Red Hook

In run for office, Sunset Parker promises fight for greener future

September 23, 2019 Kelly Mena
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In a waterfront district still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, a new State Assembly candidate is putting the climate crisis and resiliency at the forefront of her campaign.

Katherine Walsh will challenge incumbent Assemblymember Félix Ortiz, who represents Sunset Park and Red Hook, she told the Brooklyn Eagle. The 36-year-old candidate says her decade of experience as an urban planner puts her in a prime position to create a more sustainable, resilient and healthy environment for the more than 129,000 residents in the 51st Assembly district.

“We are facing unprecedented but urgent crises that need to be addressed,” Walsh told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The fourth-generation Brooklynite is prioritizing building affordable housing projects in economically sustainable ways, creating job opportunities in the green economy and evaluating rezoning’s impact on the environment.

“A big discussion is happening in Brooklyn Heights around the BQE,” she said. “Why are we not having this conversation in our district — which has the highest asthma rates in Brooklyn because of the BQE? … Why should state dollars continue to go and funnel into projects that are not providing for the climate future we need?”

She joins two other candidates, Marcela Mitaynes and Genesis Aquino, in the race for the seat.

Katherine Walsh (left), candidate for the 51st Assembly district at the Youth Climate Strike. Image courtesy of Katherine for Assembly.

Walsh, a member of Community Board 7, hopes to expand on the recently enacted Climate Change and Community Protection Act. The legislation, passed in June, seeks to tackle the climate crisis by drastically cutting greenhouse gases, diverting the state’s energy reliance to renewable sources and creating green jobs to promote environmental justice across New York State.

The district was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and Red Hook continues to struggle with recovery and resiliency efforts.

“Everything that you talk about at the kitchen table is linked to climate. Every discussion revolves around climate issues, because climate affects everything,” Walsh said. She pointed to a personal example — riding her bike between Sunset Park and Red Hook on a recent rainy day, she was unable to cross Ninth Street because of flooding. “That was just two weeks ago on a Monday — it wasn’t a big superstorm.”

As far as Industry City, which falls within the borders of the district, Walsh thinks the developers behind the area’s planned rezoning need to go back to the drawing board — keeping environmental consciousness in mind.

“The whole process is broken, because when you actually look at Industry City and the zoning that they want, it doesn’t include the type of climate science and climate projections for what that waterfront is going to look like or how we should use it,” Walsh said.

Walsh’s announcement coincides with Monday’s U.N. Climate Action Summit, where world leaders met to discuss the effects of climate change and its impact on the global population.

The summit follows the Global Climate Strike that took place last Friday — during which thousands of students marched across the borough for immediate action.

“If we aren’t going to do it in 2020, when are we going to do it?” Walsh said.

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