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Environmental Justice Leader Samara Swanston to Address Adirondack Diversity Forum

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For more information:
Melanie Reding
ADI Communications

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, November 22, 2017

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Registration is still open for the fourth annual Adirondack Diversity Initiative forum, where Samara Swanston, Legislative counsel to the Environmental Protection Committee of the New York City Council, will deliver the keynote address on Saturday, December 2.

Swanston will share her personal journey: “How I came to do the work in the Environmental Justice movement from ‘Dumping in Dixie’ to New York City Environmental Justice Bills.”

Swanston has been practicing of Environmental Law for more than 25 years on the local, state and federal levels, representing New York City, New York State and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  She will speak during the event’s luncheon.

Overall, the forum will engage attendees from throughout the Adirondacks and New York State in a conversation about ADI's future direction, new strategic plan and future projects.  The ADI was created in 2014 to help make the Adirondack Park a more welcoming place to all New Yorkers and visitors.

The forum will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Heaven Hill Farm in Lake Placid. 

On Friday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. participants are invited to a kick-off event at Dewey Mountain “To Have Your Mind Blown” by Sofia Snow & Adam Falkner at a poetry performance presented by Adirondack Center for Writing & by Dewey Mountain.  The poetry event is free and open to the public.

The forum will begin Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with coffee and registration. The proceedings will kick off at 10:00 a.m. and continue until 4 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

Saturday afternoon will be a hands-on workshop conducted by the Adirondack Center for Writing.  Led by poets Adam Falkner and Sofia Snow, the workshop is about recognizing your identity, looking critically at diversity, communicating difference and understanding belonging within our community. 

The forum registration fee (includes lunch) is $20.  Register online at  ADI is built around equity and cooperative decision-making with over 30 affiliate members.

ADI accomplishments include:

  • Facilitating diversity workshops and education sessions;
  • Coordinating a regional youth exchange program promoting diversity and nature;
  • Marketing and outreach to minorities and the LGBTQ community;
  • Hosting an annual symposium with over a hundred attendees;
  • Leadership in creating formal alliances with over three dozen organizations;
  • Establishing a strong advisory network from outside the Park, including recognized experts on diversity.

‚ÄčADI goals include:

  • Continue to develop and hold training sessions, workshops and symposia;
  • Develop a presentation and toolkit, with key messages, based on data, to every chamber of commerce and tourism agency within and surrounding the Adirondack region;
  • Outreach to diverse populations near the Adirondacks, build alliances, undertake diverse marketing initiatives and focus on the intersection between diversity, social justice and economic issues;
  • Establish a Youth Committee where young people from within and outside the Adirondacks join together for shared projects, outings and team building exercises both in the Adirondacks and in urban centers;
  • Develop a plan to address diversity through the arts and cultural events in the Park; and,
  • Develop and strengthen the Adirondack Diversity Initiative to respond to national flashpoints, increase its influence and ability to execute its mission.

Keynote speaker Swanston’s career also includes a two-year clerkship in the New York Court of Appeals. She worked as environmental counsel to the Town of Babylon and the County of Suffolk where she litigated Long Island Pine Barrens v. Town of Brookhaven et al., the largest environmental lawsuit in state history.

She worked for the EPA as a Superfund attorney and led the creation of the Region 2 (NY, NJ, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands) Environmental Justice Workgroup.  Swanston helped draft the 1992 EPA Environmental Equity Report and was awarded the EPA Gold Medal, the agency’s highest honor.

She spent three years working as a manager for the Superfund program of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and 10 years working as the Executive Director and the General Counsel of the Watchperson Project of Greenpoint-Williamsburg.  In addition to her duties for the City Council, she is an Adjunct Professor at the Pratt Institute Graduate School for Urban Planning and the Environment.

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