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Five years after Hurricane Sandy, thousands march in NYC

To honor the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy hitting New York and New Jersey, thousands of people, including myself, marched over the Brooklyn Bridge last weekend. We marched to remember the victims of the storm and stand in solidarity with survivors of Hurricane Maria – but also to demand concrete action from our elected officials on climate change. 

We want to see Sandy as a turning point for climate justice and leadership for New York and the whole country. We called on Mayor DeBlasio to get Sandy survivors back in their homes, stop investing New York’s pension funds in the fossil fuel industry, and create good union jobs by requiring stronger building efficiency standards (you can’t outsource energy efficiency upgrades!). We called on Senator Chuck Schumer to resist Trump’s attacks on our Environmental Protection Agency at every turn.

Finally – and most exciting to me – we called on Governor Cuomo to walk his talk on supporting the global Paris Agreement on climate change by passing the Climate and Community Protection Act here in New York in 2018.

The CCPA is a piece of legislation that would protect our city’s infrastructure, transition us to 100% renewable energy and create thousands of good jobs in the process. Most importantly, the CCPA requires that 40% of funds spent on the clean energy transition are reinvested in communities most affected by existing inequalities and the consequences of climate change. As we transition to an economy powered by clean energy, we need to make sure that opportunities to financially benefit from owning parts of that industry are accessible to people who were mostly locked out from those opportunities right now (see: everyone but rich, white men).

We need the CCPA for people like Rachel Rivera, who teared up as she shared her experience during Sandy of grabbing her 6 year-old daughter from her bed and then watching the ceiling collapse right on top of it. Rivera said her now 11-year-old daughter still cries every time it rains and asks if they’re going to die.

Another speaker at the event said it was surreal to be in such a “normal” scene after leaving Puerto Rico for the first time since Hurricane Maria (watch the video!). His emphasis on the need for Puerto Ricans to control the terms of their own recovery was so resonant to the work that’s been done for the past five years in New York. NYC organizations from WE ACT for Environmental Justice up in Harlem to Good Ole Lower East Side and LESReady have consistently spoken out for rebuilding a more resilient, just city than the one we had before.

Back in 2013, the city created a program called “Build It Back” to restore Sandy-damaged homes – but years later, 1 in 5 eligible people haven’t gotten the necessary repairs to move back home, because of everything from bureaucracy to concerns about whether another storm will decimate their communities again. That concern must feel all too real for people watching coverage of Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria. The list will unfortunately go on, as climate change makes tropical storms more powerful and frequent.

Many speakers at the rally represented communities of color, which we know were among the most impacted in the city by Sandy. When people who are already struggling to get by are hit by a storm, that can spell disaster for a family’s financial stability and health. Often, women end up carrying the burden of supporting their communities in recovery.

If our calls for Governor Cuomo to pass the CCPA are answered, New York will be a model of how to create climate policy that actually puts marginalized people and workers first. It’s been called “the most progressive climate-equity policy we’ve seen” by progressive stars like economist Robert Reich. But so far, centrist state “Democrats” (who caucus with Republicans) have blocked the way.

Americans’ safety and health are too important to play cynical political games with, and each storm reminds us that there is no time to waste in transitioning to a clean energy economy that works for all. You can join the groundswell of community support for the CCPA by signing onto the campaign to support the most progressive climate legislation on the table in the U.S.  

Header image credit: New York Daily News / Kendall Rodriguez. 

Daniela Lapidous is a writer, researcher, and climate organizer at heart. She currently lives in New York City researching decentralized social movements and organizing with Sunrise, a new movement of young people committed to stopping climate change, transitioning our country to a renewable energy economy, and creating thousands of good jobs in the process. She is a Columbia University alum and Bay Area native.

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