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March 26, 2006

A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

March 26 , 2006

Where The Dump Grows

The Common Council votes to condemn part of the Pine Bush

Photos of the Pine Bush that The Mayor wants to destroy, here. This is a virtual tour of the condemned parts of the Pine Bush Preserve parkland, and of the West side of The Dump, otherwise known as the City of Albany "Landfill." Photos taken March 11, 2006, a warm Saturday.

This past Monday (March 20) the Common Council voted to formally support The Mayor’s proposal to expand the profitable Pine Bush Dump into the dedicated parkland on the west side of the Pine Bush Preserve. Plan A, the opening of the Coeyman’s Dump, and Plan B, the expansion of the The Dump into the Fox Run Mobile Home Park are both down the drain. What we have left is the desperate Plan C.

Gone is the cockiness, the arrogant bluster, the attitude of knowing better than the taxpayers. The Mayor and the members of the Common Council have all but admitted that they are up against the wall and don’t know what to do.

These grim days of reckoning could have been avoided, if only The Mayor had done the right thing many years ago. Instead, he chose to do the easy thing, and allowed the City to become dependent on revenues from The Dump (officially known as the City of Albany Landfill.) So with proffessions of reluctance and foreboding, the City has committed itself to a course of eventual disaster.

Approaching The Dump
Approaching The Dump

At least the vote in the Common Council wasn’t unanimous. New members Barbara Smith (4th ward) and Cory Ellis (3rd ward) voted against the measure. Mr. Ellis stood up to eloquently point out that this is the fourth time that the City has promised to never again expand the “Landfill.” “I’m the youngest member of this Council,” he said. “When this comes up again, I’m still going to be here.”

To everyone’s surprise, Carolyn McLaughlin (2nd ward) also voted against it. Carolyn has shown little interest in issues of Pine Bush preservation in the past, nor has she expressed any reason to oppose The Mayor on The Dump. Indeed, there is a widespread perception that she has exchanged support for The Mayor and his projects for a visible central role in the South End Revitalization Plan.

Carolyn based her opposition to The Dump expansion on the lack of financial information. “We look at too many things in a vacuum.” she said. She also pointed out that most of the employees at The Dump, although they do a good job, do not live in the City, and do not reflect its ethnic composition. "I don't want to see anybody lose their job," she added.

New member Cathy Fahey (7th ward) did a strange thing and voted “present,” neither for or against. This looked a lot like indecision on her part, but I think it probably means that she didn’t like either choice.

Some Of The Condemned Pine Bush
Some Of The Condemned Pine Bush

Ah, Dominick Calsolaro (1st ward.) The afternoon before the vote he left a message on our answering machine, something about how “they are adding an amendment to get my vote.” The Mayor really needed Dominick to add legitimacy to an essentially illegitimate operation. So The Mayor’s minions on the council dangled before Dominick an absolute promise to NEVER AGAIN ask for another expansion of the “landfill” for any reason whatsoever. All he had to do was vote for it.

I’ve obtained the text of the amendment. It reads:

“The City of Albany absolutely for real this time no kidding we mean it promise to cross our hearts and hope to die never ever EVER to ask for another expansion to the landfill for any reason no matter what happens no fooling forever and ever and tomorrow, too.”

Pity the poor politician with principles. Dominick knew, by the time of the 6:30 PM Caucus before the Common Council meeting proper, that the measure was going to pass. Here was a chance to have the City put into the official record a commitment that could be held over its head at a future time by the voters and taxpayers.

This is why I could never make it as a politician. In this situation I would stand up and loudly tell the rest of the Council members that The Mayor could kiss my butt and I still wouldn’t support his failed scheme to dupe the taxpayers. “Furthermore,” I would continue, not knowing when to shut up, “You guys are a bunch of spineless clowns with no self respect." This would not be politically expedient. But I would probably do it anyway.

The reason I know that I would probably do this is that during my one brief foray into (semi) elected politics I reacted without thought and threw a bunch of City employees out of a polling place because they were blocking the polls and harrassing voters. When The Mayor himself arrived on the scene, I stood up to him. Two weeks later my political career came to an abrupt halt. For good.

The City Of Albany "Landfille"
The City Of Albany "Landfill"

As for Dominick, he knows perfectly well that the amendment to never ever sin against the Pine Bush again is not particularly legal. But it’s a start. With some effort, it could be parlayed into something binding.

As for The Mayor and his minions, they no doubt expect to be long gone and far away from Albany when the bills come due. That’s what Cory Ellis was talking about. Somebody someday is going to have to straighten out this mess that The Mayor has created for us.

Not that The Mayor’s Plan C is a done deal. To undedicate parkland of any sort is not easy. The only way to do it is to get the State Governer, the Senate and the Assembly to agree to do so. So far, the signs have not been favorable for The Mayor.

But that could change. Some 18 per cent of the garbage in The Dump comes from the State. It’s a cheap and convenient place to throw your trash, hard to beat. That is why the State has relaxed its own strict standards for this dump, siting it over a drinking water aquifer, for example.

On the other hand, a lot of very alarmed agencies and parkland advocacy groups see this as a very bad precedent. This snatching of dedicated parkland for spurious reasons is being watched very carefully across the State.

After the Common Council meeting, Dominick offered The Wife a ride home. (Her worthless husband had abandoned her earlier in the evening, thus she was forced to accept a ride from a strange man.) “I don’t know if you want to accept a ride from me,” he said, sheepishly. “I hope you’re not too mad at me.”

“It’s okay, Dominick,” she said sincerely, climbing into his car. “We still like you.”

“One thing’s for sure,” he said, pulling away from City Hall. “Save the Pine Bush is going to sue the City over this.”

Any way you look at it, We The People are always in the driver’s seat. Even when we are asleep at the wheel.

To Be Destroyed
To Be Destroyed

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