By Tom Ellis
ALBANY, NY: Former Albany First Ward Common Council member Dominick Calsolaro spoke at the June 18 SPB dinner about Environmental Issues in Albany. He began thanking SPB President Rezsin Adams for her many years of friendship. During the US-Vietnam War, he said, Rezsin often came into his family’s restaurant. Dominick spoke about the many issues he worked on during his 12 years on the Albany Common Council, some of which he continues working on.
He said the big issue in Albany today is the oil trains. He drafted the first rail safety resolution in 2006. Mike O’Brien wrote a weaker one that was adopted. Senator Schumer is today proposing what Dominick proposed eight years ago. Dominick thanked the current Albany Common Council (ACC) for finally looking seriously at rail safety, especially first and second ward members Dorothy Applyrs and Vivian Kornegay.
Dominick said DEC has repeatedly extended the oil trains comment deadline from December 2013 through at least August, 2014. He said this is an environmental justice issue despite DEC saying earlier that it was not.
Dominick said we need round-the-clock air monitoring, not an occasional one-hour monitor. He said the only regional air monitoring station is located at the Albany County Health Department office building on Green Street in the South End.
Dominick said CSX is “hypocritical” to cite Homeland Security concerns in its attempts to block local emergency planners from receiving train schedule information when there are many large holes in the fences along the tracks. “We also want an EIS on the project,” he said.
He said the DEC approved a solid waste management plan for the city of Albany in January that excludes organics composting. It is a ten-year plan that “does not change anything.” He also said DEC is going to allow Albany to dispose trash ten feet higher than previously permitted because the landfill will partially collapse into itself.
He said Mayor Kathy Sheehan is attempting to persuade DEC to ease up on landfill “restoration” funding and plan. He said the city’s debt service is currently about 12 percent of its budget but will soon drop quite a bit because bonds issued by the city when Sheehan was treasurer are not 20 or 30 years; they will last no longer than the landfill is expected to remain open.
Speaking about the Styrofoam ban law passed by the county legislature last fall and signed by Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, he said, “I am glad McCoy’s daughter got through to him because no one else could.” Regarding hydrofracking. he said, Governor Andrew Cuomo delayed fracking within NY — a good policy — but the crude oil passing through the Port of Albany is fracked oil. He asked, “Is Cuomo for or against fracking?”
Dominick said he is now on the Albany city industrial development agency (IDA). He said the new Tech Valley High School is to be located in a larger 350,000 square foot “zero energy” building at Washington Avenue and Fuller Road. However, since there is no public transit to that location, many students will be driven there by their parents. He said Albany City School District (ACSD) students can not attend Tech Valley HS because ACSD is not part of the Capital Region BOCES.
Dominick discussed legislation he unsuccessfully proposed years ago “when everything was always ‘no’ in the prior administration” for a permeable asphalt demonstration project. The 2014 reconstruction of the Million Dollar Beach parking lot in Lake George Village will have permeable asphalt. He said “around here, people are usually unwilling to try good things.” Another unsuccessful initiative was his proposal to sell Rapp Road landfill methane to the SUNY Nanotech Center for heating and cooling, instead of selling it on the electric grid.
He concluded urging listeners to keep up the good work and to recruit younger activists.
During the Q&A, he said the city has a sustainability committee that will re-write city building code and possibly include low flush toilets. He said organics composting is excluded from the current NYS solid waste plan. He said he hopes the NY Court of Appeals will uphold (it did) “home rule” local government zoning laws to block hydrofracking. He attended the oral argument.
He said the Styrofoam ban law is only a preliminary law. He said, “Sometimes you have to pass legislation in pieces.” Dominick said he also tried to reduce diesel truck and bus idling, noise, and pollution while on the council.
He said sixty percent of the city of Albany — mostly the older parts of the city — have combined sewers subject to overflow problems during the increasingly frequent heavy rains. He said back flow valves can be installed. He said the capital region is still the most polluted part of the entire Hudson River. Lynne Jackson said, “You can see the flow of sewage in the river after a major storm.”
Dominick said the new SUNY dorms on Western Avenue have both rain gardens and permeable asphalt.
Published in August/September, 2014 Save the Pine Bush Newsletter