How Environmental Racism Perpetuates Over Policing

In 2022 New York City budgeted 10.7 billion dollars to the NYPD, continuing its presence as the largest police force in the United States, while allocating a mere 1.6 billion to the Department of Environmental Protection in a blatant act of ignorance to what real issues are facing New Yorkers. Predominantly Black Latine communities like the Bronx, Harlem, and central Brooklyn as well as the homeless population in New York, which is a combined 90% Black and Latine, are simultaneously on the forefront of inhuman policing policies and climate disasters.

It’s of course no coincidence that these communities and populations are also the first to be considered for pipeline projects and juvenile detention centers, and when a natural disaster strikes the only “resource” the city has to offer them are police, and unsafe, unstable housing. Black, Latine, Indigenous communities have been the first to be pushed onto areas that are hardest hit by natural disasters, and are not given the necessary resources to prepare for them. The over policing of these communities is connected in multiple ways to environmental racism and climate change, not only in New York but across the United States. The dependency of a military-grade police force on the abuse and displacement of land and people is clear, and its ongoing parasitism will continue to prevent us from making radical change.

In March, former NYPD pig and New York City Mayor, Eric Adams announced in his latest campaign in the criminalization of poverty: ordering the NYPD to conduct homeless sweeps on all encampments through the city and cutting615$ million from the homeless services budget. After New York City suffered an intense hurricane season that shut down everything from MTA trains to the Long Island Railroad, it became clear how unprepared the city is against upcoming climate disasters, and who is left stranded when they do hit. Folx who are street homeless, partly due to how dangerous the shelter system is, often find refuge in the NYC subway system, especially when hit by increasing amounts of rain or snow, which has become common in recent years. This winter New York saw the impact of 90,000 homeless New Yorkers, many of which live on the subway, who are without basic human rights such as consistent food, shelter, medical access, etc. We also saw how the city reacted to this, not with care or compassion, but with NYPD pig Mayor Eric Adams adding 1,000 more police on to NYC subways. Folx who live in low-income neighborhoods also saw ourselves abandoned with no way to get home to places like the Bronx when hurricanes shut down the subway system in a city that prioritizes a work day over the safety of its people. New York’s homeless community has not been silent on this, and the solutions lie in their demands for safe, stable housing and well, completely turning away from creating institutions solely based on generating profit.

Despite being located in one of the richest cities in the United States, the Bronx is purposefully one of the poorest districts in the country. With a population that is over 80% Black and Latine, the Bronx also has 50% higher rates of asthma, the greatest number of food deserts, and one of the highest rates of incarceration in the city. It’s a clear example of how a system founded in racism and capitalism will not only ignore life-threatening issues facing Black communities, but fund, promote, and enforce them through the inhumane means of the NYPD. Despite the fact that the high rates of asthma can be directly linked to the actions of private companies such as Fresh Direct, who are allowed by the New York City government to place trucking operation centers in a borough that already faces nitrogen dioxide rates 38% higher than the national average, profit continues to be put over people. And while companies like Fresh Direct get away with paying the lowest possible wages to the poorest communities at the expense of their health, the only resource the community has to challenge these environmental injustices is the Environmental Protection Police, led by the NYPD. Using the NYPD as as a means to enforce environmental protection is not only a complete misallocation of funds for the community, but also a blatant example of how the needs of the Bronx are being ignored. Any incident ranging from storm water complaints, water pollution and the illegal transportation, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste, all gets reported to the NYPD. In a borough that is both heavily industrial and residential, issues like these are rampant. A major issue that many neighborhoods face is a lack of access to the public waste pickup system, leaving them to have to pay to dispose of waste, resulting in illegal waste disposal. The North Bronx has also been victim of a sewage leak since 2018. In Mount Vernon, a community north of the Bronx with a 65% Black population, families are being displaced because there is no active solution or alternative to the leaking waste in their homes and fresh water rivers, while the predominantly white town directly next to them rarely sees an incident. These environmental injustices continue to plague Black communities throughout New York

The only resources that are given are unnecessary policing in a community that is demanding a real solution to climate injustice. 

Climate change has revealed how especially in a global crisis, Black communities are the most vulnerable, and as these state and city governments continue to respond to the needs of Black people with policing, we need to begin to truly invest in the protection of our communities. The Bronx has such a revolutionary history of fearless leaders defending Black communities that the NYPD arrested and called “gangs” to perpetuate a false narrative that the Bronx is this hyper violent place. This dehumanizing treatment and blatant misrepresentation of the Bronx and its residents has only continued as the City continues to ignore and sustain major environmental concerns that are putting people’s lives at risk. We must respond to calls to action and the need to organize coming from these communities. Coming up with sustainable solutions to the climate crisis for those living on the front lines helps us all learn what to do when disaster strikes. This requires engaging with the issue, giving a voice to those impacted, and completely rejecting policing as a solution. It is only through collective organizing, grassroots mutual aid, and the leadership of those who have been abused by the system that we are able to protect our communities!