Construction Begins Before Court Decides Case

by Daniel W. Van Riper, July/Aug. 91

Barry, Bette and LeDuke have begun construction of a 70,000 sq. ft. office building in Albany's ecologically sensitive Pine Bush while State Supreme Court Justice Daniel H. Prior decides whether or not it is legal to build it.

"This is another typical case where the City and the developers are coluding to avoid following the State environmental laws," said Lynne Jackson, board member of Save the Pine Bush. "Save the Pine Bush must take the only available course by filing suit against the City for its illegal approvals of developments in the Pine Bush. While the suit goes through the courts, the developers construct their buildings as fast as they possibly can. By the time the court decides (which may only be a matter of weeks), the building are built and more valuable Pine Bush is lost. This has happened before, with the construction of the Federal Credit Union Building and Computer Park in the Pines. It just shows the lengths the City will go to avoid following state laws."

Save the Pine Bush has successfully sued the City of Albany over many developments. In 1986, the State Supreme Court ruled the City failed to address the issues of cumulative impact of development and the needs of the Karner Blue Butterfly, a State endangered species. The Court has ruled that the City must preserve a minimum of 2000 acres of Pine Bush. Approximately 1600 acres are currently in preserve. Lewis Oliver, attorney for Save the Pine Bush, argues the City has not designated where the additional 400 acres for the minimum preserve will come from and should not develop land that could be added to the preserve. "If they still don't know how they're going to achieve the 400 acres, then they have no business approving more developments," says Oliver.

This particular development, called Columbia Estates, would eat up 20 acres of prime Pine Bush which is adjacent to the 190 acre preserve the State of New York purchased in 1989. The development would eventually have six buildings with over 250,000 sq. ft. of office space and a 1,000 car parking lot. Currently, the site has been cleared and one building has been framed. At the rate of construction, the building will be finished in a few weeks.

"We are on to the City's game," said Jackson, "and we won't let them continue to destroy the Pine Bush piece by piece."

Editor's note: Sadly, office building was constructed before the Judge's ruling. And, worse yet, this State Supreme Court Judge ruled against SPB. Actually, SPB has lost many cases on the Supreme Court level (the lowest court in New York). On appeal, first to the Appellate Division, and then to the Court of Appeals, SPB has almost always been victorious. SPB did not have the funds to pursue this development to the higher levels where we probably would have won.

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