Sunset Parkers call for green waterfront during climate week march

protesters march through sunset park
Members and supporters of UPROSE march down 43rd Street to Bush Terminal Park in Sunset Park on Thursday, Sept. 23.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

Sunset Parkers marched on Thursday during Clime Week to call for a transformation of the nabe’s waterfront into an environmentally sustainable hub of energy production and manufacturing.

Led by UPROSE, a local climate advocacy group, around 50 attendees marched through Sunset Park en route to a rally at Bush Terminal Park, chanting slogans like “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!”

Advocates make their way through Sunset Park for climate justice.Photo by Paul Frangipane

After successfully killing the proposed rezoning of Industry City, advocates believe that the waterfront can be a vanguard space for a new green economy in the city. 

Many have pointed to the already-in-the-works Sunset Park Solar project, a community-owned solar energy garden operated by UPROSE, which will provide clean energy to local members when completed. 

During rezoning talks, the group presented an alternative waterfront plan dubbed the Green Resilient Industrial District (GRID), which would maintain industrial zoning to create jobs in the fields of green energy production and retrofitting. 

UPROSE executive director Elizabeth Yeampierre said that these efforts should be implemented and scaled up massively.

“The time to act is now,” Yeampierre said. “Climate legislation must turn away from propping up outdated and unproven techno-fixes and instead center and be accountable to those who have been hit first and worst for decades. These are the largely BIPOC communities who continue to face the brunt of the storms, quite literally, and whose innovative solutions are rarely resourced and brought to scale. Comprehensive and bold initiatives such as community-controlled renewables like we have here in Sunset Park must be scaled up. It’s time to follow the frontlines — we have the solutions.”

Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes marches with UPROSE for climate justice. Photo by Paul Frangipane

Elected officials — including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, State Sen. Zellnor Myrie, and Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes — attended the rally, citing the recent devastation in the city from Hurricane Ida as demonstrating the need for bold action.

“Climate justice, racial justice and economic justice are inextricably intertwined,” Williams said. “We have already shown, here in Sunset Park, that green infrastructure is both the environmentally responsible and economically responsible path forward, and that community driven growth is something we can expand upon here and throughout the city.”

Participants pump their fits.Photo by Paul Frangipane

The city and state have announced several green initiatives during Climate Week — a September tradition for the past decade — such as new transmission lines bringing green energy from upstate and Canada to the city, but activists fear that the pace of response is not enough. 

Last month, the United Nations issued a devastating report detailing how much irreversible damage has already been done to the planet, and how little time there is left to mitigate catastrophic climate change for decades to come.

Those problems were most readily on display earlier this month when the remnants of Hurricane Ida flooded the borough, causing at least 45 deaths in the New York metropolitan region, and submerging subway lines and other low-lying areas.

“We have seen tragic reminders of our failure to confront the climate crisis with the resources or innovation required, and we need to act now to help prevent future loss and create future gain,” the public advocate said.