As citizens worldwide push their governments for stricter policies to curb climate change, New York state and local officials are taking notice. A new fleet of all-electric, zero-emission delivery trucks is being deployed to six city nonprofit organizations, to reduce carbon emissions in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color like Hunts Point, which suffers from the city’s highest asthma rates.
Attorney General Leticia James announced the new program at the entrance to the Hunts Point Terminal Market on Edgewater Road at an Apr. 17 press conference, as 18-wheelers rumbled past. Reducing fine soot pollution caused by emissions from diesel delivery trucks will help address the asthma problem, James said.Leaders of organizations enrolled in the project joined James, including one with Hunts Point roots.
“As you look at these residential buildings here, they’re literally surrounded by billions of dollars of economic activity,” said Toby Bloch, Chief Venture Officer for Sustainable South Bronx, which trains residents for green jobs and organizes community greening programs. The last of the nine electric trucks in the program was delivered to that environmental non-profit on the morning of the press conference.
“The people who live in [Hunts Point] buildings don’t work these jobs but they bear the burden of all this traffic and this pollution,” said Bloch. The new electric truck will help deliver tools and supplies for the group’s social enterprise Cool Roofs program, he added, and will help program participants develop a marketable skill by learning to operate box trucks.
The initiative will be financed thanks to a $9.5 million settlement the attorney general’s office reached with Ohio-based American Electric Power for violating the federal Clean Air Act. Each of the six organizations can lease one or two all-electric Mitsubishi Fuso “eCanter” medium-duty delivery trucks and charging infrastructure for two years.
“We are reminded that in order to protect New Yorkers, we first need to protect our planet,” said James. “As government officials, we bear special responsibility.”
Although the food distribution market is a vital local employer, said Assemblyman Marcos Crespo who joined James for the announcement, the jobs it provides should not come at the cost of residents’ health.
“We want to show that the Bronx can lead the nation in restoration and a rebirth of our environment,” said Crespo, whose district includes the peninsula. The other nonprofit organizations taking part in the initiative are Habitat for Humanity New York City, Big Reuse, GrowNYC, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the New York Botanical Garden.
City Councilman Rafael Salamanca added in a statement that “Not only do these trucks bring their daily deliveries to my district, they bring with them an abundance of air pollutants that have saddled our community with the worst air quality rates in New York City,” as a result of “tractor trailers and large industrial vehicles making their way through our neighborhoods. As a result, he said, it is urgent to “remove gas-guzzling vehicles off our roads and replace them with electric vehicles.”