ALBANY: On Thursday, August 26, the Zoning Committee of the
Albany Common Council held a scoping hearing on the proposed
124-Unit Residence Inn in the Pine Bush. This hotel would be
built next to the Karner Blue butterfly hill, which is the
only large site of Karner Blues south of the Thruway.
Last year, when Pyramid Crossgates first proposed this Residence
Inn, Save the Pine Bush asked the Council to require a Scoping
Hearing, which is a hearing on what topics the developer must
include in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. This is
first time the Albany Common Council (as far as we know) has
required a scoping hearing on a project in the Pine Bush.
Comments on the Draft Scoping document can be made in writing
until September 7, and can be sent to Richard Nicholson, Historic
Preservation Planner, City of Albany Department of Development & Planning,
21 Lodge Street, Albany, NY 12207.
Here are some of the comments made by Save the Pine Bush
at the hearing:
First, the Common Council must consider that this land was
illegally cleared, in violation of the SPDES permit (#4-0130-00007/2002,
issued on 7/6/94) given to Pyramid Crossgates. This permit
applies to Crossgates Mall, the Karner Blue Hill Preserve,
and adjacent properties owned in whole or part or under
control of Pyramid Crossgates.
What good are environmental laws that protect endangered
species and habit, if municipalities do not enforce them?
from the day they illegally bulldozed this property in
1998 until today are in violation of their permit. The
Albany should not allow Pyramid Crossgates to get away
with this and
should require Pyramid Crossgates to put back the site
to its original state, prior to completing a Draft Environmental
Statement on the proposed Residence Inn.
We feel that this is a reasonable request. The Albany
Pine Bush Preserve Commission proved that a parking
be turned into Karner Blue butterfly habitat when a
parking lot was ripped
up on Apollo Drive, and the Commission planted native
Pine Bush species of plants. The butterflies returned
to the site.
Because the site of the proposed Residence Inn is adjacent
to the largest site of Karner Blue south of the Thruway, restoration
of the site would most likely be successful, and Karner Blues
would re-inhabit the area.
The Albany Pine Bush is a jewel that the City of Albany should
protect and nurture. The New York State legislature has recognized
the importance of the Pine Bush when it passed ECL Article
46 to create the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission.
The Federal Government recognized the importance of the Karner
Blue Butterfly when it listed the butterfly as an endangered
species in 1992. In September, 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
adopted a Recovery Plan for the Karner Blue.
The following are topics which Save the Pine Bush believes
should be included in the scoping document and the Draft Environmental
Impact Statement for this proposed project. The topics are
listed along with the sections delineated in the Draft Scoping
A) Geology, Topography, and Slope: The Pine Bush is not only
defined by the plants and animals that make their home in the
Pine Bush, it is also defined by the geology of sand dunes.
Because the applicant bulldozed the property, they should be
required to restore the original sand dunes on the land, and
then assess the environmental impact of their project on the
B) Water Resources: The Pine Bush is on top of a principal
aquifer. A principal aquifer is one that has enough volume
and flow to be used as a municipal water supply. The Pine Bush
Formation (as the aquifer under the Pine Bush is called) was
designated a principal aquifer by the New York State Department
of Environmental Conservation in 1986 in accordance with regulations
written to comply with the Clean Water Act.
The applicant should be required to analyze the impact of
this proposed Residence Inn on the principal aquifer. The final
proposal would put asphalt and buildings on a substantial section
of the property and the applicant should analyze how this will
affect groundwater absorption and the aquifer. Also the applicant
should analyze how oil, salt and other pollutants from the
parking lot and building roof will pollute the aquifer.
C) Transportation and Traffic: This proposed Residence Inn
will employ people who make the minimum wage. As this location
is primarily accessible by automobile, the applicant should
be required to make an analysis of this fact. The applicant
should include the following:
1) As this site will primarily be accessible only by car,
the applicant should analyze how much it costs to buy and maintain
a car and explain how a minimum-wage employee of the Residence
Inn will be able to afford this vehicle. The question that
needs to be answered is: Will this Residence Inn impoverish
its low-wage employees because of the fact it is only accessible
by car? Because of the requirement for a car, will low-wage
employees need assistance from the County or the State for
Medicaid, subsidized housing, food stamps or other services?
2) There is very limited bus service on Washington Avenue
Extension. The applicant should identify how low-wage employees
without cars will access the site at the times needed to go
to work, as many employees will not work 9 to 5. In addition,
the applicant should assess how long it takes to get from the
places where people live to the Residence Inn.
3) The applicant needs to assess the safety of people who
may take transit, walk or ride a bicycle to the Residence Inn.
If a bus lets someone off on the north side of Washington Avenue,
it is extremely dangerous to cross Washington Avenue, especially
at night, in the rain, or in the winter-time. There have been
a number of pedestrian and bicycle deaths this summer in the
Capital District. The applicant needs to assess the safety
of people who attempt to get to the site on foot or by bicycle.
4) The American Lung Association gave Albany County an "F" in
2004 for ozone-related air pollution. One of the major sources
of low-level ozone pollution is from cars. The applicant should
explain how building another car-based facility on the edge
of the City will impact the air pollution.
D) Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology: The applicant should
address how the irreversible loss of nearly 4 acres of Pine
will impact the ability of the Pine Bush to survive. The
applicant should address other state threatened species and
concern which live or lived at the site.
E) Pine Bush: The applicant should perform a detailed analysis
of the cumulative impact on this project on the Pine Bush.
This analysis should include how this project will enhance
the survival of the Karner Blue.
The scoping document should also include the following
categories of impacts:
Economic Impacts: The applicant should clearly state
whether they intend to apply for a 485(b) tax break.
Air Pollution: The applicant should look at the cumulative
impact of adding more cars to the road, and this
impact on air pollution.