They Don't Ever Quit

But Neither Do We

By Daniel Van Riper

Not Again, Charlie

We've been graciously alerted by Alderwoman Carol Wallace that the Albany Common Council Zoning Committee is being treated to a rerun of developer Charlie Touhey's proposal to build the "Pine East Office Park" at 300 Washington Avenue Extension. While only 13 acres and hardly in the best of shape, it is adjacent to and part of the main Pine Bush preserve, and therefore vital. Despite suffering abuse in the past, this piece of land is reportedly recovering nicely.
Save the Pine Bush's intrepid lawyer Lew Oliver won a landmark case in 1992 over this property, tossing out the City's approval of Mr. Touhey's original proposal. The new plan is some 15,000 square feet less than the original, so that's supposed to be better. Naturally, the City would be nuts to waste taxpayer money approving this turkey.

Worse Than Useless

The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission has no objection to allowing Mr. Touhey to build his offices, as long as they get some cash out of the deal. Yup, they're up to their old tricks. In a letter dated April 1st to Albany Planning Director Mike Morelli, PB Commission Director Willie Janeway claimed that "the site is not as critical as some others." Now, get a load of Janeway speaking in fluent bureaucratese:

"Remnant pine barrens species do appear to be revegetating the site, demonstrating that the area could be restored. Therefore, the PB Commission recommends that mitigating funds commensurate with the extent of anticipated adverse environmental impacts and consistent with the percentage of property removed from potential restoration be set aside for future land acquisition."

Translation: give us cash to pay our salaries, and in return we won't object to another piece of Pine Bush being destroyed forever. In the old days these were called kickbacks and bribes, today they are legal and called "mitigating funds."

Meanwhile, relations between Save the Pine Bush and the PB Commission continue to deteriorate. When SPB Board Member Jerry Mueller asked a few questions about the PB Commission's management plan at one of their recent meetings, he was treated like an AIDS patient at a Family Values Seminar. Basically, he wanted to know why SPB's recommendations have been virtually ignored by the PB Commission. On top of that, he was subjected to a klutzy intimidation display by some boy lawyer from the State, who at one point in Jerry's presentation reared up on his hind legs, looked down his sweet little nose at Jerry (who was seated) and sneered, "Are you going to be through anytime soon?" Other than that, Jerry received little response.

In addition, Janeway has conveniently forgotten his promise to pass along vital information to us. With that attitude, it's not hard to see why.

Like Old Albany

The Town of Colonie is following in the footsteps of the City of Albany in the 1980's during the Whalen administration, and preparing a bogus Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for the Pine Bush and surrounding areas. These GEIS's cost a boatload of taxpayer dollars, but the idea is to save developers from the cost and effort of filing their own Environmental Impact Statements (EIS's). They're a pointless waste of money. Albany prepared three, and Save the Pine Bush had all three tossed out in court.

The objections to this nonsense document are numerous, but Jerry Mueller summed up the problems in his submitted comments: "The Draft GEIS contains no real analysis of impacts . . . on the Pine Bush. Statements are made regarding the Pine Bush and its needs, but they are not incorporated into the analysis of impacts or mitigation. No real connection is articulated between the recommendations of the GEIS and the future viability of the Pine Bush."

The most tragicomic part of this document is the town's concern over golf courses. It seems that the ratio of golf holes to population is perilously low, and Colonie is lagging behind other suburban towns. Why is golf such a priority? What about softball fields, or tennis courts? How about outdoor chess tables for that matter? Let's not forget hiking in the Pine Bush!

At the scoping hearing for the GEIS, Lynne Jackson described the Colonie Planning Board, before whom she gave a presentation, as "a bunch of sour faced old men, who seem to have no understanding at all about the importance of the Pine Bush" That description, she said, included the younger members of the board, and the women members. Apparently, Colonie's political machine is as hollow and moribund as Albany's now defunct machine, with which Save the Pine Bush had so many epic battles.

Printed May/June 96

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