The Chelsea Record interviewed GreenRoots’ dynamic executive director, Roseann Bongiovanni, about the organization’s work in 2021 and its goals for 2022.
GreenRoots is a community-based organization dedicated to improving and enhancing the urban environment and public health in Chelsea and surrounding communities.
Following are GreenRoots Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni’s responses:
In respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, was it a challenging year for GreenRoots?
Yes, 2021 continued to be a challenging year for GreenRoots as it was for the whole city. But we did see hope and celebration in a way that we did not in 2020. Throughout this past year, we continued to support the City’s emergency food distribution hub with the purchase of supplies and equipment to run their facility; we provided Chelsea residents with cash assistance for COVID-related needs; and our Health Equity Corps and Vaccine Ambassadors worked diligently to get Chelsea folks vaccinated. Together with the Chelsea Black Community, La Colaborativa and the City of Chelsea, our multi-lingual, intergenerational vaccine ambassadors helped to get our vaccination rates well over 85%. This is something we all are incredibly proud of.
In addition to our COVID-related work, we are celebrating some major victories this year including the passage of statewide legislation via the Climate Roadmap Bill that included strong protections for environmental justice communities like Chelsea; a major grant which will allow us to construct a state-of-the art teaching kitchen next to our Community Garden and Urban Farm; major wins for air quality through the implementation of stationary and mobile air quality monitors as well as grant funding to help us address indoor air quality with air purifiers for hundreds of homes; a dedicated bus lane on the Tobin Bridge; over 2,500 lbs of produce grown at our urban farm and distributed to food insecure families in Chelsea; a new mural, park designs and so much more!
Were you able to meet all of your goals and objectives for 2021?
We were successful in meeting our goals and objectives for 2021. While we have not yet stopped the construction of an electrical substation in East Boston, we have appealed the project’s approval to the Supreme Judicial Court, and we have filed Title VI Civil Rights Complaints with several federal agencies for the state’s inadequate public participation in that permitting process.
What has been the reaction to GreenRoots’ report on COVID-19 and its impact on Chelsea?
Our Health Equity Report “COVID-19 in Chelsea: A Glance Into One of the Hardest Hit Cities” has been widely well received from federal and state officials to local leaders and health care providers. We’re excited to share the report with everyone. We have both electronic and hard copies available of the full report in English and Spanish and executive summaries available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, Somali and Portuguese. Copies of the report can be found here http://www.greenrootschelsea.org/chelseacovid-19report or by contacting us at GreenRoots.
Do you think environmental justice issues will be spotlighted in the Massachusetts governor’s election this year?
Absolutely. We have already seen that climate and environmental justice are part of the Democratic candidates’ platforms and action plans. It would be impossible, after the last two years of COVID impacts combined with so many extreme weather events, for candidates to avoid such critically important topics.
What are GreenRoots’ main goals for 2022?
In 2022, we are thrilled to be designing, with the community, a new Teaching Kitchen next to our urban growing spaces; collaborating with BU School of Public Health and MGH Chelsea on a major air quality campaign; creating a new energy microgrid that will bring clean, reliable energy to Chelsea residents; working on a low-income solar program in East Boston; increasing public transportation access; designing a new open space as part of a “cool block” effort along Congress Ave. to reduce severe heat impacts during the summer months; creating a new park along Mill Creek; working to preserve the Forbes Site and creating more public access to the Chelsea Creek and so much more. We also will continue to fight the electrical substation proposed for East Boston.