ALBANY: The State Employees Federal Credit Union (SEFCU) building
and surrounding land, located in the center of the Pine Bush
on Route 155, was traded for state-owned land at the Harrimon
State Office Campus.
In the late 1980s, Save the Pine Bush sued over the zoning
approval given to SEFCU and won. Judge Robert Williams ruled
in Save the Pine Bush's favor citing the fact that the Generic
Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the City of Albany
failed to take a hard look at the minimum acreage required
to ensure the survival of the Karner Blue butterfly and the
Pine Bush ecology. SEFCU has never received zoning approval
for its office building located on Route 155 and is a non-conforming
use since its construction in 1989. The State's acquisition
of this land is a victory for Save the Pine Bush.
The SEFCU building will be re-used and made over into the
Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission's Discovery Center. Members
of Save the Pine Bush objected to the Commission's original
plan of building its Discovery Center on King’s Road, on land
designated as full protection (in violation of the Commission's
own guidelines). Though Save the Pine Bush would have preferred
that the SEFCU building not have been built, it is appropriate
to re-use this prominent landmark as the Discovery Center.
This is the third time a government entity has purchased already
developed land in the Pine Bush to use for Preserve purposes.
The other two examples are the Apollo Drive go-cart facility
(which Save the Pine Bush brought suit over), purchased by the
Nature Conservancy and now being restored to Pine Bush, and
the Fox Run Mobile Home Park, purchased by the City and proposed
to be restored to Pine Bush.
Save the Pine Bush believes the reason this land trade took
place was because of our successful lawsuit 13 years ago.
SEFCU was in a bind; the credit union needed to expand the
building, but as the land was not zoned for a commercial office
space, it is unlikely SEFCU could get the necessary permission
from the City of Albany. And, it would have been very difficult
for SEFCU to sell the building, as the land was not zoned
properly. SEFCU's chief operating officer, Michael J. Castellana,
put it quite quite clearly: "We had a choice, between expanding
on the vacant land or looking for an alternative. This alternative
allowed us to achieve our financial goals, and environmental
goals ... and avoid conflict."
Printed in the February/March 2002 Newsletter