Members of South Bronx Unite tell their story of the battle for the waterfront and environmental justice against FreshDirect via a cantastoria, or sung story in Italian — a tradition that dates as far back as 1,500 years ago to 6th century India. Hundreds gathered to watch the performance at the end of the People's Climate March
Members of South Bronx Unite tell their story of the battle for the waterfront and environmental justice against FreshDirect via a cantastoria, or sung story in Italian — a tradition that dates as far back as 1,500 years ago to 6th century India. Hundreds gathered to watch the performance at the end of the People’s Climate March

South Bronx Unite Against FreshDirect, buildOn The Bronx, and La Finca del Sur were some of the organizations that led the historic People’s Climate March this past Sunday down Manhattan’s West Side which saw over 400,000 people in attendance (days earlier, People’s Climate March estimated that about 100,000 people would participate).  These Bronx groups were part of the first wave called ‘Frontlines of Crisis, Forefront of Change’ which consisted of ‘…the people first and most impacted and are leading the change’ led by Indigenous people, Environmental Justice, and other Frontline communities.

For the first time in history, the issue of environmental justice in The Bronx, particularly hard impacted communities in The South Bronx were pushed to the front of the global consciousness as we meandered our way down the March route through the canyons of Manhattan.  Although many diverse groups were representing the Bronx, one common theme was seen among them:  Stop FreshDirect from creating an environmental catastrophe in the South Bronx.

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FreshDirect aims to build a 500,000 square foot facility on public land on our waterfront in the Harlem River Yards along with a fueling station — land which was flooded by Superstorm Sandy with over 3 feet of water during low-tide.  To add further insult to injury, the land is also the site of a Native American burial ground.  1,000 trucks will be running through our streets adding further to an asthmatic crisis which we cannot afford.

Back in April, The Center for Disease Control published a study in the April 2014 issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine citing a deep connection between a rise in incidents of childhood leukemia and pollution in high traffic areas — traffic pollution which already exists in the South Bronx that contributes to children having 8 times the national rate of asthma and not to mention 21 times the rate of hospitalization of asthma than any other neighborhood in New York City.

According to USA Today, “The review found that children diagnosed with leukemia were 50% more likely to live near busy roads than children without leukemia,” said Vickie Boothe, a CDC health scientist and lead author of the Journal article.”

The issue is so serious that the CDC is calling for more comprehensive studies to confirm these findings but in the meantime they have suggested, ““As many people reside near busy roads, especially in urban areas, precautionary public health messages and interventions designed to reduce population exposure to traffic might be warranted.”

Can we afford to allow further abuses to our people? Further abuses to our environment in what can easily be called environmental racism in NYC?  Only in poor communities of color will you see our government try and get away with plopping such industries next to highly populated areas.

Yesterday was only one of the many steps the people of The Bronx have taken to take their battle for their lives and their children’s lives to the forefront.  Our community’s struggle against irresponsible deals like FreshDirect didn’t begin over 2 1/2 years ago when the deal was first announced without public hearings or input, this began decades ago during the era of disinvestment in our communities, when we were let to burn to the ground and fend for ourselves.  The result was not what they expected.  We are tired of being the dumping ground for everything that is bad.

In the fires of the 70’s and 80’s we were forged, like a finely honed weapon, into a people who will not go down without a fight and will use every legal means available to us to end the era of The Bronx being a dumping ground for everything that other boroughs don’t want and a place where we can continue to repair our environment and prepare for the inevitable realities that climate change will bring, which includes, creating sustainable and resilient waterfronts.

Our Bronx youth was at the frontlines getting their voices heard on the environment .
Our Bronx youth was at the frontlines getting their voices heard on the environment .
Virginia Ayress, Chilean artist and activist in The Bronx.
Virginia Ayress, Chilean artist and activist in The Bronx.
Bronx youth and the youth over all were a huge group of marchers in this historic event.
Bronx youth and the youth over all were a huge group of marchers in this historic event.
The People's Climate March  was led by the Indigenous peoples of the world, the most vulnerable group to climate change.
The People’s Climate March was led by the Indigenous peoples of the world, the most vulnerable group to climate change.

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