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Breathing the Bronx

Natali Dorado

Image via Bo Ponomari/Pexels

Editor’s note: This submission was part of an assignment from this semester’s POL 355: Policy Formation Process course taught by Dr. Perri Leviss. Students in the course were encouraged to submit their op-eds to The Anchor.


Link to the Department of Political Science’s homepage: https://www.ric.edu/department-directory/department-political-science


Growing up in a low-income household, in a predominantly Black and Hispanic community such as the Bronx, then later, moving up the societal ladder into the middle-class community, was a complete eye-opener. Not only was the education completely different. The differences in the environmental state, such as the air, structure and temperature were completely different. These differences set in motion my curiosity to dive deeper into how minority communities such as the Bronx impact the environment, and what policies are implemented, along with researching a motion of action on what can be done moving forward.


New York City is the richest city and has one of the highest poverty rates. The Bronx borough is home to 30% of those residents. The average yearly income is $38,085, substantially lower than the recommended $44,449 needed to be able to live in New York City. The recommended annual income shown above is for those with no children. Yet, this is not the case for many residents that live in the Bronx.


Not only is the Bronx home to low-income residents, but it is also a community that is disproportionately burdened by air pollution and contamination, an alarming environmental injustice towards the community and the earth.


The south Bronx is home to one-third of the waste treatment plants, along with being the entryway to 10 different highways. According to the New York City community health profiles, air pollution is higher in the Bronx than in any other borough, sitting at 9.1 micrograms, compared to the city's average of 8.6. Since the micrograms of pollution in the air is so high, this causes extreme health concerns to Bronxinians, such as asthma, premature deaths and respiratory complications.


Hospitalizations for children due to asthma is 70% higher in the Bronx than in the rest of New York City. This 70% includes my two brothers that were hospitalized with respiratory difficulties, then later diagnosed with asthma. Bronx doctors continued to state that the type of asthma that my brothers had was chronic and persistent, remaining the same throughout their lives. Yet, once we moved upwards into Massachusetts and Rhode Island, their lung health significantly improved, almost as if their asthma was “healed.”


Many scientists believe that asthma and respiratory issues within the Bronx are due to the constant contamination of the air. That, unfortunately, can only be cured if adequate measures are taken. Air pollution within the Bronx is not just an environmental hazard, but a community hazard as well, that will ultimately result in the deaths of many if immediate action towards improving the situation is not set in motion.


Now that the problem has been identified, there are plans set in motion to improve the situation:


  • NYC cool roofs are being placed on low-income housing to reduce air pollution and decrease hot temperatures.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo was working towards improving the Sheridan Expressway to ensure a cleaner commute, whether it be through riding a bike or walking.

  • The “One NYC” plan is working to divert traffic towards a different route. This objective promises to reduce pollution by 80% by the year 2050.


These are plans and legislative actions set in motion in addressing the air pollution problem set within New York City precisely. Nonetheless, air pollution is an issue contributing to the global warming crisis and must be addressed on a federal level. Substantial improvements can be made through an assertive form of action, through the implementation of public policy on all levels of government, to ensure global prosperity for all.


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