Tuesday's meeting of the Conservation Advisory Council was attended by some people who don't normally attend CAC meetings: Council president Tom DePietro, Public Works commissioner Peter Bujanow, and Christine Vanderlan from the Columbia Land Conservancy. Bujanow was there, DePietro explained, "to clarify misinformation that seems to be out there." DePietro was referring to a post on Gossips reporting that, in the discussion at a Common Council ad hoc committee, the scope of the area being considered as a possible site for a solar farm had expanded to include the capped landfill at the end of North Second Street. This "misinformation" had provoked comment from former mayor Tiffany Martin and First Ward supervisor Sarah Sterling and prompted the CAC to get involved--all of which DePietro characterized as "kerfuffle."
In clarifying the situation, Bujanow explained that DePietro had "assigned him" to look at two parcels: the plateau above Charles Williams Park, the site that had been discussed all along, and another parcel on North Second Street that bordered and appeared to "overlap with the landfill." Referring to the capped landfill, Bujanow said, "It only made sense to me to explore that as well." He mentioned again a conversation he'd had with Ron Knott, supervisor for the Town of Stuyvesant and chair of the county Public Works Committee, and said Knott was "looking to develop landfills throughout the county." He mentioned a study done by the EPA in 2017 which found the landfill in Hudson would be a "great site" for solar. When CAC member David Konigsberg asked if any study had been done that considered viewshed and habitat, Bujanow answered, "That is not what I do."
Bujanow asserted, "You can't really walk on that landfill," and opined, "It's not intended to be a park." Vanderlan clarified, harking back perhaps to an idea proposed decades ago of turning the landfill into a amphitheater, that "creating new places for people to gather is not a possibility" for the landfill, "but a walking path is very doable." She noted that the design done several years ago by Starr Whitehouse includes a path over the landfill that connects to the Greenport Conservation Area. Former youth director Nick Zachos opined, "Having a trail and access to the conservation area is a social justice issue."
CAC member Tom O'Dowd asked, "Can solar and trails coexist?" Later, CAC member Hilary Hillman reiterated, "[The question] can the solar coexist with the natural situation has yet to be answered." At the end of the meeting, the question of coexistence remained unanswered.
There seems to be a certain amount of mission drift when it comes to this project. In the beginning, it seemed the principal purpose was to put a parcel of City-owned land to some useful and revenue-producing purpose. During much of the discussion at the CAC meeting it seemed that creating a solar farm was the main objective, and the challenge was finding a site. At one point, Bujanow asked, "If not a capped landfill, where else in two square miles do you put it?" DePietro commented, "The original idea was to use an open space that has no other use and is not highly visible." Presumably he was talking about the site just north of Charles Williams Park.
At the end of the meeting, it was not clear what was to happen next. Bujanow suggested he would "put the RFP out with the two sites without the landfill," but he added, "Since I was in that vicinity, being proactive, I think it will generate more interest if it includes the landfill." DePietro asked, "Are we worried that if we don't do solar ourselves [on the landfill] the county will do it?" Bujanow responded, "Ron Knott is seriously considering putting solar on all landfills in the county, including Hudson." CAC member Michael O'Hara asked if the other landfills in the county were flat, asserting, "The Hudson landfill is not going to work [because it is sloped]." O'Hara questioned if the EPA had done a site visit and realized that the landfill is sloped.
It is reassuring that, despite their concern being called by DePietro "kerfuffle" and "a tempest in a teapot," the CAC is focused and involved with this issue.
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