City Council joins activists in opposition to new natural-gas
the Schenectady City Council passed a symbolic resolution
at a heated meeting on Monday, local activists are hopeful
that area opposition to Duke Energy North America is reaching
a boiling point.
By a 6-to-1 vote, the Schenectady City Council passed a resolution
to officially oppose the building of a natural-gas-fueled
power plant in the Scotia-Glenville Industrial Park.
The council left open the question of whether the city would
be willing to sell millions of gallons of water to, or allow
its sewer system to be used by, Duke Energy. Whether the city
decides to make water or waste disposal available to the company
is viewed by many as a make-or-break decision regarding the
developer’s plans to site a plant in Schenectady.
Councilman Michael Petta said the rest of the council was
waiting to see how deep Duke’s pockets were before making
any drastic decisions. “Quite frankly, I don’t even care,”
said Petta. “But the other ones didn’t seem to want to [act]
until they had more information.”
Petta plans to introduce a resolution against selling water
to the plant, which would make shipping water to cool the
facility difficult and expensive, as early as next week. The
final decision of whether the plant will be sited in Schenectady
is left up to the state Board on Electric Generation and Siting,
a group “stacked with all [Gov. George E.] Pataki appointees,”
Petta said. Opponents fear that the governor’s generally pro-upstate-development
stance will sway the vote.
Controversy over the plan for a 520-megawatt plant has brewed
for about three years. Along with environmental and noise
concerns, local opponents question Duke’s integrity.
The most recent argument against the siting of the energy
facility in Schenectady was supported by a helicopter test
funded by Union College, Schenectady’s Stockade Association
and the Heritage Foundation. According to Beth Petta, a member
of the Stockade Association, Duke claimed that the stacks
of their plant would not be visible from Union College. However,
hovering in a helicopter at the height to which the stacks
would rise, Petta said she could clearly see Union College,
while people standing at the campus’ Nott Memorial could see
her just as well.
going to see these stacks in the landscape,” said Petta, who
is married to Councilman Petta, “and the plume will be heading
right for Union.”
Duke spokeswoman Kate Perez said she was uncertain of where
Duke was in the process of creating photographic models of
what the plant would look like on the site.
might be able to see the stacks from one vantage point,” Perez
said, “and you might not be able to see them from some other
vantage points. Instead of a one-time pop with a helicopter
up at 262 feet, we’ll be able to have some photo renderings
that people can have and share that show what the stacks look
Perez did not comment further on the models’ progress, but
according to Neil Turner, president of the grassroots organization
Citizens Advocating Responsible Development, Duke already
completed such photo renderings in their application.
Opponents also criticize Duke’s environmental record and noted
that the industrial park is being leased by the Galesi Group.
Francesco Galesi, the group’s president, is being investigated
in the collapse of telecommunications giant WorldCom. Galesi,
ranked 205th on Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest
Americans in 1990, dumped roughly 62 percent of his stock
in WorldCom in the half-year preceding their bankruptcy, making
his business deals less than trustworthy, activists said.
Schenectady Councilwoman Cathy Lewis, the lone council member
voting against Monday’s resolution, said she found the Council’s
actions pointless and the helicopter test flawed.
the power plant, I have no decision as a city council member,”
Lewis said. “We only have a decision on selling our water,
and as far as I’m concerned . . . we need to consider the
fact that we as a city need revenue, and we have aging infrastructure
problems for delivering the water to our own residents that
some compensation could help us with.”
According to Lewis, it comes down to people taking responsibility
for the power they use. “At my own house here, [Niagara Mohawk]
has put in new utility poles,” Lewis said. “They’re increasing
the voltage on the line. . . . Most people don’t want to turn
off their computers and refrigerators and televisions and
VCRs and power drawing appliances, and that’s what it comes
down to. So should we be asking somewhere else to be having
the generation capacity?”
Lewis also argued that the plant will have no significant
effect on the community or on the Great Flats Aquifer, the
primary source of drinking water for area residents, which
the plant will rest on.
Beth Petta chalked up the drive to create more power to a
frenzy started by California’s energy crisis last summer,
which was later attributed to price gouging and manipulation
by companies like Enron and, to a lesser extent, Duke.
Turner, whose organization obtained $111,000 in intervener
funding (money the plant’s developers are legally obligated
to provide to community members who want to conduct their
own studies on the plant’s impact), said he is concerned with,
among other things, particulate emissions, which are microscopic
chemicals excreted by combustion. CARD is using some of its
funding to do a study of the area’s unusual meteorology and
wind currents, something he says Duke misjudged.
don’t appreciate that the particulates in the cooling tower
. . . disperse out of the central tower over such a long way,”
Turner said. “They don’t tell you that statistically, for
every 10 microns per square meter, there is a 2-percent rise
The Environmental Protection Agency previously expressed a
need to address particulate emissions, but there is no law
controlling emissions of 10 microns or smaller in size. Turner
said they have been known to cause asthma and respiratory
illnesses. Opponents also expect property values to plummet
if the plant creates an eyesore and erodes historic buildings
in the area.
about low wages, high turnover and low morale, Center for
the Disabled workers petition to unionize
Sandy Gustin’s 30-year-old son Chad first went to the Center
for the Disabled to live, 11 years ago, she had the peace
of mind that all of his needs would be taken care of. But
in the last year, she said, there has been a change in the
quality of care that concerns her.
is not that he is being neglected,” said Gustin. “But with
such a high turnover rate and lack of staffing, many of his
needs are not being met, and I don’t think he is progressing.”
For example, Gustin pointed out that her son, who is autistic,
lives in a house with residents who have greater needs than
he does. As a result, much of the care provider’s attention
is focused on those clients with more pressing needs.
is capable of doing things,” said Gustin. “But he still needs
some one-on-one work so he can progress. It’s difficult for
the staff, who need to first make sure the clients’ basic
needs, like hygiene, are attended, to focus on Chad’s needs,
which may simply be that he gets out once in a while.”
She also said that with such a high employee turnover rate—which
many attribute to low hourly wages—caregivers typically leave
before they have time to build a close relationship with Chad,
and he’s always faced with getting to know someone new.
the time, I am not even informed when someone is leaving or
if someone new has come in,” she added.
Gustin echoed the concerns of many other parents and employees
at the center. Complaints of low wages, high turnover and
lack of respect from the center’s upper management are just
a few of the many reasons why employees of the Albany-based
center would like to unionize. Last Thursday, Sept. 5, at
a rally outside of the National Labor Relations Board in Albany,
union officials from U.N.I.T.E. (Union of Needletrades, Industrial
and Textile Employees) and employees from the center submitted
a petition requesting a formal vote by workers on joining
provide excellent care, but we do it in the face of a lot
of problems management isn’t dealing with,” said William Murphy,
who works at one of the center’s group homes. “Our wages are
so low a lot of us have to work second or third jobs, and
we burn out and leave, so we’re chronically short-staffed.
Organizing with U.N.I.T.E. means we’ll have a strong voice
to address these problems that management can’t or won’t.”
Murphy added that many employees start with wages as low as
$6.50 an hour.
U.N.I.T.E. is a Manhattan-based group that has leather workers
as members in Gloversville and Johnstown, and has represented
health-care workers across the state for at least 16 years.
While the Center for the Disabled would not comment about
its workers wanting to unionize, it did release a written
statement saying that the center is committed to resolving
the problems brought forth by its workers.
Center for the Disabled has always been, and continues to
be concerned about all of its staff members,” the statement
reads. “The Center for the Disabled is conducting all of its
business activities in a lawful manner and will follow the
process set forth by the National Labor Relations Board. During
these days ahead, we want to remind the community that the
mission of the Center for the Disabled . . . will be upheld.”
But many workers are tired of empty promises, and said that
the union would not only provide better working conditions
but also improve the programs and services for the clients.
are so dedicated and loyal to the consumers they make sure
that they don’t suffer,” said Murphy. “But when you are working
in a home that is understaffed, the first thing to go is going
to be recreational activities, like going to the park, the
mall or the movies. These activities are just as important
to their well-being as anything else.”
They Were Saying . . .
rally designed to promote peace and solidarity against terrorism
becomes a shouting match between supporters of Israel and
Demonstrators at pro-Israel rally. Photo
by Joe Putrock
pro-Israel rally Monday in downtown Albany, which was advertised
as a show of solidarity against terrorism, turned into a confrontation
between Israeli supporters and pro-Palestine protestors.
Sponsored by Capital District Friends of Israel, the rally
featured leaders from various local faith communities and
a laundry list of local politicians, including Albany Mayor
Jerry Jennings, U.S. Reps. Michael McNulty (D-Green Island)
and John Sweeney (R-Clifton Park), and New York state Lt.
Gov. Mary Donahue, as speakers.
rally is to pledge support to Israel, the only democracy in
the Middle East,” said Jennings. “The people of Albany stand
up with and support Israel.”
The rally, which had roughly 150 attendees, was designed to
express local opposition to terrorism worldwide, and to the
terrorism experienced in Israel by the Jewish people specifically.
But the rally’s one-sided position on the divisive Israeli-Palestinian
conflict brought out a few dozen pro-peace, pro-Palestine
protestors. The arrival of the protestors quickly led to shouting
matches between the opposing groups and, consequently, police
intervention to deter any potential violence.
is ironic, absurd even, that people think they can stand united
with Israel and against terrorism,” said rally demonstrator
Tom Ellis of Capital District for Justice and Peace. “It is
an oxymoron. It’s ridiculous when you consider the money spent
by the United States to execute Palestinians.”
Though the rally was meant to show a joint effort of Albany
residents and Israelis standing against terrorism, its events
strayed from the goal.
Fueled by a blend of antiterrorism rhetoric inflamed by the
anniversary of Sept. 11, and the reflection on Jewish suffering
brought about by Rosh Hashanah, the rally created a heated
atmosphere in which the two groups exchanged their conflicting
One by one, a group of pro-peace, pro-Palestine demonstrators
filtered into the courtyard behind the Capitol through the
thick security perimeter manned by New York state troopers
on foot, bicycle and horseback. The troopers asked to search
backpacks as the protestors distributed signs from a pile
and unfurled banners. But the pro-Palestine demonstrators
were met with the backs of pro-Israeli demonstrators.
Annette Levi, a pro-Israeli demonstrator, fired questions
at the protestors and yelled rebuttals to their responses.
“I think what they are saying is a bunch of lies,” said Levi.
“There is no occupation. The Israeli army is getting out the
suicide bombers who call themselves militants. They are just
like the militants who committed the attacks of Sept. 11.”
But Yunus Fiske, also with CDJP, said that not all Palestinians
support the suicide bombings. Fiske, who opposes both suicide
bombings and Israeli military aggression, said equating all
Palestinians to the reasoning of suicide bombers is irrational.
Fiske summed up the rally as warmongering.
politicians are here saying we’re against terrorism, and that
is just not the case,” Fiske said. “They say we’re against
terrorism yet we support Israel and human-rights violations
against the Palestinian people. It’s hypocritical to say you
are against terrorism and with Israel.”
As more rally demonstrators made their way to the courtyard,
Pro-Israeli demonstrators strategically positioned themselves
in front of the opposition’s signs, and repositioned themselves
when the peace demonstrators tried to move. Grace White, a
pro-peace demonstrator with CDJP, said the actions of the
pro-Israeli demonstrators were typical.
we have a pro-Palestinian rally, they heckle the speakers,”
White said. “This is a sign of someone who is afraid to hear
what others say. They try to block out the truth, but the
truth will set us free.”
Asked how he felt about representing the City of Albany as
pro-Israel, and therefore against the pro-Palestine demonstrators,
Jennings questioned if the latter were even from Albany.
White had another interpretation of Jennings’ and the other
politicians’ involvement in the day’s events: “He wants the
Jewish vote,” she said. “All the politicians up there, they
all want the vote.”
The police intervened, standing ominously behind any discussion
where voices were raised and making protestors remove the
wooden stakes holding up their placards. Eventually, tensions
between the two groups cooled, the two factions divided on
opposite sides of the Philip Henry Sheridan statue behind
the Capitol, and the audience began to pay more attention
to the rally’s scheduled speakers.
As the rally wound down, the Israeli demonstrators offered
their national flag, pins and newsletters to the pro-Palestine
demonstrators, who, in turn, tried to exchange their literature.
The event ended on a positive note as Fiske and Rabbi Deborah
Gordon of Troy’s Berith Shalom Synagogue talked about bringing
their issues together in a formal setting.
needs to be dialogue,” said Fiske. “If we can’t talk about
this here, it’s not going to be done there.”