ALBANY — Garbage may keep piling up into the next decade
at the Rapp Road landfill in the environmentally sensitive
Pine Bush Preserve under an expansion plan by the administration
of Mayor Jerry Jennings.
Jennings wants the state Department of Environmental Conservation
to approve doubling the remaining life of the massive dump
by adding another 20 acres. Five years ago, the city promised
the state that land would be given to the Pine Bush Preserve.
Now the city finds itself squeezed as the Rapp Road dump
fills while legal challenges delay a proposed new 363-acre
dump in Coeymans, where opponents have been fighting the
plan for more than a decade. During that time, the city has
not filed a state-mandated study on the proposed dump’s potential environmental
“We need time,” said the mayor, who met Thursday with
the Times Union’s editorial board. “I can’t
count on Coeymans coming through. The prudent thing on this
is to go parallel. We will be applying to the state for this.”
Albany makes millions of dollars a year by taking trash
from other municipalities. This year, the Rapp Road landfill
is expected to generate more than $13.6 million on fees from
private haulers and 12 other municipalities. That’s about 10
percent of all city revenue.
On Friday, environmentalists accused the city of acting
in bad faith by wanting the dump on land pledged for preservation.
That pledge was made when the state approved a 23-acre, $9.5
million dump expansion in February 2000. The city said the
expansion was necessary because the landfill was approaching
To get state permission, the city spent $3.2 million to
buy the Fox Run Estates mobile home park, which included
the 20-acre park and 40 acres of undeveloped land next to
the landfill. As a condition of its state permit, the city
promised to immediately transfer the vacant land to the preserve,
with the remaining property to follow once the trailer park
“This is illegal. The city can’t do it,” said
Lynne Jackson, director of Save the Pine Bush. “All 60 acres
are to be dedicated to the preserve. The city hasn’t
even bothered to dedicate the first 40 acres.”
Chris Hawver, executive director of the Pine Bush Preserve,
said he didn’t know why the city hasn’t transferred any
land. “I would think that the commission would be concerned
with the expansion of the landfill into lands that the commission
is counting as protected,” he said.
Jennings is a member of the preserve commission, which
currently has about 3,031 acres of Pine Bush in Albany, Colonie
and Guilderland. Hawver said the mayor did not inform the
commission of the expansion plan, although Hawver said he
had heard rumors to that effect.
City General Services Commissioner Bill Bruce said the
Rapp Road expansion — which would be the fourth sought by the city — doesn’t
mean that the city is “giving up on Coeymans. But there
have been complications with the site.”
In June, dump opponents in Coeymans filed a lawsuit contending
that the city illegally made about $4.5 million in option
payments on the Coeymans land since 2001, when the state
Appellate Division upheld a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling
that barred the city from buying the property until completion
of an environmental impact study.
Bruce said the Rapp Road dump can accept garbage for another
five years. The expansion would add another five years’ capacity,
he said. Bruce said the city would replace the 20 acres it
wants with another 20 acres elsewhere in the Pine Bush.
Opponents of the previous landfill expansion had predicted
the city would try to expand into land promised for the preserve.“The
city is not pulling a fast one. They are pulling a slow one,” said
attorney Lewis Oliver, who represented Save the Pine Bush
in 2000 in an unsuccessful bid to the stop the expansion.
In that lawsuit, Oliver wrote, “Given the city’s history
of stalling and delay in siting a long-term landfill outside the
Pine Bush, and the DEC’s seeming subservience to the city’s
commitment to remaining in the Pine Bush as long as possible,
the proposal to leave the 20 acres nearest the landfill unprotected
appears to be a strategy for the city to acquire a future landfill