Monday, March 07, 2005

[PlanPutnam] Daily Freeman: Watershed towns, NYC talk it out

Subject: Fwd: [PlanPutnam] Daily Freeman: Watershed towns, NYC talk it out
Date: 3/6/2005 3:33:25 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
From: MarianR451
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Subj: [PlanPutnam] Daily Freeman: Watershed towns, NYC talk it out
Date: 3/3/2005 6:48:45 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
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Watershed towns, NYC talk it out

By Jay Braman Jr. , Correspondent

Observers say Lynette Stark, the state's acting environmental commissioner,
may have best summed up the need for a better relationship between New York
City and its watershed towns at a recent summit conference in Newburgh.

New York City is not going anywhere, and neither are the watershed towns,
so they better work together, Stark told members of the Coalition of
Watershed Towns and the Catskill Watershed Corp. and top brass from the
city's Department of Environmental Protection, according to those who
attended the session.

The meeting was called at the request of the coalition to iron out
differences with the city agency. Upstate officials gave a briefing on the
summit at a meeting of the Catskill Watershed Corp. in Margaretville.

Alan Rosa, the executive director of the Watershed Corp., said that while
no conclusions were reached at the summit, "we now have a good framework to
work from."

That was not the case two months ago, when leaders of the Coalition of
Watershed Towns demanded the sit-down, saying city officials refused to
listen to them. "By comparison, things went fairly well," Rosa said.

Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the city Department of Environmental
Protection, agreed that the summit was a success. "It was a productive
meeting and we look forward to further improvement of communications with
our watershed partners," he said.

Rosa was pleased that David Tweedy, the deputy commissioner of the
Department of Environmental Protection, seemed sincerely interested in
hearing what coalition members had to say at the summit. He was also glad
that Stark, who has been involved in watershed affairs since the 1990s, was
at the helm of the meeting.

"She knows what's going on," Rosa said.

Patrick Meehan, chairman of the Coalition of Watershed Towns and supervisor
of the Greene County town of Windham, said the summit "was one of the
better meetings I've been to." He said Tweedy has asked for specific
examples where the city has allegedly failed to live up to its end of the
bargain concerning the 1997 Watershed Memorandum of Agreement between the
city and watershed towns.

As a result, the coalition is trying to get word out that it needs to hear
from watershed residents if there have been any episodes of "abuse in the
field" by overzealous Department of Environmental Protection staff members
who enforce land use regulations in the watershed region.

Coalition attorney Jeff Baker specifically identified stormwater issues as
one category of concern, and also a more general concern about city
staffers demanding thousands of dollars worth of engineering work on small
projects. The coalition, Baker said, believes many of those requirements to
be unnecessary and responsible for the crippling of projects because
developers cannot afford the engineering expenses.

Meehan said the coalition fears that the polices outlined by the city and
understood by the top levels of the city's administration are not fully
understood by middle managers and those who represent the city's
ground-level forces in the watershed.

Grinning, he said he believes some key managers in the Department of
Environmental Protection, some of whom were present at the Newburgh
meeting, will face scrutiny.

"Not everyone at the meeting was comfortable with what was being
discussed," Meehan said.

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