ALBANY – A group of more than 20 Glenmont residents are suing the Port of Albany and the town of Bethlehem for allegedly clearing 80 acres of land on the Hudson River for a $350 million offshore wind turbine tower fabrication facility without allegedly providing proper notification to local homeowners.
The group, led by attorney R. Christopher Dempf, live near the project site, which is technically called Beacon Island, a man-made parcel of land on the Hudson that is largely industrial in character.
Dempf showed up with many of the plaintiffs on Monday at a regular meeting of the Albany Port District Commission to speak during the commission’s public comment period. Dempf also brought his own videographer and stenographer to the meeting to take video and a transcript of his clients speaking to make sure he had his own copy of the proceedings.
However, the commission’s general counsel, Patrick Jordan, said its meeting room could not accommodate more than a few members of the press or the public, and would only allow two or three people in the room at a time to speak. Jordan gave each speaker three minutes to talk, and the crowd had to rotate in and out of the small room where the commission held the public meeting.
Jordan also said due to the pending lawsuit, the commission members would not respond to any of the comments that the public made.
The Port of Albany is in charge of getting Beacon Island ready for the offshore wind turbine tower manufacturing facility being built for a consortium of international companies that are constructing wind farms off the shore of Long Island. The facility is being trumpeted by the state and federal government as a major economic development project that will help mitigate climate change.
Those who did speak at the port commission meeting were visibly angry at the commissioner for moving ahead with clearing Beacon Island of nearly all vegetation. They said they were worried not only about the impact on the environment but also the potential health impacts. Beacon Island was created from fly-ash dumped there decades ago from former coal power plants in the area, and residents said their properties have been covered in dust since the tree-clearing took place last month.
“This is a life or death issue,” said Nathaniel Gray, who lives on Anders Lane, which is near Beacon Island. “Our lives are in danger.”
Gray said he is not only afraid of the fly-ash that was disturbed but also all of the trucks that come down his narrow road all the time to get to River Road where the project is located.
“We’re terrified,” Gray said. “That road has to be closed off.”
The lawsuit that Gray and others have filed alleges that neither the port nor the town gave them adequate written notice of the impacts of the project, which has the backing of Gov. Kathy Hochul and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, two of the most powerful political leaders in the state.
The lawsuit is seeking to have the port and the town of Bethlehem reverse previous approvals of the wind turbine tower project.
Bethlehem Supervisor David VanLuven declined to comment about the lawsuit on Monday.
Schumer has been upset with the Port of Albany after the tree-cutting took place last month without the proper review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – an action that may have put a $29.5 million federal grant in jeopardy. The project was supposed to go through an environmental study before it was started, according to federal officials.
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