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Navigating rising water
The start of hurricane season in NJ creates more risks for people with a disability.
It’s the start of the Atlantic hurricane season and in New Jersey that raises the chance of flooding. But, thanks to how some of America’s biggest companies used our waterways as a dump for toxic chemicals, rising waters pose an even greater threat for everyone.
This is a particular concern in Newark, where the heavily polluted Passaic River sometimes spills over into adjacent communities. Compounding this problem is the city’s decaying infrastructure and income inequality. And for a person who navigates the streets there with a wheelchair, floods can be even more hazardous.
In this video, Ironbound resident Anette Grant tells us about how she plans her outings around Newark when it rains. Montclair State University’s environmental studies professor Greg Pope weighs in with some climate change science. Maria Lopez-Nuñez of the Ironbound Community Corporation talks about the not so pretty parts of her neighborhood’s history. And Jack Tchen, who directs the Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience at Rutgers Newark, explains these problems go deeper than just water.
Keeley Giblin shot and edited this video.
And here is a full transcript.
I'm Dr. Greg Pope, I am a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Studies. New Jersey, now a lot, many places are going to experience the effects of climate change. We in New Jersey have to realize we're a pretty urban area. Now we have plenty of kind of like open wilderness kind of areas to, but every county in New Jersey is considered urban. And we have some of the most densely populated urban areas in the whole nation. So this, this enhances the risk. So, you know, flooding means nothing to you know, out in the middle of nowhere wilderness in Wyoming, but same kind of flooding in, you know, Ramapo or Morristown or something like that, that's going to be an impact it just more people here will be affected. And it that may mean more resources needed to accommodate that. But people are still moving here, people still it's a growing population, we're not losing population. It's a desirable place to live, believe it or not. And so more attention to accommodate adjusting to the inevitability of these climate weather changes, that's got to be considered.
I'm Maria Lopez Nunez and I'm the Deputy Director at the Ironbound Community Corporation. We do organizing and advocacy. So in a community like ours in the Ironbound right, which is really surrounded by a lot of industrial, and industrial saving facilities. And we are also right next to the river, which is the longest Superfund site in the country, the Passaic River. It's where dioxin was dumped during the Vietnam War, a byproduct of creating Agent Orange. And so you know, we have a interesting toxic mix of people and industry.
My name is Annette. I can't walk. I use my wheelchair, when I'm in the house, and I use this buggy when I'm outside. it gets flooded certain areas in the Ironbound section, and they know about it the councilman they know about they know about it. I have to kind of like, think of in my head, should I go this way? Or should I go that way? Or should I go over there. No because that might have all that water there. I pretty much know where what areas I should not go. Because of that. Not only just because of the floods, but because also too the street,
Even when there isn't flooding, you know, because our sidewalks really broken. You often see people with wheelchairs have to share the world with cars. And because we're next to the port, we're not just sharing the road with cars, they're sharing the roads with trucks. You know, heavy duty diesel trucks that are zooming right by them. Because in our neighborhood, we have thousands of trucks that come through the neighborhood, and people with wheelchairs was sharing that and when it flooded, there's just no way out, you know. So like during Sandy, we had trouble accessing emergency services. For people with disabilities, that becomes even higher. And of course, the loss of electrical power. during Sandy, there was some of our complexes that didn't have power for up to a month. So when you're, if you're on any type of medically necessary devices, that became very difficult.
My name is Jack Tchen, I'm a professor we keep on hearing of once in 100 year storms that are now happening on a regular basis. And then how we adapt and how we take them seriously, and how people get flooded in their basements and die in their basements or get flooded in their cars to and from work or shopping. These are things that we haven't been really adapting for or adjusting to. it's a mindset, but it's also basically the lack of design and a lack of really figuring out ways, well, first of all, taking global warming seriously. To have done that would have helped. And we've known that this has been coming for quite a while. But then to not design accordingly and not to have enough public awareness to support policy changes that can really mitigate the impacts. And of course, this has a greater impact on those communities that have the least resources and oftentimes living in the places that are most vulnerable to the bad weather.
A Year of Lens15
The first edition of the newsletter came out a year ago at the start of the 2022 hurricane season. I wrote about the need for more inclusive disaster planning in NJ in the wake of Ida and just ahead of Sandy’s ten year anniversary. The ways in which climate change affects people with a disability has been one of my main interests for a long time and was one reason why I pivoted my reporting to the disability beat. I think it’s appropriate that I bookend this newsletter with posts on these concerns. Lens15 Media was founded as a place for disability news in New Jersey and was given generous support from the NJ Civic Information Consortium. I’m still keeping an eye on my beloved home state, but, my work in the foreseeable future will take place beyond its borders.
I want to thank all of you who’ve subscribed over the past 12 months. Even though I’m stepping back from regular posts, I will occasionally send out links to my work using this platform. I also want to give a big thanks to Keeley Giblin, who began as Lens15’s production intern and since January served as social media coordinator.