The Schenectady City Council has called for a public hearing
on rescinding the 1969 ordinance which established the Woodlawn
Preserve on Monday, July 14 at 7:30 at Schenectady City Hall,
Jay Street, Schenectady.
Members of the public are allowed three minutes each to speak
at the public hearing. Speakers are carefully timed by the Council,
to ensure that everyone gets their fair chance to speak.
City Council members have expressed interest in hearing from
residents of Schenectady on this issue. People are welcome to
attend the hearing to show their support for preserving Woodlawn.
Not everyone needs to speak.
At the last City Council Planning and Development Committee
meeting, the Committee called for other development proposals
for the Woodlawn Preserve. Save the Pine Bush (SPB) submitted
a proposal for preservation of the Woodlawn Preserve as a passive
park and preserve area.
In its proposal, Save the Pine Bush described the Woodlawn Area
as inappropriate for development due to the historical globally-rare
natural community called the Pine Bush and wetlands that exist
there. The low areas of the property are sensitive wetlands
and the high areas (or upland) are historically known as a pitch-pine
scrub oak natural community. In addition to the rare natural
community and wetlands, the Pine Bush is home to several rare
species that depend on this type of natural community for their
Furthermore, the long-term viability and existence of the species
that occupy the Pine Bush natural community and wetlands are
dependent on large tracts of unbroken habitat. The existence
of a parcel of this size in Albany or Schenectady Counties is
very rare. In addition, the Woodlawn area is located in close
proximity to protected lands that are part of the Albany Pine
Bush Preserve. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission has
spent decades of effort and millions of dollars to actively
acquire remaining parcels of Pine Bush in Albany County.
SPB asked that the City of Schenectady seek partnerships with
groups with expertise in maintaining this habit.
The preservation proposal cited the Schenectady County Environmental
Advisory Council Plan for Preservation of the Woodlawn Area
and the fact that the Town of Niskayuna also has made recommendations
for preserving the portion of property adjacent to the City
of Schenectady’s property.
There are many advantages to city residents to preserve the
Woodlawn Area, as cited in the preservation proposal.
The Woodlawn Preserve could be an outdoor classroom for education
and research for City schools and universities. It has some
of the largest sand dunes found in the Pine Bush. The area is
one of the most biologically diverse areas found in Schenectady
County because of the combination of swamp, open wetlands, water
bodies and dune vegetation.
People like to live near amenities such as maintained nature
preserves. The demand for residences near open space raises
local property values, thereby raising taxes for the City.
If maintained as a nature preserve, the City residents would
have access to outdoor educational and recreational opportunities.
The Woodlawn Area is in close proximity to the Albany Pine Bush
Preserve found to the east. The vision for the area is to link
Woodlawn to nearby preserve lands to create a recreational greenway
that would lead all the way to Rensselaer Lake in Albany. Furthermore,
there is an effort to connect the Albany Pine Bush to other
Greenways, which would give Schenectady residents a link to
the Pine Bush and beyond.
In 1969, the City of Schenectady designated this area as Preserve.
The City is in a unique position of owning Pine Bush land. Other
municipalities and the State of New York have spent millions
of dollars to acquire Pine Bush land for preservation. Adding
the Woodlawn Area to the Pine Bush Preserve would help to create
a viable Pine Bush Preserve.
For a project of this magnitude, the City of Schenectady needs
to follow the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA),
which could be quite expensive. Prior to rescinding the 1969
ordinance which set this land aside for public purposes, the
City must prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.
Also, at least two wetlands permits have been issued for this
area. One required the City to prepare and Environmental Impact
Statement for this area to “assure that development will
not occur in a piece meal fashion. . .” The other permit
was issued to the City of Schenectady and reviews special requirements
to take care of the Pine Bush ecosystem and the Karner Blue
butterfly. The City Council will need to determine if the requirements
were met, and how any future development will impact the area.
SPB urged the City Council to consider the proposal to permanently
protect this land from development, make it part of the Pine
Bush Preserve, and make it available for all residents to enjoy
as a passive park and preserve area.
Save the Pine Bush urges you, the reader, to attend the Public
Hearing on July 14.