Thursday, October 30, 2014

Global Partners Conducts Annual Drill at Albany Terminal October 30

Albany, NY — As part of its extensive emergency response preparedness program, Global Partners held an emergency response drill today at its Albany terminal located near the Port of Albany. Representatives from local emergency response organizations participated, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Albany Port Authority, the Albany County Fire Department and Fire Coordinator, Albany County Emergency Management, the Albany County Department of Health, the City of Albany Fire Department, and the Local Emergency Planning Committee.

Tom Keefe, Global’s vice president of Environmental Health and Safety Operations, facilitated the event. “Global’s emergency response planning begins with comprehensive training of our employees. In addition, it is critical that our training is performed with local emergency responders, which allows for greater understanding of procedures and familiarity with the facility and on-site equipment,” Keefe said.

The drill simulated the response to a release of crude oil to the Hudson River from the failure of a pipe during the loading of a barge. The goal of the drill was to improve response and preparedness efforts by exercising the terminal’s response plans including; coordination of local emergency response command and control, integration of federal, state and local resources, regulatory and other notifications and spill response procedures.  This was a table-top review of procedures and protocols. No equipment was deployed during the event.

Save East Greenbush Files Suit Over Town Zoning Vote

East Greenbush, NY (October 30, 2014). Save East Greenbush filed suit Thursday in Rensselaer County Court over the controversial Zoning Board of Appeals vote to approve a casino and its commercial amenities in a residential buffer zone. The group currently has an outstanding legal petition against the Town Board’s tainted vote to allow the casino application to go forward. 

Spokesperson Cara Benson: “This is now our second suit. We will continue to challenge the actions taken by our Town as they torture and twist the law to further the casino developer’s agenda. Then we will vote every last one of them out.” 

Attorney Jeff Meyer: “The ZBA may not legislate. It is only empowered to apply the existing zoning laws to the property in question. Their decision essentially rewrote the zoning law. This was arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and an error of law that will be resolved in the courts.” 

The East Greenbush Zoning law is clear that primarily residential districts are designed to serve residential uses. Specifically, the Residential Buffer Zone does not permit the casino and the amenities proposed by Capital View. What’s more troubling is the extent to which the ZBA attempted to rationalize their decision by arguing that the definition of resident is not clear or that the Gaming Act somehow amended the Town’s zoning.  

The Gaming Commission Q&A session regarding the Gaming Act clearly states: “N.Y. Racing Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law § 1366 does not preempt local zoning and land use regulation as to non-gaming activitiesand permitted uses of a proposed Gaming Facility.”

Ravena Man's Driving License Suspended 15 Times

 District Attorney P. David Soares announced today that BRYAN IRVING, 40, of Ravena, was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in State Prison before the Honorable Peter A. Lynch in Albany County Court this morning.

On September 25, 2014, IRVING pleaded guilty to (1) Count of Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle in the First Degree, a Class E Felony. 

On July 31, 2014, at approximately 3:24pm, officers from the Coeymans Police Department initiated a traffic stop on a 1995 Lexus that was being driven by IRVING on Route 9W in the Town of Ravena.  Police uncovered that IRVING was driving with a suspended license, and that his driver’s license had previously been suspended 15 times for multiple traffic violations.

At the time of the stop IRVING was under the supervision of Probation for a previous drug conviction.  IRVING was also sentenced today to a concurrent term of 3 years in State Prison for a Violation of Probation charge.

Assistant District Attorney Melinda Seiden-Fiorino prosecuted this case.

Albany Man Found Guilty of Two Counts of First-Degree Murder

District Attorney P. David Soares announced that OSCAR VALCARCEL, 42, of Albany, was sentenced to 25 years to Life in State Prison, before the Honorable Judge Roger D. McDonough in Albany County Supreme Court this morning.

On September 16, 2014, VALCARCEL was found guilty after a jury trial of (2) Counts of Murder in the First Degree, both Class A-I Felonies, and (3) Counts of Murder in the Second Degree, all Class A-I Felonies.

Between the hours of 9:00 pm on December 3, 2013 and 3:00 pm on December 4, 2013, at a residence on Western Avenue in the City of Albany, VALCARCEL intentionally caused the death of a victim while in the course of committing a burglary and robbery.  The victim, Caleb Capen, 27, was a resident of the apartment building.

Major Offenses Unit Bureau Chief Eric Galarneau and Assistant District Attorney Jasper Mills of the Street Crimes Unit prosecuted this case.

Holiday Hess Toy Truck Mobile Museum in Slingerlands and Rotterdam

 Hess is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Hess Toy Truck with a first-ever Mobile Museum. The museum will showcase for the first time the entire collection of holiday Hess Toy Trucks in one location and never-before-seen artifacts chronicling the history of the beloved toy. Fans and collectors will be able to explore the Mobile Museum while they learn more about the iconic brand.
The Mobile Museum will be accompanied by outdoor activities for children, dependent on weather, including a photo op where guests can choose a custom background, a Kids’ Zone featuring puzzles and a holiday card coloring area, a prize wheel, and a bank of toy truck computer games.

For more information, please visit

(from the Story of Hess Toy Trucks site)

WHERE/               Slingerlands City Hess Express
WHEN:                 1358 New Scotland Road
Slingerlands, NY 12159
                                Date: Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Time: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Schenectady City Hess Express
1911 Curry Road
Rotterdam, NY 12306
Date: Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Time: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Audubon New York Honors Conservationist Alexander Zagoreos

Zagoreos Presented with 2014 Thomas W. Keesee, Jr. Conservation Award
TROY>> Audubon New York is honoring Alexander Zagoreos with the 2014 Thomas W. Keesee, Jr. Conservation Award on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at the annual Audubon New York Fall Benefit at the Metropolitan Club in New York City.
Zagoreos is being presented the Thomas W. Keesee, Jr. Conservation Award for his leadership in environmental protection and natural resource conservation.  The Thomas W. Keesee, Jr. Award is Audubon’s highest award for a leader championing conservation in New York.  The annual award is named in honor of Thomas W. Keesee, Jr., a long-time advocate of Audubon’s grassroots legacy. 
“Alex Zagoreos’ passion for our natural world has had an everlasting impact on New York’s landscape and people,” said Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York.  “Alex’s life-long commitment to the preservation of our natural resources is inspirational, and many organizations have benefitted from his involvement.  Audubon New York is honored, proud, and grateful for his leadership and dedication.”
“It’s a tremendous honor to receive the 2014 Keesee Award from Audubon New York,” says Alex Zagoreos, 2014 Thomas W. Keesee Jr. Conservation Award Honoree.  “I firmly believe that to achieve modern conservation success, partnering with private landowners is imperative if we are going to find strategic solutions for balancing the financial benefit of working lands with protecting the resources that birds and other wildlife depend on for raising their families.  Audubon New York is a leader at implementing this 21st Century approach and I truly appreciate their recognition of my commitment to conservation in New York.”
Alex Zagoreos has been an Audubon New York Board member since 2001 and recently retired as Chairman. Previously, Alex was Vice Chair, Chair of the Finance Committee, and Co-Chair of the Development Committee. Alex is a Senior Advisor of Lazard Asset Management, with 44 years of investment experience in international and emerging markets.  He is also on the board of the National Audubon Society, serving on the Conservation, Arts, Investment, and Finance committees. Committed to the preservation of New York’s natural resources, for nearly five decades Alex has been a leader within many New York based environmental conservation organizations, including Hudson Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, Scenic Hudson Land Trust, New York League for Conservation Voters, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, and a number of Hudson River groups involved in the protection of the River and its valley.
Alex has a strong interest in the intersection of agriculture and wildlife conservation and he and his wife Marine run a bird-friendly beef farm in Washington County, NY, a portion of which is dedicated to protecting grassland birds. Alex and Marine donated a conservation easement on the property as a way to ensure their children, grandchildren and all future generations be able to enjoy the property and all of its wildlife as much as they do today.  Species of conservation concern found on the property include Bobolink, American Kestrel, and Savannah Sparrow.  These species and others are benefiting from the bird-friendly haying practices at the farm.  Delaying the first cut of hay until nesting birds successfully fledge their chicks helps with population recovery and makes the Washington County countryside valuable habitat for migrating and overwintering birds.
The Thomas W. Keesee, Jr. Conservation Award is presented annually by Audubon New York to honor the individual or individuals who have shown remarkable leadership and commitment, particularly in New York State, to Audubon's mission to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.
In addition, support underwrites Audubon New York’s work within the Atlantic Flyway. Audubon’s Strategic Plan: A Road Map for Hemispheric Conservation maximizes our conservation results by focusing on five conservation strategies critical to birds: Putting Working Lands to Work for People and Birds; Saving Our Seas and Shores; Saving Important Birds Areas, including Montezuma, Constitution Marsh, Onondaga Lake, and Long Island Sound; Shaping a Healthy Climate and Clean Energy Future, and Creating Bird-Friendly Communities. 

Past recipients of the Thomas W. Keesee, Jr. Conservation Award include: 2013 Allison W. Rockefeller, 2012 Virginia K. Stowe, 2012 Margot Ernst, 2011 Toyota, 2011 Carol Browner, 2010 John Flicker, 2009 Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff, 2008 George E. Pataki, 2008 Peter Berle, In Memoriam, 2007 Adrian Benepe, 2007 Carol Ash, 2006 Wendy Paulson, 2004 Marian S. Heiskell, 2003 Samuel F. Pryor III, 2002 John Bierwirth, 2001 Donal O’Brien
The Audubon New York Fall Benefit, 2014 Keesee Award Luncheon will take place at The Metropolitan Club, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, November 5, 2014.  Individual tickets start at $350. Sponsorship opportunities remain. Kun Deng, Thomas W. Keesee III, Rick Lazio, Allen J. Model, and Michael O’Keeffe are serving as Benefit Committee chairs.  The menu will incorporate organic and locally-sourced produce donated by Snow Hill Farm from Audubon New York board member Laura O’Donohue.  Laura is Owner of Snow Hill Farm, a certified organic farm of more than 100 acres in North Salem, NY.  Fresh produce will also be donated by Hawthorne Farms and Katchkie Farm.  For more information, please call 518-869-9731 or visit
About Audubon New York: Audubon New York is the state’s leading voice for the conservation and protection of natural resources for birds.  Integrating science, conservation, policy and education, Audubon’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitat for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.   With 50,000 members and 27 affiliated chapters state-wide, Audubon New York oversees seven sanctuaries and centers, from Long Island to western New York, and protects priority habitats, including 130 Important Bird Areas identified as critical for the conservation of birds.  
About Thomas W. Keesee, Jr.: A long-time member of the National Audubon Society’s Board of Directors who served as its Chairman from 1979 to 1983, Keesee fostered ground-breaking initiatives in field work, such as the Save the Condor Program in California and the Puffin Project in Maine and held several leadership positions with conservation groups in New York, North Carolina and New Jersey. 

Call for Submissions: Collar City Film Festival

Call for Submissions: Collar City Film Festival
Submission deadline: November 30, 2014 Midnight
Event date: Troy Night Out, Friday, January 30th, 8 pm
Location: Collar Works Gallery, 137 4th Street, Troy
The Collar City Film Festival is seeking submissions of short films to be presented on the evening of Friday, January 30, at Collar Works Gallery. Films will be part of the third edition of the Collar City Film Festival, a platform for film and video artists working in the greater capital region and Hudson Valley.
Please submit short films, 25-minutes or less (although exceptions can be made). All submissions should be in a web viewable format (youtube, vimeo, or whatever delivery service you may prefer).
Notifications will be sent out by January 1st. Please include the following details with your submission to
Full Name:
Description (300 words or less):

URL for film:
Please include a password is the film is password protected.
Also, there is the opportunity for artists wishing to present a short performance piece during the intermission. Please email with any ideas you may have.
We are thrilled that this edition of the Collar City Film Festival will take place atCollar Works Gallery. Check out their current exhibition Fictively Fact with Seamus Liam O’Brien and Ira Marcks:
To view images from the second edition of the Collar City Film Festival, see:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

State's fuel reserve to go in Rensselaer County in case of disaster


Strategic Fuel Reserves in Rensselaer, Brewerton, Rochester, Marcy, Vestal and Buffalo will Ensure Availability of Gasoline and Diesel Fuels to First Responders if Supply is Disrupted

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the establishment of a strategic fuel reserve at six key locations in Upstate New York to help ensure that gasoline and diesel fuels are available to emergency responders in the event of an emergency, including future severe storms. The reserve terminals are positioned to rapidly provide service to all areas of Upstate New York in the event of a declared emergency. Establishing an Upstate fuel reserve is a key component of Fuel NY, the Governor's statewide fuel infrastructure protection initiative developed in direct response to disruptions caused by Superstorm Sandy.

"The strategic Upstate fuel reserve will enable emergency responders to continue their vitally important jobs, even in the event of a prolonged disaster, and addresses vulnerabilities discovered in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy,” Governor Cuomo said. “This addition to New York's fuel infrastructure plan makes it the strongest of any state in the nation, and is one more way that we are building back better.”

Approximately 2.5 million gallons of gasoline and ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel will be housed in the strategic fuel reserve, and will be supplied to first responders during a declared emergency in the event that their own fuel supplies are disrupted. The six key reserve terminals that will provide service to all of Upstate New York are located in:
· Rensselaer
· Brewerton
· Rochester
· Marcy
· Vestal
· Buffalo

The Upstate Strategic Fuel Reserve Program is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority with $10 million in funding provided by the New York Power Authority. The fuel is owned by New York State, and the reserves are managed by Buckeye Terminals, LLC. Suppliers will be able to pre-register with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to facilitate distribution of fuel upon declaration of an emergency and release of the strategic fuel reserve in their region.

Fuel NY is the nation's strongest program for meeting the backup electricity requirements of gas stations to be better prepared for a declared emergency. Today, more than half of all gas stations in New York City, Long Island and Westchester and Rockland Counties are required to have back-up power in the event of an emergency. Additionally, Fuel NY has established the first-in-the-nation State Strategic Gasoline Reserve on Long Island. More information about Fuel NY is available here.

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority President and CEO John B. Rhodes said, "Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York State is developing a resilient and reliable energy infrastructure, and the Upstate Strategic Fuel Reserve Program is an important piece of that solution. This reserve will ensure that critical first responders like police, ambulance, fire department, and other emergency personnel have fuel to assist New Yorkers and aide in the recovery efforts during severe weather events."

New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said, "The Upstate Strategic Fuel Reserve will provide the New York Power Authority, other utilities in the state and first responders with added assurance that their transmission and repair crews will have the necessary fuel supplies for their bucket trucks and other vehicles for restoring power after major storms. The fuel reserve is a vital emergency-preparedness initiative for lessening the disruptive impacts of future storms."

Buckeye Partners, L.P. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Clark C. Smith said, "Buckeye is pleased to be partnering with the State of New York to provide a strategic refined petroleum products reserve for the Upstate New York markets. Buckeye's success in quickly and safely re-starting operations after the Superstorm Sandy landfall in 2012 demonstrated our commitment to minimizing disruptions in the markets we supply. Buckeye is very proud to be a part of the storage and distribution option for first responders should there be another emergency event in the future."

Students Help with Van Rensselaer Garden Club Dinner Floral Designs

Business is budding in the Capital Region BOCES Floral Design program, according to officials.
With a "staff" of eight students, the floral program is arranging the centerpieces for the annual Van Rensselaer Garden Club dinner Thursday and developing a floral design for the major Culinary Cornucopia gala this weekend.
Of course, Margaret Bugler's students are also charged with learning the techniques behind their designs, as well as integrated English and all of the other classwork that is part of their daily learning at CTE.
"We are very busy. It's good, but we are busy," said Bugler in between cutting carnations and instructing students.
The students are creating 29 centerpieces for the Garden Club dinner, which is Oct. 30 at the Franklin Plaza in Troy. Using a myriad of different greens, students are also incorporating carnations and other flowers into their design.

At the same time, the students are developing various floral arrangements for the food display tables at the Culinary Cornucopia, which is a major fundraiser for Living Resources. The event pits some of the top chefs in the region against each other in a culinary competition that ends with a gala dinner at the Albany Marriott.
The Capital Region BOCES Career and Technical Education (CTE) students say they love the experience the work gives them.
"I really like helping out with floral shows," said Shannon Devoe, from the Shenendehowa Central School District.
Jhyerel Ford, who attends CTE from the Cohoes City School District, said he loves the hands-on work.
"I just like being in the (shop). It's calm and peaceful and I really like working with the flowers," said Ford.

Albany Mayor Sheehan Presents ReZone Albany for City-Wide Rezoning and Code Updates

Historic Update Will “Unleash the Potential” of Albany

Albany, NY--Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced the launch of ReZone Albany-The Vibrant City Initiative, a historic process to improve Albanys dated zoning code in order to reduce burdens for small business owners and make the city a better place to live, work, and invest. Simplifying and modernizing Albanys zoning and regulations is expected to encourage investments by homeowners, landlords, small businesses, and developers, making Albany more economically vibrant and attractive. 

The City also announced that it has hired Clarion Associates, a nationally recognized planning and land-use firm, to lead the undertaking. The initiative will include an extensive outreach component embracing community-wide participation, education, and an evaluation process that will involve numerous meetings, workshops, and public hearings.

“This is long overdue,” said Mayor Sheehan, “and a change that will unleash the potential in Albanys downtown and the citys neighborhoods. Working together to rezone Albany will allow residents to protect the character of their neighborhoods, yet also responsibly encourage an even better place to live, work, and play.”

This comprehensive code revision is made possible through financial support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). ReZone Albany will cost up to $750,000 and will include green building guidelines, smart growth principles, and water conservation standards.

"Albany's zoning code efforts will encourage smarter and more efficient building designs and development, thereby helping to contribute to efforts under Governor Cuomo to develop a resilient, reliable and affordable energy infrastructure," said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO of NYSERDA. "The Cleaner, Greener Communities program encourages municipalities across the state to become more sustainable and energy-efficient.”

“The citys lack of an integrated approach to zoning, land development, and building regulations has made something as simple as putting up a fence, opening a business, or painting a house extremely difficult, uncertain, and frustrating,” added Christopher Spencer, Albany’s Director of Planning. “The goal is to create a more straightforward, fair, and predictable process for building improvements or development—ultimately expanding the tax base, while adding to the quality of life.”

The initiative is expected to take two years to complete. Particular areas such as the downtown and the warehouse district will be prioritized to ensure current development proposals in those areas are done in a way consistent with the Albany 2030, the city’s first comprehensive plan, passed by Albany’s Common Council in 2012.

Although revisions were made to Albanys zoning code in 1993, a major rewrite has not been undertaken of Albanys zoning code since 1968. The current code has discouraged development in the city and resulted in buildings unsuited to the character of particular Albany neighborhoods.

The intricacies of Albanys existing zoning code and the permitting process made it difficult for business owner Anton Pasquill to launch the Hudson River Coffee House, which opened on Quail Street in 2010. “People who want to set up a neighborhood business almost always have to hire an attorney or engineering firm to get through the Board of Zoning Appeals,” Pasquill said. “If we want small businesses to set up shop in Albany, we have to change the code.”

“This is going to create a much more livable city,” said Al De Salvo, chair of Albanys Planning Board. “The new code will be more friendly to responsible development that enhances our neighborhoods.”

Albany has had a zoning code that stifles innovation, investment and smart growth,” said Richard Berkley, chair of Albany’s Board of Zoning  Appeals. “Our historic city, New York State’s capital, deserves better, and with The Vibrant City Initiative it will get a flexible 21st Century zoning code that will promote entrepreneurial business growth, and protect and improve our historic neighborhoods and architecture.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Watervliet Police Department's Pistol Permit Process Under Scrutiny

There's been some scuttlebutt within certain blog and online circles regarding a post from last week which calls the city of Watervliet Police Department out for allegedly asking for people's Facebook profile passwords when people apply for a pistol permit in the municipality.

First off, after talking with a couple in-the-know gun "experts", I have a feeling that there was a miscommunication about this somewhere down the line but the city nor the police department really want to talk any further about this. I reached out to the mayor, general manager, the PR folks for the city, and to the police chief directly - and haven't heard back from anyone except the PR people.

Secondly, to me, it does make sense to do a thorough background check on someone for a pistol permit which might include their social media posts.

Thirdly, and this is more an odd observation, it's really weird to "allege" something about the Police Department since it's usually the other way around.

I spoke with a local businessman who owns multiple gun shops in the area. He said he was extremely surprised by what people have been saying about the city but acknowledged "it has caused an incredible stir." Yet, the businessman added, "it goes against everything I know about the chief."

(Image from here)

This businessman's gun stores see about 30 percent of business from area law enforcement, including Watervliet which has worked with this business for more than a decade. He added that, from his observations, many of these law enforcement agencies are second amendment supporters.

He noted, however, that, "I can't imagine what social media has to do with the relevance of a person being a good citizen....I find it hard to believe that's a policy."

(photo from Jason Dobbs)

From a Facebook post earlier this month on the City of Watervliet's page, in response to a concerned NYS resident about the issue, the police department stated: "Mr. [Jason] Dobbs, that form was erroneously included in the package we provide for pistol permits. It is an internal form that we utilize during interviews and should not have been included in the package. It has since been removed. It is, however, a common practice to view social media as a means to identify and determine character of a pistol permit applicant, in addition to other investigatory methods. We apologize for the confusion.... Typically all we ask is that an applicant access their account during an interview."

From Don Dupre Dilligaf on FB and Time Warner Cable"Today, social media is a vital investigative tool and we make a use of it in these background investigations in order to render a well-founded and complete recommendation on applicants to the courts. None of the eight (8) applicants who supplied Facebook information have had their accounts accessed, which I know because I am the investigating officer and the only person conducting background checks." – Watervliet Police Chief Ronald A. Boisvert, Jr.

The photo and post have garnered more than a dozen (to put it mildly) upset comments on the city's police department FB page.

It's hard to say at this point if the city of Watervliet does, indeed, ask people for their Facebook passwords - though it sounds like they just ask you to sign in to your social media account in front of them. In either case, there are people apparently who do not think this should be normal pistol permit protocol.

$13.1M in Renovations at TU Center in Albany

ALBANY >> As the Times Union Center approaches its 25th year in operation, county officials have discussed details with redesigning and enclosing the atrium of the center as part of a $13.1 million project.
The center, which has a concert capacity around 15,300, opened as the Knickerbocker Arena on January 30, 1990 with a performance by Frank Sinatra.
“The 25 year old Times Union Center is in need of a facelift,” stated Bob Belber with the center in a letter to county officials. He said this was why they worked with the county to put out a request for conceptual plans, especially for the atrium. Belber said he hopes the designs will “elevate the usefulness” of the atrium.

An enclosed atrium, which had been talked about in the past, could offer green space and additional vendor opportunities.
“This is going to be a transformative project that will change the face of the Times Union Center and will perfectly complement the new Civic Center which will be an integral part of revitalization downtown,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy.  “Additionally, it will enhance the experience of all patrons. No one will be standing out in the cold during the winter or the heat during the summer. They will truly have an even better time because of the terrific design put together by the design team at Synthesis.”

The proposed plan includes adding about 3,000 square feet of space on the mezzanine level that will become a media work space for NCAA, MAAC, and other sports tournaments.
The work is planned to be done while the venue still hosts shows to prevent any loss of revenue.
Synthesis Architecture and CS Architecture both submitted bids and concepts.
“Our feeling is that Synthesis Architecture’s concepts including a full enclosure of the atrium as well as enclosing the Northeast Corner of the concourse leading to the parking garage is the best proposal, of the two received,” said Belber in the letter.
Details of the proposal were presented Monday.
“We are hoping that the project will be completed by September of 2016, pending final approvals,” Belber noted.
 ---Danielle Sanzone

Four Guilty Pleas for Drug Sales of Cocaine and Heroin in Albany County

There are a lot of cocaine and heroin court case updates today:

Guilty Plea for Cocaine Sale
District Attorney P. David Soares announced that RAKEEM CHARLESTON, 21, of Albany, pleaded guilty to (1) Count of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a Class C Felony, before Honorable Judge Stephen W. Herrick in Albany County Court  yesterday afternoon. 

During the day of July 18, 2014, in the area of 109 Lark Street, in the City of Albany, CHARLESTON did knowingly sell a quantity of crack cocaine in exchange for a sum of US currency.  CHARLESTON was then arrested on July 21, 2014, at approximately 5:46pm at 108 Lark Street, in the City of Albany, by the Albany Police Department.  Upon a subsequent search CHARLESTON was found to have 7.7 grams of crack cocaine divided into 32 baggies secreted on his person.

CHARLESTON faces up to 4 years in State Prison, to be followed by 2 years of Post-Release Supervision, when sentenced on December 2, 2014.

Assistant District Attorney Kurt Haas of the Street Crimes Unit is prosecuting this case.

Guilty Plea for Colonie Cocaine Possession
District Attorney P. David Soares announced that TROY M. SAUNDERS, 30, of Schenectady, pleaded guilty to (1) Count of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Sell in the Third Degree, a Class B Felony, before Honorable Judge Peter A. Lynch in Albany County Court on Friday, October 24, 2014. 

On February 7, 2014, at approximately 11:50pm, members of the Colonie Police Department observed SAUNDERS failing to signal a turn while he was driving a vehicle at the intersection of Central Ave and Karner Road in the Town of Colonie. Upon a subsequent traffic stop, SAUNDERS fled police on foot and then engaged in a physical altercation with the officers, causing physical injury to one officer. A search uncovered 21 individual baggies of cocaine. 

SAUNDERS faces up to 4 ½ years in State Prison, to be followed by 3 years of Post-Release Supervision, when sentenced on January 9, 2015.  SAUNDERS will also have to forfeit all funds in association with this crime.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph Brucato of the Street Crimes Unit is prosecuting this case.

Two Plead Guilty to Heroin Sales
District Attorney P. David Soares announced TIMOTHY MANN, 43, of Albany, and CAROLYN FLOOD, 47, of Albany, each pleaded guilty to (1) Count of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a Class B Felony, before the Honorable Thomas A. Breslin on Friday, October 24, 2014.

On July 1, 2014, at approximately 6:28pm, at 1860 Central Ave, in the Town of Colonie, MANN did knowingly sell a quantity of heroin for a sum of US currency.  

MANN faces up to 3 years in State Prison, to be followed by 2 years of Post-Release Supervision when sentenced on December 5, 2014.

Additionally on June 12, 2014, at approximately 1:10pm, in the area of 224-260 South Pearl St, in the City of Albany, FLOOD did knowingly sell a quantity of heroin in exchange for a sum of US currency.  

FLOOD faces up to 3 ½ years in State Prison, to be followed by 2 years of Post Release Supervision, along with forfeiture of all money and property seized, when sentenced on December 14, 2014. 

MANN and FLOOD were part of a network of an alleged heroin ring in Albany County.  The alleged heroin ring are accused of transporting and selling quantities of heroin throughout the region using taxi cabs that were typically being driven by alleged known associates.

On October 23, 2014, co-defendant NICHOLAS ZERVOS, 47, of Albany, pleaded guilty to (1) Count of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a Class B Felony, before Honorable Judge Roger McDonough in Albany County Supreme Court.  On July 16, 2014, at approximately 1:25pm, in the area of Elizabeth and Katherine Streets in the City of Albany, ZERVOS did sell a quantity of heroin in exchange for US Currency.

ZERVOS faces 4 years in State Prison, to be followed by 2 years of Post-Release Supervision, when sentenced on December 12, 2014.   ZERVOS will also be ordered to forfeit a mini-van that he used to transport heroin.

On September 10, 2014, co-defendant DONTE JOSEPH, 23, of Coeymans, pleaded guilty to (1) Count of Attempted Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, a Class A-II Felony, before Honorable Judge Peter A. Lynch in Albany County Court.  On July 31, 2014, at approximately 12:15pm, at an apartment at 1779 Central Avenue in the Town of Colonie, JOSEPH did attempt to possess a quantity of over eight ounces of heroin.

JOSEPH faces 7 years in State Prison, to be followed by 5 years of Post-Release Supervision, when sentenced on November 7, 2014.  JOSEPH will also be ordered to forfeit any property or money seized by law enforcement.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph Brucato of the Street Crimes Unit is prosecuting these cases.

UPDATE: Lawsuit Filed Against New York State On Funding Tappan Zee Bridge with Clean Water Money

Groups File Lawsuit Challenging State’s Plan to Partially Finance New Tappan Zee Bridge by Raiding Critical Clean Water Funds

Action taken to discourage further attempts to raid funds and ensure due public process for future projects

NEW YORK – October 28, 2014 – Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance and Environmental Advocates of New York have filed a lawsuit against New York State officials, seeking to ensure that urgently needed federal Clean Water Act funds will not be illegally used to fund the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction project or for other ineligible projects in the future. 
See the lawsuit: 
The suit was filed in State Supreme Court in Albany County by Pace Law School’s Environmental Litigation Clinic, representing the groups. It names New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Environmental Facilities Corporation, Thruway Authority and Public Authorities Control Board, as well as approximately eighteen individuals in their capacities as board members and executives of these agencies.
The lawsuit seeks to invalidate New York State's proposal to apply $511 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) for bridge construction projects that include dredging, pile driving and demolition. Governor Cuomo rushed his plan through with virtually no oversight from the public and no green light from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which provides most of this funding to the states in the form of annual capitalization grants. In a September 16, 2014 letter, EPA rejected the vast majority of this loan – $482 million of the total. The legal action seeks a court order that will enforce EPA's decision and discourage any further attempt to divert clean water funds for improper purposes.
"The EPA took an important step in disallowing the brunt of this loan. However, Albany has vowed to appeal EPA's decision," said Paul Gallay, President of Riverkeeper. "The surest way to protect this vital funding source for its intended purpose is to make sure the Court has jurisdiction to enforce the Clean Water Act as necessary.” 
"We were deeply disappointed to learn of the state’s plan to divert federal Clean Water Act funding for a major construction project that certainly won’t improve water quality,” said Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi.  “Allowing this misuse of funds could set a dangerous national precedent spurring other states to raid federal monies designed to give us clean water. In the vernacular of this holiday season, the State’s economic trick isn’t a treat for our waterways and communities.” 
Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York said, “There is no less at stake than the future stability of the Clean Water Act. This program has done tremendous work for decades, including helping communities right here in New York to upgrade and protect residents from outdated sewage systems and other infrastructure problems. It is unfortunate we must fight to protect the Clean Water Act from executive overreach, but it is a critical effort given the national consequences.  Communities across the state are in desperate need of funding for water infrastructure improvements and the Cuomo Administration should be working with the EPA to develop the funding plan necessary.”
“This lawsuit is absolutely necessary because the State has publicly maintained that EPA approval is not required for it to close on these illegal loans, said Daniel E. Estrin, Supervising Attorney of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, counsel for the plaintiff groups. “In addition, while we agree with EPA’s Ruling disallowing approximately 95 percent of the proposed New New York Bridge financing on the grounds that those projects are not substantively eligible to receive Clean Water Act assistance, EPA did not make any findings in its Ruling with respect to the grossly illegal process the State utilized when it fast-tracked the approvals of these loans without public input. We cannot and will not stand by and allow the State to steal from the public its statutory and regulatory rights to participate in the CWSRF decision process, which are expressly guaranteed under federal and State law.”

The Tappan Zee project was not included in the State's CWSRF Intended Use Plan when it was finalized in February 2014. The project was added four months later with no public notice or comment, in violation of Clean Water Act requirements spelled out in EPA regulations.  
The bulk of the proposed loan would pay directly for construction costs, including over $100 million for construction related dredging and dredge disposal, $30 million for “armoring” the 12-foot-deep dredged trench with stone and gravel, and $65 million for removal of the existing bridge.
In its Sept. 16 letter, EPA Region 2 Clean Water Division Director Joan Leary Matthews wrote that "construction activities arising from transportation projects do not advance water quality, and CWSRF funding should not be used for these purposes." Five of the 12 projects in the loan proposal – costing $29 million – were deemed eligible for the funds; the remaining seven – costing a combined $482 million – were deemed ineligible.
The federal government established the CWSRF program to help communities across the nation meet the goals of the Clean Water Act. The program provides critical financial resources to municipalities, including New York City, to support improvements in wastewater infrastructure that lead to reduced sewage pollution and improved water quality in the Hudson River Estuary and other waterways across the state. 
The state Environmental Facilities Corporation, which proposed to loan the $511 million to the Thruway Authority, is empowered by state law to administer and finance the CWSRF. 
On June 26, 2014, the same day the EFC unanimously voted to approve the loan; there were two water main breaks in Syracuse that shut down streets and left workers and residents in the city without water due to aging infrastructure. This is just one example of a significant need for clean water projects that will go unfunded due to the State rushing this loan through. Using clean water infrastructure funds to pay for a transportation infrastructure project is improper and inconsistent with federal and state law, and sets a dangerous precedent.
Read more about the groups’ efforts to stop the illegal raid of clean water funds to build the new Tappan Zee Bridge at:
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About WATERKEEPER® Alliance
Founded in 1999 by environmental attorney and activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and several veteran Waterkeeper Organizations, Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect over 1.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. Learn more at: or follow @Waterkeeper on Twitter and Facebook.

Tele-conference Tuesday regarding:
Environmental Advocates of New York, Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance have filed a lawsuit against New York State in order to ensure that urgently needed federal Clean Water Act funds will not be illegally used for the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction project or for other projects in the future. Governor Cuomo rushed his proposal to apply $511 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) through with virtually no oversight from the public or the State and no green light from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which provides this funding to the states. In a September 16, 2014 letter, EPA rejected the vast majority of this loan – $482 million of the total.
WHAT: Telephone briefing on lawsuit just filed against NY State over funding the Tappan Zee Bridge with $511 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
  • Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper
  • Peter Iwanowicz, Executive Director, Environmental Advocates of New York
  • Marc Yaggi, Executive Director, Waterkeeper Alliance
  • Daniel Estrin, Supervising Attorney, Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Inc., Adjunct Professor of Law, Pace Law School         

Albany Medical Center First Hospital to Implant Latest Spinal Cord Stimulator Technology for Chronic Pain Relief

ALBANY, N.Y., October 28, 2014 — Albany Medical Center recently was the first hospital in the nation to implant the latest device in spinal cord stimulator technology to address chronic pain in backs and legs, among other areas.

Neurosurgeon Julie Pilitsis, M.D., Ph.D., who performed the procedure, said the new technology, called the CoverEdge system, allows surgeons to more accurately target pain relief through spinal cord stimulation.

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a surgical technique used to help patients with chronic pain by surgically implanting thin wires along the spinal cord.  Controlled by a hand held remote, the wires deliver electrical pulses that interrupt the pain signal that is being carried by the spinal nerve to the brain and replacing it with a tingling sensation. The remote control can be programmed by the patient’s medical team to best target the impulses based on the location and intensity of the patient’s pain.

“New technology is allowing us to individualize care and pain relief better than ever before,” Dr. Pilitsis said.  She said the device can target up to 32 points of contact along the spine, allowing for flexibility and better control of the electrical impulses delivered to the spine.

Spinal cord stimulation is FDA approved for patients with chronic leg or back pain, complex regional pain syndrome, nerve damage, neuropathy or neuritis when pain medications and other methods do not help.

Dr. Pilitsis notes that programming of the device not only has the potential to be more effective, but much faster because the computer algorithm allows for multiple complex configurations.

“There are so many different exciting directions the field of surgical stimulation is going in,” said Dr. Pilitsis. “We are excited to be the first to offer these advanced capabilities to our patients suffering from chronic pain, in hopes of giving back their quality of life.”

Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is one of the largest private employers in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 734-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals, and also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with more than 400 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life. For more information: or