Common Council Ignores Pine Bush Preserve Commission

ALBANY: In an astounding series of votes, the Albany Common Council voted to allow two developments in the Pine Bush to go forward: the proposed Residence Inn Hotel and an office complex in front of the Daughters of Sarah Nursing Home. Three Common Council members voted against the proposals and for the Pine Bush: the Honorables Dominick Calsolaro, Richard Conti and Shawn Morris. It is clear these votes were hurriedly taken in the last two meetings in December, before the newly elected Council members take their seats in January.

Perhaps what is most significant about this entire process is the position of the Albany Pine Bush Commission regarding these developments. In a memo to the Albany Common Council on the Findings Statement for the proposed hotel, the Commission states: “Specifically, the analysis and conclusions provided in the Statement of Findings for this project regarding potentially significant adverse impacts to the State and Federally endangered Karner blue butterfly appear in error and raise concerns about the integrity of this project’s environmental review within SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] process in the City of Albany . . . the Commission is concerned that in adopting the Findings Statement as complete and accurate the Common Council may be facilitating violations of federal Endangered Species Law and New York State Environmental Conservation Law.”

The Commission memo observes that the land where the hotel is proposed to be built, was illegally bulldozed in 1998. The Commission points out that on December 1, 2005, stop work orders were issued by the City of Albany to the Commission for clearing work the Commission was performing for habitat restoration that were believed to be in violation of Article IV, Chapter 375 of the City Code. The Commission suggests that the City should address the irreplaceable loss of habitat that occurred as a result of the clearing of land in 1998.

The Commission lists the many factual errors made by the applicant in the Findings Statement. But, despite the Commission’s strong statement, and opposition from citizens and Save the Pine Bush, the Common Council approved these developments.

Printed in the January/February 06 newsletter