Much is Still at Stake in Filtration Fight
By ORA HOLLOWAY
It is unbelievable that a government of the people, by the people and for the people would consider placing a filtration plant, which will take seven years to build, in a community which has so vigorously opposed it. Twenty percent of the Norwood community surrounding Van Cortlandt Park suffers from asthma. In a brief survey that I did, I met 300 minority residents in the area surrounding the park who are asthmatic. Because the Bronx has a higher asthma rate than any other borough, our community must continue to stand up in opposition to government decisions that affect our health.
The siting of this filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park is also an attack on parks. State law does not allow the city to take parkland for a non-park use without the OK of the State Legislature, but the city has not even asked for permission. Why should we lose our parkland and trees, a natural resource that nature has provided for us to cleanse the air?
The Mosholu Woodlawn South Community Coalition (MWSCC), and others in this community, have fought long and hard against filtration. We brought key members of the City Council Land Use Committee to see Van Cortlandt Park and our neighborhood. We lobbied members of the City Council one by one. Four hundred strong, we met with our elected officials at MS 80 on Earth Day, in a meeting co-sponsored by the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park and the Norwood-Bedford Park Consortium. Even the Mosholu Montefiore Little League began its opening parade with a banner, "Save Van Cortlandt Park!"
If the City Council votes yes to filtration, this community will not give up the fight. Let us not lose faith in fighting against what we believe is wrong. As a member of MWSCC, I have attended conferences of National People's Action, a national coalition of community organizations. There I noticed that there were minority groups from all areas of the country, from Mississippi to New York, who were complaining about waste dumps in their neighborhoods. In one community, there were 20 dumps in a two-mile radius. This seems like environmental injustice to me. Why should poor and minority communities bear more than their share of environmental hazards? We will not allow this to happen in the Bronx. We must remember our children, whose health is at stake now.
The fight does not end here. Construction will not begin on the filtration plant until 2001. In the coming weeks, we will explore the merits of suing the city to overturn this decision to take parkland, and to challenge the environmental injustice of siting this plant in a low-income, largely minority community. We will not forget those who support us in this fight to save the Bronx and our natural resources. We will continue to fight against this monstrous filtration plant, and for the things that will make this an even better place to live -- better schools, less violence in the streets, improvements to our parks, and more. Be a part of it! Call the Mosholu Woodlawn South Community Coalition at 655-1054.
Ora Holloway is Vice President of the Mosholu Woodlawn South Community Coalition, an affiliate of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. She is also a member of the board of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.
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