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Economy

Which Cities Have Concrete Strategies for Environmental Justice?

Historically, local zoning codes and land-use laws have enforced segregation. Now, cities are using the same tools to enact environmental justice.
The map shows places that have environmental justice policies as identified in a new report. Red: Bans; Blue: General policies; Green: Targeting Existing Land Uses; Purple: Proactive Planning; Orange: Public Health Codes and Policies; Yellow: Reviews
The map shows places that have environmental justice policies as identified in a new report. Red: Bans; Blue: General policies; Green: Targeting Existing Land Uses; Purple: Proactive Planning; Orange: Public Health Codes and Policies; Yellow: ReviewsThe New School Tishman Environment and Design Center

Just as it is now, Fifth Avenue has long been home to expensive shops drawing not only wealthy New Yorkers, but moneyed visitors. In 1916, when the shop merchants in the Fifth Avenue Association voiced concerns about congestion and declining land values affecting their profits, New York City introduced zoning as a legal apparatus. It was a new concept.

The merchants felt that their land values would be affected by the tall skyscrapers being built near Fifth Avenue to house the garment industry. And they didn’t want the people working in the garment industry to mix with their wealthy shoppers. Zoning’s beginnings had a lot to do with the exclusion of low-income people from certain areas of the city, and in the intervening century, zoning has continued to be used to confine low-income people and people of color to particular areas of a city.