Environmental Injustice at Ezra Prentice Apartments and Community Health Study

by Dominick Calsolaro


The Ezra Prentice Homes, an Albany Housing Authority project consisting of 179 units, is located in Albany’s South End, at the southern end of South Pearl Street (Route 32). The area where Ezra Prentice is situated is a designated environmental justice community. The residents of Ezra Prentice, Old South Pearl Street, and lower Mount Hope Drive, suffer from the adverse health and environmental affects of: Crude-oil-by-rail; other industrial activities at the Port of Albany; traffic from the adjacent highway, I787; a county sewage treatment plant; a recycling center; and hundreds of diesel-engine trucks that drive over South Pearl Street to-and-from the Port everyday.

In addition to these already existing environmental and health stressers, the Ezra Prentice neighborhood, an Environmental “INjustice” community, is now facing the prospects of Global’s request to construct heating facilities so it can heat rail cars transporting tar sands oil from Canada and the construction of the Pilgrim Pipelines that will be able to carry over 16 million gallons of petroleum products everyday. If these two proposals get approval, many, many more crude-oil-by-rail unit trains will be coming into the Port and staging behind the Ezra Prentice Homes.

Due to these hazards, and because of the many complaints residents of Ezra Prentice have publicly pronounced regarding health-related issues, AVillage has enlisted Resident Outreach Workers and, with the assistance of the UAlbany’s School of Public Health, Albany Medical College and the College of Pharmacy, is conducting a health survey of the residents of Ezra Prentice. While the survey is not complete, the numbers of people with significant health problems is alarming. As of the end of June, 40% of the way through the survey, a whopping 50% of the residents (many children) are suffering from asthma! Another 20% have other respiratory diseases and 12% have chemical sensitivities. In addition, other health studies show: the maternal mortality rate in zip code 12202 is more than double the State average; infant mortality rate is 23.3/1000 live births; and preterm births are 16% of all infants born.

To help create a clearer picture of what the residents of Ezra live with, AVillage has also begun to count the number of diesel-engine trucks that travel along South Pearl Street, which splits the Ezra Prentice apartment complex in half. The June 30, 2016 count of diesel-engine trucks showed a total of 1089 trucks from 6:00am to 9:00pm. On average, that’s 73 trucks per hour. If you eliminate the early and late hours, and concentrate on the hours from 7:00am to 6:00pm, the number of trucks per hour was 91. Five of those eleven day-time, one-hour time slot counts, showed over 100 trucks per hour, with a high of 125 between 9 and 10:00am!

[In connection with this issue, EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck will be speaking at the Ezra Prentice Community Room, 625 South Pearl Street, Albany, NY on Wednesday, August 17 at 6:00 PM. Refreshments will be served by Save the Pine Bush.]



Published in September/August 2016
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