CREDIT: Joe Putrock
Justice Center gives environmental group a chance to shine
It’s a bittersweet success for the Social Justice Center.
The 22-year-old nonprofit incubator for grassroots activists
at 22 Central Ave. in Albany offers resources, including office
space below market value, in the hope that its member groups
will get big enough that one day they will be able to move
out on their own. And on Aug. 11, SJC will be celebrating
the fact that Citizens’ Environmental Coalition has done just
is the fourth time an agency has outgrown the space,” said
Victorio Reyes, director of SJC. Environmental Advocates,
In Our Own Voices and the Homeless Action Committee are all
groups that succeeded in SJC’s mission prior to CEC.
there may be even more that I don’t know about from years
ago,” Reyes said. “Those are four big agencies locally that
all got their start here, and they all started with just one
Losing CEC’s rent for the third floor will be tough for the
center—it is a big part of their operating budget. Plus, Reyes
added, it’s tough just because they’re friends.
sounds so cliché,” said Matthew Shapiro, development associate
with CEC, “but it really is like a family here.”
And that’s the center’s strength, Shapiro said. If a member
has a question, he or she can rely on the wide variety of
other groups in the building for help. “Everyone is comfortable
enough to go into each other’s offices, to talk to each other,
to ask each other questions. Just to be there for each other.”
It is an exciting time for CEC. Besides moving into its new
location at 119 Washington Ave., the 23-year-old group has,
in the past two years, expanded its staff from three full-time
employees to eight and embraced a new direction.
really became the toxic-cleanup people,” Shapiro said. “That
was our aim.” In 2003, after 20 years of pushing, the governor
signed the Superfund Refinancing Bill, not only re-funding
the Superfund bill, but expanding it as well.
was very exciting for us,” he said. But it had been the major
purpose of their work for so long, they had to figure out
how they were going to switch to a focus on prevention. “To
make sure there is no more need for Superfunds. From clean
up to prevention.”
has been a real interesting process,” he added.
Part of the process has meant reaching beyond the base of
CEC’s support—environmental and social groups—to all sorts
of medical officials, nurses associations, learning- disabilities
are dedicated to a total overhaul of New York’s environmental
policy,” Shapiro said. “So that we aren’t relying on toxic
The next major project for CEC is coming in November. The
group is putting together a two-day symposium called “Healthy
Environment, Healthy Economy.” Shapiro said that it will be
the biggest event New York state has ever had to push forward
green purchasing and green procurement, and to show that the
infrastructure is there and the state is ready.
Safe and Sustainable Procurement Act would create a huge market
shift statewide toward safe and sustainable products,” Shapiro
said. “We are talking about a $9 billion market-shift.”
Of course, he pointed out, when you talk about a $9 billion
switch (the purchasing budget for New York state for those
kinds of goods and services), there is bound to be a fight.
A lot of people who have been in the system for so long will
be cut out.
But that kind of fight is the reason CEC exists. And its successes,
coupled with a growing public concern with environmental issues,
Shapiro said, gives the group much-needed hope.
think people are becoming more aware, that it is not the toxic-waste
dump in other people’s backyard, it is the toxic elements
in your own home,” he said. “We want to educate people on
what type of products that they are bringing into their home,
and how many everyday products are toxic—your shower curtain,
your rug, your vinyl lunchbox. Once people see and get educated
on what they are bringing into their homes, what they are
using to clean their sink . . . we will get a lot more support.”
editorial page of The Wall Street Journal
is known for its out-there columns, but this week
it hit a new level: Middle East scholar Bernard
Lewis warned in his editorial that Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have sinister plans set
for Aug. 22—the date he is to respond to the United
States about nuclear development. “What is the
significance of Aug. 22?” writes Lewis. “This
year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar,
to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year
1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many
Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet
Muhammad . . . first to the farthest mosque, usually
identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven
and. . . . This might well be deemed an appropriate
date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and,
if necessary, of the world.” Most U.S. intelligence
signals that Iran may be able to have a working
nuclear bomb by 2010 to 2015, not in two weeks.
So Wrong About Torture, Anyway?
Post reported this week that the Bush administration
plans to make changes to the 1996 War Crimes Act,
in response to the June 29 Supreme Court ruling
that found the treatment and trial of prisoners
in Guantanamo to be illegal. Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales told the Senate last week that
the Geneva Convention was too vague and needed
to be clarified by Congress. The proposed amendments
would specify 10 crimes that would be prosecutable
under the War Crimes Act, but it would not cover
“outrages upon personal dignity” as cited in the
to the Associated Press, three homeless men and
two social-service agencies have filed suit against
the library and city of Worcester, Mass. One homeless
man, who is an avid reader, says that he has been
told that he cannot check out books from the library
because he does not have a permanent address.
Library officials say that they require a permanent
address because of the number of books lost to
people they cannot track down.
loose ends this week-