ALBANY: Save the Pine Bush celebrated its 25th birthday at
the February vegetarian lasagna dinner at the First Presbyterian
Church. The dinner began by members telling stories about the
Save the Pine Bush was born in the middle of a snow storm on
February 6, 1978. It snowed that day. It snowed so much that
the offices of the New York State government closed down and
stayed closed the next day. This is the only time in the 20
years that I have lived in Albany that the State closed its
offices due to the weather. I was able to ski to work in downtown
On that day, the Albany City Planning Board had scheduled a
public hearing on four developments in the Pine Bush: the Dunes,
Pinehurst, Pine Circle, and a development by Charles Touhey.
Even though there was six inches of snow on Washington Avenue
and the rest of the City had shut down, the City still held
The developers and about 20 environmentalists showed up. Dick
Patrick, the City Planner, presided. The developers spoke for
one-and-one-half hours. Dick Patrick said, "The weather's
getting kind of bad out, so since the developers had 1 1/2 hours,
you can have 1 1/2 hours." A few people spoke in favor
of preservation, and then Dick Patrick adjourned the hearing
to meet the next day in a private bank board room (we were obviously
We were outraged. We started meeting in each others homes and
at the library, talking about what we were going to do. The
City of Albany was one of the oldest political machines in the
country, second only to Mayor Daly's Chicago political machine.
Mayor Corning had a strangle-hold on the City; it seemed like
an impossible battle. From this hearing, we hired Victor Lord,
and filed our first lawsuit. Because the Planning Board only
had four members, and state law required five, we won another
hearing. We also won standing in that case, meaning that we
have the right to bring lawsuits.
That began our 25 years of fighting for Pine Bush preservation.
Other stories were shared at the dinner. Save the Pine Bush
sued the City of Albany and Willard T. Anderson over a development
near the intersection of Route 155 and Washington Avenue Extension.
Mr. Anderson, in turn, sued Save the Pine Bush for $15 million.
At a press conference, Rezsin was asked, “So, Mrs. Adams,
you have just been sued for fifteen million dollars. What assets
does Save the Pine Bush have?” Rezsin responded, “Oh,
about 200 I’ll never shop Crossgates bumper stickers.”
Save the Pine Bush not only won the suit all the way to the
highest court, but New York State bought the land, and it is
now in the Pine Bush Preserve.
Steven Schassler, Director, Region IV of the NYS Department
of Environmental Conservation, spoke at the dinner. Mr. Schassler
is the chair of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission and
matters relating to the Pine Bush take up much of his week.
According to Mr. Schassler, Governor Pataki has set ambitions
preservation goals for the Pine Bush that are hard to meet and
require willing landowners. The good news, according to Mr.
Schassler, is that preservation of the Pine Bush is the number
one priority in Region IV. Currently, there are 2950 acres in
the Preserve, which has cost $25 million. Also, a new building
for the Pine Bush Discovery Center will not need to be constructed
as the Discover Center will be located at the former SEFCU building.
Office of Parks and Recreation has estimated that it will cost
$200,000 to retrofit the SEFCU building. TrustCo Bank has donated
$100,000 towards that effort.
The goals of the Commission are to purchase and protect a total
of 4600 acres in the Pine Bush, restore and maintain habitats,
and raise awareness of the unique ecology of the Pine Bush.
Of course, everyone wants to know when the next acquisition
Mr. Schassler went on to discuss how important volunteers are
to the Pine Bush. Volunteers, such as the students at Farnsworth
Middle School, under the direction of Alan Fierro, have built
structures to protect lupine plants from browsing deer (“exclosures”).
Frank Knight, another volunteer (who has spoken at our dinners),
has taken and shared his beautiful photos of the Pine Bush.
Volunteers have worked on invasive species control, controlled
burns, aspen management, trash clean-up, trail maintenance and
Mr. Schassler closed by thanking us for asking him to speak
at our dinner and says he hopes to see us out in the Pine Bush.
Save the Pine Bush would like to collect stories of our first
twenty-five years. If you have a story, long or short, that
you would like to share, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
or send your story to Save the Pine Bush, c/o Social Justice
Center, 33 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12210.