by Lynne Jackson
ALBANY: Responding to a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the City of Albany over the proposed hotel in the Pine Bush, Judge Stephen A. Ferradino ruled in favor of Save the Pine Bush, giving all the plaintiffs standing. Steven Downs brought this case on behalf of Save the Pine Bush.
Standing is whether or not a person or entity has the right to bring a case to court. A number of years ago, a case, Society of Plastics Industry, Inc. v. County of Suffolk, made it much harder for environmental organizations to get standing to bring cases to court. It was established in the Plastics case that in order for a plaintiff to have standing, the plaintiff needed to suffer direct harm and injury in such a way that this harm or injury was different from that of the public at large. Since many environmental cases are brought because the action being sued over harmes everyone, not just a few people, the Plastics case bars many otherwise significant cases from getting into the court room because plaintiffs had to prove that they were harmed in some way different than the public.
Judge Ferradino’s decision says, “The respondents [the developers proposing the hotel] claim that none of the petitioners have alleged an injury in fact that is different than the public at larger. The respondents argue that the petitioners allegations that ‘they use the Pine Bush for recreation and study and enjoy the unique habitat found there’ are too vague and conclusory to met their burden to establish an injury in fact to have standing to pursue their claims. Even if the claims were more specific the respondents would still conclude that the loss of recreation for example for these petitioners would be indistinguishable from the public at large and therefore not a basis for standing. . .
“While the injury these petitioners allege may seem vague and conclusory to the respondents the alleged injuries are
real to the petitioners who have a passion about the use and preservation of the Pine Bush. It is not for the Court to measure the worth of these allegations in assessing the petitioners right to
standing in this proceeding. This Court concurs that,
‘Standing principles, which are in the end matters of policy, should not be heavy-handed. . . it is desirable that land use disputes be resolved on their own merits rather than by preclusive, restrictive standing rules . . .Barring the courtroom door
by draconian application of standing requirements to colorable claims against state actors serves neither the public interest nor, ultimately, those of its servants in government.‘
“The respondent‘s motion to dismiss is denied.”
Save the Pine Bush sued the Albany Common Council over its approval of a hotel proposed to be built adjacent to the Karner Blue butterfly hill at Crossgates. With this excellent ruling by Judge Ferradino, Save the Pine Bush can go forward with its case that the Common Council was arbitrary and capricious when it approved the re-zoning of this 4-acre site for a hotel. To read more about the history of this case, please visit: http://www.savethepinebush.org/Action/Hotel.html.
Published September, 2006 in the Save the Pine Bush Dinner Announcement
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