Common Council Muzzles Hearing
Pine Bush Residents Outraged

by Daniel W. Van Riper, Mar./Apr. 92

Chanting, "We want to speak! We want to speak!" some twenty or so residents from the Pinehurst and Dunes developments in the Pine Bush expressed outrage at an attempt by the Albany Common Council leadership to prevent them from voicing their concerns over the proposed Woodlands at Pine Ridge office development.
Most of the time at the Jan. 6th environmental impact hearing was taken up by representatives of the developer, and a few short dissenting opinions by representatives of SPB. Embattled President Pro-Tempore Joseph Buechs (who may be ousted by the time this goes to press) then proposed that the hearing be ended at 9:00 PM so that the Council could "get on with important business." Council President Stephen McArdle seconded the motion, and a majority of the Aldermen approved it by voice vote.

Sixth ward Alderman Sharon Ward objected strongly to this sleazy maneuver. "We are paid to be here." She said. "These people are volunteers. They have had to make time and find baby sitters so that they could attend this meeting. If necessary, this Council should stay until three in the morning, until everyone has had their say."
The "important business" turned out to be the presentation of an award to City Clerk Pamela Alley in honor of her recently having a baby.

A corporate entity called Empire State Thrift Services Corp. wants to level 80 acres of prime Pine Bush located at 350 Washington Ave. Extension, directly across the road from the Pinehurst development. This parcel, which is the only link between the two major parts of already preserved Pine Bush, is extremely vital to the survival of the Pine Bush. The proposal calls for four massive office buildings, equivalent in size to sixteen supermarkets.

Fourteen years ago, SPB won a court battle over this same parcel, which was known then as Pine Circle. Although this land has never received protection from the State or the Nature Conservancy, no further developments have been proposed until recently.

Most of the outraged residents made a point of returning to the reconvened meeting a full two weeks later on Jan. 23rd. They were forced to sit through another hearing until 9:20 PM, and then were given only five minutes apiece to speak. At the first meeting, the developers were given nearly an hour and a half to make their presentation, including a full hour to their engineering consultant.

Commentary

by Daniel W. Van Riper, Mar./Apr. 92

Many of the residents who attended the Jan. 6th Environmental Impact hearings over the proposed Woodlands at Pine Ridge office development were there at the written invitation of Albany Mayor Thomas Whalen. Once in the Common Council chambers, the residents were shut out of the meeting by Buechs and McArdle, both of whom are known to take orders from Mayor Whalen.

Why would Mayor Whalen pull such a slimy trick? Residents of Pinehurst and Dunes are known to have strong feelings about the direction of development around their homes. They definitely do not want commercial buildings ringing their properties, along with the attendant traffic, noise and pollution which would inevitably result.

The idea apparently was to give these folks an outlet for their feelings, while making sure that they have no opportunity to make any real impact on the city's approval process. In a subtle, smiling way this was intended as a demonstration of power, that a small group of neighbors can't fight the unshakable will of the monolith City Hall. Mayor Whalen and his allies on the Common Council behave like a bunch of Republicans. They routinely make deals with irresponsible big money developers out to make a quick buck, while showing contempt for hard-working taxpaying citizens who want at least to be heard by their public servants.

Time to wake up, Mr. Whalen. The O'Connell Machine, of which you are the present steward, has stayed in power since the 1920's by providing the people of Albany with what they've needed and wanted. Their needs and wants have changed dramatically, and if you don't learn to provide, then you will find yourself a powerless figurehead...or out of a job.

Editor's note: The Woodlands at Pine Ridge development proposal was never approved. This land is absolutely essential for the survival of the Pine Bush. SPB vowed to bring all of its resources to bear if a development is approved for this land.

This development was the last one ever proposed for this property. The State of New York purchased it and added it to the Pine Bush preserve in December, 1994.


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