Testimony of Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Before the City Council Committee on Economic Development RE: Health Impact Assessment/Resolution 1257

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  • Testimony of Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
    Before the City Council Committee on Economic Development
    RE: Health Impact Assessment/Resolution 1257

    May 1, 2013

    Good Morning.

    Thank you Chairperson Koslowitz, and the members of the Economic Development committee for the opportunity to testify this morning.

    I would also like to thank Councilwoman Foster for introducing Resolution 1257 on my behalf. This resolution calls for an improvement in the consideration of health impacts in the City of New York’s decision-making process related to development and infrastructure projects. A health impact assessment requirement will facilitate an atmosphere where economic development thrives and maintains the stature of our world-class city while considering the potential health implications of these projects for New Yorkers. I put forward this resolution because I believe that health implications must be explicitly measured when promoting economic development, so as to promote long-term health. Utilizing health impact assessments and increasing citywide collaboration would do that.

    Significant improvements to public health can only occur if we consider health impacts as we modernize our policies, programs and projects, particularly in the sectors that are traditionally seen as unrelated to health, such as agriculture, housing, transportation and economic development.

    As Borough President, I’ve shown that economic development projects can thrive while also making quality of health and sustainability as part of the equation.  They are inherently linked, not mutually exclusive.

    You can see that commitment to economic development by walking through the borough of the Bronx. We are a burgeoning county with cranes on every other corner.  I led the fight to keep the Hunts Point Cooperative Market from moving to New Jersey, and as result, we have secured commitments of approximately $137 million of an anticipated $350 million in renovation costs, from the city and state, not including the $25 million dedicated from the federal government.  We will modernize and create a greener more sustainable Hunts Point.

    My office is working hard to ensure that the future of Hunts Point is greener and healthier. But we are not waiting for the renovations to counteract the poor air quality and resulting asthma caused by the industrial complex at Hunts Point.  As part of my capital budget, I contributed $1 million towards the creation of an alternative fueling station in Hunts Point and another $1 million towards site remediation at the Harlem River Rail Yards. 

    Moreover, we recruited Smith Electric Vehicles to move to the Bronx so we can convert more of the commercial fleets of the Bronx to either low or zero emission trucks.  In fact FreshDirect, has already committed to transitioning to a 100 percent green transportation fleet over the next five years. To start, they have already ordered 10 electric delivery trucks from Smith Electric Vehicles.

    My office has a proven track recording funding sustainable housing projects. Since I became the Borough President, over one third of all capital investments are dedicated to housing initiatives.  We have dedicated $52,274,000 in funding and they have led the way in building LEED certified projects, whether residential, commercial or institutional. Our strict environmental guidelines have not deterred private-public capital investments in our borough, and in fact, have facilitated growth in the Bronx. My office is committed to strengthening and growing economic development, in a smarter and healthier way.

    I am not the only one calling for the implementation of HIAs, similar work is already underway across the United States. Government agencies such as the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and Philadelphia Department of Public Health; and outside groups, such as Health Impact Partners, have pioneered the use of health impact assessments in planning decisions. As the largest metropolis in the nation, and with one of the lowest carbon footprints per capita, it is our responsibility to continue to champion the health and well-being of our great city as we develop economically.  Moreover, Philadelphia has included health language, statistics, recommendations written into the city’s comprehensive plan, Philadelphia2035. They have developed health-promoting development incentives, requirements, and adopted HIA guidelines into the zoning code.

    I am committed to ensuring that our economic development takes health outcomes into account. I believe that HIAs can be used as a risk-management tool for businesses, this additional measure that will create healthier workplaces, healthier families and ultimately, a healthier and more sustainable New York City.  Resolution 1257 is a step towards building in more tools that allow us to curb disease, prevent long-term health problems and increase economic vitality of our city.

    Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, for the opportunity to testify today.

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