The Barry Commoner Center for Health & the Environment (BCCHE) is an environmental and occupational health research institute at Queens College, City University of New York. The mission of the Center is to identify and rectify environmental and occupational threats to human health.

Via a community science project, BCCHE, in partnership with the New York City Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene, sought to understand how academic institutions, city government, and community groups can work together to improve air quality monitoring within communities and enable communities to better understand air pollution and its sources.

As a follow-on to the annual New York City Community Air Survey, the objectives behind the community science project were to both address gaps and concerns associated with institutional monitoring and raise awareness around air quality issues. The project focused on improving community engagement through direct public interaction and emphasized the importance of collaboration and establishing best practices for a scientific study when conducting a community science project. The active participation of communities in the Bronx and Brooklyn most impacted by existing air pollution sources were fundamental to the success of the project.

BCCHE, in collaboration with two community-based organizations, El Puente de Williamsburg and Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice, designed and implemented a stationary air quality monitoring network to collect and share hyperlocal air quality data using AirBeam2s. This approach, which involved fusing data from AirBeam2s with information from ongoing city-wide air quality monitoring efforts, created a richer picture of neighborhood-level variation in air quality and provided communities with a better understanding of the air quality in their neighborhood.

Adult members of the community and high school students participated in both defining study objectives and collecting air quality data. Key locations for data collection on PM2.5 exposures included schools and playgrounds along major roadways that community members identified as areas of concern. Project participants attended workshops and training sessions to better understand air pollution in their community and learn how to use AirBeam2 to collect and analyze environmental data. BCCHE provided expertise in the review, analysis, and summary of the data collected by El Puente de Williamsburg and Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice.

To learn more about this project check out these free publications authored by Ana M.C. Ilie (NYCCAS community science project leader) & Holger Eisl (NYCCAS community science project director).