The Good News, The Bad News
And The Ugly Truth

June/July 1995
By Daniel Van Riper

Like it or not, Pine Bush preservation has become one of the major defining issues in the Capital District. Perhaps this is because it is a black and white issue. Are we in favor of maintaining and enhancing our quality of life, or should we close our eyes and let corrupt politicians give our natural heritage to sleazy developers? Here's some recent news mixed with opinion:

Touhey Is Back We forgot to mention in earlier newsletters that Save the Pine Bush is carefully monitoring a proposal by Charles Touhey to build three office buildings on 12 acres off Washington Ave. Extension next to the Dunes development. His proposal was up before the City of Albany Common Council this past April for the necessary zoning change from residential to commercial. He met with quite a bit of opposition and was told to go prepare a final environmental impact statement before further consideration, and not much has happened since. Mr. Touhey was reportedly hopping mad, saying "Why me?" Save the Pine Bush filed suit to stop development on this very same proposal in 1989, on which Judge Cobb of the NY State Supreme Court handed down a stunning landmark decision in our favor, the one which states that at least 2000 fire manageable contiguous acres of Pine Bush must be set aside for preserve. While this 12 acres is admittedly not the most picturesque piece of Pine Bush, it is a vital buffer zone and there are lots of baby pitch pine trees on it. Actually, we all have a good opinion of Mr. Touhey, and we think he has a lot more integrity than most of the other sorts who want to destroy the Pine Bush, so why does he continue to kick this dead dog?

Politicos Steal Credit As part of the Earth Day celebrations on April 22nd, a varied collection of politicians, bureaucrats and whatnots sprung a surprise media event in the Pine Bush. Organized secretly by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), its purpose was to give credit to themselves for preserving the Muncie parcel at the corner of Washington Ave. and Rt. 155! Let's be clear about this. These clowns are guilty of spreading falsehoods and promoting deceptions. (That's the polite way of putting it.) The only reason this vital, centrally located 80 acres of prime Pine Bush is with us today is because Save the Pine Bush filed suit and was granted an injunction to stop work. Former mayor Whalen of the City of Albany fought the suit, using taxpayer dollars. The DEC stood by and did nothing to preserve this land. Apparently this is why DEC officials went to great lengths to keep this media show secret from the general public, in case someone from Save the Pine Bush might hear about it. Only Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings had enough class to give credit to Save the Pine Bush, mentioning several SPB board members by name. SPB member Mark Plaat, who was in the audience wearing his Uncle Sam hat, tells us that he was prepared to mount the platform if Mr. Jennings had not been present to set the record straight. Last year, the Nature Conservancy finally stepped in and purchased the land with State Environmental Protection Fund money, making our efforts official.

And Where Were We? Save the Pine Bush set up our ever-evolving display at the Earth Day celebration at Capital Park in downtown Albany. This was a great way to kick off the outdoor season, although a bitter cold wind rose up in mid-afternoon, driving everyone out of the park. Before that, some 50 or 60 citizen's groups and individuals got to trade information and meet the public. Exhibits ranged from Ward Stone's horrifying pesticide display, to rescued and rehabilitated raptor birds that had been injured, to a very cold young woman lying on the lawn in a mermaid outfit who wanted to bring attention to beach litter and pollution. Several small local citizen's groups that had had limited contact with other groups discovered that they were not at all alone. A few weeks later we hauled our display to the Tulip Festival in Washington Park in Albany, where thousands of people passed by, quite a few of whom stopped to chat.

Land Held Hostage Guilderland town Supervisor Anne Rose is certain that the Willow Street entrance to the Pine Bush Preserve is public land. Lee Kiernan of the State DEC Department of Real Property told the Hearst-owned Times Union that it's open to the public. So why have Charles and Mary Lou Bednarczyk posted No Trespassing signs and claimed this public road as their own private driveway? They've developed a reputation for harassing hikers and skiers, and telling people they can't park on the road. Apparently they have ignored repeated warnings from the town to stop claiming the land as their own. So it appears that we have a right to use this road, but anyone who goes there should beware of the hazardous residents.
Speaking Of The DEC Everyone has been wondering about former oil company executive Michael Zagata, the new Republican commissioner of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Is he better or worse than former commissioner Thomas Jorling, who is now making big bucks in the paper industry? Zagata was appointed by and answers to quasi-governor Pataki. Recently, wacky Pataki illegally tried to rescind the ban on the bug repellant DEET, and Zagata was 100% behind him. The problem with DEET is that it is a deadly poison. People who use too much of it become ill, and some people die. Perhaps this is why it's such a great repellent, the bugs know better than to come close. Too bad Zagata and Pataki don't have the same common sense found in bugs. Jorling and his former boss Mario Cuomo had their problems, but at least they never tried to kill anybody.


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