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Hochul unveils air quality testing for Buffalo's West Side, other disadvantaged neighborhoods

WBFO File Photo
A NYS Traffic camera shows cars idling on Buffalo's West Side near the Peace Bridge, in a neighborhood that has some of the highest rates of asthma in the state

New York State is planning to find out how bad the air is in disadvantaged neighborhoods around the state, as part of a new testing initiative announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

"Our most economically disadvantaged communities have also been hit the hardest by the harmful effects of pollution and climate change. With this new initiative, we are deploying the latest state-of-the-art technology to examine the air quality in communities across New York State," Hochul said in a Tuesday announcement.

The program will provide technology and funding to neighborhood groups that could work with the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation, and the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority. State-wide the program will provide approximately $500,000 in Community Air Monitoring Capacity Building Grants.

State officials will select 10 economically disadvantaged areas where studies have shown air quality problems, including higher rates of lung disease, asthma, heart disease, and premature death.The effort is likely to include stretches of Buffalo West Side.

"On the West Side of Buffalo, there's tremendous data that shows direct linkages of stalled diesel trucks at the Peace Bridge and how they impact, in particular, elders and young people on the West Side of Buffalo, which has some of the highest asthma rates in the entire State of New York..' said Rahwa Ghirmatzion, executive director of the activist group PUSH Buffalo.

"On parts of the East Side are people that live very close to the 33, for example. There should be closer monitoring in those neighborhoods so that we can address traffic patterns and how the pollution is: What time of day, for example, the amount of particles in the air and what we can do to mitigate some of that harm.)

The monitoring will collect air pollution and greenhouse gas measurements to produce data in small neighborhoods where municipalities and researchers could design better ways to address the problem, on an almost block-by-block basis.

"We will have much better data which would then allow both the state agencies and the local government agencies to address the issue at the local level. And, that means, again, as we're thinking about urban planning and we're thinking about where new infrastructure is going to go and exactly what to do, what types of interventions are needed. We'll be able to hyper-localize that,"Ghirmatzion said.

Depending on the boundaries of the air pollution study on the West Side, the study could include the governor's own home on the Waterfront.


Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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