Press Release: for immediate release September 26, 2004
SPARC, Co-Plaintiffs Answer Agencies 4 (f) Review
This past Wednesday, September 22, 2004, lawyer John Caffry, representing SPARC and co-plaintiffs Sierra Club and the Orange County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, filed plaintiffs' response to the Section 4 (f) review submitted last April by the NYS Dept. of Transportation, the New York State Thruway Authority, and the Federal Highway Administration. The agencies had requested that the injunction be lifted from the I-84 Interchange project, and their Sect. 4(f) review be accepted as complying with last December's decision from the federal Court of Appeals, 2nd Department.
However, SPARC and co-plaintiffs are opposing the findings of the defendant agencies, and requesting that the court deny the defendants' motions and not accept their review.
John Caffry, attorney for SPARC, et al, makes four important points in his papers and attached affidavits. First and most important, the decision at the Court of Appeals last December 2003 designated the Stewart Buffer Lands both east and west of Drury Lane as parklands under Section 4 (f). Therefore, the current proposal to move the highway about 30 feet to the east would not prevent it from impacting the parklands area.
Secondly, maintaining the current design of the I-84 Interchange project, which the agencies want to do, would absolutely require the construction of a 15-acre wetland mitigation site on Barron Rd., once again impacting parklands as designated under Sect. 4(f). It has now become clear that the Barron Road site is presently partly a wetland, and also has rare species, including a rare butterfly and a plant known as the purple milkweed.
Thirdly, the agencies' review totally ignores a clearly stated goal of the interchange project, namely inducing the industrial development of 1200 acres on both sides of Drury Lane. Obviously this outcome would impact the parklands identified by the Court of Appeals.
Finally, viable alternative routes for an entrance to Stewart Airport exist and were included in the original Environmental Impact Study for the project, but consideration of these routes has been omitted from the agencies' current review.
Caffry says in his affidavit, "The point is that it is clear that there are alternatives to the Project which would meet the Section 4 (f) standard of being feasible and prudent, if only the Defendants would stop avoiding their duty to conduct an alternatives analysis. . . as mandated by the Court of Appeals."
John Stouffer of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club says, "The Dept. of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration appear to be wedded to their plan to take away our recreational lands for the benefit of developers. But, since the law is on our side, their stubbornness is only delaying the construction of a new airport access road."
Sandra Kissam, SPARC President, says, " The Defendant Agencies can build a road that would serve passengers to the airport, even as they protect the parklands. Why don't they make a course correction and just do it."
Note: John Yrizarry, noted lepidopterist, together with naturalist Spider Barbour, identified the above-mentioned rare species. John will be our featured speaker, (and show slides), at SPARC's meeting coming Wed., Oct. 6th, '04, 7:30 PM. The location is the Bethlehem Church Community Room, corner Rt. 94 and Jackson Ave. in New Windsor.
Contact: Sandra Kissam, SPARC, 845 564-3018,
John Stouffer, Atlantic Chapt. of Sierra Club, 518 426-9144