unpleasant memories resurfaced as I read Michelle Chen’s “Unequal
Under the Sun” [Feature, August 20]. In 1969, I lived on 9th
Street between Avenue C and Avenue D in New York City’s
infamous Lower East Side. Even with the windows closed, I
woke up every morning to a thick layer of black dust on my
windowsill courtesy of the Consolidated Edison Power Company,
affectionately known as ConEd. They ran a coal burning power
plant that spewed toxic fumes out of four huge smokestacks
morning, noon, and night. The subsequent dusky fallout landed
on the residents of the Lower East Side. This went on for
years before I lived there and continued for several more
years after I left the area.
I moved out for health reasons after I ended up in the emergency
room barely able to breathe. The rate of tuberculosis for
people living on the Lower East Side in the 1960s was four
times higher than the national average. Emphysema and asthma
were, and still are, major health problems for area residents,
even though ConEd discontinued burning coal in the mid ’70s.
Who lives on the Lower East Side? The poor, mostly immigrants.
How long do you think these emissions would have continued
if the dust blew into the homes of the folks on Sutton Place,
the Upper West Side of Manhattan, or the wealthy Westchester
neighborhoods that benefitted from the power and gas production?
Not for one minute after the first signs of illness in one
of the affluent residents.
Maybe the solution is for the poor people to grab cardboard
boxes and start fanning the pollutants toward the wealthier
communities. Maybe then we will see some environmental action.
To the Editor:
days ago, National Grid visited my house at my request for
a different reason, and declared an emergency, turning off
our hot water and red ticketing our landlord. The licensed
plumber who arrived said the level of carbon monoxide pouring
into our house from a gap in our water heater venting system,
caused by shoddy workmanship—a wrong part installed by an
unlicensed workman—could have killed myself and my two children.
Business as usual in West Hill.
My landlord is probably the best one on the block—not absentee,
just a little careless on details. But if you walk down my
block, you see abandoned buildings with open windows and burst
pipes, decaying from the inside, about ready to fall. You
see a tall damaged tree, not pitched up on the city (despite
my phone calls) which may fall on us at any time. You see
electric lines hanging off buildings, looking like arson-by-neglect
waiting to happen. You see roofs in disrepair, broken windows,
abandoned buildings which are open in back so groups of teens
can hang out there, leaving little plastic baggies behind
them (despite numerous calls to “code violations” and promises
and all that for over 8 months); and of course, the magnitude
of the garbage is bound to breed rats right next to where
children play in the broken glass.
Nevermind the crime and violence sparked by the total neglect
of our youth. Nevermind the police abusiveness towards particularly
residents of color just going about their business . . . our
services are shoddy and inferior, our landlords are not held
accountable, and our houses are apparently not inspected.
I have always opposed the death penalty for convicted felons.
I also oppose the death penalty for low income families whom
reside where they can afford to.
The City of Albany is complicit in these conditions.
Director, Westhill Arts and Gardens Project
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