Marcia G. Yerman

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Abortion: Stories Women Tell

Abortion: Stories Women Tell

Droz Tragos follows the intimate accounts of women as they grapple with the impact of their pregnancies and how the crisis impacts the trajectory of their lives. The insights revealed are quite different from the political pronouncements of elected officials.

April 18, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

“Climate of Hope” Offers Cities, Businesses and Citizens as Drivers of Climate Action

“Climate of Hope” Offers Cities, Businesses and Citizens as Drivers of Climate Action

Pope and Bloomberg agree that the impetus for change is not going to come from Washington. They see cities as the drivers of change and the “key” to tackling the problems of climate change.

May 18, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

On Election Day, I cast my vote full of hope.

On Wednesday morning, I went to bed at 3 a.m. — after watching eight hours of election returns. When I woke up, I had a severe case of dread. Not an existential dread. Rather, a version that I could feel in every fiber of my body.

I have been writing about the environment for six years.

As I looked over all the articles I have produced,

November 17, 2016 | No comment | Read More »

Peggy Shepard of WE ACT on Air Pollution, Asthma, and Environmental Justice

Peggy Shepard of WE ACT on Air Pollution, Asthma, and Environmental Justice

WE ACT is proud to bring an empowered, informed and mobilized constituency to the table. Once that structure is in place, a lot can be accomplished. Act locally, think globally.”

May 20, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Spotlight

State Senator Jeff Klein: Hero or Goat?


The weather forecast was for a very hot day — ninety degrees. Regardless, I wanted to witness an on the ground action by Rise and Resist, a group active in response to the election of Donald Trump. (Full disclosure: I am a member of a New York Indivisible group.)

While the rest of the country is dealing with the daily breaking news of “Trumpland,” New York State has its own political drama which is picking up steam.

It’s all about Albany politics, specifically the State Senate. Eight elected Democrats have joined a group called the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). Under the tutelage of State Senator Jeffrey Klein, they have formed a coalition with Republicans.

With the arrival of Trump’s agenda, voters are getting more tuned in to government at every level. The IDC, previously under the radar, now finds itself scrutinized, both by a newly energized electorate and New York newspapers.

The location of the protest was listed as being at Klein’s Bronx office, 1250 Waters Place, located in the Hutchinson Metro Center. Rather, it was on a two-way street at the foot of the entrance to the large, gated complex.

I didn’t see demonstrators when I arrived, and wondered if I were in the right place. The first thing I saw suggesting I was in the correct vicinity was a large truck. It sported the message, “Laborers Support New York State Senator JEFFREY KLEIN.” In small print was the acknowledgement, “Paid for by New York State Laborers PAC.”

I finally spotted a gaggle of people. They were behind a barricade that had a blue banner with a photograph of Klein. Many of the men had signs or shirts identifying them as belonging to the Transport Workers Union Local 100.

I engaged in conversation with a woman giving directives. She was from Klein’s office, but declined to give me her name. She informed me the people in attendance were part of a community rally, because Klein supports efforts to fix the Tier 6 Bill. “John Samuelson [TWU Local 100 President] supports the IDC,” she said. “Labor issues, working people, retirement — are all one and the same.” When I pressed her on whether the IDC had been preventing legislation that would help most average New Yorkers she replied, “It’s news to me.”

Bronx Community Board 11 member, Marcy Gross, was anxious to share her enthusiasm for Klein. “He supports progressive issues as well as old-school issues,” Gross told me emphatically. “He supports unions.” Without missing a beat, she suggested, “He should run for President!”

I was given a flyer, a list of suggested chants. “Jeff Klein is on our side,” and “The IDC fights for me,” seemed to be favorites. A man yelled out, “There’s nobody more honest than Jeff Klein.”

Further down the sidewalk, a lone anti-Klein activist holding a sign debated with two Klein supporters. The conversation was getting heated. Eventually, the anti-Klein advocate walked away, realizing she wasn’t getting any traction.

I took the opportunity to jump in and ask about their support of Klein. The man, still agitated from the encounter, said, “Klein has given every school in the district $16,500. Nobody cares about the people! They care more about party than people. Klein has found a way to get things done.” He identified himself as a resident of Morris Park before stating, “I think the IDC is great.” I inquired, “May I ask who you voted for in the Presidential election?” His answer was succinct. “No comment.”

At this point, the Rise and Resist contingent had assembled on the opposite side of the street. At the crosswalk, I met a man with a New York State Police Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association shirt. I asked him about his views.

“Klein has supported us on our issues,” he said. “The IDC did an independent review on assaults on our staff. They gave the proper information.” He then referenced media distortions circulated based on “lower numbers reported by the agency.” He paused and underscored, “The IDC brings stability to the State Senate. I can only go with what Klein has done for our profession.”

I crossed the street and waded into the anti-Klein demonstrators. Their signs also encapsulated a clear point of view: IDC=GOP, Fake Dems, and Indecent/Deceitful/Collaborators. They served to nail down objections to the eight “rogue” Democrats in the IDC conference.

An article had already appeared in the New York Times, outlining questions swirling around IDC members who had received monies in the form of stipends. (Days later, a piece in the New York Post dug further in the matter of leadership “lulus.”)

I spoke first to Eve Proper of Rise and Resist, who explained the group was doing a series of protests against the IDC. “These are Democrats who do not caucus with Democrats. They give Republicans a Senate majority, so that Republicans can stop bills in committee.” Jamie Bauer, standing nearby, was quick to mention the “lulus” situation.

Most of the people I interviewed had specific concerns. One woman gave me a primer on the 1971 Urstadt Law, which allows the state to have the last word on New York City rent-regulated housing. She pointed out that Klein had major donors in the real estate industry, and hasn’t been anxious to see the legislation overturned.

Aggie Mullaney, who called herself a “community activist and a mother” said, “Single payer is a perfect example. It gets through the Assembly but doesn’t pass the Senate. The IDC is enabling a Trump agenda.” Mullaney was concerned with expanding voting rights and the DREAM Act. “We explain to voters that members of the IDC, who they voted for as Democrats, are working with Republicans. Most of them have no idea what the IDC is. It’s a subterfuge!”

My conversations were interrupted by car horns honking in support of the Klein advocates. The Klein truck made several passes down the street during the time I was there.

I heard rumblings that the “counter-demonstration” was peopled by folks brought on-site. I contacted Rise and Resist point person, Paul Rabin, on Monday to check on that story. Rabin confirmed, “There were two or three school buses that people were getting on to. I spoke to several women there. They didn’t seem to know what the IDC was.”

Educational consultant Toby Marxuach-Gusciora related, “I think Klein does what’s good for Republicans, and they believe in charter schools. These schools pick the top kids, and then the public schools don’t have diverse populations. It’s killing education for minorities, and in the long run — public education.”

Maria Bautista, NYC Campaigns Director of the Alliance for Quality Education, was also concerned about the IDC role in the public education space. “As part of their coalition with the Republicans in the Senate, Klein and the IDC voted to underfund public schools, and to fund privately run charter schools instead. Our public schools in New York City are owed $1.9 billion as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. The Senate Republicans are fighting tooth and nail against this money for our children. Yet, Jeff Klein and his IDC colleagues are empowering the Senate Republicans instead of fighting for our schools.” I asked Bautista about the pro-Klein people stating that Klein was bringing funds into the schools. She told me she had spoken to some Klein supporters about the work the Alliance was doing. “Jeff Klein apparently secures additional funding for the schools in his district. Community members were very aware of this. However, the reality is that this money is a fraction of what is owed. His district alone was owed $102 million this past year and he’s blocked his community and the state from benefiting from the full funding for public schools.” Reflecting on how Klein was massaging his district she suggested, “It seems he takes care of local schools and awards grants to curry favor.”

I got quite similar feedback on the “follow the money” component from Darius Longarino. A young lawyer, Longarino called Klein’s offices in Albany and the Bronx to express the need for early voting and automatic registration. “The GOP provides Senator Klein with several tens of million dollars for projects in his district,” he said.

“This is far more than any other senator — Republican or Democrat — many of them representing districts more in need of financial support. Why does this happen? The GOP is buying Klein’s loyalty, and Klein, in turn, buys loyalty in the district. Klein is often pictured in the paper giving out big checks to parks and local groups, but the cost of his backroom bargain with the GOP is invisible. For example, our district’s public schools are owed $80 million in Foundation Aid, the distribution of which the IDC and GOP have endeavored to slow and diminish. Meanwhile, they have passed legislation to prop up the charter school industry.”

Longarino pointed me to a 2015 PoliticoNewYork drill-down on Klein and his $11 million plus in earmarks. “It’s about money in return for support,” Longarino concluded. “He buys the peace while preventing progressive action.”

Photos: Bob Volin

 

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May 25, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Peggy Shepard of WE ACT on Air Pollution, Asthma, and Environmental Justice

The history of WE ACT for Justice goes back to 1988. Peggy Shepard was one of three neighborhood activists who recognized that West Harlem was bearing the brunt of toxic pollution.

The Environmental Justice movement was getting off the ground. Awareness was building that low-income communities and people of color were targeted for sitings by polluting industries in disproportionate numbers.

Now, the Trump administration plans to negate gains from the past eight years. Mustafa Ali, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office on Environmental Justice, resigned in March. The stakeholders WE ACT represents are facing greater jeopardy.

I reached out to Shepard, to ask her what she anticipates moving ahead.

What do you expect from Trump and the EPA, and how are you preparing your community to push back?

“I anticipate a rollback of many of the regulations and policies that the Environmental Justice movement has worked on over the last twenty-five years.

We’re used to blackouts at the federal level. We lived through Bush and Reagan, and we will overcome this new hardship through commitment, hard work, and keeping our eye on the prize. Environmental Justice folks are used to being under-resourced and ignored. It has not stopped our vision and savvy at finding ways forward.

The new administration has helped motivate the grassroots and when we have regular people fired up and ready to go, good things happen.

We took four buses to the People’s Climate March in D.C. last week.”

Much of the work WE ACT did to fight air pollution was through the courts. Do you think the judicial branch of government will be successful in protecting any of the in-place legislation?

“Actually, I believe we have gained as much through the regulatory process as the courts.

We got EPA Region 2 to do air monitoring in Harlem. That data was used to promulgate the fine particulate standard.

I am not optimistic about the courts, but we will have to wait and see. Even with a win, government has to enforce and implement. If that does not happen, then the law is ineffectual. We have to monitor the laws we already have, to ensure they are enforced and complied with.”

How are you bringing awareness to health in the home, particularly with the one in four asthma rate among children in Harlem?

“We are providing leadership to a Healthy Homes coalition in New York City and support the Asthma Free Homes bill (Intro 385A), which holds landlords responsible for making repairs in a given period of time, when there is a tenant with a diagnosis of asthma.”

What is your advice to frontline communities in America on how to protect their rights over the next four years?

“Organize at the grassroots. Coordinate leadership development and issue-oriented trainings to empower, mobilize and strengthen social cohesion so regular folks understand and experience their voices being heard. We just coordinated the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change.

WE ACT is proud to bring an empowered, informed and mobilized constituency to the table. Once that structure is in place, a lot can be accomplished. Act locally, think globally.”

What impact will potential cuts to programs devoted to protecting children from lead paint have in New York state?

“WE ACT used to have several HUD grants over the years. We were able to run bus ads, conduct workshops around the city, and train parents how to do lead testing. We reached over 100,000 people in our last campaign. We were an active member of the NYC Coalition to End Lead Poisoning which organized to pass the most protective law in the nation, Local Law 1 of 2004. Unfortunately, we now find the city is not enforcing the law. We have to go back to court to secure the city’s compliance to ensure landlords are contacting parents in their buildings who have a child under the age of 6. They must make the necessary repairs within a given period of time.

When new families and immigrants move into apartments, they do not have the information to protect their children from lead. We cannot assume that because lead poisoning incidence is down, everyone knows about this toxin. Over 80 percent of all new cases in New York City are children of color, living in the ten worst neighborhoods for housing maintenance.”

The New York City Council voted to protect low-income New Yorkers and communities of color with the Environmental Justice Study Bill (Intro 359) and The Environmental Justice Policy Bill (Intro 886A)

“We will be working on implementation in the coming months. We had this vision for years — to get the city to focus on equity and Environmental Justice. This is a moment for us to be creative and strategic.

We need a study because government and media want documentation of what we already know to be true. As city agencies develop their plans to address identified EJ concerns, we will have some access and documentation to hold them accountable. It is easier to do that locally than federally because we have the affected residents within shouting distance of their electeds.

We must scale up our civic engagement with electoral work, holding candidates and incumbents to a higher standard, and to keep their commitments.”

Tell Your Senator to Protect Our Health from Air and Climate Pollution

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force

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May 20, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

“Climate of Hope” Offers Cities, Businesses and Citizens as Drivers of Climate Action

A new book by business magnate and former New York city mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and Carl Pope, previously executive director of the Sierra Club, puts forth the premise of “How cities, businesses, and citizens can save the planet.”

In seven chapters, they break down key ideas with clearly delineated points to generate a game plan for attacking climate change from a pioneering angle.

The two men connected around PlaNYC, a New York City sustainability plan. Bloomberg Philanthropies later supported a Sierra Club initiative, Beyond Coal, with a $50 million grant. The goal was to close down or phase out one-third of the coal-fired plants in America.

Bloomberg states that he is both a capitalist and a believer in the premise that the prime responsibility of government is to “protect public health and safety.” He’s a numbers man, and his motto is, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Referencing facts and figures, Bloomberg presents stats that show why acting now on climate change is the best move — economically and financially. Early on, he references global GDP figures to support the point that when it comes to dealing with the fallout from climate disruption, the costs of confronting the problem is substantially less.

Pope and Bloomberg agree that the impetus for change is not going to come from Washington (Especially with an administration of climate deniers.) They see cities as the drivers of change and the “key” to tackling the problems of climate change.

As mayor, Bloomberg tracked emissions, “quantified” them, and then categorized them by source. He applied cost/benefit analysis to his findings, instituted an Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, and made alliances with other mayors from around the country and the world.

I don’t agree with Bloomberg on everything. He supports nuclear power and is okay with fracking — “if it’s done safely.” He acknowledges that gas companies have not self-regulated, and that they need established oversight to avoid methane leaks, pollution of ground water, and earthquakes. He sees gas not as a “permanent solution,” but an essential alternative until we reach a “decarbonized economy.”

Beijing is an example Bloomberg cites for coming to grips with the net costs of high air pollution. The metropolis has seen health ramifications for inhabitants, as well as less foreign investment.

A pragmatist, Bloomberg wants to see cities planning for the 21st century and future generations. He had plenty to consider after Hurricane Sandy left New York City residents with a horrifying lesson about flood zones. Bloomberg notes that by the 2050s, 800,000 New Yorkers will be living in a projected floodplain (level land that may be submerged by floodwaters).

Armed with data, Bloomberg learned that 75 percent of emissions come from buildings. He puts forth the concept of tying tax credits to the installation of green roofs and solar panels. He became part of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, where member cities used a standard system for measuring carbon emissions.

Cities as “drivers of action” became a crystallized concept for Bloomberg, often frustrated by the pace of federal action. He underscores, “Cities can’t wait for national governments to act.” Bloomberg envisions a network of cities as “collective forces of change” — setting precedents in innovative urban planning, promoting public transportation, and embracing public space that doesn’t included vehicular traffic

Pope and Bloomberg cover a full range of territory. Topics include getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies, the consequences of how we eat (agricultural practices are responsible for 30 percent of total methane emissions), an examination of how we use our resources, and the need to see climate change as an economic concern with tangible financial impacts.

My biggest takeaway from the book was what Bloomberg called the failure to recognize “disruptive innovation.” An example is the electric car. He uses a Silicon Valley phrase, “Valley of Death,” to pinpoint what happens when the technology is ahead of the market.

It’s all about adopting novel ideas and business models. Going with a green technology revolution in transportation instead of holding onto the old fossil fuel paradigm or re-examining how our electrical grid is sourced and operates.

I also liked the concept of using bio-mimicry, or taking a page from nature, to solve our environmental problems. My favorite was the permeable concrete that allows rainfall or flooding waters to pass through, and then be collected in aquifers.

All of the models presented by Bloomberg and Pope will take political will, and a fight against “the profit motive” embraced tenaciously by those who have the most to lose.

That’s where the citizen part comes in. When people are ready to realize that climate change is about their lifestyle choices, homes, communities, health, and children — they will hopefully join the fight.

 

Tell Your Senator: Protect America’s Health From Air and Climate Pollution

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force

 

 

 

 

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May 18, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Bill de Blasio Holds Town Hall in Northwest Bronx

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Feb 23, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

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Dec 18, 2014 | No comment | Read More »

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Jul 27, 2014 | 1 comment | Read More »

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Oct 11, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

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Jul 23, 2013 | No comment | Read More »