On September 30th, a single person, Judge Randolph Treece of the U.S. District Court, Northern District in Albany, ruled on the lawsuit brought by SPARC, Sierra Club, and the O.C. Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, challenging the Drury Lane/I-84 Interchange---a new entrance to Stewart Airport designed to open up the lands west (and east) of Drury Lane to development.
Disappointingly, he ruled against us on every single issue. One issue was that the land deserves protection as a recreation area, since it has been used as such since 1974. The judge used the defendants' (NYS DOT, US DOT, Thruway) argument that it has never been formally designated as such. He did the same with our assertion that Crestview Lake deserves protection, again used as a recreation facility for more than 30 years. We note, however, that the applicable statute does not require a formal dedication.
Regarding the traffic, especially the trucks, that the project will generate, Treece debunked the affidavit of our traffic consultant, who was basing his criticism on letters and memos in the record. Instead, he simply agreed with DOT's arguments.
He dismissed our argument regarding 'segmentation' in the review of related projects ( Thruway/ I-84 connection in Town of Newburgh and Drury Lane Interchange), and 'cumulative impacts' of projects the Access Road from Drury to C Street will serve---such as 'International Plaza' (on the former Stewart Army Subpost) and a planned South Cargo Area.
Finally, he said that the guidelines on creating a new interchange on an interstate highway (such as at Drury Lane), which govern the information that should be included in an 'Interchange Justification Report', are just that---guidelines. The agencies do not have to follow them!
Here is a quote from the decision:"Since they are merely guidelines, this Court must give great deference to the FHWA (federal highway administration, part of US DOT) in determining whether to adhere to such guidelines for this specific project. . . Therefore, Plaintiffs' mere allegation that FHWA did not adhere to its guidelines, without more, is insufficient."
An editorial about the decision, that ran in the Poughkeepsie Journal on October 6th, observed, "In fact, the judge's decision is almost fawning. At several points in his decision [Judge] Treece says things like 'Given the high deference this court must give the (state) agencies involved, (the court finds) plaintiffs' argument is insufficient".
SPARC is considering whether to appeal. A decision must be made quickly, since the statute of limitations is only 30 days.
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