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PAPERING OVER THE WETLANDS

Several weeks ago, the NYS DEC issued its wetlands permit for the Drury Lane Highway project.  This allows the filling of wetlands to build the highway, primarily affecting the access road between Drury Lane and the airport. 

In effect, the DEC has brushed aside serious arguments raised by the Hudson Riverkeeper and SPARC about the planned wetlands destruction, the questionable route of this second airport entrance, and the dubious value of the wetland mitigation plans.   DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty would not allow a special adjudicatory hearing (permitting testimony and cross examination) on this $45 million highway project, so we can assume that certain forces want the road rammed through.  More of this later.

A few details are in order. 

Planned Barron Road Fiasco

Attempting to create a new wetland by digging out a beautiful 15-acre hayfield bordering Barron Road would be the major mitigation effort.  This is supposed to fulfill the requirement of replacing lost wetlands in a two-to-one ratio.  At three miles from the construction site, it won’t compensate for wetland and wildlife damage in those presently untouched lands between Crestview Lake and C Street, part of the Beaver Dam Lake and Moodna Creek watershed area.

It also won’t make up for the filling of about 2 acres of open water above the Crestview Lake causeway.  What a mess that will be, and the DOT doesn’t even need a permit for this, because as a state agency they are exempt from the requirement.  (There’s no rationale for this, they just are.)

In addition, the Stewart State Forest doesn’t benefit in hosting the mitigation site.   The Governor wrote this special condition into the transfer documents when he put 5,200 acres of the Stewart Buffer Lands under the control of the NYS DEC.  No other designated State Forest is allowed to be a wetland bank for  development offsite.

The Stewart Buffer Lands are almost 30% wetlands and more are unneeded.  Existing wildlife and ecology of the field would be destroyed.  Expect heavy construction noise and equipment, with recreation, wildlife, hunting, disrupted over a large area.  Where will all that earth go?  Watch out for this.  Oh yes, there are no guarantees the outcome will be a viable wetland. 

Vernal Pool Plans

The second mitigation plan is to create “vernal pools” for the purpose of providing breeding habitat for the Jefferson and blue-spotted salamanders, both “species of special concern,” found in the areas where the access road would cross between Crestview Lake and C Street on the airport.  Vernal pools are intermittent woodland pools, depressions that fill with water in winter or periods of high precipitation. 

But SPARC’s wetlands expert James Barbour has demonstrated that the plan would not help the creatures to survive.  Among other factors, most of the twelve vernal pools would be dependent on run-off water from the future road or planned south cargo area, potentially poisoning these pools rather than providing habitat, an “ant-trap” for amphibians.

In a 2001 letter to the DEC regarding the viability of vernal pools, NYS Thruway official Chris Waite has serious reservations about the vernal pool plan and wrote,  “Much of the area surrounding the wetlands in the vicinity of the East-West Connector Road are mature forested uplands that provide valuable wildlife habitat.  The use of undisturbed habitats such as forested and scrub/shrub uplands is discouraged by the USACE (Corps of Engineers) and US Fish and Wildlife Service because these habitats already have an intrinsic value to wildlife. . . . We will continue to fine-tune the mitigation plan by searching for on-site opportunities to enhance and/or build salamander habitat . . .It must be noted that these opportunities may be hampered by the need to build access (that may do more harm than good) to potential small habitat creation spots that are contiguous to existing wetlands.  In addition there may be potential impacts to undisturbed upland and wetland habitats.” 

Waite is undoubtedly correct, but the vernal pool plan has been finalized anyway. 

Avoiding the Obvious

Unfortunately the DEC has sidestepped one of the thorniest issues, namely, ‘induced development’.  A stated purpose of the highway project is to induce cargo-related development projects on lands along both sides of Drury Lane, such as warehouses.

These lands also have numerous wetlands, but the agency refused to consider the wetland impacts of this secondary development, even though certain areas such as the Drury Lane Office Park and South Cargo Area were referred to specifically in the Environmental Impact Study.

In conclusion, it appears that political forces have been driving this road, certainly not a concern with the environment or quality of life for our citizens.

Who’s Being Objective?

Here’s the scenario.  The sponsors of the highway project are the NYS DOT, the NYS Thruway, and the Federal Highway Administration: all government agencies.  The Environmental Impact Studies were funded by these agencies, using public money.  The project would be built with public dollars.

And in the “Records of Decision” the same agencies concluded that the original access route they had chosen was the preferred one.

Although the NYS DEC insisted on changes in the project to reduce the wetland impacts, they would not or could not touch the big issues.  The state has sponsored, reviewed and approved its own project.

At this time the Army Corps of Engineers has not yet issued permits.  Undeterred, the Dept. of Transportation has moved right along and advertised for bids for the highway project with a return date of September 12, 2002.

The state (Governor?) is absolutely not being objective. 

The 6,200 Acre Promise: Undelivered

In January of 1998, Charles Gargano of the Empire State Development Corporation, announced that 6,200 acres of land “west of Stewart International Airport”…”will be preserved for farming and public recreation”.

Then in September of 1998 the Governor said that the “State Office of General Services has begun the process of transferring at least 6,200 acres of forest lands west of the airport . . . to the [NYS DEC].”  He specified it would happen when “a contract is awarded for development of lands along Drury Lane.”

Finally, in April 1999, after being dogged by SPARC and Coalition organizations, the Governor did in fact transfer about 5,200 acres to the NYS DEC.  But that left about 1,600 acres west of Drury Lane unprotected from development.

We demand that the Governor protect this acreage, some of the choicest on the property, from destruction.  Left for development would be almost 1,100 acres east of Drury Lane, some of which the airport is building on now.

The administration would not be giving the land to us, since it was taken from Orange County citizens in the first place.  Nor would they have to buy it, since it was seized under eminent domain in 1971.  They would be essentially protecting it from exploitation and certain destruction, and making it available for recreation and habitat. 

Meanwhile . . .

As this newsletter goes to print, the federal lawsuit brought by SPARC with co-plaintiffs Sierra Club and the Orange County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs remains undecided.   The lawsuit, filed in October 2000, asserts the environmental impact studies were inadequate and certain other issues were not addressed.

The outcome depends on the decision of Hon. Randolph F. Treece in Albany Federal Court.  Both the plaintiffs and the defendants, NYS DOT, U.S. DOT, Federal Highway Administration, and the NYS Thruway Authority, have submitted their briefs and affidavits as of May 2002.

Meanwhile, the Riverkeeper organization is reviewing the documents associated with the wetlands permit, and considering its options.

SPARC continues with its efforts to bring the public onto the land, by holding events that raise funds and raise consciousness of the natural treasure that is the Buffer Lands.  SPARC is also redoubling its outreach efforts via the media and various groups.

The SPARC coalition efforts have made a difference and will continue to influence the outcome.

SPARC Maps Available

In response to the many inquiries SPARC has received about obtaining one of our fact-filled and brightly colored maps, we have decided to make them available at two business locations

George Zubalsky’s Dark Horse Cycle is carrying some. The store is on Rt. 208, about 1&Mac218;4 mile north of Scott’s Corners in the Town of Montgomery, in a small mall on your right.Call 845 778-6604.

Nick Zungoli’s Exposures Gallery in the village of Sugarloaf also has some maps for your convenience.The store is right in the village heading out towards the former Lycian Theatre. Call 845 469-9382.

At both locations the cost remains a $5 donation to SPARC. Maps will also be available at the SPARC meetings.

SUCCESSFUL TRAIL RIDE

The 2nd annual trail on the Stewart Buffer Lands brought together 175 riders of all disciplines to enjoy the sunshine at a premier trail-riding venue in Orange County. This ride was a special benefit to assist SPARC in its battle to save ALL the buffer lands from development.

Rigs began rolling in at 8:00 AM, and all were greeted by volunteers giving out product samples generously provided by Purina Mills, Blue Seal Feeds, Farnam Company, Espree Natural Horse Care, and Commonwealth Electrical Inspection Company. In addition, Action Trailer Sales, Equifare, New Vernon Feeds and State Line Tack donated larger items that were presented as door prizes.

A 2-hour wagon tour of the lands given by Denman Farm of Pine Bush departed at 11:00 AM.

Volunteers are the mainstay of any event. Mrs. Marge Brush was Treasurer and Tedi Vail, Sybil Miller, Janice Hilderbrand and Joan Delarocco signed in almost 100 horse trailers. Traffic consultants were Ken Kurdt, Dick Lahey and Aldo Lucca. We had our in-house photographer, Ryan Miller and Ann Gayler of Gayler Graphics made all the forms and flyers.

Riders drove up from Philadelphia, over from Connecticut, down from Albany, in from Binghamton, and New Jersey, and all the counties in the Hudson Valley. A lot of friends were made and interest in day trips to ride the Stewart State Forest were on everyone’s lips.

Mark your calendar for next year’s adventure at the Stewart Buffer Lands the first Sunday in May.

Linda Meyer, Event Director 845 895-3409 9.

Blessing the Buffer Lands

On Saturday, June 15, 2002, early in the morning, it was a beautiful day for a tree blessing. For that matter, it was a perfect day to bless the land. Jim Littlefoot, Dr. Heriberto Dixon, and Rev. Nick Miles had arrived early on the site with the little white pine. Jim was donating this tree–sacred to the Iroquois people–to the Association of Native Americans of which he and his companions were founding members. The tree was to be planted with ceremony by ANA in the Stewart Bufferlands,near the healthy and sparkling Walenberg’s pond that lay at the foot of Buchanan Hill. A blue heron flew from the pond to herald their arrival.

The people of ANA had earlier learned from Sandra Kissam of the many plans being made by powers in New York State to bulldoze more than 1,200 acres of this beautiful wilderness on the edges of Newburgh‘s Stewart Airport–turn it into warehouses.ANA hastened to show their concern by the ceremonial planting of a white pine.This tree still symbolizes–as it originally did to the Iroquois a thousand years ago–the peaceful coming together of people for the good of each other in the first true democracy created in North America.

A crowd from all walks of life–nun, biologists, birders, walkers, treckers, photographers, horse riders, parents, activists, and other people who benefited from the glory offered in that wilderness, gathered round the newly planted tree to hear the traditional Thanksgiving Address spoken by Henrietta Wise in gratitude to all entities of the earth.

Dr. Dixon (Tutelo/Saponi) spoke of the web of life–beyond our comprehension yet necessaryto our survival, how Native Americans’ basic value–reverence for the land–sustains the world. Steve Comer (Mohegan) said the turning point has come–wilderness must be protected by everyone now.

Dr. Gerald Kitzmann (Menonminee) spoke of the coming together of people, how from the ancient “Legend of the Sees,” came the prophecy about the newcomers to this land: “They shall become us.” The time for this transformationis setin this century. Larry Ahenakew spoke of his growing up, how he learned to love the land. He offered tobacco to the four directions around the white pine.

While this speaking was going on, suddenly a bright orange “effin” appeared out of the earthat the base ofthe pine tree. He walked around the tree once very slowly and then went back into the hole. Dr. Kitzmann then named the tree “The Red Salamander Tree.” And that will always be its name.

Rev. Miles (Pamonkey) blessed the tree and the people who had gathered sayingthe land was theirs who cared for and protected it.

Dr. Dixon presented a string of wampum to Sandra Kissam and Henrietta Wise for the work they had done to protect the land and help prepare the ceremonial day.

Thenall who wished offered tobacco around the young pine and said a prayer for the land according to their heart. The ceremony ended with a song of gratitude and many people shaking hands.

Henrietta Wise - Association of Native Americans

CRESTVIEW LAKE UPDATE

A new and exciting grassroots initiative is taking shape to save Crestview Lake. This effort has already been successful in pressuring New Windsor Supervisor George Meyers to keep the lake open this summer even though the lease for the facility had expired last April.

The group is known as Concerned Citizens for Crestview Lake and it is headed up by New Windsor residents Jean Antonelli and Louisa Flaningam.

Although a wet snow was falling, at least fifty people turned out for their first meeting last March 25th at New Windsor Community Center. The attendees included longtime Crestview advocate Hugo Giammarco, Supervisor George Meyers, New Windsor Councilman Jack Finnegan, Town Clerk Debby Green, County Legislators George Green and Tony Marino, along with other concerned residents.

Hugo Giammarco provided a most informative history of the facility, which he has been associated with for years. George Meyers spoke at length and responded to numerous comments and questions. He vigorously denied suggestions that he doesn’t care about preserving Crestview, repeatedly saying that he would like to see the Orange County government take over the facility. Everyone who spoke was an advocate for saving Crestview, criticized the town for not sufficiently publicizing the lake.

There were also serious concerns about the impact of the I84 Highway project on the lake, since it will mean the building of a fourlane highway across an existing causeway and the filling of two acres of open water.

Jean Antonelli and Louisa Flaningam provided petitions for the public to sign and circulate, calling for Crestview to continue as a swim and recreational facility. They ran an excellent meeting with delicious refreshments, and most importantly they have started to organize citizen efforts to save Crestview.

For more information, Jean can be reached at 845 5620421. Louisa can be contacted at 845 5699366.

Fast Forward to Fun

It’s not too soon to mark your calendar for another wonderful Contra Dance on Friday, November 15th at 8:00 PM. This will be a kneeslappin’ repeat of our jumpin’ and kickin’ Harvest Hoedown. So if you missed it before you can sure catch it soon.

SPARC’s good friend Eric Hollman, with his musical companions, will once again arrive at the down home American Legion Post 1420 of the Town of Newburgh. We’re planning an extra treat this time, maybe a short concert of real folk singin’ before we do the dancin’!

Lot’s of the details still have to be filled in, but plan on coming so you don’t miss none of the fun,
or the great fixin’s. 

Cornwall Senior Wins

SPARC was proud to once again to honor an area student with the Ben Kissam Scholarship Award for 2002. Louise I. Lynch of Cornwall High School was the recipient of the 250 scholarship, which she received at her Graduation Ceremony this past June.

Louise’s demonstrated interest in the environment and her scholastic record were impressive. Her experience has included intensive volunteer work at the Museum of the Hudson Highlands in Cornwall since age twelve. Said Louise, “I want to be a part of the development and understanding of the balance between man and nature, to promote knowledgeable management and to present and familiarize the public with local wildlife and the importance of ensuring the environment’s quality.”

Physician and outdoorsman Dr. Singman has funded the scholarship award for many years, the scholarship committee includes Cornwall resident Kathering Assante, fly fisher Robert Ewald, sustainable agriculture advocate Liana Hoodes, and retired biology teacher Rudy Vallet.

We wish Louise good luck in all her endeavors.

SPARC Demonstrates

A number of SPARC members, 26 to be exact, decided to show their disgust with the Stewart Airport Commission’s consistently anti-environment position and unwillingness to consider the negative impacts of the I-84 Interchange project. For years the SAC has advocated and rubber-stamped any development plans without consideration for land preservation, quality of life, or the environment in general. (To be fair, two past members tried to steer a sensible course; namely Franny Reese of Scenic Hudson and Dutchess County’s Jack Dexter, but they are gone.)

However, the wetlands permit provided by the NYS DEC added to SPARC members’ chagrin and it was decided to gather in front of the Airport Administration building at the SAC meeting of July 31st.

Accordingly, at 7:45 AM folks came with fresh faces, signs, and kin, to make their feelings known. Crowding the patch of lawn in front of the low brick building were Bo G. Eriksson and daughter Emma, Susan Mischo, Herb Stein, Tom and Kelly Sheridan, Linda Jonza, Vicki Matovic, Mike and Jean DeVasto, Barbara Farabaugh, Mary Ann Filardi, Joan Ruffino, Ronnie Brown, Louisa Flaningam, Marlena Lange, Linda Nadas with her daughter Gita and grandchild Jakob, Ben Mazer, Bernard Perretti, Voytek Jacobi, Sr. Mary Sheppard, Pat Smyth, Barbara Oliver, Joyce Crossley and Sandra Kissam. (Sorry if someone was missed here.)

A number of demonstraters expressed their feelings in short statements and it was inspiring. The SAC commissioners entering the building they were not thrilled to see us, and later when some of us attended the meeting we were not met with applause. Said Barbara Farabaugh later, “These [meaning our group] are committed, articulate people! One after another spoke persuasively of the importance of saving this land for ourselves and future generations. This demonstration perked me right up. . . fighting on beats depression any day”.

3rd Stewart Buffer Bike Tour MOST SUCCESSFUL!

Over 200 mountain bikers participated–it just keeps getting better every year!

But what can you expect when the Stewart Buffer lands are one of the best places for great mountain biking or just pleasurable offroad biking and, you have a dedicated, hardworking event coordinator named Ralph Grimaldi.

Bikers and volunteers received striking Tshirts, and a great lunch. Plus there were prizes and raffles to boot. This fundraiser netted SPARC 3,800 and a donation was made to the Washington 5 WTC Firefighters Memorial and to Habitat for Humanity.

Without the aid of donors and volunteers, these great events wouldn’t have gotten off the ground. Gratitude and our “thank you” go to our Gold Michael Sussman, Hudson Valley Sports, Dr. John Handago, Beverage Plus; Silver Gene’s Autowaxing Center, Loughran’s Restaurant; and Bronze Dr. Art Donohue, Good Spirits, John’s Deli, Mary J. Nally, Steve’s Handyman Service contributors.

Refreshment and Item donors were: JC Bagels Etc., T&M Deli, Not Just Bagels, The Deli in Goshen, Freihofer’s, Adams Fairacre Farms, Stop & Shop, Price Chopper, Shoprite, Joe Fix It’s, The Print Shop, Wheel & Heel, Bryan’s Bikes, Mountain Bike Magazine, Burger King, Nick Zungoli, Ski Haus, Village Fitness and Gayler Graphics.  

Volunteering were: Jean and Mike DeVasto, Tom Forsyth, Joe Giglio, Joe Habermann, Liz KissamHoraz, Sandra Kissam, Vinnie Emanuele, Diana Krautter, Linda Meyer, Susan Mischo, Mary J. Nally, Gail Schweizer, Jim Shovan, Rudy Vallet, Pat Williams, Boy Scout Troop 416. 

And the Bikers–all 200 of them!

Thanks again to all, and we hope to see even more bikers and contributors at SPARC’s 4th Bike the Buffer event in 2003.

We encourage everyone to visit the Stewart Buffer Lands!

Diana Krautter, SPARC Board Member

Dear Friends,

SPARC has been fighting for our communities’ right to the Stewart Buffer Lands since 1987.During these fifteen years our work has been undertaken entirely by volunteers, all dedicated to the cause and finding the time to accomplish the many tasks that keep an organization effective and viable.

The record shows that we are unique in our sense of purpose and our dauntless effort to save the lands for the benefit of our citizens, the same lands taken from citizens in 1971.We have, idealistically, believed that our goal is the right choice for our communities, and thousands have agreed with us.

However, our opponents are very powerful and have unlimited–often public–funds with which to influence opinion. We do not have this funding and so, from the outset, have depended on intelligent and visionary people and organizations to donate to our cause.

With our legal action pending, and possible further legal moves to be taken, funding is now, as never before, a critical need. Please look into your hearts and your pockets and send us the most generous donation you can afford.

If you have not yet sent your dues for 2002, now is the perfect time to do so.

We optimistically await your response. Thank you for your support for all these years.

The SPARC Board and President Sandra Kissam

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Contact SPARC at sparc@frontiernet.net about the organization.  Send mail to bge@edgeblur.com with questions or comments about this web site. (Last modified: 10/29/02)