O.K.E. (Coalition Helping to Organize a Kleaner Environment), citizen activists and some local representatives are taking a stand against greed and arrogance. Some people here are literally fighting for their lives and the lives of loved ones, particularly those who are very old and very young. These populations are most susceptible to asthma and other respiratory problems.
So the fight goes on. I will be reporting to you in this space how things are turning out. Until then, I leave you with a song. Sing it long and loud, especially the part where "Pataki has to go!" [song: "A Choice for Living"]
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