Save the Pine Bush Forces Developer to Remove Water Lines from Pine Bush Preserve
Save the Pine Bush Forces Developer to Remove
Water Lines from Pine Bush Preserve
by Lynne Jackson
In a victory for the Pine Bush, the developer of a luxury housing
sub-division along the border of Guilderland and Albany has been
compelled to remove illegally placed water lines from state-owned
Pine Bush Preserve. Lewis B. Oliver, Jr., attorney for Save the Pine
Bush, had received notice from the developer that he would remove the
water lines on Monday, August 10, and would restore the disturbed
Pine Bush Preserve land to its original condition.
The removal of the water lines, purportedly costing the developer
$50,000 to install and $25,000 to remove, is a result of a lawsuit
brought by Save the Pine Bush against the Albany Pine Bush
Commission, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Town of
Guilderland and the City of Albany.
John Wolcott, Save the Pine Bush’s deed and title expert, had in
numerous letter, phone calls, and meetings, warned all of these
government officials before the water lines were built, that the
water lines encroached significantly on state-owned Preserve. and
were illegal. Not a single government official paid any attention,
until Save the Pine Bush went to court. Save the Pine Bush has a
video tape of a Guilderland Town Board meeting where the Board rudely
told Mr. Wolcott that there was no problem with the water lines,
which was recently broadcast on television. The NYS Department of
Environmental Conservation refused to consider that an encroachment
on state Pine Bush Preserve land had occurred until Save the Pine
Bush brought their lawsuit.
“This is a significant victory for the Pine Bush,” declared Lynne
Jackson, Board Member of Save the Pine Bush, “This proves that
developers and government officials cannot simply take land in the
Pine Bush Preserve to use for their own private purposes. The
developer and the Town made a very costly mistake.”
The water lines are located in Willow Street, which is in the City
of Albany. The proposed housing sub-division is located along Willow
Street, in the Town of Guilderland. Also, the Town approved water
lines to be built in the City, which is illegal. Guilderland has no
jurisdiction to approve water lines in Albany.
On August 4, in a hearing before State Supreme Court Judge
George L. Cobb, the State of New York, the Town of Guilderland and
developer Edward J. Pigliavento were compelled to admit that Lewis B.
Oliver, Jr. had proven that developer Pigliavento illegally
constructed a waterline in state-owned Pine Bush Preserve land.
Further, Donald Zee, attorney for Pigliavento, claimed that because
of an “error on my part” that his client cleared land adjacent to the
preserve in defiance of court order.
Pigliavento has been trying to build six luxury houses since last
October, and has been stopped by Save the Pine Bush’s lawsuit.
Pigliavento has defied all attempts to purchase the land at fair
market value for addition to the Pine Bush Preserve.
Judge Cobb continued an injunction against construction of a
sub-division in the Pine Bush and issued an order for a contempt
hearing on illegal clearing of land by the developers.
Judge Cobb heard arguments on Save the Pine Bush’s lawsuit
regarding the illegal construction of water lines in State-owned Pine
Bush Preserve land. Save the Pine Bush filed suit against the State
of New York, Town of Guilderland, Albany Pine Bush Management
Commission, City of Albany and developer Edward J.
Pigliavento, Jr. for constructing the water lines for the Tera
Court subdivision, located at the end of Willow Street, on
State-owned land dedicated as forever wild as part of the Pine Bush
Lewis B. Oliver, Jr. opened his statements by asking the court
grant to a summary judgment to Save the Pine Bush because the State,
the Town, the City, and the developer all admitted that the developer
built the water lines in the Preserve illegally, which was the basis
of Save the Pine Bush’s original lawsuit.
Mr. Oliver continued by asking the Court for a contempt hearing
because the developer cleared land while the injunction issued by
Judge Cobb last February was still in place. Judge Cobb granted the
order for a contempt hearing, which will be held on Thursday, August
13 at 9:30 am in the Greene County Court House, Main Street,
Catskill, New York. All parties, including the developer’s lawyer
agreed that the clearing was in violation of the injunction.
Judge Cobb extended the injunction against any further
construction for an additional 30 days.
Also at issue is the original approval of the sub-division, Tera
Court. Mr. Oliver argued that because the developer did not file the
original, signed, sub-division plat within the allowed 60 days that
the approval for the subdivision is void.
This lawsuit has evolved into a very complex and multifaceted
Lawrence Rappaport of the Attorney General’s office, represented
the State of New York and the Albany Pine Bush Management Commission.
Mr. Rappaport asked for an extension of the injunction until DEC
could decide about granting a water permit to the developer. In
papers submitted by the State, the DEC expert witness that “the
vegetative clearing . . . is significant and must be rectified” and
that “the clearing violates the requirements of the water supply
permit provisions of . . . SEQRA. . . which prohibits the undertaking
of any ‘physical alteration related to an action’ subject to SEQRA. .
. The clearing preempts the ability of DEC Region 4 to look at the
impacts of the water district extension and the subdivision to be
served by the extension on the Pine Bush species on the project site
and the impacts on the adjacent lands that have been dedicated to the
Albany Pine Bush Preserve.” Mr. Rappaport also stated that DEC had
not been consulted during the original sub-division approval process
Also at issue is the ownership of the northern half of Willow
Street. First, John Tabner, attorney for the Town of Guilderland said
that the Town owns the land. Then, the State of NY agreed with Save
the Pine Bush that the Town does not own the land. Then the State
said both that it does not know owns the land and that the land is an
abandoned strip. After the State said the land is abandoned, then the
Town suggested that the land would then belong to the developer.
According to Save the Pine Bush, there is no question that the
State of New York owns the northern part of Willow Street at this
point. Save the Pine Bush’s expert witness, John Wolcott, researched
the deeds to the land all the way back to its original patent granted
by the province of New York in 1672.. The State owns the entire
right-of-way of Willow Street in front of the Tera Court
sub-division. The ownership of the road is significant, because the
Town, the State and the developer want to enter into a stipulation to
allow the developer to move the water lines from the Preserve to the
northern part of Willow Street to settle the case. However, since the
northern side of Willow Street is owned by the taxpayers of the State
of New York and is part of the Preserve, this agreement does not
settle the case.
Donald Zee, attorney for the developer, stated that Willie
Janeway, executive director of the Albany Pine Bush Management
Commission, is helping the developer’s lawyer prepare his
environmental assessment form for the water supply permit.
The Albany Pine Bush Commission designated this 13-acre site of
the proposed Tera Court sub-division as full-protection.
Though the City of Albany was named as a party to the suit, no
attorney was present to represent the City’s interest. The City of
Albany was named in the suit by Save the Pine Bush, because they
allowed the Town of Guilderland to approve a water district that
extended beyond the boundary of the Town and into the City. As a Town
cannot approve a water district in a municipality outside its
boundaries, Save the Pine Bush contends that the Water District
Extension approved by the Town for the Tera Court sub-division is
As we go to press, oral arguments about a contempt hearing are
planned on August 13.
Photographs of water lines being
published Aug/Sept, 98 Newsletter