Wednesday, August 18, 2010

BLoomberg's Choke Is On Us

As the NY Post is reporting, the city's air is getting to be downright dangerous: "This is hardly a breath of fresh air. A city Department of Health study on summer air quality released yesterday showed a troubling finding: Even quieter neighborhoods that don't have New York's infamous crowds, traffic and skyscrapers suffer from high levels of smog. The report, which examined various types of air pollution, revealed that a variety of contamination occurs throughout the city, depending on the type of neighborhood. "The take-home message here is that the air quality just isn't great anywhere in New York City. What's surprising is just how variable the air quality is across the city," Deputy Health Commissioner Daniel Kass said."

And guess what the DOH found? That's right, outer borough neighborhoods right next to highways are those that are most dangerous to your health: "Lower and midtown Manhattan, The Bronx and outer-borough neighborhoods that flank major highways have higher levels of this form of pollution. Neighborhoods with the largest crowds during the day had, on average, 22 percent higher levels of particulate matter, while areas with the heaviest traffic had an average of 15 percent more than other neighborhoods in the study, which was conducted between June and August 2009."

And what has Mayor Mike been doing for the past nine years-while at the same time huckstering about something "sustainable," and environmentally friendly, called PlaNYC 2030? He has been directly aggravating this situation by building auto dependent malls and other developments contiguous to these highways-most famously, the Gateway Mall built right along, "asthma alley," in the South Bronx. And if he had his way, another such mall would have been injected right into the middle of the crowded Kingsbridge Heights neighborhood of the Bronx as well.

But the worst of all of these environmental threats is taking place in Queens where not only the Willets Point development (80,000 vehicle trips a day right along the Van Wyck), but 70 or more auto dependent projects are spewing forth carbon dioxide into already gridlocked streets and highways. The latest crackpot example of this environmental assault is the promotion and city council approval of Flushing Commons. Just where are all of the enviros in this challenge to clean air?

Well, we know that the Environmental Defense Fund and the League of Conservation Voters actually endorsed the Willets Point project-raising Sharpton-like questions about potential pecuniary conflicts of interest with the wealthy mayor. And these two groups, when challenged about their quiescence in the face of all of this cumulative development have remained, well, quiet as church mice so as not to disturb their benefactor, Fortunately, the Sierra Club appears ready to join with the NRDC in speaking up about this environmental threat. Calling Jim Gennaro, chair of the council's environmental protection committee.

So, what needs to be done? Health Commissioner Farley, and his deputy Kass, have the right idea-even though they speak at cross purposes with their forked tongued boss: "Any effort the city or everyone else makes to improve air quality in New York City will have benefits across the city. If you reduce traffic in the central Manhattan zone, you will reduce ozone in the outer areas of New York City," Kass said. Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, in a prepared statement, said the study emphasizes the need to switch to more fuel-efficient cars, reduce overall vehicle traffic and rely more on mass transit."

Now if only someone could reach Mike Bloomberg in Bermuda to let him know what's going on-and clue him in to the role that his policies are playing in making the city's air harder to breathe. The news might get the mayor off the golf course a little early. Maybe he could even make a passionate speech about our basic rights to breathe clean air?

That's unlikely, though. In the face of all of this smog, the mayor is driving forward-now last seen promoting the traffic nightmare Wal-Mart at the Gateway Mall off of the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn. As we said a few month ago: "It is now the right time to call out the mayor on his two faced sustainability policy-and the best way of doing that is for the state legislature-along with the city council-to hold joint traffic and environmental impact hearings on PLaNYC 2030; with the Gateway Mall acting as the star witness to the mayor's blatant hypocrisy. The naked emperor needs to be called out, and a moratorium on much new development should be called so that a full analysis of the environmental damage that the Bloomberg development policy is having on the city can be fully understood by all New Yorkers."