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Astoria Residents Join Climate Change Protests


Last month tens of thousands of protesters massed in Washington D.C. for the people’s climate march. But there were other smaller protests too. In the Queens community of Astoria, nearly 100 showed up to protest the proximity of power plants to low-income housing. And their fears that rising sea levels could wash away park land. Patrick Martin has the story.

AMBI: Kids in park.

MARTIN: Astoria Park sits next to the east river with sweeping views of the Manhattan Skyline. Children swing and run around on the playground while adults relax sprawled out on the great lawn. You would have never believed a super storm caused billions of dollars in damages just a few short years ago. Costa Constantanides is a city councilman and member of the environmental committee. He urges the Trump administration to realize climate change is not a hoax.

CONSTANTANIDES: We know climate change is real. It’s going to have a direct effect on our economy, on our health, our political world. There isn’t anything that climate change is not going to touch.

MARTIN: It’s even touched some of our most prehistoric residents, through the burning of certain non renewable resources.

BRATSPIES: All of the fossil fuels that we burn, they’re called fossil fuels because they are embedded carbon. They are dinosaurs and plants and carbon that is trapped within the earths surface.

MARTIN: That’s Rebecca Bratspies. She’s an environmental lawyer, and member of the Astoria community.

BRATSPIES: We’re releasing that into the air and adding it on what’s on top of it naturally.

MARTIN: It may not be denial, but the Trump administration is rolling back Obama era climate programs. The very programs that would help communities like Astoria. In March plans were made to cut the environmental protection agency by more than 30 percent. What we’re some of the programs in the cross hairs? You guessed it Climate Change Education and Clean power. Even kids in high school are upset.

SCHERER: I’m in Global Kids, it’s a non-profit organization geared at youth empowerment and most recently working to mandate climate education in New York City public schools.

MARTIN: That’s 17-year-old Kate Scherer. She marched in Washington. She also made sure other protesters there knew about the major environmental hazards in Astoria. Like asthma.

SCHERER: I just do know it’s one of the bigger things in areas like public housing areas, like areas in Astoria or in Long Island City because they are so close to…

MARTIN: Power plants. More than half of the cities energy comes from plants in Western Queens. They burn dirty fuel like number 6 oil. Although City Council has mandated to phase number 6 oil by 2020, power plants burnt more that 19 million gallons in 2015. Again, Costa Constantanides.

CONSTANTANIDES: Why do I say that’s important, because number 6 oil looks like black tar. Has the most particular matter, has the most nitrous oxide, has the most sulfur oxide. It’s the stuff that gets into your lungs when it burns the soot that causes asthma.

MARTIN: And it’s affecting Astoria.

CONSTANTANIDES: We see the asthma rates skyrocketing in community. We have 11101, 11102 and 11106. Those three zip codes have higher than average asthma, both ER admissions and hospitalizations across the board. Those are scary numbers.

MARTIN: Number 6 oil may be on its way out but there are still other fuel oils that won’t be phased out until 13 years from now. Constantanides said it’s too long and has put forward a petition. It will call for power plants to stop burning all dirty fossil fuels.

Patrick Martin, Columbia Radio News.

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