Erin McAuliffe

Erin McAuliffe discussing the Harmony Health Initiative with Cynthia Niles, the main organizer of the initiative, and Albert Wiltshire, Congressman Ed Towns’ Chief of Staff.

When I began researching graduate urban planning schools, I had three requirements: that it be in my hometown of New York City, that it have a strong sense of community involvement and activism, and that it be affordable. Hunter happens to be all three and it has been a wonderful fit.

Little did she know that when she attended a Community Board 3 meeting for Professor Tom Angotti’s Land Use People and Environment class, Erin McAuliff would find herself at the center of a neighborhood health crisis. It was during a routine assignment that Erin was first introduced to members of the Harmony Health Initiative. At that meeting, the group was circulating a Letter in Support of Harmony Park to raise awareness about their situation. Out of that meeting, a project for another class, Cities and Health with Professor John Chin, took shape.

The main concern of the Harmony Health Initiative was and still remains that the homes in the area were built on a brownfield. Disproportionately high rates of illness and death in the area have led residents to organize in an attempt to get the city/state to pay attention, test the soil and remediate, if warranted. Together with Professor Chin, Erin took on the project and submitted a proposal to the EPA Communities program for a grant that would enable community members to pay for the necessary testing.

I could not resist tackling an issue where I might be able to do some good, so it all kind of fell into place.

Erin currently serves as the Managing Editor of the Urban Review, Hunter UAP’s student produced journal. She is concentrating on Education and Youth and is an intern with an organization in Brooklyn called Children of Promise, NYC, which offers comprehensive mental health based after-school and summer camp programming, specifically for children whose parents have been incarcerated. She plans to transition into a permanent staff member once her internship is complete and hopes to continue working with and for students in large urban public school systems.