Malta and Stillwater are nearing two years of considering
chip fabs in Luther Forest, and the decision is still up in
list of concerns sounds quite familiar to residents who’ve
been fighting for or against the Luther Forest Tech Park:
“traffic, pollution, density, long-term development.” [“If
You Build It, What Will Come?,” Newsfront, Oct. 23] But for
Greg Connors, who was elected supervisor for the town of Stillwater
in November, the questions will be open until they are answered.
“There haven’t been any solutions proposed that have been
definitive, that I’m willing to hang my hat on, yet,” he said
this week, though he added, “I’m sure those solutions will
Stillwater would host 20 percent of the development proposed
by the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation; the rest
would be in Malta. Stillwater’s planning board is currently
considering the plan, and once it makes a recommendation,
the town board will schedule hearings and workshops, said
Connors. In December, Malta’s planning board gave the plan
a qualified approval, and the town board is now working on
David Meager, Malta supervisor, doesn’t consider his town’s
decision made yet either. “We still consider ourselves to
be in the fact-finding mode,” he insisted, noting that four
of five board members would have to vote for the rezoning
in order for it to pass. “This has been the greatest challenge
of my career, and I’ve been here 33 years,” he said.
As long as government officials are still talking like this,
the members of Citizens for Responsible Growth, a group formed
to oppose the tech park, hold out hope. “They are being very
careful, because they do realize the impact it’s going to
have,” said CRG member Linda Cepiel.
CRG has been active this month. On Feb. 2, the group put out
a press release questioning the ethics of Malta town officials
for accepting an expenses-paid trip from SEDC to Arizona to
tour a chip-fab plant. “It’s a matter of fairness,” said Cepiel.
“If the taxpayers opposing the park could afford to send town
officials to different locations across the country that hosted
tech parks and it didn’t go as well, we would.” She said the
ethics charge “wasn’t personal” and that town officials “thought
they were doing the right thing,” but repeated that due diligence
also means looking “at the bad side.”
Carefully neutral, Meager responded that on their trip, town
officials made a point of going on their own to city hall,
without SEDC representatives, where they quizzed “a high-level
person” about “everything,” from who built the roads to whether
the town is happy with its decision. He also noted that the
town has received, shared, and questioned SEDC about plenty
of negative scenarios. “No one’s been shy about giving us
information,” he said.
CRG’s most recent effort on the information front was an open
forum on Feb. 12, featuring Professor Gary Kleppel from the
University at Albany and Frank Mauro of the Fiscal Policy
Institute. The forum, titled High Tech Development and Your
Future, drew 50 people, including a few officials from both
While town board members struggle with their decision, opponents
of the factory are also struggling with their message, trying
to combine a regional smart-growth philosophy with their own
distaste for the idea of living next to an industrial site,
two genuine concerns that don’t always mesh neatly. “To put
a factory in the midst of a residential area is ridiculous,”
Cepiel said firmly. But in the next breath she advocated instead
reusing sites in “Troy or Schenectady.” Aren’t those areas
more densely residential than Malta? Well, said Cepiel, who
lives on an unpaved road out of sight of her nearest neighbors,
“When people buy there they know they are moving into industrial
area. When I bought here I didn’t know I would be raising
my children next to a factory.”
Axel-Lute can be reached at email@example.com
or 463-2500 ext. 141.
(War) Tax Dollars at Work
Corporations profiting from reconstruction efforts in Iraq
may be closer to home than you thought
and Bechtel may be the first corporations that come to mind
when you think of companies that are making millions in reconstruction
contracts in Iraq, but add to that list the Computer Sciences
Corporation, an international information technology company,
which has an office based here in Menands. In 2003, CSC merged
with private military contractor DynCorp, and was awarded
a $50 million contract from the U.S. Department of State to
provide up to 1,000 civilian advisers to help organize civilian
law enforcement, judicial and correctional agencies in Iraq.
The company recruits active-duty or retired American police
officers to help establish police stations in Iraq. According
to its Web site, DynCorp demonstrates police practices and
techniques used by “democratic societies,” such as criminal
investigation methods, to local police.
The United for Peace and Justice organization, a coalition
of U.S. groups that formed in 2002 to coordinate efforts against
the war in Iraq, called for a national day of action against
the “corporate invasion of Iraq” on Tues. Feb 24. It asked
for local demonstrations at business sites that profit from
the war in Iraq. Its goals include supporting Iraqi worker
rights and creating a government commission to oversee the
Activist Colin Hughes brought the Capital Region into the
campaign by holding a small protest in front of the Menands
CSC. Hughes is not involved in any specific organization,
but he saw a “call for action” on the UFPJ Web site and decided
to jump on. This is the first protest he has organized.
Hughes and a small group of friends assembled in front of
the building CSC shares with other businesses on North Pearl
Street, with signs that read, “CSC DynCorp—doing the government’s
dirty work,” and a cake and banner that read, “Congratulations
on your $50 million contract.” The group leafletted passing
workers. “The money these companies charge is left up to business
ethics, which is something we’re lacking in this country,”
The protests took place in more than 20 cities in the United
States and in London. Their main targets were Bechtel and
Halliburton, which both face criticism of their work in Iraq.
Halliburton, a Houston-based energy company, is being criminally
investigated by the Pentagon for overcharging the United States
$61 million for fuel exports to Iraq, and it recently paid
back $27.4 million in overcharges to the Pentagon for food
never served to U.S. troops. Bechtel won an award for $3 billion
to rebuild Iraq’s roads, hospitals, schools, electricity supply
and water systems; the Pentagon has called its work “horrible.”
After 20 minutes of protest, the group was told to move to
the parking lot by a police officer called by the building’s
office manager. Many workers passing by on their breaks seemed
curious about the message the group was promoting. Some asked
if they were workers on strike. It was obvious most were unaware
of the company’s ties to war-reconstruction efforts. “They
hear about Halliburton and Bechtel, but a lot of people don’t
really know about CSC,” said Hughes.
It was news to a contractor who worked for another company
in the building named Safiulla, but he didn’t think the company
was in the wrong. “These companies are just taking the opportunities
the government is giving them so I don’t blame them,” he said.
“I hold the government responsible for providing the opportunity.”
CSC worker Carmen Carociolo said he didn’t know his employer
was involved in Iraq. “I wasn’t aware of any of it. I took
a job; I should do the research, which I’m going to do now
that this has been brought to my attention,” he said.
for a good cause: HAC Sleep-a-thon volunteers.
Its Cold Outside
Volunteers raise money for homeless, all through the night
and members of the Homeless Action Committee lined the streets
surrounding the small triangular island dubbed Townsend Park
in downtown Albany last Friday night (Feb. 20), armed with
signs declaring that “every homeless person is somebody’s
mother, father, sister . . . ” They beseeched passing cars
to “honk for the homeless.” The 11th Annual Sleep-a-thon fund-raiser
drew slightly more than 100 Albany citizens, who gathered
pledges of donations to HAC based on how long they slept out,
in shifts of an hour.
Earlier in the evening, amid the honking and cheering, supporters
darted in and out of traffic, collecting money from cars stopped
at red lights. A neighborhood boy brought out his dog Droopy
to liven up spirits, but spirits were already high. Impressive
levels of attendance and enthusiasm seemed to make participants
less troubled by the cold—and it was cold enough that one’s
breath came out in a swirly white fog. Despite this, the event’s
programmers were quite content with the weather on this “great
evening.” The cold also allowed for further understanding
on the part of the participants as to the seriousness of homelessness.
has] been a savior to me,” Bobby B., one of the night’s featured
speakers, announced to a crowd made up of HAC members, Albany
Common Council members, and students from all over the Capital
Region. Struggling for the right words to communicate his
gratitude with his audience, he merely repeated again, “a
Bobby was a homeless man living in downtown Albany until HAC
provided him with a room in its single-room occupancy building.
Having at one point resigned himself to a life of total intoxication
and eating out of trash cans, Bobby repeatedly acknowledged
that HAC had been a “—send” (He paused carefully before the
word “send” each time, to avoid stepping on any religious
toes). The Annual HAC Sleep-a-thon raises money to ensure
the continuation of HAC’s programs, as well as awareness regarding
the harsh realities of living on the street.
HAC’s main focus is assisting chronic alcoholics, those left
to the wayside by much of society. HAC attempts to improve
the quality of their lives by providing them with shelter,
food, and an ear to listen. Often, as with Bobby, this is
enough to give their lives new meaning. “It’s amazing what
people can do when their basic needs are met,” HAC director
Donna DeMaria said.
Simply offering compassion and putting a roof over the heads
of these men, HAC spokesman Sean Moran continued, often encourages
“people [to] start to make changes on their own,” from exhibiting
more responsible behaviors to maintaining sobriety for extended
periods of time. Bobby, for one, was proud to announce his
long abstinence from drinking. Bobby was also thankful for
maintaining a permanent address, with which he was able to
track down relatives whom he could not keep in touch with
while living on the streets.
Yet the committee’s tolerance for continued drinking and lack
of any mandatory rehab programs affects the group’s funding.
HAC receives little government money because it refuses to
alter this policy, and so is forced to turn to the community
for assistance with events such as the Sleep-a-thon. The community
responded: Already $12,500 has been raised by the 100 people
participating in the event (and more pledges are still being
collected), allowing for the continuation of services such
as the HAC Outreach Van and HAC’s SRO housing.
Remarkably, “when times are tough economically,” HAC’s Sean
Moran explained, “is when individuals are more generous; the
less they have, the more they give.”
Apparently, the same is true of time as well. Approximately
a dozen Albany citizens spent the entire night on the cold
street. Trying to create warmth by rubbing her hands together,
participant Tara Vaccaro noted, “people live out in the cold
every night; now we can sympathize, but it’s still unacceptable.
I’m glad we can do something to help.”
on the bottles: Patches supports increased deposits.
Photo: John Whipple
Nickel for Your Water Bottle?
Legislators and environmentalists renew their push to expand
wasn’t tapped for any official polling, but consider his voice
counted: Patches is all for expanding the state’s returnable-containers
love it. Look at all these bottles lying around,” Patches
said, pointing to an empty Aquafina bottle lodged in a dirty
snowbank in the Delaware Avenue Price Chopper parking lot.
“Look at that one in that barrel. It’s water; five cents,
right there. You could go all around this parking lot and
find water bottles.”
Currently, New York state’s returnable-containers law requires
that consumers pay a five-cent deposit on only beer, soda
and wine-cooler containers. But state legislators and advocates
for the environment have for years been pushing legislation
that would expand that law to include sports drinks, juices,
teas and other beverage containers.
Patches, a 63-year-old who lives in government-subsidized
housing in Albany, said he regularly pushes aside empty tea
and water bottles during his daily troll through the city’s
dumpsters and garbage cans seeking nickelworthy containers.
Patches said he rakes in about $70 on a good week, and estimates
he’d collect another $30 or $40 should the law expand.
According to a study recently released by four environmental
lobby groups, Patches isn’t alone in his support for expanding
the state’s returnable-containers law. Approximately 70 percent
of 800 registered voters polled expressed support for an expansion
of the returnable-containers law to include noncarbonated
of a person’s race, income level, age, gender, where they
live, or their political affiliations, there is very strong
support for the existing bottle law as well as the expansion,”
said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate with the
New York Public Interest Research Group.
As currently written, bills introduced in both houses of the
state Legislature would place nickel deposits on all beverage
containers (excluding milk, infant formula, wines and spirits)
of one gallon or less. Another aspect of the proposed bottle-bill
legislation would allow the state to collect the unclaimed
deposits, which would add an estimated $179 million annually
to the state’s coffers. Beverage distributors, wholesalers
and retail stores currently share unclaimed deposits.
Thomas DiNapoli (D-Nassau), who is sponsoring bottle-bill
legislation in the Assembly, wants the unclaimed deposit money
earmarked for environmental initiatives statewide. The state
is facing a $5 billion budget deficit.
makes more sense for those unclaimed nickels to end up back
in the public domain devoted to enhancing recycling and environmental
programs across the state, ” DiNapoli said.
Michael Vacek, president of the New York State Beer Wholesalers
Association, Inc., opposes DiNapoli’s legislation because
it would take away the funding that beverage distributors
currently use to pay for the transportation of returned containers.
Further, Vacek said, the legislation would broaden the scope
of containers his clients would be responsible for transporting
to recycling centers.
about all those different package configurations, styles,
types and sizes, and think about the nightmare it would be
to be able to accommodate taking all that stuff back,” Vacek
James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience
Stores, which represents 1,800 stores statewide, is also opposed
to expanding the bottle law.
primary concern is that as small retailers, we don’t have
a whole lot of space to store all of these bottles and cans,”
Calvin said. “Everyone wants to make sure that beverage containers
don’t up on our roadsides . . . but there already is a system
in place for recycling those containers—it’s municipal recycling.”
But Haight and DiNapoli both state that municipal recycling
programs have come up underfunded of late, most notablly in
New York City. Looking to conserve funds, Republican Mayor
Michael Bloomberg axed the city’s curbside recycling program
for glass and plastic in 2002. (It will be fully reinstated
later this year.) Should the state begin collecting the unclaimed
deposits, the money could be directed to municipalities struggling
to maintain their existing recycling programs, said Haight
DiNapoli was cautious when discussing whether the bottle bill
would pass this session. He said he believes that Assembly
Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-NYC) supports the legislation, but
he is sure that Sen. Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Troy) does
not. This has not deterred Haight and other environmental
advocates, who are lobbying legislators weekly about the bottle
the overwhelming public support for this proposal, despite
the overwhelming body of evidence that shows that [expanding
the returnable containers law] will be good for the environment,
it’s still an uphill battle in the Legislature,” Haight said.
Durfee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 463-2500 ext. 144.
BASF site awaits remediation, and many in Rensselaer let
DEC know they want to see it come clean
Mancini can’t take his eyes off of the Hudson; it’s essentially
his front yard. He watches all of its action from his Victorian
home a few doors down from Fort Crailo, built in the 1640s
and the location where the lyrics to Yankee Doodle were born.
He also is a few blocks upriver from the old BASF property,
home to three state Superfund sites getting a lot of attention
lately, and which he and his neighbors want cleaned up.
Mancini, president of the Fort Crailo Neighborhood Association,
remembers the neighborhood feeling as though a huge weight
was lifted off of it when BASF closed its doors. “It was like
this is the break that the city has needed, and this is the
kind of life we really want around here,” he said. “We’ve
struggled to make our case that this cleanup is of the utmost
importance. We envision better things, as soon as possible.”
city really needs this to happen,” Mancini said. “New York
State is at this crossroads with environmental issues and
cleanups and it’s like the whole country is watching what
we’re doing.” Moreover he agrees that BASF should be held
responsible for the site’s pollution. “It’s vacant land and
the opportunity has to be now,” he said. “People here today
are concerned about the problem today.”
Yesterday [Wednesday], the Coalition Against Riverfront Pollution
and Fort Crailo Neighborhood Association delivered a letter
to Erin Crotty, commissioner of the Department of Environmental
Conservation, criticizing the agency’s chosen cleanup levels
for two of the sites and urging for a stricter cleanup of
the entire BASF property. During the lunch hour, CARP representatives
also held a press conference outside the DEC building in Albany,
joined by local elected officials as well as representatives
of New York Public Interest Research Group, Sierra Club, and
Citizen’s Environmental Coalition.
CARP and the neighborhood association represent residents
who have restated their dissatisfaction with DEC’s remediation
plan, which only will force BASF to clean up the sites to
industrial standards locking the site to industrial use through
deed restrictions because of the remaining pollutant level.
This would be true with or without the ultimate approval of
Besicorp’s proposed newspaper recycling facility on the part
of the former BASF property, which the Rensselaer City Council
recently rejected. [“Unfit for Print?,” Newsfront, Feb. 5]
South 40 site, a 34-acre parcel, arsenic levels of up to 500
parts per million will be left on that site, even though the
state has a recommended cleanup standard for arsenic of 7.5
parts per million,” CARP’s Tom Ellis pointed out outside of
DEC, citing one of the many concerns about pollutant levels
that would remain after the cleanup. There are huge empty
“lagoons” next to the Hudson where waste water went after
the company was told it couldn’t pipe it straight into the
river. Many of the concerned citizens fear that these are
sources of off-site leaching.
The near-90-acre plot was vacated in 2000 by BASF, whose dye
manufacturing was moved overseas. Dye manufacturers have operated
on the premises since 1883 and tenants before BASF included
Bayer Co., who made aspirin as well as dyes. Currently it
includes a 9-acre capped landfill and BASF’s old riverfront
DEC did not return Metroland’s calls.
the future of the city it’s very important that we clean up
this site, regardless of what is built,” said CARP’s Eric
Daillie. “Twenty years down the road, when the paper mill
goes bankrupt and the power plant is decommissioned and we
find ourselves with a still-contaminated site, it will have
a great financial impact on the city.” That is, at that point
taxpayers, not the padded pockets of BASF, would have to pay
for the cleanup.
BASF, Daillie points out, is a multinational company that
pulls in $40 billion a year. “Forty million dollars is nothing
for a $40 billion company, and they certainly owe it to this
community after polluting here,” he said. “They have a historical
and ecologic responsibility to clean up this site.”
Mancini, like others, remains hopeful that DEC will change
its mind about strengthening the cleanup’s strictness. He
added, “if you don’t clean this site up to the fullest possible
extent, you’re condemning the future of this neighborhood.”
Hahn can be reached at email@example.com.
Beating Around the Bush
New Yorkers antici-pate March 2 anxiously or not, Super Tuesday
is the crown jewel of the primary season.
Despite the conventional wisdom that the race has been decided,
voters in these relatively late primaries can pack a serious
punch if they choose for themselves rather than following
the pack of voters that have hit the polls first. That is
to say, John Kerry’s nomination is not a forgone conclusion;
March 2 could be John Edwards’ day.
Edwards has made his pitch to upstate communities, in person
and through ads, hoping his pro-labor message about the “two
Americas” will resonate with voters. He has won the support
of Albany’s Mayor Jerry Jennings and Congressman Michael McNulty,
while other state Democratic leaders like state Attorney General
Eliot Spitzer and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have gone
But at this point in the primary season, many voters are wondering
if it’s more prudent to simply follow suit and help Kerry’s
lead, or to send more delegates for a different candidate
to the convention. Delegates matter: The more delegates a
candidate has at the national convention this July, the more
bargaining leverage he and his issues will have, potentially
affecting the party’s platform in a serious way even if the
candidate is not selected as the nominee.
Candidates receive delegates when they get more than 50 percent
of the votes in any congressional district. This unusual form
of proportional representation in our usually winner-takes-all
electoral system makes voting in primaries important, particularly
for those who support candidates other than the frontrunner.
Tuesday’s 10-state showdown accounts for 1,100 delegates to
the Democratic National Convention, half the amount needed
for the party’s nomination. New York’s 236 delegates, second
only to California in number, are a prize for any campaign’s
war chest. And it is this math that might make the difference
If he stays in the race into June, Edwards could continue
to accumulate delegates, narrowing Kerry’s lead over the remainder
of the primary season. With the field narrowed, Dennis Kucinich
is also starting to pick up non-negligible numbers of delegates,
beating Edwards in three states.
to a mid-month poll conducted by Marist College Institute
for Public Opinion, 36 percent of likely Democratic primary
voters in New York most wanted a candidate who can beat President
Bush, whereas 19 percent wanted someone closer to them on
issues. Of that 36 percent, 80 percent were pro-Kerry.
This anyone-but-Bush approach is determining electability
in the minds of Democratic voters across the country. A recent
poll by the Pew Research Center found that twice as many Kerry
supporters say theirs is a vote against Bush rather than for
Ron Seyb, chair of Skidmore College’s Government Department,
noted that “people gained the impression that Dean simply
couldn’t beat George W. Bush and that’s why Kerry has now
moved to the front of the pack. That also suggests that Kerry’s
support is soft.” Seyb, who teaches a course on the U.S. presidency,
adds that electability is a “very thin reed to base your candidacy
on,” and as such, things could change.
Meanwhile, Kucinich and Al Sharpton vow to stay in the fray
as long as they can to make sure their ideas are included
in the debate and answered to at the convention. As Kucinich
was fond of saying earlier this year, “I’m electable if you
vote for me.”
County’s rescheduled legislative primaries will be held on
Tuesday, and the candidates are busy trying to pick up where
they left off last fall before the elections were postponed.
And apparently this quick campaign has resulted in some mistakes,
one even fueling the heated race to represent the 2nd district.
County legislator Luci McKnight is running for reelection,
and her new campaign flyer claimed she was endorsed by the
Civil Service Employees Association. CSEA, however, endorsed
her opponent, Marilyn Hammond.
McKnight says it was simply an error. “The Working Families
Party supplied my graphics person and they made a mistake,”
she said. “They left out SEIU by mistake, they left out Citizen
Action by mistake, and they put in CSEA.” McKnight said that
she was well aware that she did not have the endorsement.
CSEA has issued a statement clarifying whom it endorsed, in
which the union’s Capital Region president, Kathy Garrison,
decried the flyer as misleading and “wrong.” Hammond also
has distributed information and demands that McKnight apologize.
McKnight, who represents the South End, has since had new
material with the correct information printed and is working
on distributing it. She says she’s grateful that Hammond pointed
this error out, because now she has more campaign literature
to hand out for free.