ALBANY - The city received permission Thursday to begin digging
test wells in the Pine Bush - a first step toward a possible
and controversial expansion of the Rapp Road dump into the
Nearly simultaneously, however, the city’s plan was dealt
a blow when state Assemblyman John “Jack” McEneny,
D-Albany, blocked a bill that would have allowed the city’s
dump to expand by 12.6 acres in exchange for the city acquiring
another 30 acres to add to the Pine Bush.
McEneny, who sponsored the legislation, pulled it from consideration.
The assemblyman, a longtime political foe of Albany Mayor Jerry
Jennings, decided that an environmental review of the plan
should proceed before the Legislature endorses it, according
to his office.
On Thursday morning, the Pine Bush Preserve Commission voted
9-1 to allow the city to conduct archaeological and water tests
this summer. The wells will be dug in a section of the preserve
that borders the west edge of the city’s landfill.
As they voted, several commission members stated that their “yes” votes
were not an endorsement of the city’s bid. They said
they supported the testing permit only to learn more about
the state of groundwater in the area.
Commission Chairman Steve Schassler said the body “in
no way” backs the landfill expansion and, in fact, “reserves
all rights to challenge or oppose” the city’s proposal.
Jennings, a member of the commission, applauded the vote. “I
appreciate your willingness to let us go ahead with the investigation,” he
Aaron Mair was the lone commission member to vote against
the temporary permit, which requires the city to pay for
cleanup after the testing is complete.
“This vote gives the appearance that it’s OK to expand
the landfill,” said Mair, a longtime environmental activist. “It
sends the wrong signal.”
The city will now proceed with testing, which it needs to
do in order to complete its application with state Department
of Environmental Conservation. Hearings on the proposal are
likely to be held this fall. Only after the review is done
will McEneny consider reintroducing the state bill, according
to his chief of staff, Joe Galu. “The bill is only being held, not tabled,” said
McEneny’s refusal to do the landfill bill rankled Jennings. The mayor
suggested that if the city loses the revenue it makes off other communities’ trash,
he might have to lay off as many as 250 General Services employees.
Despite his obvious displeasure, the mayor insisted he won’t challenge
McEneny in a primary in retaliation, as some have speculated, or even support
someone to run against the assemblyman.
“I don’t have time for that nonsense,” Jennings said. “If
someone decides to run, I’m going to make decisions then.”
McEneny seemed unconcerned about this fall’s race, saying if someone
decided to challenge him, it wouldn’t be personal but “part of
the political process.”
“If after 14 years, the people of Albany County don’t want me, let
them take somebody else,” McEneny said.
The two Democrats have always been cordial at best. But things
between them soured recently after McEneny, who lost a mayoral
primary challenge to Jennings in 1997, announced he’s challenging the mayor again this fall - this
time for his seat on the state Democratic Committee.
“I have to raise money against him because he’s running against me
as a delegate,” Jennings said. “I’m very willing to discuss
our political careers publicly.”
Matt Pacenza can be reached at 454-5533 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff writer Elizabeth Benjamin contributed to this story.