Speech Given to the Albany Common Council June 5, 2006

Ladies and gentlemen of the Common Council, my name is Lynne Jackson.  I live in Albany and I am a volunteer for Save the Pine Bush.

I am here tonight to comment on legislation that the Common Council will pass tonight, dedicating the Fox Run Mobile Home Park land to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.

This legislation is a prime example of why the City administration and the members of the Albany Common Council should listen to the citizens of Albany when we speak to you about important issues. 

This legislation is a victory for the citizens.

Let me take a moment to review the history that brings us to this legislation today.

In February, 2000, the City of Albany was granted a permit to build and operate the P-4 landfill expansion in the Pine Bush.  One of the permit conditions stated that the City must purchase the 60-acre Fox Run Mobile Home Park and dedicate the 40-acre unoccupied portion immediately to the Pine Bush Preserve.

The City purchased the land in the summer of 2000, but did not dedicate the land.  

Years went by.  The land was not dedicated.  This entire time, the City was in violation of the permit conditions for the P-4 landfill permit.

In October, 2004, the Honorable Dominick Calsolaro wrote to the City to ask about dedication of this land.  As far as I know, the City never responded to Mr. Calsolaro’s letter.  The City, however, wrote to DEC explaining that it could not dedicate the land without subdivision, a nonsense excuse.

Another year went by.  In October, 2005, the Mayor announced that the City was going to expand the landfill onto the Fox Run Mobile Home Park land; that the City would eventually dedicate the land to the Preserve, after having filled it up with garbage.

Volunteers for Save the Pine Bush watched as this scenario un-folded.  We felt betrayed by the City. We were astonished that the City would break the law and take land the City was required to dedicate to the Preserve and make it into a landfill.

Our lawyer, Peter Henner, began researching a lawsuit over the City’s proposal to expand the landfill onto Fox Run in violation of the P-4 landfill permit. 

On January 18, 2006, Save the Pine Bush sued Mayor Jennings and the City of Albany over the City’s proposal to expand the landfill onto Fox Run.

The very next day, on January, 19, the Mayor announced at the state of the City address, that the “City would do the right thing” and dedicate the Fox Run Mobile Home Park to the Pine Bush Preserve.

This legislation, dedicating the Fox Run land to the Preserve, will settle our lawsuit with the City over the City’s violation of its P-4 landfill permit.

We could have all avoided a lot of legal fees, time and effort, if the City had simply followed its obligation in the first place and listened to Save the Pine Bush who asked that the land be dedicated.

However, the issue of expanding the landfill into the ecologically rare Pine Bush is not by any means settled.  The City’s current proposal to expand onto land that is dedicated as forever wild in the Pine Bush Preserve is simply dreadful.

I would like to suggest that you, the Common Council listen to us, Save the Pine Bush, on this proposed expansion.  We say “This is a bad idea. Landfills do not belong in rare ecosystems like the Pine Bush. ”

The City has to get the NYS Legislature to un-dedicate or alienate this Preserve land. 

You should think about this – the City is asking the legislature to take land out of a Preserve and make it into a landfill! 

Taking land out of Preserve is a very serious action.  How is the City ever going to convince the legislature to take land out of the Preserve for a landfill?

What happens if the legislature decides that it would look too stupid to its constituents and decides not to un-dedicate the land?  What are the City’s options?  Does the City have a backup plan?

OK, you say, so you environmentalists don’t want the City to expand in the Pine Bush, what are we supposed to do with the garbage?

There are two issues regarding landfill expansion 1) what to do with the City’s garbage and 2) what to do about the income generated by the landfill.

These two issues must be separated.  The landfill expansion is more about revenue than it is about garbage.  If the City stopped taking garbage from private haulers, the current landfill would serve the City for another 10 or 20 years. 

This is completely and solely about money.

Save the Pine Bush knows what the City should do to generate the revenues needed to replace the money lost from the landfill.

The City should take a lead role in the revitalization of the Harriman Office Campus and become the Master Developer. 

The City could then organize the most massive land swap of Pine Bush land for Harriman Office campus land.

There are many developers who own Pine Bush ecosystem in the Towns of Colonie and Guilderland and the City.  Many of these developers have plans to build all kinds of developments, the type of development we want at Harriman.

Why not trade the land the developers own in the Pine Bush for land at Harriman?  It has been done before. 

By quickly developing Harriman, the City will realize millions more in tax revenue, more than the money they would lose by not accepting other municipalities’ garbage.

Everyone would win.  The Pine Bush Preserve would be expanded.  The Towns of Colonie and Guilderland would look good because of all of the Pine Bush that would be preserved, and the City would benefit by having significantly more taxable properties.

So, I suggest the Common Council listen to us. Separate the issue of garbage from income.  Look for other sources of revenue.  And, protect the Pine Bush because there is only one Pine Bush.