The Albany Common Council The Debate and the Vote

by Lynne Jackson

ALBANY: On Tuesday, September 12, at a meeting of the Common Council General Services Committee, the City of Albany made its third proposal to take protected Pine Bush land and turn it into a landfill.

It is important to consider the history of the City’s landfill expansion proposals in the past year. First, the City proposed to take 20 acres of the 60 acre “Fox Run Mobile Home Park” parcel. A condition of the permit to operate the current landfill, the entire 60-acre parcel was to have been purchased by the City in 2000 and immediately dedicated to the Pine Bush Preserve.

The City managed to purchase this 60 acres, but conveniently “forgot” to dedicate it to the Pine Bush Preserve. Save the Pine Bush filed suit to require the City to dedicate the 60 acres of the Fox Run Mobile Home Park on January 18, 2006. The very next day, in his State of the City address, Mayor Jerry Jennings said that “City would do the right thing” and dedicate the land to the Preserve. Mayor Jennings then went on to explain that the landfill would be expanded to the west — on 13 acres of land that had been dedicated to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve years ago.

Over tremendous public opposition, the Albany Common Council passed a home rule resolution asking the NYS Legislature to pass legislation to alienate this park land. Assemblyman John McEneny introduced the home rule bill, but then sent it to committee to die (see related article) after he determined that an environmental impact statement should be prepared first. The City was in a big hurry to alienate this Preserve land for the landfill expansion in June, but the City did not start the environmental review process.

Now, seeing how extremely unpopular taking Preserve for a landfill expansion is, the City is trying another tactic for its landfill expansion. At the September meeting, the City proposed to expand the landfill to the east, taking a huge chunk of Pine Bush, including a dune that is owned by the City but though Pine Bush ecosystem, has never been added to the Preserve. Also, the City is proposing to take from 3 to 6 acres of land that Governor Patacki and Mayor Jennings promised to add to the Preserve in 2000.

These 3 to 6 acres are part of the first land trade in the Pine Bush. Land in the Pine Bush owned by developers was acquired by New York State by trading land owned by the State north of the Harriman Office Campus. At a press conference in May, 2000, the Governor, Mayor Jennings, Assemblyman McEneny, among other officials lauded this land trade.

However, though the State clearly acquired this land the Preserve and the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission map clearly shows this land as protected, the land was never actually formally dedicated to the Pine Bush Preserve.

Now, the City is proposing to take this protected land for the landfill expansion.

It is quite notable that at the meeting where this new plan for the landfill expansion, no mention was made of other alternatives to solving the City’s solid waste problem. No one mentioned methods to reduce solid waste, or to encourage reuse, or ways to increase recycling.

From a visual inspection of maps issued by the City for this new landfill expansion proposal, it appears that this proposal will actually take more Pine Bush ecosystem to be used as a landfill than the last proposal.

It is time for the City to look at real, long-term, rational means to deal with solid waste that do not involve expanding in the Pine Bush.