Dan McCoy Speaks at Save the Pine Bush

by Tom Ellis


ALBANY, NY: At the March 16 SPB dinner, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy spoke about Environmental Accomplishments and the Agenda for the Future.   Mr. McCoy began with, “There is so much we’ve done” and “You’re organization — Save the Pine Bush — has been the rock of our community.”  Mr. McCoy grew up in Albany and still lives in the city.   He said his love of nature and being out in it resulted in part from his taking the bus to Thatcher Park as a kid to go swimming.  “Kids today do not have this opportunity to swim at Thatcher Park and run the trails,” he said.  He joked that while out on the trails, he and his friends were “keeping the police busy.”

Mr. McCoy clearly enjoyed discussing the initiatives he has taken. He said the county owns 421 acres at Lawson Lake that includes many hiking trails.  Free transportation for kids is provided from Albany, Cohoes, Watervliet, and Green Island to the site where kids can study piano, arts & crafts, and computers.  Kids learn how to use a compass and read a map. People can snow mobile and ice fish in winter.  He said all improvements to the site were made without using taxpayer money and unions help repair the roads.

He said when the highest elevation in the county — the 500 acre Buddhist property in Berne — became available for sale, he decided the county had to purchase it.  The county and the Town of Berne now own it, and the site is being transformed into a retreat center with trails under development.

Regarding crude oil shipments through the county to the Port Of Albany, he said the county imposed a moratorium [two years ago as a public health measure preventing any expansion or increase in current operations at the port]. Mr. McCoy said the trains pass through several municipalities in the county including Menands and Voorheesville.  He said the developer, Global Partners “is terrible to work with.”  He has met with may people on this matter and, having worked a fire-fighter for 21 years, he is aware of the dangers.  Regarding a catastrophic explosion, he said the “trains are near houses all over the country.  It is not if it happens but when it happens.  It is just a matter of time.”  He said air quality near the trains on South Pearl Street in Albany is “terrible.”

McCoy said the 310,000 Albany County “residents are my boss” and “Good citizens elect bad politicians by not voting.”   He said he desires Albany county to be the greenest county. Solar panels, he said,  are being installed on county buildings and energy efficiency is being enhanced in the same buildings.

Regarding the rail trail, he said the county has invested $3 million so far, bridges are being repaired, and walkers and bikers can now travel from the Port of Albany to New Scotland.  A link from the port to the Hudson River still needs to be completed.  He said, “You have to invest in your own future” and he likes to complete projects without taxpayer money by being creative with partnerships.

Mr. McCoy said he was offended by comments made by former county legislator Tim Nichols that he (McCoy) had taken $10,000 from the tobacco industry.   He said he was instrumental in having supermarkets in the county remove cigarettes from the isles and cigarettes “are still in the store but you do not see them.”   He said kids are “puffing on e-cigarettes in a big way now.”  He said that while he believes 18- to 20-year-olds should be able to drink alcohol and smoke because they can vote and serve in the military, he has “no issues with raising the tobacco purchase age to 21.”

Speaking of Save the Pine Bush, he said “You [SPB] are the experts.  Not me.  Educate us.  Let us know what works {and} what doesn’t.”   He said we are not recycling to the best of our abilities in the City of Albany, you must educate and frequently, and “we have to get info” about the best solid waste practises “into these kids’ schools or we lose them.”

During the Q&A, he suggested bicycle safety be taught to kids in schools and in response to a question from Lynne Jackson, said he would “love to reopen” the Bath House No. 2 closed a few years ago by former Mayor Jerry Jennings.  He said the county has tight finances and cannot do take all the initiatives some would like and the county has 47 unfunded mandates. 

Lynne urged Mr. McCoy to write to President Obama urging him to stop bombing other countries and redirect funds to  improve the US.  Mr. McCoy responded saying at Albany High School, we lost a music program and a year later we had an ROTC program.  He continued, “I want to work with you even if I don’t like you.  Isn’t it better to work together than against each other?  We have lots of hungry seniors and kids in the hill towns.  They are expensive to serve.”   He said he gets along better with Albany’s current mayor than her predecessor but when he and Kathy Sheehan disagree, “we keep it between us.”

Mr. McCoy continued. He said the county will soon have a mental health court. The “cops do not want to arrest them,” he said.  The “courts can help them instead of jails, with a better outcome.”  He said the county has a free dental clinic that serves more than 5000 children. He said Albany County has had an influx of refugees who are getting free first-time dental care and the county has a domestic violence court.  He said “go to legislators and speak up,” we should be able to vote on-line, “keep us honest,” and “take a tour of the Pine Bush and you will appreciate it.” 

He said “knocking Madison Ave from four to two lanes is crazy.  It is one of the main thoroughfares into the city.”   He said in Albany “the mayor has all the power.  She does not need the council.  I need to negotiate with 39 legislators.”



Published in May/June 2016
Save the Pine Bush Newsletter