INTRO 0800 was created out of the curiosity, research and determination of a kindergarten class from PS 290 - Manhattan New School on the Upper East Side. Below is the recount of events from Paula Rogovin, kindergarten teacher, as told to members of City Council on September 25, 2017.
"My name is Paula Rogovin. In 2014, my kindergarten students were doing research about the foods in our lunchroom. They wanted to know about fruits such as watermelon and tomatoes. They wanted to know how these foods were grown. In the process of doing their research we found out that some people use toxic pesticides to kill insect pests and that those pesticides sometimes harm farmworkers and gardeners, animals in nearby waterways, and they can even harm people who ate the foods - us. The children were upset about that, so we decided to do something about it. When children are upset about something bad, it’s so important that they be proactive. They made a list of things we could do about this problem.
We learned about what we call “Nature’s pesticides” – ladybugs, praying mantises, bats, and so on. We interviewed Jerry and Iris Balsam, grandparents of 4 of my former students. They taught us about pesticides as well as how they are working in Long Island to get a ban of toxic pesticides. We wrote a newsletter so we could teach other people. We wrote a play so we could teach our families and our school community about we learned. The children wanted to get a law passed.
When Councilman Ben Kallos was at our school in 2014 he stopped by our classroom. The children told him about their research. He invited us to come here to City Hall. The Council Chamber was nearly empty so the children got to sit where you are sitting. The children asked lots of questions. Then Councilman Kallos asked them if there was anything they wanted him to do. In their wonderful spirited way, they said to the Councilman, “Ban toxic pesticides, use only nature’s pesticides. Pass a law.” He looked at them seriously and said, “I promise I will try.” One year later Councilman Kallos held a press conference in our schoolyard where he announced that he and other Councilmembers were going to introduce INTRO 0800. And, here we are today, back in the Council chamber, participating in a lifelong lesson in civics.
In 2016, Cesar Chavez’s granddaughter, Julie Chavez Rodriquez, came to our classroom from her job at the White House for an interview about her grandfather and the farmworkers’ efforts to ban toxic pesticides and herbicides. Many of my former students came back to our classroom for that interview. We are following in the tradition of Julie Chavez and her family.
As I’m learning more about toxic pesticides and glyphosate, I worry about my students, their families, and the millions of New Yorkers who picnic, play, do sports, and gather in the parks and playgrounds. I plead with you with all my heart and soul to help bring INTRO 0800 for a vote of the full City Council, to pass this bill into law so that we can protect the children and all of the families who use the parks, playgrounds and other public spaces of New York City. Please listen to the scientists and medical workers and the people impacted by the toxins, not the companies that produce the pesticides and herbicides. Thank you."
Teacher in NYC public schools, 44 years at PS 132 and 173 in Washington Heights and at PS 290, The Manhattan New School, where I am teaching currently