by Lynne Jackson
ALBANY: On October 19, Willard Bruce, Commissioner of the Albany Department of General Services, made a presentation to the Common Council about the proposed landfill expansion in the Pine Bush. During the meeting, he told the Common Council members that the City was no longer obligated to dedicate the Fox Run Estate (a mobile home park) to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.
The City is proposing to expand the landfill onto the Fox Run Estate, the land that was required to be dedicated to the Preserve.
In 2000, the City obtained a permit to operate its current landfill called the P-4 landfill expansion. As a mitigation measure for that permit, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation required the City to purchase the Fox Run Estate and dedicate the land to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.
At the time, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) held an option to purchase the Fox Run Estate, and the City was directed to purchase the option from TNC and buy the land (see related story).
The City acquired the option and purchased the Fox Run Estate in 2000. At the time of the purchase, the City was required to dedicate the 40 acres not occupied by trailers (of the total of 60 acres) to the Preserve. When all of the residents of the mobile home park leave the other 20 acres is to be dedicated to the Preserve.
The language requiring dedication is unambiguous. At the meeting, the Honorable Dominick Calsolaro (Common Council member, First Ward) read out loud the requirement from page 11 of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the P-4 landfill expansion to Mr. Bruce:
“Upon issuance of a permit for the P-4 Project, the City will acquire the existing option, held by the Nature Conservancy, for the 60 acre site immediately north of the Rapp Road landfill (Fox Run Estates and the proposed expansion area of Fox Run
Estates), with dedication of the undeveloped portion (approximately 40 acres) to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission upon closing, and dedication of the remaining, developed portion (approximately 20 acres) to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission upon closure of the mobile home park;”
In response, Mr. Bruce told the Common Council members that documents had been exchanged with DEC and that the dedication of the land was no longer required. He said the City “did intend to dedicate the land, but things change.” He said that the FEIS had been altered.
Alarmed that this condition of the P-4 landfill permit had been changed, Lynne Jackson of Save the Pine Bush wrote a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the City of Albany asking for copies of those documents which show that the City was no longer required to dedicate the Fox Run Estate to the Preserve.
In response to this FOIL, Ms. Jackson received two letters, both written by a lawyer representing the City to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Both of these letters confirm that the City intends to full-fill its obligation and dedicate the land.
The first letter, written on March 30, 2000, says:
“The purpose of this letter is to provide you with the schedule for the completion of the acquisition of the Fox Run Estates property, as required by Special Condition 29 in the above referenced permit.
“At this time, it is anticipated that completion of the acquisition of the Fox Run Estates will be as set forth on the enclosed schedule. . . ”
A time-line for acquisition is included and states:
“on or before 12/31/2000 [-] dedicate, if possible without subdivision, the approximately 40 acres of undeveloped land to Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, . . .”
The second letter, written on October 1, 2004, says:
“The purpose of this letter is to provide you with an update regarding the status of the dedication of the Fox Run Estates property to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission. . .
“The City is exploring various options to accomplish this dedication, and will keep the Department advised, as appropriate. . . ”
The two letters the City sent to support Mr. Bruce completely contradict Mr. Bruce’s contention that dedication is no longer required.
The day after the meeting, the Albany City Clerk sent out a letter from Mr. Bruce to the Common Council members, clarifying the City’s position on the dedication. In this letter, Mr. Bruce stated that he never said that the FEIS for the P-4 landfill expansion had been changed. He wrote:
”The important point, as indicated in the [October 1] letter, is that the portion of the site now being considered for a landfill expansion, (the developed portion) was never intended to be dedicated until 2015, because it would continue to be a developed, occupied site, and some residents would remain on site until then. If we do get an expansion approved, it would likely provide disposal capacity to perhaps 2017. Then it would be closed and capped with a special seed mixture that compliments Pine Bush habitat, about 2 years difference from the originally anticipated 2015 dedication of the developed portion of the mobile home park.”
So what Mr. Bruce is saying in this clarifying letter is that the City will dedicate the land to the Preserve after it has been made into a landfill and filled with garbage.
Save the Pine Bush demands that the City immediately full-fill its obligation to dedicate the Fox Run Estate property to the Preserve and seek a better solution to its solid waste issue than creating yet another landfill in the Pine Bush.
Published November/December 2005