duck, goose: George Sarris in front of his beloved duck
Park duck pond dispute goes deeper than a neighbor fight
get a thrill out of fighting the system, being the underdog.
Their eyes light up, stoked with righteous fury, as they describe
the wrongs done to them and their fight for justice.
Sarris is not one of those people. As he lugs out the plastic
filing box of paperwork common to individuals who have been
researching a legal issue for years, his expression is resigned.
He can still summon up the anger, but his tone tends more
toward the weary and exasperated. When he says ·I believe
in the system,· it sounds like he means ·believed.·
home is tucked out of sight off the entrance road to a housing
development in Clifton Park. It predates the development,
and also the land-conservation zone that has been, according
to the town, overlaid on top of the residential zoning that
applies to his lot in order to protect the creek that runs
behind his land. On Sarris· two-and-a-half acres, there
is a small pond. On a March afternoon, the pond is bustling
with over a dozen waterfowl·mallards, domestic ducks
(some rare), a pair of mute swans, a few Canada geese. ·Each
of those ducks can eat their weight in mosquitoes,·
says Sarris proudly.
the swans, and several of the ducks are injured and can·t
live in the wild. They were brought to Sarris, a licensed
wildlife rehabilitator, who cares for and feeds them. Six
of the domestic ducks he purchased because they are a rare
breed. A low undercurrent of noise comes from the ducks. It·s
not audible inside the house. The ground around the pond is
spongy and moist, but covered in less goose poop than the
average public park.
is involved in two entwined sets of legal proceedings over
these birds. First there is a lawsuit brought by his neighbors
to the east, Robert Newell and Theresa Schillaci, claiming
the birds are a nuisance, plus a counterclaim brought against
Newell and Schillaci by Sarris for harassment. In the initial
suit, the neighbors say, among other things, that noise and
excrement from the waterfowl have deprived them of their use
of their yard and some of their home. They say that Sarris·
feeding of his domestic waterfowl has attracted more wild
birds than would usually be there.
response points out that all of the non-wild ducks on his
property cannot fly, so they are not visiting his neighbors·
yard, and that he does not distribute feed beyond what the
domestic ducks eat. He also notes that ducks and geese do
not generally excrete while flying, making his neighbors·
claims of severe damage to their home, cars, and grill from
excrement unlikely, especially when the pictures provided
with the claim show something on the exterior walls of the
house of a splatter pattern that appears to have come at the
wall from below, technically impossible for a bird to accomplish.
counterclaim alleges a pattern of harassment from his neighbors
that includes playing loud music, shooting at the birds, putting
mothballs in his pond, blocking the pond·s inlet stream
and allegedly poisoning one of his dogs.
in those suits will be held before Supreme Court Justice Stephen
A. Ferradino on May 30.
doesn·t like to dwell on the interactions with his
neighbor. A retired police officer, he said he·s much
more interested in questions of law rather than personality,
and claims he even discouraged some of his sympathetic neighbors
from getting into the fight on his side, saying it should
be left to the courts.
fight, as Sarris and his wife Joy see it, is with the town
of Clifton Park (whose corporation counsel used to work for
the firm representing his neighbors, according to the North
Country Gazette). In response to the neighbors· complaints,
Clifton Park has ruled Sarris in violation of its zoning code,
which prohibits the keeping of waterfowl in a residential
zone on a plot of land under five acres. Sarris and his attorney,
Peter Henner, are arguing that the land-conservation zone
supercedes the residential zoning, and that anything allowed
in a land-conservation zone, which includes game preserves
and nature preserves, should be allowed. (Otherwise, notes
Sarris, the land would be ·sterile,· or unusable
for anything, which would be considered a property ·taking.·)
is a natural area,· said Henner. ·Wild ducks
visited it before he bought the property. . . . The problem
here is the town coming up with a bizarre interpretation of
the statute· that equates to saying that ·LC
zones are only LC zones if they·re over 100,000 sq.
Henner has filed a claim for Sarris in Supreme Court against
the town of Clifton Park for its repeated arraigning and fining
of Sarris for zoning violations.
just humiliating for a cop,· said Sarris of the experience.
and Henner also point out that this is an unusual and possibly
precedent-setting case: Usually zoning fights over protected
wetlands have to do with owners who want to get an exception
to the restrictions and build there. Rarely if ever does someone
go to court to fight for the right to ·use it as a
Sarris surmises that a ruling that held land-conservation
zoning to trump residential zoning would put a damper on development
on wetland properties elsewhere, which may be one reason the
town is fighting him so hard.
some wildlife experts question whether the feeding of domestic
waterfowl would fall under the definition of a nature preserve,
Henner said that in any case, connection with wildlife in
the middle of spreading suburbia is a value that should be
protected and encouraged. ·Right in the middle of Velveetaland,
we have this duck pond,· he said. ·It·s
a beautiful aesthetic resource.·
DEC wildlife expert Ward Stone, who declined comment on the
specific situation until he gets a chance to visit the pond
personally, noted that in the abstract it does raise some
worrisome questions: ·I·m concerned in general,
where will people keep things like a small flock of ducks
in the future?· he said. ·Where does the 4-H
kid keep their flock? . . . People are getting farther and
farther from nature, including farming. . . . If it keeps
going this way, people will not have any rights to keep animals.
That·s a heck of a difference in rural Saratoga County
from 30 or 40 years ago.·
Writing to Say I Hate You
week, President George W. Bush received a letter
from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the
first correspondence between American and Iranian
presidents since the 1979 hostage crisis. While
some experts hoped the letter would lead to dialogue
between the two countries, it seems to have inflamed
an already-heated crisis. In the letter Ahmadinejad
lambastes Bush for the war in Iraq and anti-American
sentiment across the globe. Secretary of State
Condoleeza Rice told the Associated Press, ·This
letter is not the place that one would find an
opening to engage on the nuclear issue or anything
of the sort.· However, many still insist
that the United States has missed a opportunity
for dialogue with Iran.
Bits of Terror
to Reuters, Islamic militants have been modifying
popular first-person-shooter video games to use
as recruiting tools. The games are posted on Web
sites where kids can play the games after registering
with the site. The sites that host the games also
contain videos of American soldiers being shot
and clips of televangelists such as Pat Robertson
Forget to Vote
May 2, William Crawford of Castalia, Ohio, was
trying to keep his seat on the central committee
of the Erie County Democratic Party. He would
have done it, too, if his two sons had actually
bothered to vote. But they didn·t, and
the race came down to a tie, with both candidates
receiving 43 votes. The race will now likely be
decided by a coin flip.
A German paper, Bild am Sonntag, asked President
Bush this week for his best and worst moments
as president. His worst moment was 9/11. ·In
such a situation it takes a while before one understands
what is happening,· Bush said. ·I
would say that this was the hardest moment, once
I had the real picture before my eyes.·
The best moment? ·I would say the best
moment of all was when I caught a 7.5-pound perch
in my lake,· he replied.
for Independence honors people and organizations who support
independent living for people with disabilities·including
annual awards breakfast last Thursday (May 4), the Center
for Independence, a nonprofit that supports people with disabilities
in living independently, honored eight individuals and institutions
for work that furthers CFI·s mission.
Kanuk, of Realty USA, was honored with the Barrier Free Housing
Award for being the go-to realtor in the region who goes the
extra mile to both help people with disabilities to find accessible
and affordable housing and qualify for financing to become
America·s Libris Government Operations in Menands received
the Employer of the Year award for a recent sustained effort
to recruit, train and creatively accommodate employees with
disabilities. The effort has been good for business and brought
the company qualified and dedicated staff, said Elizabeth
Ward who accepted the award.
Erlich and Don White each received Ed Roberts Advocacy Awards,
named after the ·father of the independent living movement.·
Erlich is the founder and CEO of Living Resources, an agency
that works with more than 875 people with disabilities. Living
Resources recently started the College Experience Program,
a collaboration with the College of Saint Rose that gives
young people with disabilities the chance to experience life
on a college campus.
an engineer who became paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury
14 years ago and has become an advocate for universal design
accessibility, was honored specifically for his work as founder
of the Upstate Access Network. UAN trains volunteers with
disabilities to investigate and rate the accessibility of
entertainment and recreation venues in upstate New York. These
ratings are listing on UAN·s Web site upstateaccess.org.
MacDonald III, mayor of Cohoes, was given the Public Official
of the Year award for his work improving and streamlining
the process of receiving parking access signs and curb cuts.
Nobis and Mike DiScipio each received a Self Advocacy Award.
Nobis, a participant in Living Resource·s College Experience
Program, has served on the Down Syndrome Aim High board for
more than five years, organized social events for Aim High
and written for its newsletter.
a member of the Albany County Sheriff·s department
who experienced a spinal cord injury in 1999, was honored
for his work promoting stem-cell research, as well as helping
others adapt to living with spinal cord injuries.
Miriam Axel-Lute was given a Special Recognition Award for
her reporting on a recent policy change in Albany County regarding
supplemental needs trusts and Medicaid that would have had
a disastrous effect on the ability for many people with disabilities
to continue living in the community [·Breaking the
Trust,· Jan. 5]. The policy change has since been rescinded
[Loose Ends, Jan 19].
Metroland contributing photo- grapher Teri Currie
died April 15, shortly after receiving a diagnosis
of late-stage stomach cancer. She was 43. Metroland
staffers and contributers past and present have
expressed their shock and sorrow at the untimely
passing of this warm, gentle and gifted artist.
Dec. 19, 1962, in Oneonta, Teresa L. Currie graduated
from Milford Central School, Mohawk Valley Community
College and Russell Sage College. She was a regular
freelance photographer for Metroland from 1990
until her death; she also had been employed for
many years in the advertising art department at
the Times Union. Her artwork (photography and
mixed media) has been exhibited over the years
throughout the Capital Region. Currie also was
an avid runner who frequently participated in
the Freihofer·s Run for Women.
leaves her partner, Maggie Finn; two children,
Chloe and Jane von Linden; and her mother, Sandra
Currie, as well as a sister, brother, grandmother
and nephews and nieces.
remember Teri as compassionate, thoughtful and
observant, and as a fun-loving and devoted mother
who cherished the time she spent with her children.
She was also quite modest, and her artistic achievements
never seemed to inflate her ego. Friend Leah Golby
recalls one time when Currie was grocery shopping
at the Pine Hills Price Chopper: ·And she
must have paid by check or something, and the
cashier recognized her name. She said, ·Are
you Teri Currie, the photographer?· Teri
was quite flattered and also surprised; I don·t
think she thought of herself as being noticed.
After that incident, Teri referred to the cashier
as her ·angel.· ·
As a freelance photographer, Currie was as reliable
as she was talented, often cheerfully taking last-minute
assignments and always expressing her willingness
to take work regardless of whether the subject
matter fit with her personal interests. As several
people who worked with her have observed, her
photographs of people reflected her own gentle
nature. ·I do remember her smile,·
recalls Doreen Walsh, a longtime Metroland production
manager who now lives in New York City. ·It
was filled with warmth. This is reflected back
in the faces of those she photographed. She was
able to capture her subjects so well because they
sensed her warmth, kindness and empathy and were
To all of Teri Currie·s friends and loved
ones, the Metroland family extends its deepest
sympathies. Her work and her spirit will be missed.
about how Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings
to participate in a debate.
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.
April 27, crews from Clough Harbour & Associates,
who were hired by the city of Albany, tore through
pieces of the Pine Bush Preserve with bulldozers.
The crews were doing exploratory work for a proposed
landfill expansion [·The Garbage Burden,·
April 27, 2006]. Trees were damaged, grass was
uprooted, and trails were turned into dirt roads.
The Nature Conservancy insists that the lands
are protected because they have been dedicated
to the preserve. The Nature Conservancy wrote
to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner
Denise Sheehan, Attorney General Elliot Spitzer
and Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, demanding that
further action in the Pine Bush be halted, and
asked for the DEC and the attorney general to
launch an investigation into whether the city
had, in fact, violated the law. The Nature Conservancy
also asked for the damaged Pine Bush to be restored.
The city has claimed the action may have been
premature, but ·not necessarily illegal.·
Common Council member Dominick Calsolaro (Ward
1) has said that he feels ·betrayed by
the city.· In a letter to local newspapers,
Calsolaro said, ·Until the city administration
can prove that they can be trusted and that all
legal and proper protocols will be followed, I
will not support any further action to expand
the landfill in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.·