Thank you to the New Yorkers who came to THE CITY’s Open Newsroom on August 3 at Queens Public Library in Jamaica. Community members and a panel of experts held a conversation about the effects of climate change and extreme weather in New York City. The panel of three experts was moderated by Kara Schlichting, associate professor of history at Queens College, who studies the urban and environmental history of New York. The panelists were:
- Gloria Boyce-Charles, former vice chair and current member of the Eastern Queens Alliance, an organization that advocates for improved quality of life for all those living within its community.
- Sonal Jessel, director of policy of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a community organization that focuses on elevating the voices of people of color and low-income residents in conversations about climate policy.
- Samantha Maldonado, reporter from THE CITY who covers climate, resiliency, housing and their intersection with a focus on uncovering inequities in climate change.
The panel of experts fielded questions from the audience and raised points about land use, extreme heat, flooding and sewage, touching upon the specific issues that New York faces as a city.
“Climate change is a global issue but it affects different places at different rates,” said Schlichting. “Cities bring their own unique concerns when it comes to both climate change and extreme weather.”
The panel also discussed actions New Yorkers can take to tackle climate change at the grassroots level. Jessel highlighted that the city has an environmental justice advisory board, and residents can get in touch with their concerns here.
“The more you complain, the more likely you are to get the problem fixed,” Jessel said.
“Be communicative about [your issues] … being really vocal about the very specific block-by-block things to the city will be very helpful,” she said.
In addition to reaching out to elected officials, Maldonado raised the importance of educating and informing yourself on the issues that you face at an individual level as a resident in the city.
“Be aware of the risks of your own surroundings. Are you going to be in a really hot spot in the city? Are you in a flood zone?” she said. “Having that information understanding is really key in order to protect yourself.”
Finally, Boyce-Charles emphasized the importance of the well-known slogan “reduce, reuse and recycle.”
“Disposal of other materials can be reduced if we were more intentional about our purchases and repurposing of the things that we buy. And don’t litter. Litter clogs up our storm drains and contributes to flooding. It winds up in our oceans and harms marine life,” she said.
On top of that, Boyce-Charles stressed that each of us can play a role in combating climate change.
“Ask yourself what skill you may have, what passion you may have, what time you may have, that you can offer to support your community to be a better place. By doing those things you make a contribution to help the community.” she said.
Boyce-Charles also raised the need to be aware of community resources, and to make these resources available to everyone.
“When things get bad and floods start, where do you go?” she asked. “You don’t have a summer home in the Hamptons, so you don’t get to evacuate and go there. So where can people go?”
Find out if you’re in an evacuation zone with the Office of Emergency Management’s “Know Your Zone” address lookup tool. There are six evacuation zones in the city.
If you’d like to ask a question related to the event or about climate change in the city, send it to @askthecity.nyc with the subject line “CLIMATE.”