Just a metro ride away from Soho, the West Village, and the Upper East Side lies the South Bronx, the poorest congressional district in America. It is the land of gang violence and graffiti; chain-link fences and trash-lined streets; crumbling tenements and abandoned homes, their windows gaping dark holes framed by the skeletal remains of fire escapes. It is a “nightmare world,” Tom Wolfe wrote in his 1987 novel Bonfire of the Vanities, and until recently, it was still considered “the worst place in the country to live.”
With one forth of its residents unemployed and more than half living below the poverty line, the county is home to numerous power plants and toxic waste facilities, as well as a dump that handles over forty percent of the commercial waste generated by all of New York City. Pollution in the South Bronx has led to health issues and social upheaval, but the revitalization efforts of grassroots organizations within the past two decades have made it a model of innovative urban renewal, upheld by urban planners across the country and around the world.
How can sustainable development be used in order to combat issues faced by impoverished urban communities? In what ways is a commitment to green living especially critical, in even the poorest corners of today’s modern cities? These are questions I hope to address through my investigation of environmental injustice in the South Bronx.