Date of Award



Edward Van Buren


Where a person lives dictates how that person lives. The environment plays a unique and critically important role in the day-to-day behavior of individuals. It also impacts peoples’ health. And in an urban environment, the affect of a person’s surroundings is further intensified by density, traffic, and congestion. Health disparities and environmental hazards throughout New York City are functions of environmental justice.

Parks make up approximately 14 percent of the New York City. Their placement is both practical and symbolic. Environmental justice issues are deeply embedded in park access, and these issues are especially evident in an urban setting such as New York where a few blocks could mean the difference between a clean, healthy environment and an environment that fosters low overall health and well-being.

In this essay, I will discuss the origins of poverty in New York City. I will investigate the role a person’s immediate surroundings play in their day-to-day lives and health, eventually examining the way the environment impacts public health. I will discuss the justice implications of environmental health disparities in New York and will illustrate these concepts through a series of case studies in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Finally, I will address steps various agencies in the city are taking to deal with these issues as well as propose my own policy solutions.