|SPARC Newsletter Fall 20004
State Comptroller Hevesi Critizises Project
Last May, State Comptroller Alan Hevesi released an audit of Stewart Airport. As part of his comments he discussed the I-84/Drury Lane road project.
The audit looked at many fiscal and record keeping issues at the airport, and as part of this review he criticized the handling of the Drury Lane project
Quoting from the Comptroller's press release he stated, "The future viability of the Drury Lane project to provide direct access from I-84 to the Stewart International Airport outside of Newburgh is "uncertain" as a result of legal issues and the State Department of Transportation (DOT) should carefully evaluate whether to continue work on the project . . . ".
In addition, the press release said, "Auditors also noted that the NYS Thruway Authority, which maintains I-84, has spent nearly $15 million on the Drury Lane Interchange including $2.5 million for construction of an airport access road that would connect with Drury Lane and expenditures for an environmental impact study and for planning and design".
As a result of the audit, the Poughkeepsie Journal did an editorial on May 26th entitled Rethink Stewart Access Road Plan. Said the paper, "State officials have got to find a new route for their proposed access road to Stewart International Airport. Their steadfast refusal to rethink their Drury Lane plan is costing way too much in time and legal fees".
SPARC and co-plaintiffs couldn't agree more.
Congressman Hinchey Writes Governor
On June 23rd, just as SPARC held its press conference, Congressman Hinchey released copies of a letter he wrote to Governor Pataki.
As did Hevesi, Hinchey points out "New York State's refusal to seriously consider alternatives to the current proposal or negotiate a compromise in this matter has contributed to the lack of progress in construction of an access road".
Hinchey also writes, ". . . that the expansion of Drury Lane will lead to the development of the unprotected open lands west of Drury Lane, which many in the region, including myself, staunchly oppose".
SPARC applauds the Congressman's renewed endorsement of saving the lands west of Drury Lane. The entire letter can be read on the SPARC website: www.frontiernet.net/~sparc.
Local Ranch Spurs Funding Efforts
The Santa Hill Ranch on Rt. 208 in Campbell Hall has offered a challenge to the public, and a big boost for saving the Stewart Buffer Lands. Proprietor Bob Santagata is offering $5,000 in matching funds for contributions to SPARC's legal costs and urging the public, especially those who love horse riding at Stewart, to match the ranch's pledge.
Said Bob on a recent Sunday morning, "If everybody pitches in we can maintain these scenic trails forever".
The Santa Hill Ranch trains reining horses, under the direction of well-known trainer Francis Mercier. These highly trained Quarter horses compete on the national level showing casing skills of the western working horse.
Local horse owner Anne Gayler said, " Nothing is more delightful than viewing nature from the back of a horse. The Buffer Lands have miles of trails to be explored, from wide carriage roads to woodland paths. The lands are easily accessible, and there is even trailer parking (adjacent to Ridge Rd. near I-84). I urge all horse people to rise to Bob's fund matching challenge. The Buffer Lands are a treasure to be enjoyed and protected".
The Stewart Buffer Heritage Lands, 7,000 acres west of Drury Lane, have been the focus of SPARC's preservation efforts for 17 years. Said SPARC President Sandra Kissam, "We can't praise Bob Santagata highly enough for donating significant funds for SPARC and co-plaintiffs' critical legal fight. He's made the connection between citizen efforts and land protection. We urge others to rise to his challenge. Although our attorney was successful last December, his legal work must continue, and his arrears must be paid".
(Please make out your check to SPARC, and put 'Bob's Challenge' on the memo line. See SPARC's address on page 4.)
DOT, Thruway, FHWA Submit 4 (f) Review
This past June 24th, the defendant agencies filed a 4 (f) review of the highway project, after losing their motion to get the case reheard by the Court of Appeals.
The next day SPARC and co-plaintiffs Sierra Club and the O. C. Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs held a press conference. With past Chapter Chair Jim Mays from the Sierra Club, Rudy Vallet of the O.C. Federation and SPARC, and Sandra Kissam of SPARC, the press was informed that the agencies' new road plan was apparently a rehash of the old one.
The Narrow View
Once again the state has dodged obvious issues as it merely tweaked its project, moving the road about 30 feet to the east in some places and doing nothing to the planned connector road across Crestview Lake
Consider that Section 4 (f) of the Transportation Law requires that the sponsor agencies have to demonstrate that their highway plan would be the least destructive of the lands, now considered parklands.
Unfortunately, no consideration was given to alternative routes, although they were described in the original environmental studies. Their current plan would still require filling acres of wetlands and destroying 15 acres of wet meadow on Barron Road to create a so-called mitigation site.
Their review also skipped reference to their intention to promote commercial development on the west side of Drury Lane. Obviously this would harm the parklands. It would segment and essentially destroy the fields, woodlands and wetlands that currently exist.
The Fight Must Continue
Disappointingly, SPARC and co-plaintiffs have no choice but to compel the agencies to redo their current document, deal with their omissions, and truly review their options.
The current legal schedule calls for our side to submit a responding brief by September 1st. The other side gets to reply by September 15th.
It is unclear whether there will be oral arguments. It is also possible that the dates could change.
Judge Treece of the District Court will be deciding the case. He is the same judge that granted an injunction to our side pending the appeal, after initially ruling against us.
Meanwhile, the injunction continues against any construction. And the government stubbornly refuses to truly reevaluate other options.
Teen Awarded on Youth Day
Thanks to Dr. Eric Singman, SPARC has once again given a scholarship award to a local teen. Matthew Martino, a senior at O'Neill High School, received the $350 Ben Kissam Scholarship at SPARC's Youth Day on April 25th. Matthew will be attending the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry this fall.
Dr. Singman, one of the spiritual pillars of SPARC, established this award 11 years ago in memory of SPARC's founder, Ben Kissam. We are so grateful to him.
Thanks is also due to Verne Bell and Joan Ruffino, energetic and dedicated SPARC members who organized and coordinated Youth Day this spring. Attendance was up over last year, although rainy weather after lunch ended the event early.
But those who came got to learn about kayaks, fly-tying, birds and butterflies, wildlife around Wilkins Pond, Labrador retrievers, precautions about ticks, making nature prints, and riding a bike on the Buffer Lands. Whew!
Dog Walk on the Wild Side
And now for something different! In addition to all those dedicated hunters, fishers, bicycle riders, horseback riders, hunt dog trainers, birders, hikers and farmers, we now invite dog owners to experience the incomparable Buffer Lands. The Stewart Buffer Lands are a wonderful place to walk with your dog, and many folks have already been doing it.
This fun filled fundraiser for SPARC will be on Sunday, September 19th, 2004, and you and your pet will love the countryside. This is a family event and registration is continuous from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. There will be a choice of routes and the walk can be as short or as long as you wish.
All the proceeds will help SPARC's efforts to save the Buffer Lands, so that this Orange County heritage area will be protected into the future. The donation is $15 for your dog with an adult, $5 for a dog and child 12 and over, $10 for another adult walker, with children under 12 free.
We are delighted that the event committee includes Michele LaBagh, certified dog trainer who is affiliated with such groups as the Monticello New York Kennel Club, and who also raises and shows purebred Bernese Mountain dogs. Other committee members include Jim Torcivia of the County Seat Conservation Club, and SPARC member Mary Ann Filardi.
SPARC is looking for other volunteers to help with preparations now and with the event itself on September 19th.
We are also accepting sponsorships for the event, from area pet stores, dog service groups, veterinarians, and others. Included with this newsletter is the event flyer with the sponsorship form on the back. Perhaps you know establishments that would like to become a Blue Ribbon or Red Ribbon sponsor, or a Green Ribbon participant.
This dog event will certainly be one of the liveliest, fun filled, and engaging fundraisers SPARC has yet done. You know our canine friends will not let us down!
SPARC Meeting & Election
Steve Gross, SPARC Consultant