The Ports of New York and New Jersey have long been known as the dirtiest in the country, and the Port Authority as a spectacularly uncaring and unresponsive organization.
As a result, residents of Newark and other cities around the ports have been subjected to extremely dangerous levels of diesel exhaust pollution, and the health effects that come with it. Asthma levels are shamefully high, and residents are subjected to the myriad other health risks of diesel exhaust, which has been linked to cardiovascular disease, impaired lung function, dementia, brain damage, mental illness, pre-term birth, and much more.
After years of work by the Ironbound Community Corporation, Clean Water Action NJ, the Coalition for Healthy Ports, the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance and many academic experts, including Dr. Ana Baptista, professor at the New School, the tide is turning.
In the few months, the Village Voice and other news publications have highlighted the health issues and environmental injustice of this assault on residents’ health. Political leaders, including U.S New Jersey Senator Cory Booker have called for the U.S. EPA to take action. Most recently, the mayor of Newark, Ras Baraka, has ramped up the pressure, and used his formidable leadership skills to force the Port Authority to become a good neighbor and responsible organization.
For more information, check out this excellent Village Voice article, or some of the background references below.