[00:00:11] Speaker A: Welcome to Uptown Chats, a podcast where we share stories about environmental justice by and for everyday people. I'm your co host, Jaron.
[00:00:19] Speaker B: And I'm your other co host, Lonnie.
[00:00:21] Speaker A: And today we're celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. But but before we get to that, Lonnie, can you tell the folks what our mission is here at WeAct?
[00:00:30] Speaker B: Gladly. We Act's mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices.
[00:00:41] Speaker A: Thank you, Lonnie. It gets better every time. That was perfect. We have to use that for other things.
[00:00:45] Speaker B: One day. I'll memorize it.
[00:00:47] Speaker A: Yes, we're very close. I feel like we're there. So anyway, what is Hispanic Heritage Month and why are we celebrating it?
[00:00:53] Speaker B: So, National Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration from September 15 to October 15 in the United States, recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.
[00:01:10] Speaker A: You know what else starts on the 15th?
[00:01:12] Speaker B: I know exactly what starts on the 15th.
[00:01:12] Speaker A: My birthday.
[00:01:12] Speaker B: Happy birthday, buddy.
[00:01:15] Speaker A: Yeah. Thank you.
[00:01:16] Speaker B: One of the reasons why we celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month here at We Act is because we did a poll of black and Latinx communities on climate change and the Clean Energy transition in partnership with GBAO. The Third Way teamed up with We Act and Green Latinos in the fall of 2021 to examine how black and brown communities are thinking about climate change. And one of the stats that was interesting to me that stuck out were Latinx communities do consider climate change a present day issue rather than a remote problem only facing future generations.
[00:01:51] Speaker A: Awesome. So clearly the folks uptown in our community are paying attention to climate change. I mean, we know that we've been doing this work, but it's glad to hear it show up in those stats. And this report that we did, I'm sure we can find that if folks want to do on our website, right?
[00:02:05] Speaker B: Yeah, we can link it in the awesome.
[00:02:07] Speaker A: And, you know, we wanted to be on this report that we did and these stats, we wanted to celebrate Hispanic community in Northern Manhattan because we have such a strong presence of folks uptown. And we also have some folks here at Weak that identify as Hispanic. And we want to be able to highlight some of the work that they're doing and their lived experience and the impact on the local environmental justice movement through the work that they're doing. So our guests include our very own Manny Salgado and Mary Lady Pimentel, as well as City Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, who I know Lonnie here has done a fair amount of work with at the city policy level, right?
[00:02:43] Speaker B: Absolutely, yes. Council Member De La Rosa is a very strong supporter of We Act in the work that we're doing and has been a champion for a lot of the climate environmental justice issues that we talk about here at the city level.
[00:02:54] Speaker A: Yeah. So we feel really lucky that she made time to be on this podcast with us. So without further ado, we're going to go ahead and roll those interviews, starting with Manny, and then we'll get to Carmen, mayor lady as well. So enjoy.
[00:03:13] Speaker C: Manny salgalo, environmental justice research analyst. He him pronouns.
[00:03:19] Speaker A: And do you want to just tell us a little bit about what brought you to react? You can go back as far as you want to or keep it short, whatever you're feeling.
[00:03:27] Speaker C: I've always been that guy in personal settings and somewhat in academic settings as well who will always bring race into the conversation. Right.
I was almost notorious in my previous department, just always raising issues about the way the department of the university considered race. And so my wife forwarded me the We Act opening and said, this is perfect for you. So I wasn't really looking for a job at the time. I'm still completing my PhD, but it looked really awesome. And so I went ahead and applied. And a few interviews later, I'm here at WeAct.
[00:04:12] Speaker B: So many I have a question for you.
[00:04:15] Speaker C: What do you actually do here at WeAct? So I think that, man, this is kind of funny because this is how I always describe it to people from outside of the organization.
So when I think about the work that I do here, it's usually kind of two buckets of work, two main buckets so far. And one of those is kind of analyzing EPA rulemakings. And so taking a look at what the EPA says about the rules that they propose and what data and analysis they've put forward in support of that decision and that proposed rule and then taking a look and seeing how strong of a case they've made for the rule proposal that they've put forward. Right. Sometimes we fully agree with it. Sometimes we feel that their data shows that you could go even further with the rules, that they're leaving people out with the decisions that they've made. And then sometimes we're just, like, fully flat out against the rule, like with the power plant rules. Recently, another big bucket has know justice sporting mapping analysis. So the first big project that I had that Dana gave to me when I came aboard was to look at CGIs and how that had changed from the beta version. And so we've kind of continued to build off of that and do analysis of other agency tools. Occasionally, I'll be asked to look at New York specific tools as well. Peggy will occasionally just come in and ask, how does this tool stack up? And so I've done some of that as well and kind of taking a look at the New York State disadvantaged communities definitions and given some thoughts and analysis on those.
The justice 40 tools, though, the agency tools, the federal agency tools that's still like a big ongoing piece of work, those are tools that sometimes we really like what the agencies have done and we think that it works really well for environmental justice purposes. And then sometimes we think that what the agencies have done is completely wrong and we try to let them know so that they can make the appropriate changes moving forward. So that's a continuing dialogue with the administration and with the agencies. And as they continue to put forth new iterations of the tools, we'll continue to analyze them and try to make sure that those tools work really well for EJ communities. Aside from that, I have other projects that typically try to utilize my scientific expertise and my data science skills. And so, like right now for the Convening, we have a project that we call our Congressional Accountability Project, which takes a look at air pollution at the county level from a report another organization, the American Lung Association, put out and then compares that with congressional districts. And so what we're looking at is trying to get population figures of how many people within a congressional district live with, for instance, an F grade for ozone given by the Ala. And then we feel that this will be a powerful tool and advocacy going forward. So essentially what I do know provide data analysis and scientific analysis anywhere that my skill set is valuable for federal measures.
[00:07:40] Speaker A: Yeah. And I feel like a lot of people maybe don't appreciate how important that is in terms of the outcomes that we see. And thinking about something like justice 40 and I'm going to have you maybe unpack that a little bit more for folks who don't know what that is. But why is it so important, given your studies and how closely you look at things like definitions and how things are looked at very concretely? Why is it important for all these details and flexi, just, for example, to be really precise in terms of the work that you do and also in terms of looking at race and ethnicity and all that?
Why does it matter in terms of the outcomes that we actually see when we're looking at something like justice 40 and thinking about the benefits of this transition that we're going through?
[00:08:26] Speaker C: Yeah, so first of all, what justice 40 is is a Biden administration program that states that 40% of the benefits of legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act or bipartisan infrastructure law or various other government programs dealing with climate change or environmental issues have to go to communities that are considered, quote unquote, disadvantaged. So then the next question becomes, well, what is a disadvantaged community? And it turns out that there are a lot of different ways that you can make that determination. And so the reason that it's important on the work that I'm doing in relation to Cgist and these other agency tools for justice 40 is that those tools are the ways in which the federal government is deciding who qualifies for justice 40 or who is a disadvantaged community. Right? And I'll give you an example.
So we looked at this agency tool that the Department of Transportation put out called the Equitable Transportation Community Explorer. And one of the data sets in there currently is a FEMA data set that looks at disasters and how much property damage they cause throughout the US. Right? And so they're using this kind of as a proxy for climate change. So in this data set, if you go to and I always use Houston as an example because it's a city that I understand really well, and my wife is from there and we spent a lot of time there. And if you look at Houston, there's a lot of environmental risk and climate risk that is pretty equal across the whole city. Right. And so if you look at the danger from a hurricane, which is one of the aspects of this data set, and how much risk you have in a specific area from being damaged by a hurricane at any given year, there's a certain risk number given. Right. And that risk number, I want to say, is like 20% for the entirety of Houston in this data set, which that seems perfectly fine, but then where the data set goes wrong is that because it's a FEMA data? Set that's looking at property damages, it then multiplies that initial risk by the value of the property in the and so if you're coming from an EJ background, you already know why this is an issue. Right. And if you have two areas in Houston, one that is a predominantly white, very wealthy area that has incredibly high home values, and then you have another neighborhood in Houston that is predominantly Latino or predominantly black and has much lower property values, well, then the data set is going to elevate one of those. And it's not going to be the EJ community. It's going to be the white wealthy community. Right.
It's pretty problematic that a data set like this is included in a federal tool that is then making decisions that are supposed to uplift EJ communities and get them the help that they need. Right. And so, unfortunately, there's not many organizations that are taking a look at these tools and kind of analyzing how well they work. So I think that the work that we're doing here at We Act is really important in that regard because there are billions of dollars that are going out through the justice 40 umbrella and we have to make sure that this money is actually going to EJ communities and helping out communities of color. Because if not, then the program is not going to be nearly as successful as it could be otherwise.
[00:12:10] Speaker B: Yeah, I think that's kind of like the core of what We Act does just in the position that you're doing. I think it's great that you are looking at these tools, and we have to be critical of these tools as well. I think a lot of people get nervous about doing that because they are great tools and data is absolutely necessary. But when you kind of see those kind of small discrepancies, I would probably would have never noticed that just looking at the tool on its own. But kind of doing that analysis is really important when you're doing that work, how does your own lived experience and heritage and culture kind of play into that work that you do?
[00:12:48] Speaker C: That's an interesting question. I don't know that I've ever thought about it in those terms. But what I'll say is this, right, is that as a brown geoscientist, what you discover really quickly is that you're usually alone in the room. And so I went through my entire undergrad. Never had a professor who was black or brown, right? Went to my new department in grad school, was there for two years.
Never had a professor who was black or brown. Never had a visiting scholar come give a talk who was black or brown. Would occasionally see a black or brown scientist at our Agu meeting each year, which is the American Geophysical Association.
But really you walk into those spaces with and that's an organization with 20,000 geoscientists that come that more than that, but that's how many come to the annual convening each year, the conference, and you're pretty alone. It wasn't until I was talking to one of the deans of my college, he's like, well, why don't you come to the Sacness conference and help us recruit there? And I was like, well, what's sacness? He's like, the Society for Advancement for Chicanos and Native scientists or Native Americans in science. Sorry. And I was like, well, I've never heard of this, but I'll go check it.
So you go to this conference, and it's mind blowing, right? Because it's a conference of nothing but brown, black and native scientists, and everything there is geared towards our participation in the science. And it was just mind blowing, man, because you're meeting all these scientists, many of whom who have historically done great things, and it's happening in this one room, but it had to be a concerted effort to get all of us together. And then it's a much smaller room than the one for Agu. And then so soon after that, that was a cool experience. But I go to my first field campaign with the national organization, so it was called Snowx, and it was put on by NASA, and so a bunch of snow scientists collecting data up in Colorado. And it was a great experience. Met amazing people there who would go on and help me in my research and in my career and have been very helpful. But my advisor brought me in, a black student as well, and so we were the black and brown contingent for the entirety of our time. There out of about 40 scientists that were there for the week that we were. And so you start to recognize that there's a real absence of the point of view that comes from a black or brown scientist, right. And there's very few of us. And so I do think that that's not necessarily the case in EJ. It's obviously very driven by black and brown activists and people who have been on the front lines and so working within the EJ space, constantly surrounded by experts of color. And that's really refreshing. But where it starts to fall apart is where you start to move back over into that space when you need geoscientists to help out or geoscientists to provide information.
I think having that perspective as a black and brown scientist is really important and really kind of helps bridge the gap between kind of EJ activists and then maybe more of the academic world.
That's pure science, right? And I mean that in the sense that it's just like they do nothing but scientific investigations and kind of pulling them a little bit closer to EJ and then helping EJ facilitate that, I think, is something that I can do because of having a foot in both worlds. I think I really discovered that when we work with an academic from the University of Washington named Julian Marshall, and we've done some really great work with him that's been published in Science, which know one of the best journals in the scientific world, I mean, it doesn't get any better than Science. And so being able to communicate with him, I talked to him in a different way than anyone else in our federal office can because we're both scientists and we have a different set of jargon. We understand different things than the other people in the office. And so it really helps me serve as a facilitator to bring the concerns that our office might have about some of the work and how we can aim it and then also talk with him and kind of figure out how we can best do that. So I think that there's always an importance in having people that are representative of divergent viewpoints and different experiences. And so I think that's essentially Aben Brown has helped me in this space.
I don't think it necessarily helped me in geoscience, but I think at times it was probably definitely, actually a deterrent. And it's very isolating. But I think that as we get more black and brown scientists and that view permeates that academic sphere more, I think it'll be really beneficial to everyone.
[00:18:36] Speaker A: Yeah. Thank you so much. Couldn't have asked for a more thorough and great answer to that question. I feel like you touched on so many important things. Is there any last words that you would say, anything that you would be important to try to get more black and brown folks into the science space, creating those opportunities, or just any other parting words, things that you think that you wanted to mention while you're here that we haven't touched on yet.
[00:19:04] Speaker C: I think money is always a big issue for black and brown students, and I think that getting people interested in science early on and then maintaining that interest is also really important. And I think that is something that comes more naturally to white students, and I don't know why that is, and I think we're starting to see it change. But I do think that getting black and brown kids more interested in science from an early age and then keeping them engaged and letting them know that that's always a possibility and that they can be a scientist as well. And so even if it's just that getting them exposed to black and brown members of the scientific community at an earlier age, I think that's really important. Otherwise, parting words? No. Just know I'm closing in on my first year here at WeAct, and man, really love this place. I think that the people that work here are phenomenal. I mean, everyone's doing amazing work. You guys both do this podcast, but outside of this podcast, this could be like a full time gig, right? An EJ podcasting duo. But outside of this, you guys do amazing work, right?
I think that's really cool. And you see a lot of that here at We Act, that everyone is exceptional.
There's no weak link. Right? It's kind of surreal.
Everyone who has a policy bucket or a space to work in really just does the most, and it's pretty crazy. So I'm just really happy to be part of the WeAct team. Man, it's pretty awesome to be here.
[00:20:40] Speaker A: Thanks, Manny. We appreciate that. We appreciate the love for the podcast, and I'm a little past my year. Mark here at we act like a year and a half. I echo that same sentiment. It's been a great experience, and I love all the people that we work with, so cannot agree with you more. So with that, thank you for being on the show. We'll have to have you back on the show at some point to really get into the nitty gritty, the weeds of some of the stuff that we only touched the surface on today. You'll have a whole maybe just a sporty, or maybe we'll just let you pick. You pick dealer's choice, whatever strikes your fancy. Some of these more deep sciency and technical stuff since you had lots of expertise to.
[00:21:29] Speaker D: Well, I'm council member Carmen de la Rosa. I'm an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. I was born in the Dominican Republic. I immigrated to this country with my adoptive parents. We moved uptown. This was the height of Dominican migration into this country, and Washington Heights was kind of like the cradle for a lot of family members and friends who came before us. And so we settled there. I identify as an Afro Latina woman acknowledging my African roots in the Caribbean. I am raising a daughter that is Dominican and has Haitian in her as well because my ex husband's father is Haitian. And so I'm proud to also be raising an Afro Latina child in our community. And I feel like I wear my identities on my sleeve in any room that I enter. I identify as a woman, identify as a Latina, I identify as a mother, and I identify as an uptowner and a Dominicana.
[00:22:32] Speaker C: Awesome.
[00:22:33] Speaker A: That's a very holistic answer and I appreciate that. Really touching on the fact that you are representing a community uptown. I feel like that's maybe why a lot of folks look to you as leader, being able to see themselves in you in a lot of ways. So with that and kind of along the same lines, we want to get a little bit background about what was your path into politics, more particularly how you became an elected official. What was that journey like for you into this role that you're in now?
[00:22:59] Speaker D: I started working in politics 16 years ago, 2007, after I graduated from college, I walked into an assembly member's office and applied for a job on the Upper West Side. And I've been in government and politics ever since. I worked as a staffer in the assembly and then I came to the city council and worked as a legislative and budget director. Then I worked as a chief of staff. And then I went on to learn about campaigns and elections and run campaigns and elections in Upper Manhattan. I've helped run congressional races, I've helped out on district leader races. And then in 2015, I decided to run for district leader, which is an honorary voluntary position within the Democratic Party tasked with making sure that our community is civically engaged and that the board of elections is doing all they can to make sure that people are not disenfranchised. I ran that race against three candidates I was able to win. And the summer after that, the assembly member at the time had announced that he was running for Congress. So I decided that I would run for the assembly. Understanding that, I felt that my generation of uptowners were elected in the powers as they existed at that time, the people who held the political seats. And I felt like my voice not only as a woman, but a woman who grew up in my community, who's raising a family in my community, was a unique to enter that race. So I ended up running for the assembly. In 2016, the incumbent lost his election to the Congress and came back for the assembly seat. At that time, the assembly primaries and congressional primaries were in different years. So I ended up having to run against an incumbent, someone who was actually the first Dominican elected to office nationwide. And at that point, I became the underdog, and that's the best position to have because you work really hard. I was able to get my message and my story out to our constituents, and I was fortunate enough to be elected to State Assembly in 2017. I began my term unfortunately, Trump was elected that year, so he hit the streets from day one. And I started my career in the New York State Assembly, where I served for five years and then decided in 2021 to run for the New York City Council for an open seat in the 10th.
[00:25:20] Speaker A: That's such a fascinating trajectory, and I feel like very what we've heard from so many people that we've interviewed so far is that it's such a windy road to get where you're at, and it's almost never what you expect it to be.
Out of curiosity and thinking about the different levels now that you've served at, how did that show up in terms of your connection with the community and in your work, your decision to be at the City Council level, what was that like for you and why did you choose to make that?
[00:25:50] Speaker D: You know, for me, the decision to run for City Council was a personal one. In addition to obviously being a legislator, I loved my time in Albany. I feel like I was doing great work there. I really had a groove that I was focusing on. But I'm also a mother and a caretaker, and I had been in the legislature since my daughter was two years old. The pandemic hit, my ex husband fell ill, and when the opportunity for the City Council came, I really had to reflect within myself, am I ready to continue to depart to Albany and continue to serve the state, or can I give of my experience of my voice in a new city Council? At the time, we were really pushing for women representatives in the City Council. I'm proud to be part of a new majority in the City Council that not only includes women, but includes the historic amount of mothers, historic amount of firsts. We have the first Korean, the first Bangladeshi, the first Muslim, so many firsts. And I'm the first woman to serve District Ten. And so I really felt that my calling was to be a caretaker, because we sometimes forget the human aspects of the care spectrum. Right. I have a child, an ill husband at the time. My parents are aging, and I am the head of my household. I'm responsible for taking care of them, and I'm also sworn on oath to take care of our community. So how do you balance all of those pressures out to continue to give of yourself and do what you love while at the same time being there for the people that have always been there for me? And so I made that choice. I was excited and honored that I continue to have the trust of my community to represent them from one level of government to the other. There were questions. People questioned why I was leaving a post in the assembly to run for the council. But ultimately, and I always say this, we don't question when men decide they want to run for Congress or they want to run for comptroller or they want to run for whatever, but when a woman says, I need to come back home and take care of your family, people think that there are ulterior motives to that. My motive is to serve the district that I represent. It's a special district. It's the district where I was raised. And I'm looking forward to continuing to be a progressive voice here at the city council, which I think we really need at this time.
[00:28:08] Speaker B: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, barely have anything in the follow up with that. I think that's amazing just to hear. Rarely does anyone say, I left college and I'm here. I've started, and you went on that trajectory. And then also, yes, you being a part of this new city council that I feel like, for the first time feels truly representative of the city. I mean, I kind of see the city that we like to believe kind of reflected in city council and kind of the decision making. And it's really important to have a wide range of people and individuals so they can bring all of their, like you just said, all of their lived experience and personal values to the way that they govern. And you've been no stranger to we act both at the state and out at the city level. And so that's where I get to interact with you the most, is because I was doing the city policy work. And you've always been since you started city council specifically, you've always been someone who's been really adamant about environmental justice as a priority, and you've partnered with weak multiple times on a lot of different things and a lot of different issues. So I just kind of want to ask, how did environmental justice become a priority, you as an elected official?
[00:29:17] Speaker D: Yeah, well, first of all, I think that everything that we're seeing globally and the fact that our communities have been redlined and the fact that our communities are socially and economically disadvantaged by the policies that have come down generation after generation, I am a product of that neglect. Right. I grew up in a community where we have the highest asthma rates. Tenants consistently talk about mold and deteriorated conditions. We hear that a lot. And so the impetus to prioritize environmental justice is because I understand that the struggles of my constituents and environmental justice are linked. And even though, for some people don't really think about the environment, the build environment around us, unless you can't breathe, right? When the Canadian wildfires were happening, everyone was like, what is going on? We can't go outside. We can't breathe.
[00:30:04] Speaker A: So.
[00:30:04] Speaker D: Until it's in your face. People don't realize the urgency except for my community, for our community. It's been in our faces for generations. Right? And so it made the most sense for us to continue to push and prioritize the health of our constituents, the cleanliness of our streets. And in order to get that, we need to be pushing for both transformative climate justice bills here in the Mean. I know, Lonnie knows, we're working on lead, we've been working on Nitra, cooling, heating, all these issues that are really impact the day to day lives of my constituents. So it was a no brainer to make sure that environmental justice was at the forefront of our minds because if you ask me if we can't breathe, which is our bodily continue to be alive, they continue to make our city great. And so I am committed to environmental justice, to making sure that we're building a more sustainable and resilient city and that starts with improving the lives of the folks that live and work in my community and environmental justice is at the heart of that. Yeah.
[00:31:16] Speaker A: Thank you. Wow.
Again, this is the benefit of having elected official on our podcast. You're just very precise. You got those questions down. I'm sure that you've had some of these questions asked many a time and so I appreciate that your answers are so polished and along those same lines.
[00:31:32] Speaker D: Iterations. Iterations.
[00:31:33] Speaker A: Yes.
I'm sure it gets better every time. So again, circling back to the theme of our show celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, how has your lived experience being an inward native Dominican woman impacted the work that you do and how does that show up in your day to day? I know we talked about that a little bit with how you describe yourself and your trajectory into your role, but just giving you a little bit more space to elaborate on that and how it shows up in your work.
[00:31:55] Speaker D: I understand the struggle and the pain of my constituents because I've been a rent stabilized tenant at facing an eviction notice. My family has had to go on the welfare line to apply for a one shot deal or food stamps.
[00:32:10] Speaker E: Right.
[00:32:10] Speaker D: I understand the basic necessities that have not been met for our community in a very intimate way.
My Dominican heritage also allows me, when I'm speaking to my constituents, to understand where their experiences come from. One of the things that we focused on in this council that I'm proud of, the work that has been done is language access. Right. During the pandemic, when everyone was focused on mutual aid and everyone was focused on getting people to get those basic needs met. We had to scramble when it came to the translate services for people who did not speak English and not just Spanish, any other language that you could think of, they were putting out fires rather than thinking of how we're delivering care for people. And so our office had to be the front line of language access for some Spanish speaking constituents who didn't have access or other languages that are also spoken of town. And so my heritage allows me to understand what it's like to sit in a room and have people speak a language that you don't understand. English is not my first language. I spoke Spanish as a child and I remember being in classrooms and not understanding what the heck was going on around me. And when we think about the delivery of services for our city, right, I know how important that is. And I think that is one way where my heritage helps me be a better legislator and be able to really help educate our constituents, talk about language.
[00:33:35] Speaker B: Access as one of those kind of issues as well in city council. And I want to circle back to some of the things that you talked about. You talked about extreme heat, lead mold and kind of these other environmental health issues as well. What have you heard from your constituents in terms of the top priorities in environmental and climate justice?
[00:33:55] Speaker D: Yes, well, first of all, I have to thank We Act because you all have really made it really easy for us legislators to sort of have a blueprint on what we should be focusing on because of the outreach you've done in your communities. And I have to shout out my chief of staff, James Burke, who is a We Act alum and has really helped to shape as well as other staff our policy priorities. But the things that I most hear from our constituents are things that sometimes people don't really equate with environment. It's sanitation trash, right? But the way that it does relate is because, for example, if we have a large number of trash, like disregarded trash in the streets that clogs up our sewers, that exacerbates flooding, there are portions of our district although people think that Washington Heights is not able to flood, there are portions of our district that are in a floodplain. And it just happens to be by coincidence that that portion of our district is actually a Nitro project. Right. It's actually on the Sherman Creek side. And what we know is that the way that we relate to trash on the street and the impact of trash on the street to the lives of our constituents is linked. So I hear a lot about trash every single day. I hear about trash. I hear about missing trash cans. I hear about plastics that are getting into our bodies through the wrong disposal of them. So that's the main thing. But I also do hear, especially with COVID-19, about asthma and how worried people are about asthma and mold and tenant issues, that it's usually a full package. Right. You are a tenant that is rent burden, but you're living in an apartment that is not up to date with the needed repairs in order for you to be able to breathe, live, drink the water, and actually have a healthy stay as a tenant. So the tenant piece of it, I would say 90% of the people that come into our office have a tenant issue, whether they're about to be evicted or their apartment hasn't been renovated so that they can actually live in a dignified way. Tenant issues are environmental and so we see a lot of those issues as well.
As you all know, Local Law 97 is a spicy topic. But actually I've heard from my constituents that they want to make sure that we are strengthening and not weakening Local Law 97 because it is a landmark piece of legislation that will move us towards our sustainability goals, environmental goals in the city. So I hear a lot about that. Pedestrian infrastructure is another issue that we hear often about. People want to see how are we making sure that green infrastructure exists for alternative uses of transportation methods, bikes, electric vehicles and all of that. So I hear about those issues often and it's always exciting. People have different takes on different things. Opinions range the gamut, but they run the gamut. But I think overall, everyone can agree that the flooding in our community that we've seen I was saying the other day that I think it was last week, I must have gotten like three or 4311 notifications for flash flooding. I don't remember it being that consistent every other day. Every other day. And so we hear about the worries that people have for natural disasters, for more dangerous climate events that are happening not only in our city, but around the world.
[00:37:21] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. I'm actually really happy to hear that you mentioned that so many of your constituents are supportive of Local 97 because again, I often think of people being worried, rightfully so, that it's going to have impacts on their bills and et cetera. But I feel like a lot of folks also see it as an opportunity to have some really concrete ownership over a way to contribute to climate mitigations. Like, you know, what, this forces their building to be a microcosm of their way to contribute. Let's make sure my building gets these renovations, gets electrified, gets upgraded, and you have a sense of ownership over. I saw that's encouraging to hear. That actually really great and not surprising.
[00:38:00] Speaker D: We have to make sure that the resources are in place so that communities like our that are, that are working class communities are not burdened with having to retrofit without the financial support. But overall, people understand the intent of the law and why it's so urgent.
[00:38:16] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. But just thinking about the fact that you represent a predominantly Hispanic part of the city and very Dominican represented, why do you think it's important for people of Hispanic heritage to get involved with the environmental and climate justice movement and what role do you feel they are playing continue. Should continue to play in that.
[00:38:37] Speaker D: Yeah. I mean, Hispanic, Spanish speaking people, we should be involved in every cause because I always say, and I say this on the street all the time when I'm running for office, I say, you may not be into politics, but politics is into you. Decisions are going to be made with or without you. So you might as well pull up a chair, bring your folding chair in the spirit of Charlie Chisholm, and sit there and really make your voices heard. Because these decisions are going to be made with or without your feedback and your opinion, but they will impact your life. We've seen the cost, the human cost of the climate crisis and if we can't relate to it, because in our faces, we don't have earthquakes in New York City or we're not feeling those impacts directly. We know that the people we've left back in our homelands are and so for those family members and friends that we have in the global community that are experiencing wildfires, that are experiencing flash flooding, that are experiencing hurricanes, what we do here has an impact. Back in the Dominican Republic or in Puerto Rico or wherever, Jamaica, anywhere you're from. Right. And so I encourage folks to get involved, but we all have a role to play.
[00:39:50] Speaker A: Yeah, thank you for yeah. And I appreciate that global perspective because I feel like oftentimes environmental justice often brings you into a very, very local focus because so many of the issues that we're dealing with are hyper local that we also have to keep in mind that global perspective. And I really appreciate you bringing that in as well because that's always kind of overarching what we're doing. And being reminded of that I think.
[00:40:15] Speaker B: Is really important also that direct connection to the global aspect.
[00:40:19] Speaker C: Right.
[00:40:19] Speaker B: Like, I don't have family outside of the US or in other countries, so I'm not thinking necessarily what's going on in some other places other than just what I see in the news, as opposed to, oh, I have family who's being impacted by a hurricane or an extreme weather event somewhere else. So I think that I really do appreciate that as a way that people connect to their homelands, like you said.
[00:40:44] Speaker A: Yeah. Any last questions, Lonnie?
[00:40:47] Speaker B: No, but is there anything that you want to plug from your office or something that you're doing or something that you want people to try to come out for or anything like that? That's coming up.
[00:40:55] Speaker D: Well, we're continuing our series of Carmen Listens, which is basically me popping up in locations across our community to talk to constituents. We have a community survey out, follow our social media so that you can get more information on that. I'm at CN de la Rosa and we're going to also start our series of halls up again this fall. So I'm looking forward to seeing you all and the community. Thank you, weak, for partnering with us. Your members were out in a heat wave two weeks ago giving out information at the last carmen, listens, so thank you so much for your partnership and your collaboration.
[00:41:28] Speaker A: Well, thank you so much for being on the show. We can't wait for folks to listen to it. Yeah, we enjoyed having you on.
[00:41:34] Speaker D: Thank you so much.
[00:41:47] Speaker A: All righty. Thank you so much for joining us. Mary lady, if you wouldn't mind just introducing yourself and telling folks how you got to WeAct.
[00:41:56] Speaker E: Hi.
My name is Mari, lady. As Jayden say, I am the bilingual community organizer of Weat. So I speak English and Spanish.
How I get them in wet? I start with my inter with Charles as a community organizer. I was doing my minor in City College of Community Change study, and I have to do a minor. So I decided to do a minor in our organization that belonged to my major. So my advisor told me, oh, this one are a couple of ones next to your home that is not too long, not too far to commute, so you can take one. So when I reached out to Charles, he told me, yes, you are welcome. We always need person here if they are more energy to learn. So when I get my interview with him, I was like, okay, what is the process to get in? And he told me, no, you already get in because your professor already done the paper. And I was, oh, wow. That's like that Jess. And when I asked him oh, when I can start. Oh, tomorrow, you already start today. This is your interview. You already start. You can come to the office.
Okay, so let's see how it is. So like that.
And then I did another interview, and this time I was looking around for another intern now in my internship in my sociology minor.
And I applied for one in junkers and another one, two of them.
I have to make a proposal in this minor.
I send the email to Annie, but she never answered. I send the email to Evelyn too, and she sent it to somebody else. So then I have the deadline to select the person because I apply also to a scholarship and nobody answers. I say, okay, you know, my grandfather say, always contact person that you have. So networking. I call Charles. Charles, this is happening. I have until 05:00 p.m. To select a person to do the interview. And he told me, okay, where you apply? I applied to this. I applied to this. I send it to Annie, I send it to Evelyn, and she send it to another person, but nobody else. Wait, give me five minutes and I call you back.
He called me back, and then Annie called me and she told me, yes, I need an interview, so you are welcome. And then when I was doing the interview, annie. She told me, oh, you know what? We have a viable position that you should apply. I told her sign, I think August. I applied to August. And then in December I received that call. I received the email too. I said, wow, that's too far away already. I do a reminder also to see if the position was available because I don't see anything.
And then they said, yes, the position is available and Pamela contact me. And I was happy when I received the email. I say, okay, I like this. So I like to interact with people.
I'm going to be my major because it's environment. Okay. I'm major in geology, but it's part of the environment. So like that I'm here. Awesome.
[00:45:37] Speaker A: So you had the sense when you were in your program that you wanted to do something in environmental justice. Was kind of a nice fit, a nice alignment with what you already wanted.
[00:45:47] Speaker E: Yes, because I am the person that I don't like to do research in lab and stay there. No, I like the person. Like if I know something, I like to spread the word. It's like I belong to the chair. I am at the costa. Anything that I know in the chair, I spread out to my family and to whatever place that I am, but it's also vice versa. Now I just finish.
Ambassador. That is like with your faith. Speak about environment. So I'm trying to do that in the chair a little by little because not a lot of people like to speak something different that is knowing the Bible.
And I learned how to use bible bicycle based on air sign environment. So that's what I learned. That's how I'm going to introduce we add to the chair.
[00:46:48] Speaker A: Yeah.
[00:46:48] Speaker B: You're almost like an environmental justice evangelist.
[00:46:52] Speaker A: You got to meet people where they're at. You do and they're at the church.
[00:46:55] Speaker B: And that's really important. And so when we think about kind of these spaces that you're going into, being a bilingual organizer as well, which is amazing that you are now in this position. I know we were all excited when we saw you because you'd been around forever. It just seemed like you were a permanent fixture of we act and we were just all waiting for you to officially join a team.
[00:47:16] Speaker E: Thank you.
[00:47:17] Speaker B: So with that said, when you did join a team and you were thinking about the position that you were in, why is environmental justice important to you and your community?
[00:47:26] Speaker E: Why? Because I grow in Dr and in the art. I saw a lot of issues in the environment, but I doesn't have the knowledge that does belong to the environment adjusting. I was, okay, if people are cutting the tree, people are polluting the river. If I'm going to the sin major, I can help with that. But I didn't know that was through environmental justice. That I can help with that. So I think this is important because I can teach people, I can concentracin it's for us, for everybody.
It's not only like oh my God, if I threw this today that does affect nobody. No, that affects everybody and then returns to you too. So for that reason I think it's important.
[00:48:23] Speaker A: Yeah and it's so great that you bring that up, your experience being in the Dr because so many folks that live uptown in Washington Heights in the wood are from the Dominican Republic. Right. And so how does know experience growing up there impact your ability to connect with folks and do this work in your role now? Do you feel like it makes it easier to connect with folks in that way?
[00:48:45] Speaker E: It's easy to connect with them but it's hard to get in then involved. So I can speak with like this is the issue that we have. We live in this environment, we have to protect the environment because you deserve to have a better environment, to have a better life. Because if you have a polluted air you can breathe but you can have asthma or your family. So in the art we have great environment that is here that you have winter and snow and things like that and you enjoy and you like to go to the river. So here you have to be like have more tree because you like to go to the park. And I compare both situation like that in English, in Spanish sometimes I have people that only have English doesn't matter that their background is from the art. So it's like comparing both experience is easy for me to connect.
[00:49:51] Speaker B: Do you find it difficult or challenging to sometimes take your science knowledge and your environmental justice kind of knowledge that we learn and that we talk about all the time in English and translating into Spanish?
Is that difficult or challenging for you at all?
[00:50:08] Speaker E: Sometimes yes. It's like last Saturday when we have our membership meeting I was translating Cameron slides, he have asthma disparity. When you translate that word in English and Spanish it's like nobody use. So I have to look for common word that community use every day. So I have to do desiwalti. That was the word. So I use Desiwaldad instead.
So like that people know the work when they saw in English but they know the synonymous in Spanish. So that's how I translate things. Sometimes it's hard but Thanksgiving Google is there or no, we can use dictionary to look for common work.
[00:51:00] Speaker B: Yeah that's interesting. The nuances of some of the smaller details of what do people actually use in this language versus what the actual direct translation is.
[00:51:09] Speaker E: Yeah, sometimes you put it like a work how it is and when you put in Google Translate they translate exactly how it is but doesn't have the connection that people want. So it doesn't have the same meaning and the same force when you translate it like that. So you have to put the torso sin of human there.
[00:51:31] Speaker A: Yeah. Because we all know there's like just like in English, there's like a million ways to say something. And sometimes you have to say it in the right way to speak to someone and where they're at and what's meaningful to them. Right.
[00:51:42] Speaker E: Yeah, it's like I say, it depends where you are and who you are. Because if you are in a conference, of course you're going to use your science language. But if you are in the community and USP individual with one person, you know, that person doesn't know a lot of background, maybe never go to school, anything like that. So you're going to use regular language, you're going to use a street language because that's the way that they interact.
[00:52:10] Speaker A: Yeah. And speaking of doing this work, of trying to translate our work, sharing with the community and getting people involved with our work, we know that you lead one of our working groups, our civic engagement working group, and our only working group that is offered in Spanish, intended for our Spanish speaking community. Can you tell us about your experience facilitating that working group? Kind of getting it up off the ground and just what it looks like in terms of the work that you do to run it?
[00:52:35] Speaker E: Facilitating the facilitation is easy because it's like you speak in front of students when you are in class. Well, at the time that I'm going out to reach out to person, I'm tabling everywhere, I'm giving flyers everywhere. And people say, yes, I am interested. But at the time that you give it a flyer, you left without their information.
You never heard back of them. But when you have their info, you can contact them. But sometimes they say, oh, I don't remember that. It's like you spend time speaking with them, explaining, and when you call back, they don't know what it is. They forget everything. So I prefer that immediately. It's like I send text message, thank you to spend time with me. But sometimes I don't have that time to do it. So it's hard right now, I don't have the time to reach out to them. But I send email, I send text. If I don't have time, I just send the email and give you all the flyers. But it's hard because not everybody like to meet in zoom. They say like, oh, I don't have the time, I already have a plan, I want to learn. But it's hard to do zoom. It's hard to be in person because that time, maybe I have to work or I have a personal thing to do. So something siempresago always.
[00:54:17] Speaker B: I'm curious, what are some of the goals of the working group that you have?
[00:54:21] Speaker E: Yes, the goal is to get to, I like to say communicating science, environmental science, in common work, inclusive, how we was speaking inclusive. So the goal also is connecting people in the Spanish people with the community, connecting with the environment, the issues that they face, what they face. So also encourage them to vote and what is important to vote and what is important to know what is happening in the community, why it's important to connect with the event that is happening the community and to connect with the CB twelve because I belong to the community board twelve. So why is important to belong to the community board on their community? Because like that they know what happened in their corner or in front of the building because sometimes everybody's running and they don't stop and see what is around what is their surrounding happen.
[00:55:34] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. And I know one of your recent meetings or maybe this is the one that's coming up was about composting, right. And how that fits into ways that they can get involved and just being aware of things that are going on in their community because I know a lot of work is going on uptown and in New York City in general to improve our waste management system including how we deal with compost. Right. Did that already happen or is that happening?
[00:55:56] Speaker E: It's happening tonight.
[00:55:57] Speaker A: Oh wow, perfect timing. Wow, I wish this episode was coming out.
[00:56:01] Speaker E: Yes, bonnet's meeting is going to be October twelveTH I think so, yeah, the second Thursday. So I try to speak about your topic, community monitoring and pollution thing like that in Spanish but I'm going to see what people want and then every month I want to do different topics. But yes, today is about compost, how to use the orange bean compost because a lot of people don't know how to use but most of them say what I'm going to use this orange bin or compost bin if I have to use a phone. Why?
But imagine that's how it is. But now after I went to the memory meeting and I see the difference between the local compost of the community gardens and going to the Cedar waste compost that they have in different corners and use that one. So I decide to use the local composting because that's missing gas. It's not good now.
[00:57:21] Speaker A: Yeah, and speaking of composting, anyone who hasn't listened to our composting episode already, our first episode this year, definitely go back and check that out. We do a deep dive into the composting which is very much in line with what we were talking about on.
[00:57:32] Speaker E: Yeah, I enjoyed that one.
[00:57:34] Speaker A: Yeah, it's good stuff. Well, we are almost out of time. I wish we had more time to spend with you but I know you got things to plan for today and to take care of so I want to just open it up. One last line for you to just kind of share anything else that you wanted to mention, especially to any of our listeners who are bilingual and want to get more involved with the work here at WeAct and really want to lean into the Spanish speaking community here uptown and get those folks involved.
Any last things that you'd like to say to them?
[00:58:01] Speaker E: Yeah, I want to invite them. If you speak Spanish and English, please come to our working group because it's not only for Spanish, it's also for bilingual. But if you are learning Spanish, you are more welcome to start learning with us, to practice with us, because that's how we are giving resources to the community, but you give it back to us too. So thank you so much.
[00:58:24] Speaker A: Yes, thank you so much for joining us. I'm sure that we'll find another opportunity to have you back on the show again. So good luck with your working group tonight. And, yeah, we'll hopefully have some more folks joining you very soon.
[00:58:35] Speaker B: Always a pleasure, Mary Lady.
[00:58:36] Speaker E: Thank you so much.
[00:58:39] Speaker A: All right. Thank you so much for listening. We are so happy that we got our very first audience email, and we want to encourage you to reach out as well. If you have any questions or thoughts about the show and you want to see anything in this next year as we're wrapping up this first year of the podcast, we're thinking about what's in store for 2024. So you can email us at [email protected]
[00:59:00] Speaker B: [email protected]
can also check out We Act on Facebook at weactforej. That's weactforej, and on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube at weactforej. That's W-E-A-C-T number four. EJ. And check out our website, weact.org, for more information about environmental justice.
[00:59:22] Speaker A: All right, thank you.
[00:59:23] Speaker B: All right. Next time. Till next time.
[00:59:24] Speaker A: Till next time. Till next time. Till next time.
[00:59:28] Speaker B: Till next time.
[00:59:29] Speaker A: Bye. Bye.