perpetual peril: the Pine Bush.
councilman introduces a resolution to make the mayor keep
Jackson stood outside Albany City Hall awkwardly fussing with
a guitar amp and a microphone. “Can you hear me?” her voice
squawked through the amplifier into the cold November night.
The crowd of Save the Pine Bush supporters, mostly made up
of residents of the Avila retirement home, let her know they
could, and began to gather around her on the steps of City
Hall. Then two younger faces appeared in the crowd: Common
Council members-elect Corey Ellis (Ward 3) and Barbara Smith
(Ward 4) made their way up the steps and stood beside her.
After answering some questions for a Fox cameraman, Jackson
turned to see the latest champion of Save the Pine Bush, Ward
1 Councilman Dominick Calsolaro. “We can start now!” she announced
through the tinny shrill of the amp. Calsolaro announced that
he would introduce a resolution to dedicate the 60-acre, city-owned
Fox Run Estate Mobile Home Park to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.
Currently, the site is split between a 20-acre mobile-home
park and 40 undeveloped acres.
Calsolaro’s resolution would force the city to abide by an
agreement it made in 2000 with the Department of Environmental
Conservation as part of its effort to obtain a permit to expand
its landfill in the Pine Bush. The city fulfilled one part
of the agreement when it purchased Fox Run Estate, with the
agreement of the Nature Conservancy, which had been holding
options to purchase the land. But to finish its obligations,
the city was supposed to immediately dedicate the undeveloped
portion to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve and dedicate the
mobile-home park as soon as the it could be closed.
However, for five years the city has put off the dedication.
According to Calsolaro, the excuses he received from director
of general services Willard Bruce are that some of the land
belongs to other municipalities and that it takes time to
subdivide the properties. Lynne Jackson contends that any
Pine Bush developer knows that subdivision is an easy process.
Save the Pine Bush also claims to have contacted planners
in Guilderland and Colonie, all of whom say they have not
heard from the Albany city officials. “The city is in violation
of its current operating permit,” insisted Jackson.
On the other hand, Mayor Jerry Jennings and Bruce have both
told the Times Union that they plan to expand the landfill
onto 20 acres of the land that was to be preserved.
In an e-mail to Jackson, Bruce explained that “the portion
of the site now being considered for a landfill expansion,
(the developed portion) was never intended to be dedicated
until 2015, because it would continue to be a developed site
until then. If we do get an expansion approved, it would likely
provide disposal capacity to perhaps 2017.” He further explained
that the landfill would be closed in 2017, “2 years difference
from the originally anticipated 2015 dedication of the developed
portion of the mobile home park.”
Jennings’ excuse for this move is that it seems less and less
likely the city will be able to utilize the land it purchased
in Coeymans for a new landfill.
Calsolaro said the city’s excuse for failing to dedicate the
land, although it was bound to do so immediately, is weak.
“Their argument doesn’t hold up, because I would assume that
if they have to deal with other municipalities to dedicate
the land they would have to do the same thing to go and use
it for a landfill,” he said.
Furthermore, Calsolaro worries that by delaying the dedication
city officials have put the entire city in legal jeopardy.
“If, legally, we misrepresented our intentions on the permit,
the city could be in trouble,” he said.
Calsolaro’s argument is bolstered by a series of letters between
DEC and city officials. Both Bruce and an attorney for the
city, Ruth E. Leistensnider, assured DEC officials that the
dedication would take place and was being held up only by
legal matters. With the revelation that the city intends to
use at least 20 of those acres to expand the dump, the sincerity
of its intentions are cast into doubt.
At Monday night’s Common Council meeting, which featured a
rare perfect attendance of council members, Pine Bush supporters
spoke in favor of Calsolaro’s resolution and warned that the
Pine Bush is a unique resource that is slowly being destroyed.
Calsolaro’s resolution was to be introduced at the council
meeting, but there were also two resolutions dealing with
developments proposed for construction in the Pine Bush that
came under harsh criticism. One is an office complex proposed
near the Daughters of Sarah nursing home. The other is a hotel
proposed by the Theraldson Group, one of the largest hotel
owners in the country.
Jackson told the council that by promoting development in
the Pine Bush, they are “destroying downtown.” Craig Waltz
gave a firm warning to the council: “Stop Now! What’s your
honor worth? What’s your word worth? You’ve sold yours cheap
at the price of a pile of trash.”
Despite the exhortations, the council voted to accept the
environmental impact statement for the hotel property and
voted that there was no need for an impact statement relating
to the Daughters of Sarah property. Calsolaro’s resolution
was introduced and will be voted on at a later date.
Despite the fact that two developments in the Pine Bush were
brought closer to reality at this meeting, Save the Pine Bush
is gaining more support on the council, and not only for environmental
reasons. When asked how and why he became involved in supporting
the Pine Bush, Ellis replied, “I was asked by a number of
constituents about how I stood on the Pine Bush. What struck
me is it’s more than an environmental issue. It was a promise
made, and any elected official should keep their word.”
Administration officials can’t seem to agree on
whether the U.S. military fell short of its recruiting
goals this year. A report issued last week by
the Government Accountability Office showed the
various branches filling only a third of their
specialist positions, which include bomb defusers
and intelligence agents, and indicated that many
of the shortfalls have been masked by overfilling
other positions—in some cases, offering enlistment
bonuses to overfilled jobs to meet recruitment
goals. David S.C. Chu, undersecretary for personnel
and readiness, replied that military recruiting
goals are simply guideposts, and that the “dynamic
nature” of America’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan
makes such goals flexible.
Closer to the Truth
Last weekend (Nov.19-20) School of the Americas
Watch held its 16th annual protest at the Ft.
Benning, Ga., school that has long trained Latin
American militaries in “counterinsurgency” techniques,
which opponents claim has included torture and
kidnapping. On Monday (Nov. 21), The New York
Times reported that new details of the activities
of some of the school’s graduates may soon surface.
Recently discovered moldering in a munitions depot,
a century’s worth of records kept by the Guatemalan
National Police include details of kidnapping
of children from suspected “guerrillas,” arrests
simply for being “Communist,” and whole filing
cabinets on those “disappeared.” The Guatemalan
government is nervous, but so far has committed
to making the archives available.
Mistakes Happen . . . Over and Over
The Daily Mirror in Britain has reported
that President Bush was talked out of bombing
Arab cable news service Al-Jazeera by British
Prime Minister Tony Blair. Although the White
House dismissed the charges as outlandish, the
British government has charged two civil-service
agents for leaking a memo that details the conversation
between Bush and Blair. Former British defense
secretary Peter Kilfoyle called for the document
to be made public and said it “raises questions
about subsequent attacks that took place on the
press.” Al-Jazeera offices have been hit by U.S.
missiles and bombs several times, but these attacks
have been labeled “mistakes.”
Police Review Board takes a hard look at the definition of
it comes to the let-ter of the law regarding complaints about
the city’s police force, a complaint is defined . . . but
there’s no definition for who can be a complainant,” said
Barbara Gaige, chair of the Albany Citizens’ Police Review
Board, at a recent meeting of the city’s Public Safety Committee.
may all change, however, when members of a task force appointed
by the board report back next month about whom they believe
should be allowed—and who should be barred—from filing complaints
against the city’s police.
someone who just thought there was an error on the part of
the police file a complaint or does it have to be someone
who was either involved in the incident or whose life was
put in jeopardy by the things that happened there?” said Gaige
of the sort of questions the five-person task force is charged
to Gaige, the question of who is legally allowed to file a
complaint has come up due to several complaints filed in recent
years by individuals—and, in one case, by a group of individuals—who
weren’t directly involved in the incidents in which alleged
violations occurred. That group, the Coalition for Accountable
Police and Government, submitted a list of concerns to the
review board regarding events that occurred over the last
few years involving the police department.
are some members of the board who feel that anyone should
be allowed to file a complaint—whether they observed a situation
or were directly involved in it,” said Gaige. “But the question
has come up about whether the coalition is a proper complainant
even though they weren’t involved in any of the events on
the list they submitted.”
said the task force will look into what other municipalities
around the nation have done, if anything, to address such
Gaige presented the task force’s mission as a quest to build
a legal foundation under the complaint system, city representatives
offered a different take on the need for such a definition.
problems with certain members of the city that, quite frankly,
sit home and make complaints,” said Patrick Jordan, assistant
corporation counsel for the city, during the same committee
said she’s heard this concern—that it was too easy for people
to file complaints—brought up during past meetings of the
of the things said [during meetings] was that, as the laws
stands now, we could have 95,000 people sitting home and watching
the television news and they could all file complaints,” she
she added, the board’s history of complaints thus far has
shown little cause for concern about such a scenario.
had one complaint by someone who observed an incident, we’ve
had Dr. [Alice] Green’s complaint about the New Year’s Eve
[accidental shooting of bystander David Scaringe] incident,
and we’ve had a list of complaints submitted by the coalition,”
she said. “Those are the only complaints we’ve received that
have not been from a person immediately involved in a situation.”
Gaige said the board is approaching the idea of limiting complainants
cautiously, she argued that there are certain situations in
which such limits might benefit both the police and the individual
who is directly involved with the event.
observe a situation and decide to file a complaint, am I violating
the privacy of the individual who’s involved in that situation
with the police?” she asked. “Maybe that person doesn’t want
a complaint filed or has a different perspective on the actions
of the police.”
James Miller, spokesman for the Albany Police Department,
offered a similar rationale for defining who can—and can’t—file
a complaint. According to Miller, resolution of complaints
often relies upon getting the individuals directly involved
in the situation to provide their perspectives on what occurred.
saw something wrong happen, we want to look into it,” he said,
“but a lot of the time, when you want to resolve an issue,
you do actually need a victim—a directly involved complainant—to
Something bad happened there.”
—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion
of haunted houses.
Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting
Alice Green, in response to a question about how
Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate
in a debate.
Springs mayoral candidate Valerie Keehn had
her slim victory [“Election Round-Up,” Newsfront,
Nov.10] confirmed after absentee ballots were
counted. Keehn’s victory was the narrowest among
her fellow Democrats who swept Saratoga elections.
. . . On Thursday (Nov. 17), the state’s Supreme
Court upheld a lower court’s decision to bar All
Star Wine and Spirits owner Craig Allen from
suing wholesaler Service-Universal Distributors
over incentives the company offered to certain
retailers [“What If I Throw in a Few Drinks?”
Newsfront, Nov. 17]. In the decision, the court
cited the State Liquor Authority’s unwillingness
to take a position on whether such practices were
legal as a deciding factor. Allen described the
decision as “disgusting,” but has yet to decide
whether he’ll take his lawsuit to the Court of
Appeals. . . . The Town of Sand Lake recently
approved Right to Farm legislation that
many local farmers have been pushing for [“Agriculture
Wars,” Sept. 15] as protection against encroaching