Continuing PUSH for Environmental Justice
BUFFALO, N.Y. – People United for Sustainable Housing, or PUSH Buffalo, will soon be getting a new executive director who has a vision for environmental justice across New York state.
Rahwa Ghirmatzion will be moving up from deputy director to succeed PUSH co-founder Aaron Bartley.
Ghirmatzion has played a pivotal role, not only in revitalizing local organizing but also in the push for increased state funding for community organizations to help low-income New Yorkers cut energy use by increasing energy efficiency, and to make the transition to clean, renewable energy.
"Both reducing their energy burden through green efficiency upgrades and producing their energy whether it's rooftop solar or to be able to buy into community solar," she says.
PUSH is working with the low-income community on Buffalo's West Side to create a 25-block green zone based on a shift to renewable energy grounded in racial and economic equity.
Ghirmatzion says with action by the state or the Public Service Commission, the efforts in Buffalo could serve as a model for communities statewide.
"There need to be policies to make it easier for community-based organizations to have community shared solar and build the capacity in low-income communities to be able to control it themselves," she stresses.
Ghirmatzion emphasizes that the transition to renewable energy has not only environmental and energy cost advantages, but is a potential source of jobs and economic development.
Ghirmatzion adds that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and municipalities around the state need to be planning for ways to assist low-income communities that often bear the brunt of the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather such as Superstorm Sandy.
"What is happening right now is there is so much displacement, and communities are being threatened either by gentrification or because of climate change and climate disruptions," she points out.
Ghirmatzion suggests that the state create a sort of superfund to assist in relocation and restoration of storm-damaged low-income communities.