By Melissa Dimas
New York City receives millions of visitors every year. They come to see the Statue of Liberty, the Great White Way and the towering skyscrapers, but I’d like to think, and maybe it’s because I live here, that the people who reside in New York City and the communities they form are reason enough to visit New York City.
Last week, a delegation from India’s Ministry of Environment and Forest in Delhi, as well as the Pollution Control Board in West Bengal and Kolkata visited EPA Region 2 to tour three of our Superfund sites and the communities that surround them. In India, they are currently designing all aspects of their Superfund program and working on four pilot projects funded by the World Bank. During their tour, we highlighted the important role communities play in EPA’s Superfund process and we wanted the delegation to meet some of the New York City superfund community members. At Newtown Creek, we met with Christine an active member of the community advisory group (CAG), at the Passaic River we met Darryl, a community member working on the actual clean up who received his job through EPA’s superfund job training initiative (SJTI), and at the Gowanus Canal we met Katia, a resident and blogger that helps keep the community informed about all things Gowanus.
The delegation was surprised to see how much EPA Region 2 interacts with the community throughout the Superfund process. They were surprised that EPA’s cleanup process doesn’t just focus on removing contaminants, but also insures the impacted community has a voice in the process. EPA’s Community Involvement Coordinators Wanda Ayala, David Kluesner, and Natalie Loney work hard to make sure the community is informed and the community’s voice is heard. Working with amazing community members like Christine, Darryl, and Katia makes working in New York City as a Community Involvement Coordinator that much more satisfying.
So wherever you live, New York City, Delhi, or Djibouti think about how you participate in your community and how you can play an important role in bettering your community.
About the Author: Melissa Dimas is the International Affairs Program Manager in Region 2. She works with environmental ministries in Latin America to increase public participation and access to environmental information. Melissa joined EPA in 2006. Prior to working at EPA, she received a Masters of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the beautiful country of El Salvador.