Hunts Point, Bronx, N.Y.
On Thursday, March 10, 2022, parents, advocates, and elected officials rallied to urge Governor Hochul to include funding for electric school buses in the 2023 NY State Budget. The group called for $300 million in the FY 2023 New York State Executive Budget to electrify the 50,000 diesel buses that operate in the state. The funds would support voucher incentives, charging station infrastructure costs, and technical support for both new bus purchases and retrofits of existing diesel buses to jump-start this transition.
This transition can aid in reducing air pollution in neighborhoods that have suffered from historic discrimination in access to housing and racial land use planning policies resulting in the siting of a disproportionate number of polluting infrastructure and facilities. In New York City, child asthma hospitalization rates are highest in the Bronx. In Hunts Point and Longwood, asthma emergency department visit rates among children under the age of 18 are double the citywide rate.
During her state of the state speech, the Governor established a goal to electrify New York’s entire school bus fleet by 2035 and requires that all new school bus purchases be electric starting in 2027. However, the mandate is not tied to a specific source of funding and fails to prioritize environmental justice school districts. The dedicated funding could provide ample financing and technical support to ensure that school districts and contractors can immediately begin to order electric buses, install necessary charging infrastructure, and train drivers and staff over the next 24 months.
“Every child deserves clean, breathable air and a healthy environment, and for far too long low-income families and New Yorkers of color have been excluded from that fundamental right. The Bronx has some of the highest asthma rates in the nation, with almost one in four children affected by childhood asthma. New York has the opportunity to become a national leader in developing climate approaches that uplift the communities most impacted by poor air quality and enable us to follow through on our environmental commitments. I stand with advocates on this Bronx Day of Action in calling for a fully-funded plan to electrify our school buses in the state budget that invests in our future, curbs harmful emissions, and advances environmental justice,” said Senator Jamaal Bailey.
“The South Bronx is done accepting environmental injustices. New York City’s transportation sector produces nearly 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the state, and its bus depots are located in our communities with disproportionately high asthma rates. Each additional year that we don’t address these major public health issues, our Brown and Black kids will continue to be twice as likely to suffer from asthma than other kids in the state. I am supporting environmental justice leaders in the Bronx calling on Governor Hochul to help the largest school bus fleet in America reduce greenhouse emissions and do right by our communities, like the South Bronx,” said Bronx Assemblymember Amanda Septimo.
“Increased air pollution has caused children in the Bronx to have asthma rates 700% higher than the rest of New York State. This has significantly impacted children of color. It is unacceptable and we need to protect their health. I urge the governor to include full funding for electric school buses in the upcoming budget. We owe to our children to provide a healthier lifestyle,” said Bronx Assemblymember Kenny Burgos.
“We continue to take big strides towards a future free from the impacts of climate change, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector is a major part of that effort. Our school bus fleets offer a significant opportunity to leverage institutional heft in the furtherance of emission reduction, and I strongly support the effort to electrify school buses throughout New York State,” said Bronx Assemblymember Jeff Dinowitz.
“With the very real threat of climate change, as well as ongoing health problems such as disproportionately high asthma rates in our borough, electrifying school buses will be an important step towards improving our environment and health indicators in The Bronx. This is something I supported throughout my time in the city council, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and different partners on pushing this initiative forward to improve our air quality,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson.
“As our state aims to meet the necessary and dynamic goals of the Climate Leadership Community Protection Act, realizing this goal requires real investment. The number of school buses on our streets has an impact on traffic we all see, but environmental justice communities, like Hunts Point, have had to bear the brunt of disease caused by air pollution from diesel vehicles for too long. We demand $300 million of next year’s budget to make this objective reality while prioritizing overburdened environmental justice communities who need it most. School buses should represent education and a thriving future for our children, not pollution and disease,” said Dariella Rodriguez, director of Community Development for THE POINT CDC.
“Electrifying school buses in New York is a key component in reducing emissions across the state and to meet the state targets of the Climate and Leadership Community Protection Act,” said Kevin Garcia, transportation planner for the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “However, we must ensure that historically underinvested districts are able to receive adequate funding to achieve the governor’s targets and bus depots sited in these communities receive the first buses. Communities with high asthma rates, like Hunts Point, need electric school buses.”
“Governor Hochul has an opportunity this budget session not only to advance New York State’s ambitious climate goals, but to be a champion for environmental justice by funding an electric school bus program that prioritizes children of color and creates good jobs throughout the state. We’re counting on Governor Hochul to hear our call today and to pass a budget that puts our communities, our climate, and our children’s lives first,” said Renae Reynolds, executive director, Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
“We applaud the Governor’s commitment to electrify New York State’s school bus fleet by 2035. However, this commitment did not include the necessary financial resources for a successful transition. We must prioritize funding and investment in areas most in need, so they are not left behind. Areas like the South Bronx, that have one of the highest asthma rates in New York State. We need a just transition so that school bus drivers and maintenance workers have the proper training and technical assistance needed to maintain the buses. And we must make sure that there is equity in all facets of infrastructure, purchasing, and job training to ensure that the communities most harmed by fossil fuel pollution, like Hunts Point, can begin to ensure a healthier future for school children,” said Jenny Veloz, community organizer for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
“Jobs to Move America applauds Governor Hochul for driving the electric school bus conversation from discussion to policy. But we need to do it the right way. That means adequately funding this mandate. It means working closely with the bus workers’ unions to ensure that our drivers and technicians receive the job protections and training they need for these green technology opportunities. We must ensure that the next generation of school buses are manufactured in facilities that have family-sustaining wages and benefits, and equitable hiring and training practices that create opportunities for all workers and their communities. Let’s do this the right way, and with the funding to ensure a successful transition.” said Jay Mehta, Northeast director, Jobs to Move America.
“The Governor’s commitment to require all new school bus purchases to be zero-emissions by 2027 and all school buses in operation in 2035 to be the same is a welcome development. It is important the transition is executed equitably. As legislators work towards a budget agreement, we urge them to consider funding in addition to the proposed changes to the aid formula to ensure that all schools have access to electric buses and not just the wealthy districts that can absorb the upfront costs. All children, no matter their zip code, should have the opportunity to breathe clean air,” said Conor Bambrick, director of Climate Policy for Environmental Advocates NY.
“Nearly 50,000 school buses operate in the state every day, and even today, almost all of them burn diesel or other dirty fossil fuels. Each year, these school buses spew tons of toxic pollutants into our air while also adding heat-trapping emissions into the atmosphere, helping fuel the climate crisis. To protect the health of schoolchildren, bus drivers, and all New Yorkers who are exposed to the carcinogenic exhaust from diesel buses, we urgently need the state to provide robust and dedicated funding at the scale needed to jumpstart the transition toward an all-electric school bus fleet by 2035,” said Alok Disa, senior research and policy analyst at Earthjustice.
“As we march and petition for a ‘School Bus Bill of Rights’ to actually enforce the civil and human rights of all riders to educational access, another concern of parents is the health and safety of everyone on or around the bus. We support a just transition that would retrain and retain skilled mechanics as New York City moves from diesel to electric school buses,” said Sara Catalinotto, Parents to Improve School Transportation.