Toxic touring: (l-r) Bob Prentiss and Tania Knight at
the Salt Kill. Photo by: Joe Putrock
keep the pressure on Norlite to clean up its act
of us who live so close to Norlite feel it may be too late
for the masks to help us, but we wanted to give you the option
of wearing one,” said Kate Tarbay, after handing out white
masks to the approximately 40 people who met at Maplewood
Elementary School on Monday (July 19). They were there for
a “toxic tour” of the neighborhood surrounding Norlite, a
hazardous-waste burning facility on the Cohoes-Colonie border.
Leading the tour were members of Citizens Halting Risks of
Norlite’s Industrial Contaminants, a group of residents who
organized last summer to address questions and concerns they
had about living next to the plant [“Chronic Exposure,” Dec.
CHRONIC members organized the tour to illustrate what life
looks, smells, and sounds like living around Norlite. The
tour stopped at the Salt Kill, a milky green creek that runs
through Norlite, then behind backyards en route to the Hudson.
CHRONIC member Tania Knight remembers it once was clear and
full of life. The shallow stream didn’t freeze this winter
and is filled with what some believe is the aggregate Norlite
manufactures. At Saratoga Sites, a public-housing complex
located next to Norlite’s stacks, Tarbay described the persistent
industrial noise residents are subject to. On another side
of Norlite’s property, in an area activists say Norlite hopes
to have rezoned for industrial use, homes could be seen coated
with the pervasive oily soot that covers the neighborhood.
One of CHRONIC’s supporters, Assemblyman Bob Prentiss (R-Colonie),
attended and decried Norlite as “a known environmental polluter
that seems to think it can ride roughshod over this neighborhood.”
Numerous other state and local officials were also on the
tour, mostly from the town of Colonie; city officials from
Cohoes were absent, which did not go unnoticed.
For the past two days (July 20-21), Norlite tested its air
emissions for the third time this year, as required by state
and federal environmental performance standards. In two prior
tests, each of Norlite’s stacks were releasing more than 75
percent of the permitted limit for dioxin emissions, which,
according to an agreement with DEC, means the test must be
Norlite’s water and air emissions permits are up for review,
and it is working to renew its permit to burn hazardous waste
later this year. CHRONIC is looking forward to the opportunity
for meaningful public comment during those reviews.
Cathy Barron, a local resident who went on the tour, said
she is seriously concerned for her family’s health, and thinks
she would feel safer if Norlite “could clean up their act.”
Later this month the Department of Environmental Conservation
will conduct tests on the Salt Kill to determine the water’s
health—one of many things CHRONIC has been requesting. Citizens
remain worried about health risks from off-site land, water
and air pollution, and say the only way they’ll get real answers
is if state or federal agencies conduct adequate health studies
and off-site environmental testing. CHRONIC members said testing,
particularly ambient air monitoring, would provide concrete
information about what goes beyond the fence line, instead
of leaving them to wonder.
don’t want to move, and we don’t feel we should have to move,”
said Tarbay. “We should be able to have clean air to breathe.”
To pledge or not to pledge: Assemblymen Bob Prentiss.
Photo by: Jessica Sipos
lawmakers disagree about a proposal aimed at making sure the
budget is read before it’s passed
request delivered to state legislators by one of New York’s
fiscal watchdog groups met with a mixed response last week,
as local lawmakers offered differing views on how the state’s
budget process would be affected.
The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit organization based
in New York City, recently called on all of the state’s lawmakers
to adopt a three-day waiting period before passing any budget
that was introduced. According to the CBC, introducing a delay
between the introduction and passage of a budget would encourage
lawmakers to actually read the budget, rather than passing
it in a flurry of last-minute activity. State budgets tend
to include hundreds of pages of text, giving lawmakers and
their staff little time to analyze their contents.
Only 25 percent of the state’s legislators signed the pledge,
with even less support coming from the majority party in either
house. Of the Assembly’s Democratic majority, only 19 lawmakers
signed the CBC pledge, while none of the Senate’s Republican
majority agreed to the waiting period.
spoon-fed this stuff from those three men in a room, and it’s
humanly impossible to read through all of those budget bills
at three in the morning,” said Assemblyman Bob Prentiss (R-Colonie),
one of only two local officials to formally approve the CBC
proposal. “That’s no way to translate the people’s interests.”
Assemblyman Jack McEneny (D-Albany) rejected this assessment,
calling the proposal “demeaning” to legislators. According
to McEneny, approving such a proposal would only support the
notion that the state’s three top lawmakers, Senate Majority
Leader Joseph L. Bruno (R-Brunswick), Assembly Speaker Sheldon
Silver (D-Manhattan) and Gov. George E. Pataki, hold all of
the power in the state—with the rest of the Legislature simply
functioning as a consenting party.
Jack McEneny. Photo by: Martin Benjamin
resent the implication,” said McEneny, who added that he doesn’t
sign any of the pledges that arrive at his office each day.
a simplistic point of view, it sounds great,” said McEneny,
“but if you make a promise that absolute, you would technically
have to wait another three days every time a small detail
was reworded and the bill was drafted again. . . . That 72-hour
delay is expensive.”
Assemblyman Ron Canestrari (D-Cohoes) echoed a similar sentiment,
calling the proposal “unduly restrictive,” while a spokesman
for Bruno simply added that, “as a general rule, the [Senate
majority leader] does not sign onto pledges.”
The only other local official to formally approve the three-day
review, Sen. Neil D. Breslin (D-Albany), said that he would
appreciate having additional time to review budget bills with
Assemblyman James Tedisco (R-Schenectady) voiced his support
for the mandatory waiting period, but said he had not received
the pledge in time to respond.
While New York state law already calls for a three-day waiting
period for all budgets introduced in the Legislature, bills
can be hurried through the process by the commonly used “message
of necessity” put forth by the governor.
for the Right to Fight
activists gather to screen anti-Fox film as part of a nationwide
day of house parties
imagine planning a party for a group of people you’ve never
Now imagine planning thousands of similar parties, all of
them set to kick off at precisely the same time around the
That’s exactly what Internet-based advocacy group MoveOn did
Sunday night (July 18), and all it took was the Internet,
an eagerly anticipated film, and many, many gracious hosts.
In two adjoining rooms of Maureen Aumand’s Albany home, a
small crowd milled about, clustered in groups of two or three
and administering the standard introductions. This was the
third time Aumand and her husband had opened their home to
MoveOn members, and she was darting from room to room, monitoring
the pulse of the party. Many attendees were no strangers to
I was at that protest—the one in New York a while back,” said
Justin Miller as he casually leaned against a wall, chatting
up a couple he had introduced himself to only a few minutes
that was a big scene,” added another guest with a nod and
a sip of wine, “pretty intense.”
In an age when computers are more often perceived as substitutes
for social interaction rather than facilitators, Web-based
groups like MoveOn have managed to defy the stereotype, successfully
translating online activity into real-life activism.
MoveOn, which began during the Clinton impeachment process
to coordinate a call to censure him and “move on,” has become
a powerful organization coordinating opposition to the war
in Iraq and providing financial and advertising support for
progressive and Democratic candidates, including John Kerry.
A few weeks ago, people on MoveOn’s millions-strong e-mail
list got a message suggesting house parties to screen Out-Foxed:
Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. Out-Foxed offers
a scathing indictment of Fox News, using former Fox employees
to argue that the network has a penchant for blurring the
line between propaganda and journalism. A similar round of
house parties had just been held to view Fahrenheit 9/11.
Anyone wishing to view the film could choose to host or attend
a party. Those who opted to host could purchase a DVD of the
film and register information about their party, including
attendance limits and directions. Soon after, potential guests
could request a list of all the possible locations near their
home and send an electronic RSVP.
As the party had been arranged almost entirely over the Internet,
many of the people in Aumand’s home had never met before Sunday’s
facilitates this communication, these face-to-face encounters
with individuals who share similar beliefs and attitudes,”
explained Marty Manjak, another first-time guest via MoveOn.
“Once you develop a synergy with other people, it helps you
to take the next step.”
people here might not normally be the rallying, joining type,”
said Aumand. “[The house party] gives them the freedom to
get together outside of their own homes with people sharing
a common interest.”
According to Aumand, the next step at MoveOn events usually
involves a formal call to action. At Sunday’s house party,
Aumand’s guests were invited to sign a complaint calling for
the Federal Communications Commission to investigate Fox News’
use of the slogan “fair and balanced” in their broadcasts.
is the most obscene of the obscene,” said Ray Aumand, Maureen’s
husband. “Maybe if people get together and discuss this, rationality
And discuss it they did, with all 30,000-plus house-party
guests joining a conference call with liberal talk-radio host
Al Franken. After thanking MoveOn members for viewing the
film—an interview with Franken featured prominently in the
production—he then urged listeners to spread the news about
Out-Foxed and let local broadcasters know when the
objectivity of news is suspect.
For many of Aumand’s guests, however, the event’s appeal was
not to be found in the 30,000-person powwow or the chance
to talk shop with one of the progressive movement’s loudest
was just really great to get people together outside of a
protest or something like that,” explained Miller. “It was
great to not be in such a negative atmosphere. . . . Maybe
next time, I’ll throw the party.”