Lily Belle Poling, Contributing Photographer

This past Friday, members of the New Haven community gathered in front of City Hall to protest the city’s lack of urgency in reducing emissions and local air pollution. 

The New Haven Climate Movement led the rally, demanding that the city hire staff to accelerate the move away from a car-centered transportation system, provide free bus passes for New Haven youth, electrify all bus fleets and create school programs that support cleaner transportation alternatives.

“Pollutants from cars, buses, trains, airplanes and many more forms of transportation act as the number one player in causing climate change,” Suprya Sakar, a member of the New Haven Climate Movement Youth Action Team, announced to the crowd. “As oil-filled cars fill up the streets, millions of people living within marginalized communities suffer from the consequences of such harmful pollutants.”

The event was also organized to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.  and his peaceful political protests. Members of the New Haven Climate Movement gave credit to Dr. King for his work in paving the way for others to hold organized protests. 

The event also celebrated Transportation Equity Day and the United Nations’ new International Clean Energy Day, which was the same day as the rally.

“We dream of a public transportation system that is equitable and accessible, where all New Haveners, especially low-income students, have access to free bus passes, safe bike lanes and other forms of public and low-carbon transportation,” said Sophia Rivkin, another member of the New Haven Climate Movement.

The two advocates also announced their dreams for the New Haven government to serve its citizens over institutions, for a pollution-reducing transportation system, for the hiring of a city transportation planner and for the electrification of both city and school buses.

They emphasized that these dreams could become reality and encouraged attendees of the event to demand immediate action from the New Haven government. 

The New Haven Climate Movement also hosted various speakers from other organizations to share their dreams for the New Haven transportation system.

“What I truly dream of is a place where no student has to ride a yellow bus anymore because they have a safe way to get to school, whether that’s walking, biking or taking a city bus,” Joshua Glaab, president of the New Haven Bike Club and member of the New Haven Coalition for Active Transportation.

According to Glaab, the bike infrastructure in New Haven does not match that the bike was invented in the Elm City.

The rally also heard from Alex Rodriguez, the environmental justice specialist for Save the Sound, an organization that leads environmental action across the Long Island Sound region.

Rodriguez told the crowd that asthma, caused by extreme air pollution, is the leading cause of absenteeism in Connecticut public schools. He encouraged participants at the rally to demand complete electrification of cars and buses in Connecticut by 2040.

The rally concluded by sharing some of the dreams residents of New Haven had submitted to the New Haven Climate Movement for the future of transportation. These dreams included an effective and reliable transportation system and a focus on train and bus infrastructure for low income communities.

The patent for the modern bicycle was filed in New Haven in 1866.

Lily Belle Poling covers climate and the environment. Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, she is a first year in Branford College majoring in Global Affairs and English.