Meet the female force who stopped a major development project to preserve her working-class neighborhood and make it a leader in clean energy.

Elizabeth Yeampierre is the executive director of UPROSE, a Sunset Park community organization focused on sustainability and resilience.UPROSA

  • Elizabeth Yeampierre Helped Stop Real Estate Investment Company to rezone your neighborhood.

  • Where the developer saw profits, Yeampierre saw how he could drive out the local working class.

  • Yeampierre spearheads a vision to decarbonize and revitalize Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

For many urban developers, progress looks like sleek, shiny mixed-use developments, with apartments, offices and restaurants all within walking distance.

But when Elizabeth Yeampierre thinks about these enclaves, she sees who they tend to push out: low-income people, the working class, and people of color.

“Many of today’s green solutions result in the displacement of people who have been breathing toxic air for generations,” said Yeampierre, who intends to change the status quo.

Changing the status quo

The streets of downtown Manhattan covered with cars and smoke.The streets of downtown Manhattan covered with cars and smoke.

People of color are at higher risk for climate-related health problems than white people.Toshi Sasaki/Getty Images

Yeampierre was born and raised in New York, and trained as a civil rights lawyer before beginning to work on climate change and environmental justice in the Big Apple.

She was the first Latina chair of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, serves on a number of advisory councils nationally and in New York City, and founded the City of New York’s Climate Justice Youth Summit. New York to help young people of color understand the overlap between racial differences. Justice and climate change.

She has long been interested in how efforts to fight climate change can displace communities that have traditionally been hardest hit by the climate crisis, especially people of color, who are in higher risk according to research.

To that end, Yeampierre helped prevent developer Jamestown Properties, which manages billions of dollars in real estate globally, from rezoning his Brooklyn neighborhood, Sunset Park.

While Jamestown Properties saw a bright future in redeveloping 6 million square feet of the Sunset Park waterfront, Yeampierre saw ways his community could be left behind.

Business Insider contacted Jamestown Properties for comment, but the company did not respond.

In 2020, UPROSE, a Sunset Park community organization focused on sustainability and resilience of which Yeampierre is executive director, joined a local coalition and pressured the city not to rezone.

They won.

Yeampierre then worked with his community to take it a step further.

A new vision for Sunset Park

Aerial image of New York.Aerial image of New York.

Sunset Park is located in southwest Brooklyn along New York Bay.Nisian Hughes/Getty Images

Situated along scenic New York Bay in southwest Brooklyn, Sunset Park is a diverse neighborhood that many working-class people call home.

Nearly half of residents are immigrants, three-quarters of households speak languages ​​other than English, and in 2021, 42% of households He earned less than $50,000.

After defeating Jamestown Properties, Yeampierre, along with UPROSE, proposed an alternative future for Sunset Park: a decarbonized and revitalized one, filled with working-class jobs, renewable energy, locally grown food, and a burgeoning green economy.

This future and how to achieve it by 2035 is outlined in a development report called Green and Resilient Industrial District Plan 2.0. And even Yeampierre’s critics are joining in, Yeampierre told Business Insider.

Working class jobs and clean energy

UPROSE Hydroponic Gardens.UPROSE Hydroponic Gardens.

UPROSE grows hydroponic gardens at its headquarters.UPROSA

The GRID 2.0 Plan will “stimulate the local economy while putting us on a path to resilience” by providing jobs to working-class residents, Yeampierre said.

Chief among the changes is moving jobs from carbon-based industries to green energy.

“The idea is that if you bring these working-class jobs into this sector, people will be able to live here and work here,” he said.

GRID 2.0 also involves a big focus on renewable energy, with shared rooftop solar and offshore wind replacing the two neighborhood power plants that burn fossil fuels.

Rooftop solar is an important part of any plan to decarbonize New York buildings, said Chris Halfnight, senior director of research and policy at the Urban Green Council, a nonprofit focused on decarbonization in the Big Apple. .

“Rooftop solar helps ensure buildings use clean electricity and also makes them more resilient with an on-site power source,” he told BI via email.

But rooftop solar will never be able to fully meet the city’s electricity demand, he said, which is why large-scale efforts to decarbonize electricity production, such as offshore wind, are important.

“We need to decarbonize utility-supplied electricity with renewable energy outside the five boroughs,” Halfnight said.

GRID 2.0 also includes a plan to help protect Sunset Park from food and supply shortages that are a growing concern in the face of the global climate crisis.

Climate change has had consequences such as more extreme droughts, severe storms and destructive flooding that can disrupt supply chains for local communities. To help protect Sunset Park from total chaos in the face of an extreme weather event, UPROSE is focused on growing more food locally.

UPROSE already grows hydroponic gardens at its headquarters and hopes to add more open spaces for urban agriculture with GRID 2.0.

Lead by example

As communities across the United States confront both climate change and social justice, Yeampierre would like her work at Sunset Park to serve as an example of environmental progress that also supports people of color and other communities that are negatively impacted. disproportionately due to the climate crisis.

While there are no cookie-cutter solutions to address the climate crisis in a socially just way, the Grid 2.0 Plan can serve as inspiration for other maritime neighborhoods from Boston to Houston, Yeampierre said.

“We need to share what works and what doesn’t, the mistakes we’ve made,” he said. Because when it comes to finding solutions to climate change, “we just don’t have time anymore.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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