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Eviction Friction

“We are catching hell for doing our job as being watchdogs for our community,” said Rodney Davis, executive director of the Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corporation. “You can’t fight City Hall using taxpayers as the bank.”

Davis is referring to an eviction notice that his office received last month. AHEJC, along with W. Hayward Burns, have until Sept. 12 at 5 PM to vacate their offices at 200 Henry Johnson Boulevard, which is owned by the city of Albany. The groups have called the building home since 1998. They have been subleasing the space from the nonprofit organization Council of Community Services, which is moving to Menands.

Come September, the building will be occupied by the Albany Community Development Agency and the Police Department’s office of Professional Standards.

George Leveille, director of Albany Local Development Corporation, said that the two groups can’t stay simply because the city needs the space.

“Basically, they asked if they could stay in the building and the city said, ‘No, we need the space,’” said Leveille. “That’s all.”

But Davis isn’t buying this excuse and said that needing extra space just doesn’t add up.

“Go back and look at the staffing level over the years,” said Davis. “There has not been an increase. What new grants or funds are they using to pay for this expansion? One plus one just doesn’t equal three.”

Davis said that he is convinced that this is just a way for the city to disrupt his organization from doing its work. He also thinks that the city is trying to get back at EJC for a recent lawsuit that it filed against the city in federal court over its lead abatement program.

Pete Sheehan, executive director of W. Hayward Burns, said that he is completely baffled by the eviction, since his group is currently working with the city to prepare a $400,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant to monitor water quality.

“We are just dismayed that the city would remove one of its partners from their team,” said Sheehan.

Both groups asked the city if it would consider renewing their lease, to no avail. Davis said that he is not sure where they will move, but is adamant that the two groups will remain in Arbor Hill.

—N.G.

Less Gas, Please, George

State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer wants President George W. Bush to turn green.

Spitzer joined attorneys general from 10 other states in submitting a five-page letter to the Bush administration last week calling for clear leadership regarding the federal regulations of greenhouse gases and their effect on the global climate.

“It’s hard to talk about one without talking about the other,” said Marc Violette, spokesman for Spitzer. “Air quality is the defining environmental challenge of the 21st century.”

The joint letter from the state attorneys general points to the U.S. Climate Action Report 2002 confirming the dangers of global climate change and projecting that its primary cause, greenhouse gas emissions, will increase 43 percent by 2020. The letter stated that several states have taken regulatory measures concerning the effects of greenhouse gases on global warming, filling the void left by a lack of federal initiatives.

“These greenhouse gases represent serious challenges and potential threats to the environment and the public health, and it is incumbent on the administration to take action,” Violette said. “The State Department of Environmental Conservation has set up a task force to make recommendations, but that has not yet been released to the public.”

While the administration is now acknowledging the negative impacts of global climate change, the attorneys general expressed concern that is has yet to propose a credible plan addressing the findings and conclusions outlined in its recent report.

“We’re asking the president to show some leadership and make some decisions based on the solid science behind global warming,” Violette said.

The study, commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency, states that greenhouse gases can result in various harms to the global environment, including increased average temperatures, rising sea levels and increased health risks. The letter from the state attorneys general also notes that the states are beginning to review their litigation options.

“We would look to the EPA to take action, and if they don’t it may be grounds for litigation,” Violette said. “No state is filing a lawsuit yet, but that is an option. With this administration we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

—T.D.


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