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Where Credit Is Due

To the Editor:

During the six-year battle to stop St. Lawrence Cement’s massive, coal-fired proposal, Metroland contributed many eye-opening reports on this issue of regionwide concern. In April, overcoming the $58 million SLC spent to promote this dangerous idea, citizens prevailed thanks to a strong ruling from the Department of State.

Along with articles by Erin Sullivan, Travis Durfee, Nancy Guerin and others, Metroland kindly honored Friends of Hudson for our key role in the SLC fight with a 2001 Local Heroes award.

Considering this in-depth coverage, it was not surprising to find the “stop the plant” campaign hailed in your pages as the “Best Environmental Victory” of 2005. But it was somewhat surprising to find this victory attributed solely to “the Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition, formed by Scenic Hudson with many other groups including Olana.”

In fact, HVPC was not originally “formed by Scenic Hudson,” and only came into existence two and a half years after the cement project was announced. The idea for HVPC came first from Kate Kerin, then-director of Hudson River Heritage; and it grew out of a River Roundtable convened by our members.

Moreover, the Olana Partnership, like Friends of Hudson, was by choice not a member of HVPC—encouraging its formation while maintaining our own independent roles. Of all the funds raised for this battle, two-thirds came from Friends of Hudson donors, as did most of the citizen opposition.

During the battle with SLC, there were many internal differences of opinion and tactics about how to win this fight. Opponents kept these disagreements among ourselves in the interest of stopping a multinational polluter. Sadly, both during and after the controversy, the goodwill of many groups was continually tested by Scenic Hudson; and the time has now come to break our silence on that subject.

In the early days of the cement battle, Scenic Hudson discouraged Friends of Hudson from challenging this Swiss-owned polluter, claiming SLC was too politically connected to fight. “We won’t get involved, because you can’t win that one,” was their message.

Only after our membership grew exponentially, after we’d raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, after it looked like we’d turned the tide, and after Scenic Hudson’s embarrassing $2 million sell-out of its local partners to the Athens Generating company, did their large organization start taking an active role.

Scenic Hudson then aggressively tried to position itself as the lead organization. It tried to keep groups like Clearwater and Riverkeeper on the sidelines, viewing them as competition. It tried to pry donors away from allies, and frequently violated our carefully negotiated partnership agreements. In particular, it continually tried to keep Scenic Hudson in the limelight, at the expense of allies more focused on the day-to-day battle than on PR.

As such, Metroland’s error is quite understandable.

Scenic Hudson rightly touts its organization’s signature Storm King victory (now seeking to “brand” the SLC victory as “a second Storm King”). But in many ways it has lost touch with the values that made that landmark decision possible.

Friends of Hudson remains grateful that others joined the challenge we undertook on our own for several years. Along with Olana and Scenic Hudson, but also the Preservation League, Environmental Activists, the Sierra Club, NRDC, and others too numerous to list contributed mightily to this victory.

For our regional environment to be protected and our economy to stay strong, groups large and small must collaborate. Unfortunately, hard experience also teaches the grassroots to beware of predatory organizations which bide their time on land use battles, let citizens do the spadework, and then swoop in to take credit (or even to cut a deal with the developer).

Despite this experience, we continue to work with Scenic Hudson on issues like the future of the Hudson waterfront. And new threats are already surfacing, such as Lafarge’s plan to burn five million tires in its kiln at Ravena. With our eyes open, Friends of Hudson remains committed to working with our allies, but without ever sacrificing the integrity, tenacity, and agility that comes up from genuine commitment to grassroots action.

Sam Pratt

Executive director, Friends of Hudson


Hallowed Ground

To the Editor:

The Vale Cemetery Board of Trustees and its staff would like to express our appreciation for Metroland’s selection of Vale Cemetery as the Best Cemetery [“Best Of the Capital Region 2005,” July 21]. We are very pleased and proud to receive this designation and feel that we have earned it! Vale Cemetery is the final resting place for a very large number of notables going back to the era of the early Dutch traders. We have the graves here for veterans of the French & Indian War, the American Revolution, the Civil War, and then there is a very large number of the industrialists and inventors who gave rise to the moniker for Schenectady as “The City That Lights and Hauls the World.” In addition to the above, we have the burial sites for many of the civic leaders, politicians, notable women, and an area for African-Americans.

Both Vale Cemetery and Vale Park (formerly a part of the cemetery) are listed on the National Register of Historic Sites as a prime example of the Rural Cemetery Movement in the mid-19th century. Vale is still an active cemetery with enough burial spaces for another 200 years. We also operate a crematory, and all our services are at competitive prices.

Again, we thank you for your willingness to explore our grounds and take such a great picture for your publication of some of our more notable monuments.

Bernard McEvoy

President, Vale Cemetery Board of Trustees


Sprawl Town

To the Editor:

OK, so the Town of Ballston is a sleepy little place that doesn’t warrant a lot of news coverage [“Sprawl Games,” Newsfront, Aug. 11]. But there are enough local residents who are fed up with the bend-over attitudes of the current town government toward big-box developers to have gotten some notice. Currently running as an alternative to the lockstep Republicans who have been making decisions for us for decades is an interesting trio comprising one Democrat, one Republican and one from the Independence Party. And now they’ve brought in Saratoga Associates to “create the atmosphere of a small town.” Wake up! Ballston is a small town and we wish to stay that way. Twenty years ago, residents surveyed did not want “destination shopping” in Ballston, and a recent survey reiterated that goal. What did the current Town Board do but vote to lift the recommended 60,000-square-foot cap on building in the new draft plan. Two surveys and they still didn’t listen.

Gina Rossi Marozzi, who doesn’t even live in town, thinks we need a Wal-Mart so we can get to the grocery. I can drive to two Hannafords and three Price Choppers within 10 minutes. Gina wants to make as much money as she can off the property her family owns and the hell with the residents. No one needs Wal-Mart in a town where cows outnumber residents. . . . OK, maybe you have to add in a few sheep. Thanks for the coverage; now do some digging. The truth needs all the help it can get.

Polly Windels


To the Editor:

I am a regular reader of Metroland who notes that you have covered land-use issues in Bethlehem, Clifton Park, and most recently, Ballston Spa. I have also noted that you have not covered similar issues regarding developers/town governments and the local community in Nassau and North Greenbush. In North Greenbush there are major issues including suspicions that the local politicians are taking direction from state and county politicians and significant conflicts of interest in the town government.

In the case of Nassau and North Greenbush, citizens are trying to fight sprawl and shoddy development by establishing independent villages (as has already been accomplished in the case of the village of East Nassau) in order to regain control by the local community. In the case of North Greenbush in particular, the town government has placed roadblocks in the way of voting on this issue, and it has been necessary to file lawsuits in order to have the right to vote.

Citizens of North Greenbush have just won a major victory in court regarding the rezoning to commercial at the corners of Routes 4 and 43 (just yards from the spot Metroland has reported has the Capital Region’s best view of the Albany skyline). It would be nice if these struggles were reported in Metroland. We are currently awaiting a decision from the Appellate Court (we have already won that one in the Supreme Court) regarding the town supervisor’s decision to declare out petition for a vote to be legally invalid.

Burton Klinger


Smoke This

To the Editor:

I applaud Metroland in making all-natural American Spirit the only cigarette tobacco that it advertises. While I agree that even natural tobacco—especially if used excessively—is still “somewhat” unhealthy and can contribute to non-cancer lung ailments, I am firmly among those who believe that the real burden of blame for the cancer itself are all the added processed chemicals of sorts which when smoked are far, far, worse than say, eating processed Polish sausage . . . as if such chemicals’ detrimental effects are somehow exacerbated when burned as opposed to merely consumed.

Now if only Metroland could run an article calling for the legalization of true “medical” psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) to be clinically administered maybe four times a year to quell my alcoholism!

Bernard Continelli



Editor’s reply:

Thank you for the applause, but for the record, we have no policy that would prohibit companies from advertising non-natural tobacco products in Metroland.

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

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