NYC Bans Pesticides in Parks Thanks to Child Advocates

Some yeas ago the founder of CFL was invited to speak as an expert witness to the NYC City Council as they considered whether to pass an important citywide law. She, along with dozens of fellow advocates and celebrity guests, witnessed nothing short of a Supreme Court deliberation following dozens of expert witnesses and over a hundred resident (both with and without “star quality” status) testimonials. Still, the law did not move forward.  Now, more than 16 years later, new council members have taken up the charge. But as one New York politician is fond of reminding her constituents, “The wheels of government move very slowly”.  This all makes the feat of a group of schoolchildren and their tenacious teacher-mentor look especially magical…“A bunch of kindergartners,” now in seventh grade, worked years to push the New York City Council to approve a ban on toxic pesticides in parks, playgrounds and other spaces…

“Seven years ago, a kindergarten teacher at P.S. 290 in Manhattan was following her students’ curiosity about the origins of food when she led them in a role play on how toxic pesticides harm people, ecosystems and even — to the 5-year-olds’ horror — turtles like their class pet, Soccer Ball.

But Paula Rogovin has a rule for teaching small children: Whenever you expose them to upsetting problems, remind them that they can look for solutions. So they decided on a goal: to ban pesticides in the city’s parks, playgrounds and open spaces. And they came up with a chant: “Ban toxic pesticides! Use only nature’s pesticides! Pass. A. Law!”

Since then, through a sometimes-contentious battle, the maturing students, their younger successors and an expanding circle of grown-up allies have shouted their demand in playground rallies, on the steps of City Hall, and in City Council chambers, where on April 22, 2021 their wish came true.

Lawmakers voted unanimously to make New York the nation’s largest city to ban toxic pesticides from routine use by city agencies, and to push its parks to control weeds, insects and vermin with nature-based techniques of organic gardening.

As soon as the law goes into effect — in 30 days [late May 2021] or when Mayor Bill de Blasio signs it, whichever comes first — the use of toxins is supposed to cease, with a few narrow exceptions for targeted use on invasive or harmful species…

Other jurisdictions have taken similar steps. Baltimore banned a narrower list of pesticides last year, and Chicago, through a voluntary program, has stopped using chemical weedkillers in 90 percent of its parks since 2014. In January, New York State banned the use of toxins by school districts.

In New York City, residents will see far fewer red or yellow signs warning them to keep dogs and children away from recently treated areas in parks, public-housing courtyards and other public areas. Even rat poison must now be put in special containers or inaccessible places, and the goal eventually is to control rats in safer ways, like by better securing the garbage they eat…”

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Source: New York Times