Save the Pine Bush uses the courts to force government agencies to follow environmental preservation laws. The City of Albany has been notorious for ignoring the State Environmental Quality Review Act. We have been very successful in our lawsuits to block improper approvals of construction projects in the Pine Bush.
Save the Pine Bush’s Victories and Challenges
- ·The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) purchased “Karner Meadows” (also known as Blueberry Hill) a 190 acre site near Washington Ave. Ext., behind the Dunes. Save the Pine Bush (SPB) prevented the building of the proposed Karner Meadows housing development by suing the City for eight years. At the ceremony to dedicate the land, Thomas Jorling, DEC Commissioner, thanked Rezsin Adams, SPB president, “for sustaining your interest for so long a period of time.”
- DEC purchased the 30 acre Anderson site on the northeast corner of Washington Ave. Ext. and Route 155 with money from the 1986 Bond Act. Despite having the developer Willard T. Anderson sue Save the Pine Bush for $15 million, SPB again was able to prevent the construction of this office building by suing the City of Albany over its illegal approvals of the development.
- The 70 acre Pine Valley site was purchased by DEC with Bond Act monies. Though SPB never sued over this site, had it not been purchased, it would have been a target of SPB lawsuits. Undoubtedly it was purchased to avoid SPB litigation.
- Because of Save the Pine Bush’s on-going legal action, the NYS Legislature was compelled to set up the Albany Pine Bush Management Commission to manage the Pine Bush. This Commission has hired a manager and is in the process of finalizing a Pine Bush Management Plan. Controlled burns to maintain the fire dis-climax community were begun in the spring of 1991.
- ·Save the Pine Bush court cases have forced the City of Albany to declare two moratoriums on development in the Pine Bush, one in 1984, and again in 1987.
- SPB’s constant challenges were an important factor in the Hellman Foundation’s decision to sell a centrally located 18.5 acre parcel to the Nature Conservancy.
- Save the Pine Bush has been a pioneer in using the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) to protect the Pine Bush, an endangered, unique ecosystem. The precedents that SPB have set using SEQRA have been used by other New York State environmental groups to protect endangered ecosystems. Most notably, the Long Island pine barrens environmental groups have sited SPB wins in their litigation to protect the Long Island pine barrens.
- The NYS Court of Appeals said in its decision of Save the Pine Bush v. City of Albany, 70 NY2d 193, 206 (1987), “The Pine Bush . . . contains the only remaining large pine barrens on inland sand dunes in the United States. . . . The record establishes that the Pine Bush has a number of distinct environmental characteristics worthy of protecting.”
- SPB has sued the City of Albany over its zoning changes for two developments, and won those cases in State Supreme Court. The City of Albany has appealed this decision, and the Appellate Division make a unanimous ruling in favor in of Save the Pine Bush, effectively halting all approvals of developments in the Pine Bush.
- The first is a 12-acre development on South Frontage Road by Charlie Touhey. This development would consist of three office buildings with a total of 125,000 sq. ft. of space and a 280 car parking lot. This land is important because it borders Woodlands at Pine Ridge, an undeveloped piece at the center of the Pine Bush.
- The second is the Karner Office Park, a 20 acre site that would consist of two office buildings located just south of Pinehurst. This piece of land is particularly important because it is part of a land bridge between the Karner Meadows and Pine Valley sites that the State purchased.
- SPB was successful in its lawsuit with the City of Albany over the building of the State Employees Federal Credit Union Building and Computer Park in the Pines. However, the developers went ahead and constructed these ugly buildings anyway. To enforce the court order, SPB would need to bring another suit against the City demanding these buildings be torn down. A precedent has been set for this type of action. The only thing stopping SPB from taking action is lack of funds for a lawsuit.
- Currently, SPB is in litigation over the approval of the landfill. Two issues of the most importance are 1) that the City of Albany must ensure the preservation of a 2,000 acre minimum acreage for the Pine Bush before they can operate their landfill and 2) that if a scientist studying the Karner Blue must obtain a “taking permit” from DEC before catching butterflies (and possibly injuring or killing them), then developers who go out and destroy butterflies with bulldozers must also obtain “taking permits.”
- The Administrative Law Judge Francis Serbant who adjudicated the hearing ruled in favor of SPB. Commissioner Jorling overruled the Judge and allowed the landfill to be built.
- Several developments on key Pine Bush land are in the process of being approved. These include Lone Pine VII, Rao, Serafini, and Lupe developments along the Hungerkill in Guilderland. In Albany, proposed office developments include the 80-acre Woodlands at Pine Ridge and the 10-acre Lew Swire development located on parcels that are essential for Pine Bush preservation. Developments have also been proposed for the Rapp Road area.
Save the Pine Bush Goals for Preservation
SPB’s goal is to have enough land purchased for preserve to ensure that the Pine Bush can survive. To achieve this goal, SPB has these objectives:
- Ensure the purchase of Pine Bush located in-between the current preserve parcels. It is essential that all Pine Bush be connected.
- Ensure the purchase of the entire Hungerkill Valley area in Guilderland for preserve.
- Scientists have estimated that a minimum of 2000 acres of Pine Bush must be set aside for preserve in order for the Pine Bush to survive. Because the Pine Bush is a fire disclimax community (i.e., it must burn to survive), this estimated minimum acreage must be able to be managed (burned). However, because the Pine Bush is surrounded by developments, it is essential that a 50 ft. buffer surround the preserve. SPB is working to ensure that the minimum acreage is set aside, plus the buffer needed in order for the preserve to be adequately managed.
- The map on the on the previous page shows the land that has been purchased for preserve (in dark grey) and the land SPB feels must be purchased (in light grey). SPB has come a long way, but the fight to save the Pine Bush is not over yet. SPB will not stop until the Pine Bush is saved.
What is the goal of Save the Pine Bush?
The goal of Save the Pine Bush is to have the State of New York purchase the remaining Pine Bush for preservation of this unique ecosystem. Because of its location in the middle of a large population center, the Pine Bush would become easily accessible to many people for use as open space and park land. Albany is unique among cities. No other city in the United States can boast of having a unique ecosystem such as the Pine Bush within their borders. The Pine Bush should be a resource for all citizens to enjoy.
How can I help to save the Pine Bush?
Volunteer to help raise money for Save the Pine Bush to continue the fight for the preservation of this beautiful area. Your donations are also gratefully accepted. Please send donations to Save the Pine Bush, Social Justice Center, 33 Central Avenue, Albany, New York, 12210.