Green Low-Income Housing: Upstate New York

I came home to the rolling green hills of the Mohawk Valley, to my laughing cousins, and to the beginning of a new upstate new york.

It seems the new green economy has inspired the homeless, community organizers, faith leaders, and local officials alike. On my first day home I attended the launch of a new green low-income housing block in the poorest crime ridden area of Utica, NY—Corn Hill. Corn Hill is one of those area’s that never received enough public assistance and therefore remained a hot spot for drugs, murder, and racial disparity.

But things started to change with the initiative of two women, Reverend Skates and Reverend Meier. Their  commitment to the area and their beautiful vision for a transformed community brought all the right people together. We heard from speakers from the NYS Governor’s office, they mayor of Utica, and local homeless women that were moving into these new green homes.

I haven’t been so moved than when I heard Reverend Skates lead us in a visualization of the buildings around us. We yelled out words together like “Green!” or “Community Garden” pointing to broken down buildings and empty lots. With all of the right people in the room you could almost feel the space around you changing, especially when so much already had.

CopyRight Shadia Fayne Wood

Copyright Shadia Fayne Wood

I think as young people we sometimes see ourselves bearing the entire burden of changing everything starting with policy and then our local communities. This reminded me of a couple things: 1) Positive change can flourish everywhere– without my involvement 2) Building up our local economies and communities deserves as much attention as our national work.

There is something to be said about the tangible gratification of this kind of work. It can be a hard thing to balance when climate policy seems to be the most important, yet elusive thing.

Passing a strong climate bill that protects communities like these, is the key to actually tangibly building a green future and more green communities.

As I get more in tune with my surroundings that balance becomes more critical. Let us integrate more hands-on creation in the movement and really shape the present for our local communities!

1 Response to “Green Low-Income Housing: Upstate New York”

  1. 1 Mike Kilian Aug 28th, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Very nice piece on Utica and the Cornhill initiative. I’m an editor at the Utica Observer-Dispatch. Would you be willing to adapt this entry into a column for the newspaper? If so, please e-mail the slightly revised piece and the link to this page to, subject line: Cornhill guest column. Please include your cell so the opinion page editor, Dave Dudajek, can contact you for verification. Thank you.

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About Shadia Fayne

Shadia began at age seven as an advocate for justice and the environment, in an eight year campaign to pass state legislation that, without it, was responsible for cancer clusters and deaths that existed in her community. In response to her efforts she has received the Yoshiyama Award from the Hitachi Foundation, and the Brower Youth Award from the Earth Island Institute. At age fifteen, She attended the World Summit on Sustainable Development, joining the youth energy caucus' efforts to create the Official Global Youth Energy Policy Statement. Months later, Shadia attended the Second National People of Color Summit and there she helped create the Environmental Justice Youth Platform. She is a member of the Environmental Justice Climate Coalition Youth Committee and is on the Kids Against Pollution National Board of Trustees. Shadia graduated from West Canada Valley High School in 2005, where she then took two years off before entering a career in higher education to work as a leader in the Global Youth Climate Movement. She finished working for the EJCC as the youngest Campus Climate Challenge Coordinator in the Energy Action Coalition, in October 2007. She is currently attending American University of Beirut, studying Arabic and Communications.

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