New York AREA mourns the loss of our colleague and friend Sandy Norris McDonald, Jr., the founder and president of the African American Environmentalist Association and a member of our advisory board for over 12 years, who passed away after a long illness on May 14, 2019.
Norris was a truly visionary leader who defined “environmental justice” when he recognized that urban communities are among the most vulnerable to environmental pollution. He championed the potential of nuclear power and natural gas as the best electric power fuel sources to reduce exposure to harmful particulates, particularly in dense urban centers.
Norris’ success in public policy advocacy was thanks to his expertise and tireless efforts that spanned the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Environmental Justice in the 1980s to the landmark authorization of a citywide Environmental Justice Plan in New York City in 2017. For these accomplishments, Norris received awards and citations from both the EPA and the City of New York. These well-deserved honors were repeated with similar recognition by major environmental organizations and media outlets, including the National Wildlife Federation, Ebony magazine, Environment magazine, and many others over the course of Norris’s decades of groundbreaking advocacy.
The board and staff of New York AREA are proud to have had the privilege of learning from and working with Norris, and we will remember him with gratitude and admiration. Norris McDonald was a giant in the cause for environmental justice and the world is a better place because of him.