Activist Aaron Mair claims that a city plan to “restore”
the scenic Tivoli Lake will actually destroy it.
plans to “restore” the long-neglected Tivoli Lake makes one
Mair stepped over a felled tree and ducked under a branch
that stretched across the overgrown trail in Tivoli Preserve.
This is Mair’s trail. The W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education
Center, Mair’s nonprofit environmental group, funded the trail’s
$1 million construction in 2005, with no assistance from the
city. When it was new, it looped uninterrupted around the
preserve’s lake—two tracks of 4-by-4s set roughly four feet
apart and filled in with stone. Now, there is little left
of the trail. The rock bed has long been scattered. Most of
the 4-by-4s are gone, burned in fires or kicked far off their
original line. ATV joyriders from Colonie did most of the
damage, Mair said, as the city did nothing to stop them from
ripping through the park, leaving deep ruts in the trail.
The rest of the damage, he said, was due to the city letting
nature grow wild.
Tivoli Preserve is situated between I-90 and Livingston Avenue
in Arbor Hill. It is a lush and overgrown 80 acres of forest
and wetlands that surround a quiet, idyllic lake—a startling
respite from the city streets and sidewalks that crowd up
to its edges. Also startling is the state of disrepair the
city has allowed the park to fall into. The city established
the urban nature preserve in 1975, and Mair argued that it
has done very little since to protect the extraordinary environment.
He called it a “perfect metaphor” for how the city treats
Arbor Hill. Compare the disrepair of Tivoli to the careful
care of Washington Park, he said, pointing out that Washington
Park has a staff of more than two dozen maintenance workers
attending to it—Tivoli, which is larger in size, has none.
He walked farther, to the bank of Tivoli Lake, and stood on
a mound of what looked like construction debris, at least
10 feet of brick and rubble that the city dumped there to
build up the eastern bank of the reservoir.
is their idea of ecological sensitivity? This isn’t sound
stewardship. This is damage,” Mair said. “I tell you what,
if this is appropriate erosion control, I dare them to dump
it into Washington Park. The Washington Park Neighborhood
Association would kiss their ass.”
Ward 4 Common Councilwoman Barbara Smith, who represents part
of Arbor Hill, agrees with Mair that the preserve has been
left by the city to ruin. This week she sponsored legislation
supporting a $1.2 million grant application for federal stimulus
funds to “restore Tivoli Lake” and daylight sections of the
Patroon Creek, which winds through the preserve in above-ground
streambeds and underground culverts.
The Patroon begins at the western edge of Albany, coming close
to the Rapp Road Landfill, where it takes on a sickening orange
color, thanks to the dump’s oozing leachate. The creek then
continues through the Pine Bush Preserve and along Central
Avenue and I-90, where it collects a wide variety of contaminants,
including industrial wastes and road salts. Along the way,
it is fed by a creek that runs near the former NL Industries
site. It finally empties into the Hudson River, just north
of the boat launch in Corning Preserve.
The Patroon once was considered the dirtiest creek in New
According to the grant application, there is a chronically
elevated level of coliform bacteria in Patroon Creek, “likely
related to an aging sewage system,” as well as “widespread
contamination of soils and sediments with heavy metals and
persistent organic pollutants.” The goal, the grant states,
is to “daylight” sections of the creek—exposing it to the
sun, which can help break down contaminants—and redirect it
into Tivoli Lake.
Tivoli Lake was fed by Patroon Creek until late 1970s, when
the creek was diverted around the lake. The lake, said Mair,
was loaded with depleted uranium that made its way through
runoff from the NL Industries site into a creek that fed the
Patroon. The lake was dredged in 1984, and restored. But it
wasn’t maintained. Now, the lake is in danger of dying due
to an overgrowth of vegetation that starves it of oxygen.
Evidence of mercury, it is claimed by the city’s grant, also
has been found in the lake.
Mercury, when left in an oxygen-starved environment, the grant
states, will form a “soluble organic compound that is toxic
and that accumulates in fish.”
The grant argues that redirecting the creek back into the
lake, running through the wetlands and vegetative buffer on
its west side, will prove beneficial to both bodies of water.
The water from the Patroon will be introduced to the critical
process of biofiltering, where the contaminants in the stream
can be modified by “combinations of physical and biological
processes.” Redirecting the creek also will ease the frequent
flooding upstream that erodes the bank and threatens to damage
sewer lines and roadways. And the lake will be fed a constant
supply of water, supplying it with much-needed oxygen.
The grant proposal, said Smith, was the product of thorough
research by state and national agencies, as well as scientists
from the University at Albany. However, it was already days
late on its deadline when the city presented it to Smith—a
common occurrence, she complained. She proposed her resolution
of support—a necessity for such a grant—with little time for
the council to debate its merits, yet the council moved to
pass nearly unanimously. Ward 3 Councilman Corey Ellis voted
a neutral “present.”
Passing that resolution was a mistake, Mair argued. Although
Smith has assured that the lake will be protected from any
further pollution by “a number of layers of oversight,” from
the Common Council to the state, he said that he sees it as
the worst possible plan for the lake.
makes no sense to take Superfund equivalent contamination,
divert it to a clean water body that people utilize and eat
fish from,” Mair said. If saving the lake was really the goal
of the city, there are cheaper and safer ways, including simply
dredging out the vegetation, like they do at Lake George,
or installing an aerator similar to the one in Washington
are they offering extreme solutions when there are already
proven technologies that will get the effect done?” Mair asked.
Because it is not about maintaining Tivoli, he said.
Mair argued that instead of being restored, Tivoli will be
turned into “a sediment pond . . . a big toilet bowl” where
the contamination from the Patroon can be filtered out and
remain, thus cleaning the creek before it dumps its water
into the Hudson River. “This is just a shortsighted project
that will only benefit suburbanites who are coming to party
at Alive at Five.”
Mair has received support for his arguments from many in the
scientific community, among them Ward Stone and Jay Bloomfield,
both with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Bloomfield reached out to Mair after reading about the grant
application in the Times Union, letting him know that
he, too, opposed rerouting the Patroon back into the Tivoli.
Stone told Metroland he believes that the Tivoli ought
to remain segregated from the contaminated Patroon. He said
that he would ideally like to see the Tivoli tested for pollutants,
restored if necessary, and then stocked with fish and maintained.
That way, he said, the residents of the communities surrounding
it would have a safe place to eat fish from.
is this community being forced to take that burden?” Mair
asked. “You do nothing for the community already. Here is
a safe place that the people use, and you are going to destroy
mayoral campaign blogs have new home on Metroland’s
This week, Metroland began hosting blogs on its site
for four of the candidates running in Albany’s mayoral election.
Democratic candidates Albany Common Council President Shawn
Morris, Common Councilman Corey Ellis, and incumbent Jerry
Jennings, along with Republican candidate Nathan Lebron, will
be able to use these forums freely to discuss their campaigns
and their visions for the future of the city.
reached out to the candidates last month after Ellis announced
he would be postponing use of his blog on the Times Union
Web site in reaction to the paper’s parent company, Hearst
Corp., failing to renegotiate its contract with union employees.
Ellis, who began blogging on Times Union’s Web site
in April, announced on May 15 that that he was going on a
support of the Times Union employees,” the freshman councilman
wrote, “I will be suspending my blogging on the Times Union
site until the existing union contract issues are resolved.”
Soon after, Morris announced that she too would cease her
blogging, stating that she would not cross the “virtual picket
line.” Jennings, who also writes a blog on the TU site,
hasn’t announced his stance on the paper’s union battles,
yet he hasn’t written a post since May 13.
All four candidates, either personally or through their campaigns,
told Metroland that they are happy to have this opportunity
to blog. In Lebron’s case, the Metroland blog is his
first political blog, he said, in his entry posted on June
the coming months,” he wrote, “I will be talking about backyard,
front stoop, and store front issues that are driving decent
people out of our city. The core issues will be crime, schools,
You can read the rest of his post at nathanlebron.metroland.net,
and you can find the other candidates’ blogs by visiting metroland.net.
loose ends this week-