for action: Marriage-equality supporters demonstrate
at the Capitol.
a hopeful week, it’s back to the waiting game for marriage-equality
night, marriage-equality supporters gathered on the steps
of the State Capitol for a candlelight vigil—one of many such
demonstrations being held around the state on the eve of the
anticipated “Day of Decision.” After being stalled in the
Senate Judiciary Committee for months, the Marriage Equality
Bill (S. 4401) was finally on the agenda for the special legislative
session being held the next morning. Supporters bearing candles
and banners cheered the evening’s hopeful messages, and chanted
rallying cries of “What do we want? Marriage Equality! When
do we want it? Tomorrow!”
The bill, which would legalize same-sex marriage as a civil
institution in New York state, passed in the Assembly this
May with a bipartisan vote of 84 to 61 and has the support
of Gov. David Paterson, who last week issued a proclamation
calling for an extraordinary session of Legislature.
Marriage-equality advocates, who contributed more than $1
million in 2008 to help state Democrats take the Senate majority,
have mounted an all-out lobbying effort in recent months,
which culminated in this week’s actions at the Capitol.
Despite their efforts, tempers flared outside the Senate chamber
as Tuesday’s session wore on with no sign of action on the
bill. Senators hustled through throngs of demonstrators from
around the state, whose cries of “We deserve a vote!” appeared
to fall on deaf ears.
Citing weakened support for the legislation, Senate leaders
and bill supporters again elected to table the bill. Thirty-two
votes are needed to pass the legislation, and the bill does
not have the blanket support of the slim, 32-member Democratic
Support for the legislation has declined since Maine’s same-sex
marriage law was repealed by referendum on Nov. 3. With only
20 to 25 yes votes currently estimated from Senate Democrats,
proponents of the legislation doubt there are enough Republican
votes to make up the necessary difference.
Insiders speculate that some Republicans are using their votes
on the issue to gain desired budgetary concessions by Democratic
opponents, and anticipate that support for the bill will shift
after fiscal debates are resolved in the Senate.
Meanwhile, marriage-equality supporters remain frustrated
by the continued inaction. In an official statement from the
New York Civil Liberties Union, executive director Donna Lieberman
declared: “The senators missed an opportunity to make history
and embrace fairness for all New York families. Marriage is
a defining civil rights issue of our day . . . and the time
for our senators to stop the political maneuvering and lay
their cards on the table is long overdue.”
In a statement made Monday before the special session, Empire
State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle insisted
that marriage equality “should not be a partisan matter. It
should be a vote of conscience that occurs as soon as possible.”
However, the bill’s original author, Sen. Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan),
has advocated holding off on the vote until supporters can
be confident of a win and not just a symbolic victory.
Following Tuesday’s setback, representatives from the Pride
Agenda were unavailable for comment.
At a press conference Tuesday evening, Paterson stated that
he would again put the bill on the agenda for the additional
special sessions he has called for next week. He added, significantly,
that “marriage equality will be debated on the floor of the
New York State Senate at a date not certain, between now and
the end of the year.”
Following negotiations with the Senate’s top leaders, Paterson
said, a commitment had been reached to bring it to vote before
year’s end, and that “they will stand behind this commitment.”
Paterson’s statement is far from satisifying for Ron Zacchi,
executive director of Marriage Equality New York, which was
a significant force in organizing the week’s demonstrations.
“The Senate has failed New Yorkers again,” he said. “Giving
us a timeline was a very nice gesture, but what’s to hold
them to that timeline?”
Zacchi encouraged marriage-equality supporters to reach out
to their senators and Senate leadership to demand a vote.
Marriage Equality New York is planning further demonstrations
at the Capitol during next week’s extroidinary session.
legislation has been pending for over five years,” said Zacchi.
“We shouldn’t have to wait another day.”
Come Bearing Garbage
Management seeks to accept household trash at its South End
Thursday, May 5, a small group of South End residents turned
out for an informational public meeting to address a request
before the state Department of Conservation that could result
in tons of raw garbage getting trucked daily into their community.
Waste Management, the largest garbage hauler in the United
States, currently has a request before the DEC to modify the
permit for its Church Street station, which, if approved,
would allow the hauler to accept municipal solid waste (MSW),
essentially household trash. Since the South End is in a DEC
Environmental Justice Area, WM was required to hold this meeting
in order to complete its application process with the state.
Though the group of residents was small, they were vocal,
well-informed, and aggressive. Also present were Ward 1 Councilman
Dominick Calsolaro and Ward 2 Councilwoman Carolyn McLaughlin.
WM currently hauls 250 tons of dry waste, construction debris
and such, into its South End transfer station daily. There,
the waste is processed and shipped out to a range of sites,
including local landfills as well as WM landfills. The company
also trucks waste to the Wheelabrator incinerator in Hudson
Falls, which WM owns.
According to WM’s current permit with the DEC, the company
is allowed to process 749 tons of waste at its South End transfer
station daily—only 300 tons less than the Rapp Road landfill
is permitted to accept. Although the company could take in
nearly 500 tons more dry waste a day at its facility, its
executives claim that they will be processing upwards of only
100 tons of MSW.
The first time the company sought to modify its permit with
the DEC to accept MSW was a decade ago, only two years after
opening the transfer station, said Calsolaro. They again attempted
to modify the permit a few years ago, and again, most recently,
in May of this year. In May, Albany’s Board of Zoning Appeals,
which must grant the company a special-use permit to allow
for the alteration, denied the company’s request. That same
month, the DEC fined the company for receiving three truckloads
of putrecible waste—household garbage.
As Calsolaro pointed out at the Thursday meeting: “That is
the stuff that is diseased, and has bacteria living in it.”
Calsolaro read from the citation: “‘Strong garbage smell;
several gallons of brown liquid poured from the collection
were already taking in municipal solid waste at this facility,
in violation of the DEC permit, in violation of the zoning
of the city of Albany,” he continued. “And now they are coming
back to us and saying they want to make this legal, so that
they can keep doing it?”
At the meeting, WM’s director of operations for New York state,
Jack Conner, said that the company has since corrected its
inspection process for the independent haulers bringing waste
into transfer station. “We operate on a certain level of trust,”
Conner said. “We are relying on the people that are disposing
of their product to do what they are supposed to do.”
He explained that the request to modify the permit to accept
MSW is economically driven. The company has lost roughly 60
employees in the area in the past few years. Accepting MSW
at its South End station would enable its trucks, which collect
roughly three loads a day and process them at the area’s two
landfills, to pick up a final load and dump it at the station
as they return for the evening.
speaking, our competitors have transfer stations that are
allowed to take in all kinds of waste, MSW,” said Conner.
“Competitively speaking, we are at a disadvantage. At the
end of the day, the efficiencies we gain, from a cost standpoint,
bringing it back and to transfer it to our own facilities
. . . puts us back competitively.” WM claimed that the company
currently employs 75 people in the Capital Region. “At the
rate we are going, we don’t know how much longer we can be
here. We are trying to stay competitive.”
are the world’s biggest garbage company,” countered Jim Travers,
an activist who doesn’t live in Albany. “When you say you
want to stay competitive, that’s kind of laughable. You want
to maximize your profits in these times, and that’s understandable.
But you want to bring garbage into this community. You can’t
eliminate odor. You can’t stop vermin from coming into the
facility. It will be endless.”
Indeed, many of the community members already complain about
the odor coming from the station, and they worry that trucks
hauling in garbage will add to the odor problem and will increase
the number of pests.
WM officials, however, argued that they will adhere to the
strictest sanitation policies. “It is a constant process to
ensure that that is not a problem,” said Jay Kaplin, the company’s
regional environmental director. He pointed out that WM has
an exterminator under contract, and that the garbage will
be processed within an enclosed facility.
The members of the community also voiced their concerns about
increased traffic, which the company claimed will not be an
issue. They claimed that their trucks will use only I-787
to access the site and will never enter residential areas.
Calsolaro discarded that claim, pointing out that WM will
be collecting trash in Delmar and Bethlehem. “It is going
to depend on what neighborhood you are coming from. You are
bringing garbage, not from the city of Albany, you are bringing
garbage from Bethlehem, East Greenbush, Guilderland, Rensselaer
and coming into the city of Albany with your garbage and dumping
it on the residents of the South End.”
At the meeting, Ron Benson, a vice president with County Waste,
a chief competitor of WM, made the threat that if WM succeeds
in modifying its permit to accept MSW, his company will seek
the same variance for its South Pearl station. “What the heck?”
said Benson. “It might as well all be in that corner, so expect
to be back here with us.”
will,” Calsolaro said. “Everybody dumps on the South End and
the poor people.”
On Monday night, WM went before the Albany zoning board to
reapply for the special-use permit that must be granted in
conjunction with DEC’s approval. Although the board tabled
the request, it did agree to be the lead agency on the company’s
State Environmental Quality Review application, meaning that
the zoning board will determine the extent of that crucial
The Thursday meeting can be watched in its entirety at albanycommunity
loose ends this week-