For Yale students looking for off-campus housing, the Sherman apartments above the Union League Cafe on Chapel Street are prime real estate.
But for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, which had been located on the third floor since 1989, the location simply would not do any longer. Seeking a larger office space, CFE — which was founded by Yale law students in 1977 — relocated to Whitney Avenue in early November.
“[The old location] just became way too small,” said Dan Lorimier, CFE’s outreach and media coordinator. “There were file cabinets in the hall, people were walking sideways when they passed each other — it was beyond appalling.”
The new offices, located at 205 Whitney Ave., are approximately twice the size, leaving plenty of room for CFE’s 13-person permanent staff.
Although Kari Griffin ’03, who interns at CFE, described the old offices as “definitely overcrowded,” Lorimier said CFE itself was always a first -rate program.
“Plush was not the objective for the move,” Lorimier said. “This is a very successful organization not just in stability and growth but also in our environmental record. We’re not searching for a new identity; this merely reflects the fact that our perception of what we do is growing.”
Julio Gonzalez ’99, Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s executive assistant and a former Ward 1 alderman, agreed.
“They were always tenacious in all the different times when I’ve engaged in environmental activism either as an alderman or as part of city hall,” he said.
When choosing new headquarters, CFE wanted to remain near Yale’s campus in order to maintain its historical ties with the University. Students like Griffin intern as part of a work-study program, and there is overlap between the University’s faculty and CFE.
“I think the reason we have stayed near campus is that CFE finds it benefits from contact with students and faculty,” said Gordon Geballe, who is both an associate dean at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a member of the CFE Board of Directors.
CFE was originally founded with the intent of seeking to prevent environmental damage and ensure that Connecticut businesses adhered to pre-existing state environmental laws.
More recently, the organization has begun pushing for the creation or rejection of new environmental laws, particularly by including members of surrounding communities.
“We use science and the law to advocate for Connecticut’s environment, but we’ve found that these efforts are more successful when they’re backed by grass-roots organization and public participation and commitment,” Lorimier said.
CFE has also focused on establishing coalitions. City Planner Karyn Gilvarg said she worked closely with CFE in recent transportation discussions about a Connecticut Transit plan to cut back on bus service in New Haven — to which Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has announced his opposition.
“Instead of saying ‘we’re the one organization that knows about this,’ they’ve created a network of about 24 other [transportation] organizations, and that was very effective in getting the word out,” Gilvarg said.
Lorimier said CFE currently has several thousand members. These activists call, write to, and e-mail their local legislators and officials in order to respond to environmental issues.
“Everyone who is anyone in the environmental world has gone through CFE at one time or another,” Griffin said.
Now, in the organization’s new file cabinet-free hallways, they will be able to do so with ease.