Access to clean air and water for all is a human right.

Our current state constitution protects and preserves certain reservoirs and agricultural lands, including the Adirondacks and the Catskills. But clean air and water should be guaranteed across the New York–not just in rural areas. Let’s amend the constitution so that the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is only possible if we are breathing clean air and drinking water free of toxins.

For example:

  • New York City was named “America’s #1 Dirtiest City” by Travel + Leisure Magazine in 2012
  • The EPA’s National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment study showed that Manhattan residents have the third-highest cancer risk caused by airborne chemicals in the United States. The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens aren’t far behind (#s 8, 9, and 13, respectively)
  • The drinking water in Nassau County, Long Island is contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which in the short term causes dry eyes, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and loss of consciousness. In the long term, it causes damage to the central nervous system, internal orga ns, and is thought to cause cancer1
  • One of the worst oil spills in the United States history happened off the coast of Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 1950, leaving a 50-acre blob of oil in the water that has still not been cleaned up and has been seeping into the city waterway–and the Brooklyn soil–ever since2

This is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

We can do it!

Despite our contaminated air and water, New York–and NYC specifically–has made significant strides ahead of the US in other areas. NYC is the most energy-efficient city in the country. Our gas consumption is what the national average was in 1920. Our electricity consumption is far behind the other big cities, and our greenhouse gas emission is 7.1 metric tons per person, compared to the national average of 24.5.3

New York State cares about the environment and is mobilized to confront these challenges. If we push our lawmakers, we could lead the world in environmental innovation. Let’s set this mission in stone in the state constitution.