Greenbush politicians say to free state money: “No thanks”
A perfect example of the politics in North Greenbush: The
acceptance of a $36,000 grant is in danger of being voted
down by the Town Board, and no one seems to be able to explain
In 2006, the town applied for a grant from the New York State
Brownfield Areas Opportunity Program, which it was awarded
this year. The BOA would explore possible contamination along
Main Avenue in Wynantskill—a quaint stretch of road in need
of a little attention—possible remediation, and revitalization
strategies for the corridor.
see Wynantskill as a diamond,” said Councilman Alan Michaels.
“It has strong potential to be absolutely charming. It has
walkways. It has close shops, restaurants, park areas, and
even a waterway parallel to Main Avenue. If we could come
up with some sort of plan to further development, it could
look more like a village center, and that is what I am looking
Michaels, a lawyer for the Department of Conservation, was
excited when the town won the BOA and saw it as an opportunity
to show the state that North Greenbush is serious about its
revitalization plans. Win a grant, use it wisely, and then
apply for more—a common strategy for attracting those large
are all sorts of grants of $400,000,” he said, “that I think
we could land. It’s free money. A win-win.”
At first, it appeared that town Supervisor Mark Evers was
on board with the grant. He was supervisor back in 2006, after
all, and signed the legislation that allowed the town to move
forward with the initial application. But at the last Town
Board meeting, Evers struck a decidedly different tone.
Evers, along with Councilman Ernest Kern, expressed their
concern that if the town accepted the state money, and if
the state found contamination in the soil under Main Avenue,
that the businesses along that stretch could be negatively
affected, even shut down, and people along the road could
be thrown out of their homes.
It was a grim possibly, Evers said, that must be considered.
Kern wondered why they should vote for something that could
put senior citizens at risk of losing their homes, and said
that there was no way he would vote to accept the grant.
contamination would have to rise to the level of the Love
Canal,” Michaels said. “The Department of Health would have
to declare that there was an immediate risk to human health
or safety. That seems unlikely, considering that the potential
brownfield sites along Main Avenue are essentially two auto
garages and a former dry cleaner.
But if it is that bad, Michaels argued, if we are sitting
on the Love Canal, then wouldn’t you want to know? Contamination
to the point where people need to be vacated from their homes
is extremely serious business. That’s why you rarely hear
of it happening. If the ground under Main Avenue is that toxic,
isn’t that something you want to remedy?
And here is where the logic in the debate appeared to get
a little twisted. Evers said that he wasn’t worried about
a threat to human life presented by any contamination on Main
Avenue. He said he was certain that any contamination there
didn’t rise to the level of a serious health threat. But then
he said it is possible it could be that bad, and that the
board ought to be concerned with what the government would
if it did find serious contamination. People might be moved
out of their homes. Businesses shut down.
But, of course, Evers assured, it isn’t that serious.
Michaels looked baffled, and tried again. The argument could
have gone on all night.
Later, Michaels said that he had reached out to Evers multiple
times, through phone calls and an e-mail, for days before
the meeting. He wanted to answer any of Evers’ questions about
the BOA, to assuage any concerns Evers might have had. He
said that he was happy to discuss Evers’ questions, but never
heard back from the supervisor. The first he became aware
that Evers might challenge the grant, he said, was the night
before the board meeting, when he received a copy of the agenda.
don’t have anything to hide,” Michaels said. He has been the
champion of this grant since the beginning, and it could be
seen as a political victory for him.
that I opened myself up to answer all of his questions,” he
said, “I can only think that this is a political attack. I
don’t know what else it could be.”
Evers did not respond to a request for interview.
some of the lowest approval ratings of his career—some
of the lowest approval ratings ever received by
a president (since such polls were first conducted)—President
George W. Bush tried to redirect the blame to
his foes in Congress. Bush de flected public resentment
over rising gas prices and the faltering economy
to the Democratic- controlled Congress, saying,
“One of the main reasons for high gas prices is
that global oil production is not keeping up with
growing demand. Members of Congress have been
vocal about foreign governments increasing their
oil production, yet Congress has been just as
vocal in opposition to efforts to expand our production
here at home.” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) responded
by saying that Bush “has closed his eyes and put
his hands over his ears as these crises have grown.”
last week, the three New York City Police Department
detectives charged in the shooting of Sean Bell
were found not guilty. Bell was killed on the
morning of his wedding day while trying to leave
his bachelor party at a Queens strip club, when
officers fired at him and other members of his
party 50 times. Bell was unarmed. “I’m still praying
for justice because it’s not over,” said Bell’s
fiancé, Nicole Paultre Bell, as she left court.
Rev. Al Sharpton declared that he would “shut
the city down,” over the verdict. Michael Oliver,
the detective who fired 31 shots of the 50 fired,
wept at the defense table as the verdict was read.
York City has become the world leader in marijuana
arrests, according to a group of civil-rights
activists. According to the activists, over the
past decade, the NYPD arrested more than 400,000
people for carrying small amounts of marijuana.
Queens College sociologist Harry G. Levine released
a study called “Marijuana Arrest Crusade” that
demonstrates what he calls a racial bias in the
enforcement of the law. According to Levine, the
data he was provided by the state Division of
Criminal Justice Services showed that between
1997 and 2007, 52 percent of the suspects were
black and 31 percent Hispanic. Only 15 percent
arrested were white.
Tonko joins the race for the open congressional seat in the
21st district—or does he?
The Democratic race for the 21st congressional district seat
being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep Mike McNulty, sure to be
the most heated local political contest of the fall, has gotten
off to a clunky start. The primary race, which already features
more than seven Democrats, got more crowded this week.
Or did it?
Former Assemblyman Paul Tonko, the man who many assumed would
be the front-runner in the race when he joined, seemingly
took the first steps to enter the crowded field, which already
features Albany County Legislator Phil Steck, former Hillary
Clinton aide Tracey Brooks, former Kirsten Gillibrand aide
Darius Shahinfar, attorney John Aretakis, Albany city employee
Lester Freeman, New York Pharmacists Society executive Craig
Burridge and real-estate agent Arthur Welser. Tonko resigned
from his post as president and CEO of the New York State Energy
Research and Development Authority last week, thereby allowing
himself to campaign for the seat (federal ethics law prohibits
employees of federally funded agencies from running for public
Tonko also submitted to an interview by the Albany County
Democratic Committee, along with a number of other candidates,
as a part of the committee’s endorsement process. According
to the Times Union, Tonko received nine votes via secret
ballot during the process. Brooks received two votes and Steck
received 10, seemingly throwing Tonko’s assumed front-runner
status into question.
But then again, Tonko has yet to officially join the race.
After resigning from NYSERDA, Tonko initially denied he was
planning to run in the 21st. Later, Tonko publicly stated
he would have an announcement in the coming weeks. Reports
say that Tonko is telling insiders one thing and the public
good that there is so much interest in public service, and
I’m proud to compete,” Tonko told Capital News 9 this week,
without answering directly whether or not he will run. Tonko
further explained that he delayed his resignation until the
state budget process was completed.
Some wonder whether Tonko may have damaged his front-runner
status—if he does enter the race—by entering late and in such
a disjointed fashion.
While the race is crowded, observers point to Steck as the
candidate currently with the edge. Steck has taken the lead
in fund-raising, was the first to announce, and has a large
base of more than 40 Albany County politicians who have endorsed
him. Brooks has garnered support from political heavyweights
such as Rep. McNulty’s father, Jack McNulty, as well as Albany
Mayor Jerry Jennings and Green Island Mayor Ellen McNulty-Ryan.
It is assumed that the popularity Tonko garnered during his
time as an assemblyman would give him an edge in fund-raising
and name recognition, but it has yet to be seen.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Committee will announce its endorsement
on May 21. Some observers wonder whether the committee will
endorse at all, as it abstained from endorsing in the District
Attorney’s race between former District Attorney Paul Clyne
and current District Attorney David Soares.
Monday, Gov. David Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno,
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, and RPI President Shirley Jackson
gathered at the riverfront in Troy to announce a research
facility that will “launch new scientific educational and
research initiatives, help preserve the Hudson River, and
improve public access to the waterfront.” It’s a bit of a
mystery why Jennings showed up, but Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian—sporting
his spikey new hairdo—was allowed to tag along for the announcement.
loose ends this week-