“Farmers” Sue Albany Pine Bush Management Commission

by John Wolcott

The Albany Pine Bush Management Commission was sued last summer by a group of individuals accusing the Commission of “conspiring to reduce the value of their land.” The Times Union characterized the plaintiffs in the law suit against the Commission as “several farmers”. Actually, there are several individual plaintiffs but out of these seven we only know three of them to be farmers for a certainty.
Their lawyer is Paul Wein whom we all remember from two Pine Bush episodes: the historic Schoolcraft House (Mr. Wein wanted to tear it down), and the miniature golf course (Mr. Wein’s client wanted to build an adventure park next to the second largest site of Karner Blues in the Pine Bush) . I don’t know why Mr. Wein is complaining about lowering land values in the Pine Bush because he has certainly made sure both he and his client have gotten very high prices for these two Pine Bush treasures which were eventually purchased for preservation. In fact, if anything, he may have contributed to raising the fair market value, given what preservation groups paid for these parcels.

One of the plaintiffs, the second named, but who probably should be at the top of the list is “farmer” Angelo Serafini. Angelo Serafini’s main interest in farms has mostly been to buy them in order to grow subdivisions and bank accounts. Which certainly puts an end to growing food crops at these locations. Could this kind of thing, possibly, be what the suit is mostly about? Mr. Serafini has already made more money than most anyone on housing developments in the Pine Bush. Why doesn’t he return something to the natural world that he profits from by donating the land he has in the Hunger Kill area? He was informally asked to donate the land a few years ago, but rejected the suggestion. He is also now the chairman of the Economic Development Commission of the Town of Guilderland. Other would be farmers are Charles Baron, Robert Baron and Peter Van Guysling. The Barons were known a few years back for having a construction business. I’m not sure what they are doing now. Peter Van Guysling is not really a farmer, he owns Dutch Manor Stables along the Hunger Kill.

The three known farmers in the lawsuit are: Eugene Stutz, his farm appears to be on Old State Road west of Route 146 and outside the Commission’s Study Area. The remaining two farmers are located in the Pine Bush in areas designated for protection of some type by the Commission. John Gade, Jr. has a farm designated for “partial protection.” Robert Pigliavento has a farm designated for “full protection.”

These designations, unfortunately, can’t prevent the sale of property for residential or commercial development regardless of what the plaintiffs contend. The Commission has only been heard to speak of paying the “fair market value” for anything and Willie Janeway, executive director of the Commission is on record for saying that the continuation of farms in the Pine Bush is something which he has no objection to and that farms are compatible with the environment. Obviously, developers don’t want the continuation of a farm if they can build on it. Even some farmers don’t want their farms to continue if they can sell to a developer for big bucks. What is most ironic about this situation is that both Pigliavento and Gade are wealthy businessmen who own and operate lucrative retail outlets selling produce. Both markets are in Guilderland, on Lydius Street and Western Avenue, respectively.

Perhaps, if you are concerned whether they carry organic produce, you can see if they are listed in the Farm Fresh Directory of Organic Farms just published by the Regional Farm and Food Project. these are available at 33 Central Avenue, Albany.
This is case #44067-96 and is to be heard in Supreme Court at the Albany Court House on October 18. Call the Court Clerk at 487-5019 for the time.

Printed October, November, 1996