Update: After this op-ed was published, the State Public Service Commission announced that it approved the contracts for this project on April 14, 2022.
Living in and around Queensbridge Public Housing for more than 40 years, I am no stranger to the mammoth of issues facing public housing residents. Whether it be food insecurity, unemployment, lack of financial resources, or underbanked residents, I have dedicated my life’s work to tackling these issues and improving quality of life for the 30,000-plus residents living in Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Astoria, and Woodside public housing developments.
My path of service was inspired by my father, the founder of Center Of Hope International (COHI), a non-denominational church adjacent to Queensbridge Houses. Continuing my father’s legacy, and convinced that a single church would not be able to mitigate these issues alone, I co-founded Urban Upbound, with the mission to break cycles of poverty in public housing communities. Through Urban Upbound, we have created a true alliance of local religious leaders, government officials, educators, business owners, and residents all working together to advocate for and help our community.
While I am proud of the impact we have made on the community through our employment, financial and youth services, free-tax preparation, community revitalization and affordable banking through Urban Upbound Federal Credit Union, I know my work is never done. I continually seek opportunities to support my community and address the many long standing issues that are grossly overlooked.
COVID-19 was a wake-up call. The phrase “underlying health condition” was a trigger to all Queensbridge/Ravenswood residents, who knowingly live where air quality is poor, and suffer disproportionately from asthma due to the “Big Allis” smoke stack.
Why have we waited decades to address issues that are directly impacting the health of public housing residents? Why is air quality in low-income, Black and brown neighborhoods overlooked? When viable solutions are presented, who can we turn to to ensure decisions are made in the best interest of our community?
I am calling on the NYS Public Service Commission to approve the Champlain Hudson Power Express. Why? Because clean air is not a desire, but rather a need. We need better and we deserve to live in an area unpopulated with fossil fuels.
The Champlain Hudson Power Express will bring reliable renewable energy to Queens all year round that will help reduce fossil fuel-burning and reliance on polluting power plants like Big Allis. The Champlain Hudson Power Express will clean up “asthma alley,” a shameful phrase coined decades ago in reference to the poor air quality in our community. This project will reduce climate emissions to protect us from future extreme weather events, and lower overall energy prices that are skyrocketing because of fossil fuel price volatility.
My community’s prosperity is my top priority. As an advocate, I view this project as an investment far beyond just the health of our community. This project is the beginning of a long-term community partnership.
This project will support 1,400 union jobs and 3,200 secondary jobs, mobilize a $40 million green jobs training fund to support residents in disadvantaged communities and mobilize a $9 million community fund to support local impact projects. These are the opportunities and investments that help organizations like Urban Upbound fight against poverty.
The Champlain Hudson Power Express is the only permitted and shovel-ready clean energy project that can begin construction this year, years ahead of any alternative.
As an advocate, community leader, pastor, father, grandfather, and simply a human being—we need clean air now. We need investment in our community. We need the public service commission to approve the Champlain Hudson Power Express clean energy project.
Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor is the CEO and co-founder of Urban Upbound.
Read more on this topic: