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An update on the latest Albany Sustainability Advisory Committee meeting


Albany's Sustainable Advisory Committee has been following up on studies and observations involving quality of life issues impacting city residents.

The 15-member committee reviewed an Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences study entitled "Asthma and Environmental Justice at Ezra Prentice Homes," published in August. The public housing complex has been the focus of environmental advocates concerns over air quality due to heavy truck and train traffic surrounding the apartments, as well as fears about the crude oil-filled railroad tankers that often were parked a stone's throw from apartments and playgrounds.

Stacy Pettigrew with the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center says the historically redlined South End neighborhood has been classified an environmental justice community. She says volunteers counted more than 1700 trucks a day passing Ezra Prentice, and she is still poring over results of a 2016 South End Community Health Study that took three years to compile.

“We did a comparison group at Creighton Storey, which, you know, is very similar demographically, "Pettigrew said." It's also Albany Housing Authority. It's also located in the South End, but instead of being dissected by a highway and the port, it is surrounded by actually Radix, we help maintain a big garden next to it, and there's trees around it. And it's much more residential. So we use that as a comparison group. And I have begun statistical analysis on that. “

Pettigrew says the groups are demographically similar. She looked at the odds of a resident developing asthma in Ezra Prentice versus Creighton. 455 individuals from 185 households participated in the comparison group study. She says the smoking rate at Creighton was higher than at Ezra Prentice.

“But then when we looked at active asthma, at the two different complexes, one here for individuals with active asthma, 34% of the people at Ezra Prentice had active asthma," said Pettigrew. "So what you know, one in three, and that is completely, completely egregious, as well as, I mean, it's egregious that 21% of people at Creighton Storey, one in five had active asthma. But for Black households living below the poverty line nationally, the rates can get up to 20%. “

Pettigrew noted that there is a plan to build a new road to divert truck traffic from South Pearl Street. And oil train traffic is down substantially the last few years, although trains are still parked nearby, often awakening residents in the middle of night when they are coupled and uncoupled. She linked noise pollution, poor air quality and interrupted sleep with asthma. There are also concerns about Benzene levels at the port. Activists are hopeful that manufacturing components for wind turbines at the port will turn the area into a "green energy hub."

The committee also heard an update on the Clean Energy Community campaign including specific news from panelist Peter Sheehan about an upcoming order from the Public Service Commission involving a National Grid/NYSERDA partnership program, "Affordable Solar For All," that will benefit employee assistance program enrolees.

“What will happen is, people, current recipients or participants in the EAP program, will automatically be signed up for community solar, and there'll be an opt out program," said Sheehan. "So they're basically just kind of like the Community Choice aggregation program is, you'll be automatically signed up, if you're an EAP recipient, to be in the program. “

The Sustainability Advisory Committee is active on Facebook and is scheduled to meet again January 7th.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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