ALBANY — If the crowd at the Polish Community Center on Wednesday ran the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany would not get permission to expand its Rapp Road dump in the environmentally-sensitive Pine Bush Preserve.
Several hundred people packed the DEC hearing on the city's request, with loudest applause going to dump opponents, like Colonie Village Mayor Frank Leak.
"Given the city's history of operating problems, and the lack of motivation toward solving those problems, if this request is granted, it will be back to business as usual for the city," said Leak, who said rancid dump odors can reach Sand Creek Road.
The city is racing to get more dump space ready before Rapp Road fills by the end of next year. About 220,000 Capital Region residents, from Albany as well as East Greenbush, Rensselaer, Altamont, Berne, Bethlehem, Guilderland, Green Island, Knox, New Scotland, Rensselaerville, Watervliet and Westerlo rely on the dump.
The $41 million plan involves expanding about 13 acres of city-owned property at the dump's eastern border. This would extend the dump's life through about 2016.
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings made his first public appearance to speak on behalf the expansion, saying the city had "done everything within reason and then some" to create a plan including restoration of about 250 acres of Pine Bush.
Allowing this expansion _ which would be the fourth since 1990 _ will give him "the time to plan for the next generation of waste management," the mayor said.
With wetlands issues setting back a new possible city dump in Coeymans for at least a decade, the city's only alternative would be trucking its garbage to a landfill elsewhere in the state.
"Albany reminds me of a lazy student who wants passing grades but refuses to do the necessary work," said city resident Tom Ellis, to loud applause. "Albany has earned a failing grade on its landfill, and it is time for DEC to issue it."
There's no deadline for a state decision.
Ellis also raised the 2009 mayoral race, when Jennings will seek re-election. "This is the first time that the city has presented its landfill plan to the public," Ellis said. "So when the mayor says he wants to involve the public, he is full of it. Albany won't be serious about fixing its landfill until it has a new mayor."
Common Council member Michael O'Brien, among 11 members on the 15 member Council who back the expansion, said the city was "between a rock and a hard place. I am not going to say that every year was spent smartly planning for the future."
Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.