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and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and
disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel
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May 6 , 2006
Bulldozers Attack The Pine Bush Preserve
Jennings goes too far in pursuit of his dump
First thing Thursday morning, May 4th, The Wife found
an anonymous tip on her answering machine. “Have you taken
a walk around the landfill lately?” said Anonymous. “They
bulldozed the land.” End of message.
She practically had, she informs me, a heart attack.
By the time she had descended the stairs in our house she looked
quite healthy, as she informed me that she was blowing off work for
the day and was headed out to the Pine Bush. Understand that The
Wife has her priorities. Saving the City of Albany from itself is
more important than fixing a bunch of malfunctioning computers for
several hand-wringing desperate clients. Besides, it was a gorgeous
spring day. She was all business, but she sure looked happy.
Next thing, she and fellow Save the Pine Bush (SPB) board member
Sandra Camp were out at the “Discovery Center” on Route
155. Many folks will remember that this building, built in defiance
of court order, used to be the SEFCU Credit Union. Thanks to an SPB
lawsuit, the building could not be sold or rented to tenants.
So, a few years ago, the managers of the Credit Union, sweating profusely,
got out from under this financial and public relations liability
by donating the building and the land around it to the Albany Pine
Bush Preserve Commission, the quasi state agency that oversees the
Pine Bush. The Commission does things like maintain trails, conduct
controlled burns and educate the public.
Thanks to Save the Pine Bush, the fine folks of the Commission
now use the building as their comfortable offices, and they are planning
to open an educational “discovery” museum about the Pine
The Wife and Sandra hiked from the parking lot of the Discovery
Center into the Pine Bush and promptly got lost. It’s hard
to imagine how they managed to do this, perhaps it was a classic
example of the blind leading the befuddled. Personally, I can’t
imagine how it is possible to wander around in back of the Discovery
Center and NOT stumble into the City Dump, that ever expanding horror,
that massive monument to the excesses of hell-bound wasteful consumerism.
After bumbling around for some forty five minutes, Sandra noticed
that they had found the site of the Fox Run Trailer Park, which is
jammed smack up along the east side of The Dump. Having oriented
themselves, they found the reported vandalism of the Pine Bush, deep
inside the previously undisturbed dedicated Pine Bush land extending
west from The Dump.
City of Albany bulldozers, operated by Landfill employees and directed
by City consultants Clough Harbor, had torn brand new swaths of destruction
through the trees and sand dunes. The wife and Sandra found two swaths,
but reportedly there was a third corridor reamed through the formerly
pristine land. What was formerly beautiful and intact had suddenly
been raped and left for dead.
The culprit? Who else but Jerry Jennings, the increasingly desperate
Mayor of Albany. Clough Harbor and the guys who work at The Dump
were just following orders. There’s nobody else who can give
those kind of orders, or is likely to do so.
The Pine Bush Preserve is dedicated parkland. This means that the
land is protected from any and all kinds of encroachment, including
marauding bulldozers. The only way to undedicate parkland is to pass
a bill in both houses of the New York State Legislature and have
it signed into law by the governor.
Last we checked, the State had done nothing of the sort. Indeed,
no bill has yet been introduced calling for this. Legally, the land
Jerry Jennings does not believe in the laws that protect dedicated
parkland. His mind and his attitude appears to be emulating the evil
old ghost of Erastus Corning, who was the dictatorial Mayor of Albany
from sometime before the Civil War until he died in office in 1983.
Corning shuffled around dedicated parkland with impunity, and no
one dared oppose him. The City is still saddled with his questionable
land uses, legal titles ready to explode anytime.
As much as he’d like to be, Jennings is nowhere near as powerful
as Corning was. (For this we should be thankful. Corning almost destroyed
Albany.) But, whenever he can, he acts as if he is. Like another
well-known unitary executive who is currently infesting the White
House, Jennings believes that he is above the law which does not
apply to him.
So what could happen to Jennings for his criminal act? Recently,
Albany City Court Judge Tom Keefe presided over the case of two young
gentlemen who were caught dirt biking in the Pine Bush Preserve.
I understand that Tom had to do a little research about penalties,
and I'm told that this is what he found in Title 40 of the State
Environmental conservation laws:
Section 71-4001. General criminal penalty.
Except as otherwise specifically provided elsewhere in the
environmental conservation law, (a) a person who violates any
provision of the environmental conservation law, or any rule,
regulation or order promulgated pursuant thereto, or the terms or
conditions of any permit issued thereunder, shall be guilty of a
violation; (b) each day on which such violation occurs shall
constitute a separate violation; and (c) for each such violation the
person shall be subject upon conviction to imprisonment for not more
than fifteen days or to a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars, or to both such imprisonment and such fine.
So, all we can do is lock up Jerry Jennings for 15 days and make
him pay $250.00. But the State, or anyone else for that matter, can
bring a civil suit:
Section 71-4003. General civil penalty.
Except as otherwise specifically provided elsewhere in the
environmental conservation law, a person who violates any provision of
the environmental conservation law, or any rule, regulation or order
promulgated pursuant thereto, or the terms or conditions of any permit
issued thereunder, shall be liable to a civil penalty of not more than
hundred dollars, and an additional civil penalty of not more than five
hundred dollars for each day during which each such violation continues.
Now, that’s more like it! $500.00 dollars a day until Jennings
exhausts his leftover campaign treasury and cashes in all his assets.
After he goes broke, he can apply for Section 8 and live as a guest
of Steve Longo at the Lincoln Square Apartments on lower Morton Avenue.
I’m not exactly sure what happened to the two dirt bikers,
but I heard that they got community service, cleaning up in the Pine
Bush. Maybe that would be the best sentence for Jennings. Make him
personally with his own two hands restore the sand dunes and replant
the vegetation that he destroyed. That’ll teach him
to respect dedicated parkland.
Meanwhile, The Wife, with Sandra in tow, found her way back to the
Discovery Center and marched into the Pine Bush Commission offices
demanding to see Chris Hawver, the executive director. It seems that
Mr. Hawver was off somewhere getting an award, and The Wife was told
that nobody could tell her nothing about anything concerning the
“Okay,” she said, “then if you can’t tell
me anything about the bulldozing then I’ll have to go to the
Terror and panic swept through the Commission offices like a wave.
Through the magic of cell phones, the executive director was interrupted
in the middle of his award. He asked The Wife to wait right there
and don’t do anything rash.
An hour or so later, Sandra had to split just as Chris Hawver pulled
into the parking lot. It seems that he travelled from the Crowne
Plaza in downtown Albany in fifteen minutes, some serious driving
in the middle of the day.
Chris Hawver is a guy who believes in the Pine Bush, in what he’s
doing. The Wife got the distinct impression that when he found out
about the bulldozing a week earlier, he was definitely less than
We can safely conclude that Mr. Hawver had long conversations
with several environmental organizations that are concerned with
the integrity of the Pine Bush. He didn't tell Save the Pine Bush about the bulldozing.
But it sure looks like he told The Nature Conservancy.
The Nature Conservancy fired off this
angry letter, demanding that
the City stop what it was doing and fix what it broke immediately. As can be seen, it is addressed first to Commissioner Sheehan of the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Then it is addressed to State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer. Lastly, it is addressed to Mayor Jennings.
But why didn’t Mr. Hawver tell the media? The wife must have
asked him why at least ten times but got no answers. Was he afraid?
Was he threatened?
Probably not. Chris is in a delicate position. He has to move very
cautiously in these turf battles. More likely he wanted to hold the
information back until it could be released with maximum impact. The man is not a politician, but sometimes he is forced to act like one.
According to The Wife, it was the letter from the Nature Conservancy
that made the media sit up and take notice. Letter in hand, she traipsed
into our house around suppertime all hopped up and started making
The next morning she headed back out to the Discovery Center and
made two more trips into the underbrush, first with a photographer
and then with a TV camera crew. This time she did not get lost. Then
she sat in her car in the parking lot and talked to more reporters
on her cell phone until late afternoon.
She found out a funny thing. Cell phones don’t work very well
in the Pine Bush. For example, standing under the mountain of garbage,
she could hear Jill Bryce from the Daily Gazette but could not talk
understandably back. Keep that in mind, all you intrepid explorers.
If you get lost in the Pine Bush like The Wife and Sandra did, don’t
depend on your devices to get rescued. Best you sniff the breeze
and head for The Dump.
Saturday morning, there was a picture of The Wife’s backside
on the front page of the Hearst-owned Times Union, wearing a straw
hat and surveying the City's vandalism. Studying the picture, all
I could think of was how hard Jerry Jennings was grinding his teeth
as he looked at her sweet rump.
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