The Greening of Community Economic Development: Dispatches from New York City
28 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2010 Last revised: 25 Nov 2014
Date Written: 2009
Community development corporations and other community-based organizations have recently begun to make major efforts to incorporate environmental elements into their projects. This article examines this healthy trend, and lawyers’ contributions to it, through the work of three groups in three diverse communities of color in New York City. It is based on the authors’ experience providing or directing transactional legal assistance to those groups as directors of law school community economic development clinics (Huertas-Noble at CUNY, Glick at Fordham) or of legal services community development units (Rose at Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. A).
Our clients are merging activism for economic development and environmental justice to create green-collar jobs for local residents, build affordable housing that is environmentally friendly, and use local land for sustainable projects that serve and improve the community. In the Cypress Hills section of East New York in Brooklyn, an established community development corporation works creatively to amass the financing required to make its buildings increasingly green. In West Harlem, a prominent environmental justice organization fights for community - serving sustainable land use and for programs to prepare people of color to get their fair share of jobs and contracts in the emerging green economy. In the South Bronx, a new organization forms worker-owned enterprises that train and employ local residents, protect the environment, and offer the potential for residents to accumulate a modicum of local wealth. Other articles in this symposium report a similar convergence of CED and environmental justice efforts in other parts of the country.
This is a promising trend. It offers real possibilities for low-income people of color to live healthier, safer, better lives. It moves forward their efforts to gain greater control over local land and resources. It supports their struggle to survive the deepening economic crisis and offers them the potential to influence and benefit from a more supportive new administration in Washington.
Our snapshots show lawyers, law students and law faculty, making small but important contributions. They help to design, maintain, and adapt legal entities and governance strictures, negotiate contracts and leases, navigate regulatory and subsidy systems, and advise and assist in project development, coordination, and financing. We are committed to doing more of this work and learning how to do it better. We hope you will join us.
Keywords: CED, worker cooperatives, green housing, greencollar jobs, environmnental justice, land use, clinic, legal services
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