By Jonathan Sperling
As CNN gears up to host its Sept. 4 climate town hall in New York City, 12 Queens lawmakers, and one from Brooklyn, have written a letter urging network President Jeff Zucker to move the climate crisis summit to the outer boroughs.
At a rally on the steps of City Hall Friday, the Queens pols stood alongside environmental advocates to argue that Queens residents are at an increasing risk of rising sea levels, toxic air and violent weather related to the climate crisis.
Queens is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather because the borough contains such a large amount of coastline. Southern Queens is home to the only unobstructed coastline in the city, the 11-mile-long Rockaway Peninsula.
Data recorded by the United States Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show Queens and Brooklyn were among the areas hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy storm surges in 2012. In Howard Beach, water levels rose 11.2 feet as Sandy hit; in Whitestone, Broad Channel and at the World’s Fair Marina, water levels rose more than 10 feet. At least 94 storm-related fires broke out across the city during Sandy, including a six-alarm electric fire in Breezy Point that destroyed 126 homes and damaged 22.
Queens contains a vast amount of coastline, from the waters of Flushing and Little Neck Bay in Eastern Queens to the East River in Western Queens.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our lifetime. It will influence our national security, our economy, and our health,” said Constantinides, who argued in an Eagle op-ed last month that CNN should host the climate town hall in one of three Queens and Brooklyn venues: the 234-seat Post Theater at Fort Tilden, the 740-seat auditorium at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, or the 5,000-seat Amphitheatre Ford in Coney Island.
“I applaud CNN’s decision to host a climate town hall right here in New York City, which saw the effects of climate change nearly seven years ago when Sandy struck. But these candidates should have to answer directly to the people most at risk of climate change — so we have to take this show beyond the bright lights of Broadway,” Constantinides added.
Rockaway Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato seconded Constantinides’ call to CNN.
“Future generations are relying on us to enact change so they can inherit a planet not choked by pollution and harmful chemicals, and it’s not far-off generations — it’s kids right now who are facing an uncertain environmental future,” Pheffer Amato said.
In addition Amato and Constantinides, 10 other Queens lawmakers signed the letter to CNN, as well as Brooklyn Councilmember Justin Brannan.