croton blog for croton-on-hudson new york


Serious Problems May Lay Ahead Over Metro Enviro

August 4, 2005


To the Editor,

In recent days, Metro Enviro (ME) has once again been featured prominently in local headlines. This is because, after the Village of Croton won the right to deny a special permit in the Court of Appeals, ME and the underlying property owner, Greentree Realty LLC, sued the Village for $50 million in damages.

In this new case, they are contending that they don’t need a permit at all and that the use at the site is a long running use that is grandfathered. Greentree contends that the improvements there would constitute a ‘taking’ if Croton closes the facility and eliminates that use at the site.

However, certain other far-reaching developments related to the ME site have the strong potential of making the current law suit by ME and Greentree irrelevant. These potential developments were not known to the Village until recently and the facts are just now starting to become known. Largely due to research by Trustee Kane, the Village Board and its attorneys have concluded that we may be facing a serious problem ahead.

I believe that is the case. If this problem becomes a reality, the ME site will go from being a waste transfer site that is heavily regulated by state, county and local restrictions to one that is virtually unregulated. Because of a loophole in federal law, a railroad may operate a waste transfer site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, processing unspecified materials in the open air.

The Surface Transportation Board (STB), created as a result of the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act in 1995, is empowered to grant exemptions to allow this use to occur for railroad entities. Here is a summary of the facts on why this loophole may result in an unregulated waste transfer station at the ME site:

  1. Allied, current owner of ME operation, according to its SEC filing is in the process of selling these assets to a new owner.

  2. The potential new owner, Northeast Interchange Railway, LLC (NIR), is controlled by Gordon Reger. This company operates rail transfer stations in Connecticut and Massachusetts which handle C & D. It also provides rail disposal services for New York City and operates a municipal solid waste landfill site in Ohio.

  3. The same Gordon Reger also acquired a 57% position in New York Regional Rail Corp. (NYRR) in February 2005 according to SEC filings.

  4. Under the federal interstate commerce regulations, NYRR qualifies as a railroad.

  5. Under the federal regulations, the ME site can be granted railroad status and become exempt from the state, county and local rules that were placed on the ME operations.

  6. Taking advantage of this loophole, these unregulated sites are already operating in many areas of the northeast.

This week, four actions occurred relative to this potential problem.

  1. On Monday, July 31, NIR applied to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) for an exemption to lease and operate a rail road line at the ME site and thereby become a common carrier by rail. These exemptions may be granted in 7 days.

  2. On Wednesday, August 3, the STB rejected the NIR application without prejudice requiring further information from NIR.

  3. On Thursday, August 4, NIR reapplied for the exemption supplying additional information.

  4. On Thursday, August 4, the Village’s Special Counsel on this matter, Michael Gerrard, filed a brief with the STB on Croton’s behalf.

Can this serious potential problem be sidetracked in Croton? I certainly hope so but this is the situation that the village needs to be addressing now. If this occurs, the outcome of the ME/Greentree lawsuit, receiving attention now, will be moot. In the long-run, the federal loophole must be closed but in the short-term what can we do? Here are some possibilities:

  • Residents need to make the Village Board aware of their concern about this very real threat so that it is openly discussed.

  • Croton needs to continue asserting its position in the current lawsuit until the reality of the above described potential problem is decided.

  • Croton and its residents must agitate for closing the federal loophole and increasing accountability at all levels.

  • Croton must lay the groundwork for exercising eminent domain for the ME property.

Several documents with supplementary information follow this letter. I hope that you will find this information of sufficient concern to engage you in finding the best options for the Village. Please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Ann Gallelli


Additional information:

Ann also says in her letter, “I realize this is a lot of information and documentation but my interest is in giving residents the opportunity to fully understand all aspects of this situation”.

On August 8, 2005 3:51 PM, kimosabe said:

It looks like Don Diego has hit the nail on the head. Maria Cudequest obviously knew about the railroad loophole which is now getting all the attention and kept it to herself for political reasons. The jury is still out on the involvement in this little charade of former trustee McCarthy and now Mayor Schmidt.

I say Cudequest should be ignored from now on. Either she knew all about this looming problem and kept her mouth shut or she doesn’t know as much as she claims. Which way is it?

I have researched Maria Cudequest and her criminal record (did you know you can do that on line now?) and fear retribution from her - even though I take the bus. So just call me…

On August 7, 2005 6:33 PM, Don Diego said:

Well, it only took about an hour and a half for “deepsix50”, presumably a nom de plume of Ms. Cudequest, to react to my comments. Notably she responded solely with feigned righteous indignation - but not with a single fact. While she states “This blog has gotten way out of hand” all that is out of hand is Ms. Cudequest. Nuf said.

On August 7, 2005 3:38 PM, Mrs. Smith said:

“I urge those individuals to restrain themselves lest they inadvertently place their neighbors in an even greater position of risk—and that we all support the new board in their efforts to clean up the mess that has been left behind. We also have excellent counsel in both Ms. Stecich and Mr. Gerrard.

Maria Cudequest

— Deepsix50 (This reader was BANNED from Crotonblog for comment spamming on 12/06/05, see “A Penal Process Known as Banishment… Explained”)”

Direct quote taken from above.

“I thought people might want to know that after the posting above, I asked Ms. Cudiquest if she had any requests for these files. She indicated that she had received about 25 requests, including 9 for the Our Lives Count DVD regarding the Warren Hill situation. I hope that Mrs. smith is among those.

She also corrected me. The October 2003 threats at a board meeting actually occurred in January instead. She also encouraged me to speak with Tuttle as well.

I think this blog can be a very good thing when people bother to get the facts and the records and so I too will be sending a check to the blog this week.

— Deepsix50 (This reader was BANNED from Crotonblog for comment spamming on 12/06/05, see “A Penal Process Known as Banishment… Explained”)”

Direct quote taken from above.

So Ms Cudaquest now asks herself how many requests for files she has gotten and answers herself too!! If that is not delusional - what is?
And then of course, since someone has written something about her she probably prefers not to see,then

“This blog has gotten way out of hand again. I have never seen so much twisting and turning in my life.”

Direct quote taken from above,

I have been at many Board meetings and listened to Ms Cudaquest and her gang hurling insults at anyone who dared to stand and disagree with her opinion on ME and I have listened to some of the rude and obnoxious comments they make about the former board members. Talk about a threatening atmosphere - Ms Cudaquest did her share of making that at every board meeting.

On August 7, 2005 1:17 PM, deepsix50 said:

This blog has gotten way out of hand again. I have never seen so much twisting and turning in my life. Please, just come to meetings and say what you have to say in public. you want Metro here. fine. Let the board know your views. No such things were implied. Research on spur issues were gathered and refused, that gathering was done by many people. Malevolance indeed. Good grief. Send a check to this blog? I think not. Just when you think discourse is happening. Forget it. The decision on the STB Friday was very good for us. Options are running out for these people, you know it, we know it and they know it. Good grief.

On August 7, 2005 11:48 AM, Don Diego said:

As a recent arrival in Croton, I wasn’t here for the original Metro Enviro special permit uproar, but it sure seems to have been a doozy. Nonetheless, I have made it a point to educate myself on the subject. I have read old editions of the Gazette and Journal News, studied the minutes of Village Board meetings, looked at a lot of video tape of old meetings and talked to lots of folks who have been here for it all.

It seems, at least to me, that for a good number of years, all public discussion concerning Metro Enviro has been dominated by Ms. Cudequest and her enraptured acolytes while being cheered on by her “other”, Mr. Rooney. With the obviously backhanded sponsorship of former trustee McCarthy, and through her unsupported but self authenticating claims of superior knowledge of every detail of waste haulage in all of its forms, Ms. Cudequest has badgered, plagued, hounded and harassed the Village government. She did so in what seems, at least to this observer, to have been a campaign motivated solely by a raw irrational hatred of former Mayor Elliott and former trustee Grant. That she is capable of such hatred — and acting upon it — cannot be doubted. More on that later.

But, lets give credit where credit is due. At the end of the day she succeeded in altering the political landscape so that the Village Board was forced to exercise its discretion and deny Metro Enviro renewal of its special permit. In fact, she and Ms. McCarthy even seem to have hand picked the lawyer for the Village and forced the Board’s hand into retaining Arnold & Porter and pursuing expensive litigation to the tune of literally hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

So be it. Frankly, it might have been money well spent if it ended the issue and permitted our Village to turn its attention to other matters. But the end is not in sight, only a new beginning. For now we learn that through a quirk in Federal railroad law we face the possibility of an operation far worse in scope and magnitude than anything that tightly controlled Metro Enviro could ever have perpetrated on the Village.

By the mere expedient of transferring control of the site to a poorly defined “railroad”, a waste transfer facility can, if it obtains permission of the Federal government, operate with no local oversight and immune from virtually all regulation.

We therefore face the very real possibility of a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week garbage transfer operation processing untold tons of New York City garbage for transport out of state. The process to open such a facility has already been initiated. While the proposed operator has so far been denied the needed Federal go ahead, we can be certain they will keep on trying.

Ms. Cudequest now claims to have known of this danger all along and to have begged the old Village government to block rail spurs at an adjacent property.

Her claims raise disturbing questions. Her claims also demonstrate her lack of understanding. As I read the relevant laws, and I have, if a “railroad” as defined by the federal government controls property with access to interstate railroad lines then they are eligible to seek the federal exemption even if no rail spur exists at the time. So denying Finkelstein the use of his rail spur would have had no protective effect in any event. But I digress.

If, as she now claims, the danger of unregulated garbage transfer stations at any property with a rail siding was known to Ms. Cudequest — and as she implies, Ms. McCarthy and Dr. Schmidt — why did they remain silent? To be sure, a generally stated objection was made to the continued existence of an unused and abandoned rail siding at the Finkelstein tire warehouse, but no clear reason for the objection was offered. No warning was issued, no alarms were set off. Only more of her never ending venomous objections to anything Mr. Elliott or Mrs. Grant seemed poised to approve.

Thus, while the general subject of rail spurs was raised in connection with the Finkelstein warehouse property, not once did Ms. Cudequest, Ms. McCarthy or Dr. Schmidt state specifically why the issue was important. This is especially significant when one considers they were objecting to an unused and paved over rail spur. Why they were even concerned about it was never made clear — Ms. Cudequest’s so called documentation notwithstanding. Having now scrambled to find any mention of rail spurs in anything she can claim Mr. Elliott should have been aware of, had he but listened to her, will not pass muster. It is perhaps worth noting that, as trustee, Dr. Schmidt did not insist on eliminating the Finkelstein rail siding nor did he vote against the Finkelstein permit, as Ms. McCarthy did.

So we are faced with the question of why only oblique references to rail sidings were made? Why was there no specific warning issued by our resident self proclaimed expert in all things related to waste of every kind?

Skeptics might say that to have raised the alarm (when there was still ample time to figure out a way to protect the Village) might have undercut the entire Cudequest/McCarthy assault on Metro Enviro which was, in reality, a surrogate assault on Mr. Elliott and Mrs. Grant. After all, reasonable people might have concluded that it was better to have Metro Enviro’s regulated and limited operation in the Village rather than an uncontrollable 24 hour a day floating garbage dump. People might even have thought that Mr. Elliott had the right idea when he endlessly preached that the goal should be to keep control of ‘what’s happening down there’. Voters might even have decided not to change Village government - clearly an anathema to Ms. Cudequest and her merry band.

So if they were aware of the danger — as she now admits — she remained silent.

And so, now we must ask, what did Cudequest/McCarthy know and when did they know it? For that matter, why didn’t their hand selected big firm big dollar lawyer alert his client — that’s us folks — to this potential consequence of closing down the highly regulated Metro Enviro? More to the point, if Cudequest and McCarthy knew, why didn’t they raise the alarm? And, if Ms. Cudequest didn’t know, why ever rely on her information about anything?

There will never be satisfactory answers to these questions. But there is a lesson to be learned. It is time for the Village Board to stop listening to the ill informed malevolently motivated Ms. Cudequest. Period.

And as a final note to Mr. Tuttle, I will not be signing off with my real name. In the tradition of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Lone Ranger, sometimes discretion and self protection mandate that one act anonymously.

And yes Mr. Tuttle, I think there is real reason to fear Ms. Cudequest. I know I do. Just ask her former neighbors who actually had to sell their house after their cars were vandalized time and again - until the vandalism stopped when Ms. Cudequest pleaded guilty to the crime. And no Mr. Tuttle, she did not plead guilty because of bad legal advice as she reportedly likes to claim. She pled guilty because she was caught on video surveillance equipment perpetrating her vandalism. As Ms. Cudequest is so fond of saying “documentation available”.

Finally, check the Croton police blotter. Let me be clear, I make no accusation for there have been no arrests, but check for yourself how many people with political views opposed to those held by Ms. Cudequest have repeatedly been the victims of automotive vandalism. I drive an old car but I kind of like it the way it is, with four tires that hold air and no key marks down the sides. And so, I remain…

On August 7, 2005 8:17 AM, deepsix50 said:

I thought people might want to know that after the posting above, I asked Ms. Cudiquest if she had any requests for these files. She indicated that she had received about 25 requests, including 9 for the Our Lives Count DVD regarding the Warren Hill situation. I hope that Mrs. smith is among those.

She also corrected me. The October 2003 threats at a board meeting actually occurred in January instead. She also encouraged me to speak with Tuttle as well.

I think this blog can be a very good thing when people bother to get the facts and the records and so I too will be sending a check to the blog this week.

On August 5, 2005 11:34 PM, deepsix50 said:

Mrs. Smith:

Please email CCC1 and ask for:

a) copies of letters from various residents addresing this issue in general but nevertheless compelling terms and expressing various concerns about rail spurs in general in 1998, 2002, and 2003 b) see the village minutes in which the warehouse vote was taken and Ms. McCarthy’s various stated concerns and proposed amendment to a resolution regarding said spur at this location which was defeated 3 to 2 c) copies of the incidents detailed in 2003 in which the police were summoned at a special Metro meeting, which includes at least 15 emails from residents present expressing their concerns to the federal monitor, the board and/or the county regarding threats made by various haulers that night and detailing other incidents just two weeks earlier d) a copy of the letter received threatening a slapp suit received one week before Christmas of 2003 e)the police report for the october 2003 incident involving public threats made by an unlicensed hauler f) the email from David Tuttle detailing this incident and his request for a police presence at said meeting

On August 5, 2005 9:40 PM, Mrs. Smith said:

Forgive me for being a sceptic, but Ms. Cudaquests claims that she was ahead of this issue would be laughable, were it not for the fact that it follows her pattern of claiming credit for anything to do with the “defeat” of Metro Enviro. For someone who stands up regularly at village board meetings (who willingly states her name and address for public record) and who has NEVER mentioned this loophole before to suddenly claim that she was ahead of all of this, presents a picture of a woman who is delusional and willing to stop at nothing for partisan purposes.

On August 5, 2005 3:42 PM, deepsix50 said:

The STB has issued a decision today in this matter. It can be found at this link:

In addition, CCC1 sent out this letter to its subscribers earlier today. I am pasting it here for obvious reasons.

To the editor:

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Crotonblog for making certain documents available relating to Northeast and Metro Enviro. Most of these were distributed to the public yesterday. However, there was one exhibit that we did not have, for which I extend my thanks.

Residents should also know that CCC1 has an extensive library on these issues. That library was offered to the prior administration on many occasions throughout the years. These files formed the partial basis for our opposition to the granting of the Metro Enviro rail spur, as well as our opposition to a rail spur at a local warehouse that was left intact by the prior board despite the efforts of then trustees McCarthy and Schmidt.

While offers to share this research since 1998 were largely rebuked with few exceptions, the new board has—to its credit—embraced the availability of this information. The Ohio EPA—where entities related to Northeast are currently the subject of scrutiny and may yet be named “principal responsible parties” in a health emergency at Warren Hills—maintains ongoing contact with Croton as well.

Residents should also know that as an additional result of this research and daily contact with the Solid Waste Commission, including Legislators Abinanti and Oros, the county is fully aware of Northeast’s efforts to circumvent Local Law 826A. It would appear that under 826A, Northeast cannot escape the requirement that it must be licensed. Recognizing that their case before the STB may be weak, it submitted applications under various names to the commission quite some time ago. The county is currently engaged in the requisite due diligence and as of last week, the license application has not even been calendared yet. Croton residents have assisted there as well, and our officials have been apprised of these developments on a daily basis.

It is my belief that as a result of the county’s due diligence, the requirements under 826A, and other issues, that the commission will be hard-pressed to issue a license when Northeast’s request for an exemption is inevitably denied by the STB.

Northeast has also made many significant “errors” in its documentation before the STB, among them the fact that rail spurs do not appear to fall within the STB’s purview. This and other issues are properly addressed in Mr. Gerrard’s brief.

The above, coupled with the publicity this problem has engendered across multiple states—which is largely due to the work of activists who recognized the potential loophole long before their elected officials did—places Croton in a very good position overall. This is especially true given the fact that we did not accept a settlement with Metro Enviro last year. Had the public welfare been compromised in exchange for cash in 2004, we would have very few grounds to oppose Northeast now. This, coupled with the decision from the Court of Appeals, numerous flaws in Northeast’s documentation before the STB, issues that arise out of county law 826A, the current criminal investigations into the waste industry itself, and the convenient over-simplification of a federal law that preempts all local zoning and licensing regulations by Northeast, will ultimately allow Croton residents to prevail.

It is also important to note that we could not have stopped Allied from selling its assets to Northeast, which clearly would have then attempted to pay us nothing anyway.

The new board has inherited many terrible problems with respect to Metro Enviro. However, they have not been insurmountable. I believe that will continue to be the case.

On another note, I respectfully ask that posters to the blog exercise greater discretion in some of the references they make to those residents who have openly opposed the waste industry in Croton. Speculation about where they live, what they do or not do for a living, (and consequently whether or not they are home during the day) is extremely foolhardy in light of what has been recently reported in the press.

I urge those individuals to restrain themselves lest they inadvertently place their neighbors in an even greater position of risk—and that we all support the new board in their efforts to clean up the mess that has been left behind. We also have excellent counsel in both Ms. Stecich and Mr. Gerrard.

Maria Cudequest



Search


Recent Articles