NYPA brings environmental justice programs to communities

Feb. 12—WHITE PLAINS — The New York Power Authority brings a variety of programs to its communities, including Massena, as part of its environmental justice efforts.

"Our environmental justice program is designed to provide educational services and programs for the underserved communities that intersect with our statewide facilities and our strategic operations," Environmental Justice Vice President Kaela Mainsah told NYPA trustees last week.

Trustees were briefed on NYPA's current initiatives prior to the environmental justice presentation.

"So, you heard a lot of information. We really look at leveraging all that expertise for the benefit of our communities," Mainsah said. "Joe Kessler (Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Joseph F. Kessler) mentioned the drone program. We did a drone soccer competition between the NYPA drone pilots and the high school students and I think the pilots need a rematch because it's an ongoing battle."

Environmental Justice Manager Matthew Caruso addressed programs that NYPA is hosting in communities. Most recently in Massena, NYPA wrapped up a week of environmental justice activities with a Community Day at the Massena Housing Authority in August.

Families enjoyed a variety of activities, from face painting and inflatables, to a dunk tank and free barbecue as part of the fourth annual event held by the Power Authority at the Housing Authority. They also enjoyed NYPA's Energy Xplorer mobile classroom, an energy bike, lawn fishing by the Nicandri Nature Center, and reptile and clown shows.

Earlier in the week, team members held two days of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) camps for rising fourth and fifth graders at Salmon River Center School in Fort Covington and also held sessions at the Nicandri Nature Center and the Police Activities League of Massena.

Caruso said NYPA-sponsored activities are taking place around the state, such as one in New York City's public schools.

"Since 2018, we've actually been working and installing very high-tech, state-of-the-art hydroponic systems in New York City public school systems. We've been supporting them whether it's through maintenance, harvesting activities, hands-on STEM engagements, and also some of our other programming that we do for adults in the communities while working directly with the parents of those students at those schools," he said.

He said NYPA also holds a youth conference for some of those students.

"Once a year we actually work with all the schools that are part of that network and some of the other schools that aren't part of our network. We bring them all together for an annual youth conference. Last year was actually the first conference that we were able to hold in person due to the pandemic. We had over 900 students attend that full-day conference. It was a full-day event of students being able to pretty much share their experiences and speak with subject matter experts that were leading pretty much the industry and present on research topics that they were working on with their teachers throughout the entire year," Caruso said.

Environmental Justice Manager Alexandra DeRosa also discussed the "EV Electric Vehicle) Workforce Development Program" offered by NYPA.

"This program donates NYPA and Canals retiring EV and hybrid fleet vehicles, also level two chargers and insulated hand tools to auto tech programs across the state. This program is going to educate the next generation of auto techs on zero emission vehicles. By 2030 all the new passenger vehicles that are sold within the state will need to be zero emission, and we want to ensure that our stakeholders are trained for these available careers," she said.

DeRosa said it's estimated that less than 2% of the automotive service technicians have EV certifications.

"So hopefully we will help to increase those numbers," she said. "We are finding a need for an entry level introductory EV curriculum at the high school level. The DOT (Department of Transportation) has approached us, BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) has approached us, and we're working with the State Department to find a way to support the rollout of curriculum that was developed by Capital Region BOCES to reach all of the schools that we work with through this program."