We are working to green Albany County

To the Editor:

Although it’s been cold and snowy in Albany County, I have been working this past year to come up with a plan to make our county a “green” leader in sustainability and energy efficiency.

We made history recently when I signed legislation that bans the use of polystyrene for chain restaurants with 15 or more locations nationwide. The ban is critical as we consider how to work together to eliminate hazardous waste and reduce the waste stream.

Albany County is just one of three municipalities in New York to ban polystyrene. New York City just ratified a similar law recently, which shows that this issue is not merely a regional one, but one that can be adapted in other places.

While the ban is important, I wanted to convey that this is just one way we are working to green Albany County. I am also working to implement a countywide sustainability policy that will ensure that green initiatives inform all our decision-making, from capital projects, to purchasing to government vehicles.

That is why I will seek to establish an Albany County Public Service Agency. It is through this means that the county will work to expand renewable and sustainable energy options for the county and working with the county Industrial Development Agency to enhance our economic development efforts.      

First, I will appoint a commission to find a viable option for long-term, environmentally sound, and economical waste disposal. The commission will begin its work by reviewing the Regional Solid Waste Authority Feasibility Study that was issued in 2011. The recommendations in that study should prove helpful to leaders in the region who are planning for the future.

The key is working with local governments as partners to develop long-term strategies to help the region plan for future solid waste management needs.

Another key initiative is open-space conservation, historic preservation, and agriculture. To date, my administration has been able to dedicate more than 372 acres for conservation, environmental remediation, or agriculture.

The administration, in partnership with the Albany County Legislature, has moved to protect open space for agriculture and public recreation use. The county recently transferred two parcels of land to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy for incorporation into the Winn Preserve in Knox.

Similarly, the county conveyed 106 acres of land in Knox for Saddlemire Farms to preserve its use for dairy farming.

My office is currently working to complete the transfer of two parcels of land adjacent to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission that would add 23 acres to the preserve.  There is a possibility that the acreage will need environmental remediation.   

There are several other parcel transfers either in process or complete and I look forward to working with the community to meet my goal of conserving more than 3,500 acres. This benefits everyone as we work to keep our community scenic, healthy and green.

One success story is the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail, which now runs from Voorheesville to Bethlehem, more than half of which is open to the public. The rail trail hit another milestone in December when a new three-mile section of the project was officially opened to the public.

The progress we’ve made together is impressive and with the recent announcement of an additional $1 million in funding, we will be able to begin work on the trail from Bethlehem to Albany.

Collectively, these initiatives will have a measurable impact and help make Albany County the greenest county in New York State.

Daniel P. McCoy
Albany County Executive

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