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Social Justice

Working in the public interest and the pursuit of social justice go hand in hand.  Whether fighting dirty power plants in low-income communities, seeking to expand financial aid programs for higher education, or building a campaign finance system that is fair to all New Yorkers, NYPIRG seeks to play a role in creating a fair and just society — not a society whose governing policies are dominated by special interests and wealth.

For over three decades, NYPIRG has worked towards this goal by fighting for hundreds of public interest laws, regulations and executive orders. We passed the Generic Drug Law, which allows the substitution of cheaper generics for brand name pharmaceuticals; we successfully pressured savings banks to end their practices of disinvestment redlining and to bring back bank loans into neighborhoods throughout the state; and we protected the health of Brooklyn residents by preventing New York City’s proposed Brooklyn Navy Yard garbage incinerator from opening.

Here are some highlights of our current work:

Homeless Outreach & Hunger Prevention:
This project is dedicated to bettering the lives of New York's homeless and hungry population by shedding light on the realities of poverty while providing direct relief to those who need it most. Students working with NYPIRG help to make life just a bit more comfortable for New York's less fortunate by organizing community education events, running volunteer and service projects and collecting needed items through campus-wide drives.

Environmental Justice:
NYPIRG has campaigned for environmental justice for over 30 years. The focus of our environmental programs has been on citizen empowerment and protecting communities from toxic pollution in their air, water, food, and homes. NYPIRG spearheaded a diverse coalition of community-based organizations to block the proposed Brooklyn Navy Yard garbage incinerator in the 1990s, protecting surrounding low-income neighborhoods from dioxin, mercury, and other harmful emissions. More recently, NYPIRG forced the New York Power Authority to shut down the aging Poletti power plant in Astoria, Queens which was emitting large quantities of soot and other air pollutants, contributing to asthma and lung disease. We will continue to advance environmental justice concerns through our work to reduce air pollution, promote community empowerment, and prevent and clean up toxic pollution.

Lead Poisoning Prevention:
Childhood lead poisoning is overwhelmingly caused by peeling, chipping and flaking lead paint in older, poorly maintained buildings in urban areas.  As a result, the vast majority of lead poisoned children are from low-income minority households. As co-chair of the NYS Coalition to End Lead Poisoning, NYPIRG is advocating for the Department of Health to assume responsibility for training and oversight under the new EPA home contractor lead safe work practices rule; eliminating a source of lead in older homes by replacing windows and other energy efficiency measures; updating the threshold for taking action when a child has been exposed to lead hazards; boosting children’s blood lead screening numbers and improving data reporting; and continuing the state agency Task Force on childhood lead poisoning prevention.

Predatory Lending/Financial Literacy:
From credit cards to student loans, low-income individuals are often targets for predatory lenders. Until a new federal law banned the practice, credit card companies used “free” gifts to lure people into credit card contracts and issued credit without verifying their ability to repay their debts. Lenders of expensive private student loans target students—especially low-income students and students of color. These practices left many burdened with poor credit and high-interest loans. NYPIRG helps individuals avoid predatory lenders and make more informed financial decisions. We host forums on issues such as financial aid options, credit cards, and tenants’ rights.