Giving Compass’ Take:
• After Superstorm Sandy, communities in New York City led grassroots efforts to understand the impact of living near a power plant or waste-transfer station when a natural disaster hits.
• How can donors contribute to these community-led partnerships that help build resilience and share information?
Elizabeth Yeampierre watched tree branches whip past her windows on the evening of October 29, 2012, as Superstorm Sandy slammed into New York City. She had spent years warning of the dangers one big storm could unleash in her community. Now, here it was.
Yeampierre is an icon in the working-class neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a champion of the people and the place. She knew as well as anyone that hundreds of industrial sites operated in the community, some just feet from homes. She didn’t think they were ready for a storm like this
As the skies cleared and the floodwaters receded, Sunset Park got to work. Small business owners and local volunteers scraped up debris and pumped out basements, often working with no more protection than some old shoes and grubby clothes. A concern went through the community: What, exactly, was in that debris and floodwater?
Sunset Park is the largest waterfront industrial area in New York City, a place where heavy industry coexists with apartment blocks and old brownstones. Even before the storm, community activists had organized “toxicity tours” to show outsiders what it was like to live near a waste-transfer station or a power plant. All it would take, they warned, was one big storm to flood those facilities and wash their pollutants into the community.
It was research for the community, in the community, and with the community. It brought together longtime activists and college students, neighbors who knew the neighborhood and researchers who knew the data. They called themselves GRASP, for Grassroots Research to Action in Sunset Park.
“These are the kinds of partnerships that we need to invest in,” said Yeampierre, a self-described climate justice activist who leads an organization called UPROSE that has been fighting for Sunset Park since 1966. The group is one of the key members of GRASP, along with the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, RAND, and an environmental risk-assessment nonprofit called The LifeLine Group.
Read the full article about partnerships protecting communities from climate change by Doug Irving at RAND Corporation.
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