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Metro Enviro: Possible Avenues of Action

September 29, 2005


In the last few weeks, residents have had a chance to become acquainted with the dilemma Croton is faced with regarding the future of the Metro Enviro site. I previously wrote about the application of Northeast Interstate Railway (NIR) to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) for certification as a railroad and ultimately to be exempt from state and local regulations regarding the transfer of all kinds of waste from the former Metro Enviro site.

While both Croton and NIR await the decision of the STB, NIR has also applied to the Westchester County Solid Waste Commission for a license and to the NYSDEC for a permit to operate the site as a lessee of Greentree LLC – the underlying property owner. Greentree LLC has the support of Judge Nicolai to operate the site as a C&D transfer site until the issues of their lawsuit against the Village are decided.

At this point, while the Village is waiting for the STB decision, residents need to be considering our possible avenues of action.

There are a range of options available but some have more impact than others. The spectrum of options range from (1) resolving to carry on the legal fight to prevent future use of the site for waste transfer as long as it takes with no negotiation with other parties to (5) giving up and letting NIR (or similar company) become an unregulated 24/7 waste transfer site.

In between there are some other possibilities including (2) the Village exercising eminent domain for the site, (3) negotiating with Greentree LLC to reach possible agreement on other uses agreeable to both parties, and finally, (4) accepting NIR’s request to talk to determine if there is a level of use at the site that would be agreeable to both parties. There may be others as well that interested residents may identify. Here is the range of options in more detail:

  • Option 1 - The legal fight will be long and costly through many levels of courts. So far the Village has expended approximately $800k on this effort. We won a big decision in the NYS Court of Appeals giving us the right to deny a permit if violations have occurred. We are now engaged in litigation with Greentree LLC over whether the use at the site is “grandfathered”. This will likely go through several levels of appeals until resolved. We are also fighting to get the STB to deny NIR’s application. If we lose this attempt, there will likely be further levels of appeals. We are also making our case against the Solid Waste Commission licensing and the NYS DEC permitting. Unless there is another way out, we will have to continue these legal efforts into the future. Can we afford another $800k of legal fees with no assurance we will win?

  • Option 2. The Village could try to exercise eminent domain to take the site. Although no appraised value is known at this time, it is estimated to be many millions. To do this the Village must have the money in place in escrow before beginning. The “public good” for which it is taken will also have to be constructed if we are successful. Bonding this amount of money or more will have serious repercussions on property taxes. It may also mean that the Village will be unable to move ahead with other capital projects and equipment replacements that are normally funded through bonding. These projects, if done, would have t be paid for from the General Fund – again putting upward pressure on property taxes. There are many other issues concerning eminent domain about which residents need to be informed if this choice is made but this letter is already long enough. Greentree could litigate over numerous aspects of the Village’s condemnation and the Village would have to defend its condemnation vigorously in court.

  • Option 3. The Village could talk to Greentree LLC to see if there is some mutually agreeable use at the site that would provide them a financial return and satisfy our desire not to have a transfer station. If this proved to be the case, then we could move ahead with the planning and development of that alternative. There are several uses that are “as of right” under the Village’s Light Industrial Zoning including business and professional offices, railroad lines and stations, and motor vehicle parking structures and parking lots. There are also additional uses allowed with a special permit including light manufacturing, research and design labs, hotels, inns and restaurants among others. One of these uses might be mutually agreeable or the Village might also consider extending its recent railroad station study to this area and study other alternative uses as well such as mixed use housing and retail. These potential uses have impacts of their own which will need to be considered.

  • Option 4. Since NIR represented in both its STB briefs and at the Solid Waste Commission public hearing that they want to talk to Village officials but have been rebuffed, perhaps the Village should at least talk to them. The Village may want to consider the benefit of having its special counsel listen to the NIR attorneys. Generally speaking, the courts seem to look more favorably on parties that have attempted to discuss their differences outside the court system. Such a discussion may not have productive results but nothing would be lost. This is an avenue yet to be explored.

  • Option 5. Last, and definitely not acceptable, is that we give up the fight, back off and leave ourselves at the hands of others. The costs to this are unknown but are likely to result in an unregulated waste transfer company operating in the Village. Impacts would be both financial and environmental. We need also to remember that Option #1 above will have the same result as option #5 if the Village doesn’t win its legal fights.

So what avenue is best? What other suggestions do you have (leave a comment below with your opinion)?

If #1 and #5 can potentially end up the same way, shouldn’t the Village be looking at #2, #3 or #4 or some others not identified here? I urge you to get informed and involved in this critical situation.

Ann Gallelli

On October 17, 2005 6:28 PM, Pat Barua said:

“According to several attorneys, far too much indiscretion has been committed [on the Blog] already by our local officials…”

If our local officials (and I don’t know who this could be other than Planning Board Chair Ann Gallelli, who has posted several informative posts on Metro Enviro) have done something against our interests in their blog postings, wouldn’t our village attorney, or our Regus/STB special attorney Michael Gerrard) or our new Metro Enviro attorney (don’t know his name) have advised her to stop?

It’s important that our village officials communicate with us on all topics of concern. I was glad to see Trustees Weigman and Kane explain their opposition to the proposed sewer rent law. I hope the Mayor and Trustees Steinberg and Brennan will voice their views here soon as well.

On October 17, 2005 2:52 PM, weewill said:

No one but Ms. Cudequest knows who the “several attorneys” are to whom she refers. Once sent to a distribution list as wide as Ms. Cudequest claims her CCC1 to be, nothing could possibly remain secret or selective.

She has sent yet another of her lengthy “tutorials” on the trash industry stating what should and should not be done regarding our association or lack thereof with the waste hauling industry.

She ended the email she sent to a cast of hundreds with the following:

“I do not expect to hear that this email exchange has been posted on the Crotonblog. According to several attorneys, far too much indiscretion has been committed there already by our local officials, however well-intentioned.

It’s one thing for residents to post there, quite another for officials. These sites are notorious for being monitored by industry.”

— Maria Cudequest

cc: All/Ohio/AGs/Hopewell/Kisco/Gerrard/Commission”

Once again I must disagree with her (and her mystery attorneys). If “All”, “Ohio”, “AG’s”, “Hopewell”, “Kisco”, “Gerrard”, Commission”, are entitled to her interpretations, why not the residents of Croton through the blog?

If she’s terribly concerned about the monitoring by industry perhaps she should rethink her lack of discretion in the hundreds of statements issued by ccc1 sure to be challenged by “industry.”

I hope she will continue to read the blog as she obviously views it as an important means of communication.

On October 17, 2005 1:41 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Not what Ms. Cudequest was expecting, but she did mention Crotonblog to Westchester County Legislator, Thomas J. Abinanti regarding Metro Enviro…

———— Original Message ————

To: “Thomas J. Abinanti” tjaesq@aol.com From: “Maria Cudequest” mcudeque@bestweb.net Date: Wed, 12 Oct 2005 08:13:30 -0400

I sent this NY Times article out earlier in the week but it just came back as undeliverable and so I am sending it again. (Bestweb problems again). I apologize if it is a duplicate. Last call for a copy of the Ohio lawsuit.

I’m swamped for the next few days. Also the story on D.A. Soares seeking a criminal probe of Regus’ Vacco came back as well. It is pasted again at the end of the Times story.

North County News is allegedly doing a story on the county licensing law, NIR, Allied facilities and Vacco due out tomorrow. I will send a copy then.

Also it is my understanding that although the commission has copies of letters/comments submitted to the STB by multiple parties, it does not have a copy of Mt. Kisco’s comments on file with the STB because Mt. Kisco did not send them to the commission (nor has the commission requested them).

By copy of this email, I am requesting that Kisco ask their officials to send a copy to the commission.

As for the continued talk that the commission may seek to assign an auditor to NIR as a condition of license approval, an auditor is not a monitor—and even if a monitor would be assigned, the site already had a federal monitor when it was open and functioning as Metro/Allied. It still violated its permits placing the health, safety and welfare of Croton residents at risk, although the monitor ensured that they were at least caught, while the Kisco and Mamaroneck operations are currently the subject of CT. scrutiny as reported in recent press.

I spoke with the EPA yesterday as well; the prp list for Warren should be released in another month (but we have been hearing that for a while).

Our Lives Count also indicated this morning that they will be meeting with their attorney today and also speaking with the Ohio AG as well. I will of course keep you informed.

That being said, I do not expect to hear that this email exchange has been posted on the Crotonblog.

According to several attorneys, far too much indiscretion has been committed there already by our local officials, however well-intentioned. It’s one thing for residents to post there, quite another for officials. These sites are notorious for being monitored by industry.

— Maria Cudequest

cc: AllOhio/AGs/Hopewell/Kisco/Gerrard/Commission

———— End of Message ————

On October 16, 2005 10:07 AM, bojangles said:

Anyone having a problem with the MetroEnviro operation should read the article in today’s NY Times, Sunday Oct. 16th, on trash and trash haulers in Louisianna. Wonder if Metro has a no-bid conract there? Or if Allied Waste or organized crime have a piece of the action here.

On October 8, 2005 10:39 AM, weewill said:

For all who have any interest in the MetroEnviro issue and who are confused by the differences in the facts as understood or misunderstood by various posters, do yourselves a favor and read the article in the Westchesteer section of the Sunday Times.

It’s written by Alice Kinney, a local Croton resident, and she has written an accurate, unopinionated, clear and concise report on what’s happened and what possibly will happen at the site.

It’s time for all of us to take off the blinders and talk about, recognize, face up to and prepare for what might come down. The possibilities are endless and much worse than Metro Enviro ever was.

On September 29, 2005 11:28 PM, Pat Barua said:

Devil’s Advocate,

I don’t think the Village can do an RFP for development of a property it doesn’t own, rent or control.

And the issue is not really putting Ann Gallelli on a deadline — if the majority of the board supports a particular proposal, they should signal the same to the developer and the planning board, and, god forbid, the community. If Gallelli is against the proposal, then she should resign or maybe be replaced. But the kink-solving should proceed along a normal time-line.

You raise the spectre of low-income housing being an alternative use of the Metro Enviro site. Low income housing on a big scale is very attractive to property owners because of the tax benefits available to low income housing developers.

I think we all need to consider the likelihood of Greentree — who obviously cares ZILCH about Croton — having this up its sleeve as an alternative if the Village successfully argues that waste transfer use is not grandfathered and the STB exemption should not be granted.

All the more reason for the village to get proactive on working with Greentree to get a mutually desirable tenant.

On September 29, 2005 6:34 PM, puppuluv said:

DV: I disagree with sitting down with Greentree, its associations are well-covered in multiple places, including Mach’s reports.

Also the planning board and members of the old board allowed waste to be buried on the site as I recall. This came from the village files. What is in there? God only knows.

As for Mayor Schmidt, he stated in a Journal article shortly after the election that he wanted to see if this would work keeping Gallelli on as chair as she has made some good decisions and he wanted not to be partisan. I am sure he is rethinking his generosity now. Ms. Gallelli’s behavior in the disguise of keeping us all informed is very funny. You couldn’t get a word out of her before and we’re STILL in litigation yet she goes on and on. Maybe the lawyers will need to step in as it is my belief she has been indiscreet.

As for the Croton Housing Network, they have done some good but they need to remember that the rest of us cannot afford to keep subsidizing their efforts as they usually pay little or no taxes. The Mount Airey site is disgusting and something you see in the Bronx.

Back to metro, again the board has stated that they are exploring all options. Ms. Gallelli has not reinvented the wheel. At every single meeting there is some news given on ME. That rarely happened with the old board, who also claimed they couldn’t say anything unless of course it was to the editorial board of the Journal News.

Frankly I think Ms. Gallelli should be removed as chair.

Her actions to date fool only her supporters and thank God there weren’t many of these. This from the woman who put in writing last September that Metro Enviro was an appropriate use for the site.

This will be my last post. I’ll be taking these things directly to the board. Unlike the old one I actually get a response back.

On September 29, 2005 5:40 PM, Devil's Advocate said:

Anne is on the money with option 3 in the letter, to negotiate with the property owner to find a mutually acceptible use for the property aside from garbage. The problem with this suggestion is that Anne has a long and well documented history of frustrating developers and bankrupting projects that are not to her liking or exact specifications. The zoning she has sponsored is completely out of touch with business reality.

The Mayor I believe is in over his head and must need Anne desperately. Why else would he re-appoint her to such an influencial position and tolerate her making him look like a BIG FOOL with her communications on this issue. My advice to you Mayor is this:

1) Issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to all prominent developers in Westchester (Cepelli, etc.)for project ideas.

2) Tell Anne to get the project approved in six months or kick her off the planning board. PERIOD.

3) Get the winning developer to post the Eminent Domain Bond on behalf of the village.

4) Get the deal done with Greentree LLC.

WE WILL ALL BE BETTER OFF FOR IT.

P.S. Keep Nancy Schatzkin and the Croton Housing Netword as far away as possible. They are doing enough damage around town (like that disgusting looking low income housing development on Mt. Airy. WHAT A VISUAL EMBARRASMENT). We don’t need them spoiling this last opportunity

On September 29, 2005 4:21 PM, Pat Barua said:

Ann Gallelli’s option 3 sounds interesting.

Maybe the Village could help Greentree attract at tenant that would be mutually agreeable, and provide some additional incentives. Maybe the Village could also start taking steps to reassess the value of the property and raise the ridiculously low taxes on it.

Please keep posting, Ann Gallelli. Your detractors sound much more politically motivated than you do.

On September 29, 2005 2:51 PM, Mr. Red said:

Even though the new administration vowed not to negotiate, it certainly seems in the best interests of the village to look at all options. The village does not need to spend good money after bad, our taxes are high enough.

If negotiation would help the village get more control over what happens at this site, then it should be explored. No one (other than hard party liners) will slam Schmidt for going against a campaign pledge.

All of us should think of what is best for the village. As I stated in earlier posts about this topic, the county needs a waste transfer site and Croton has been one for years. It only seemed inevitable that our “victory” was short lived.

It is time to make our elected officials “do the right thing” and not worry about promises made or broken.

If they are pig-headed about it, they will certainly be on the losing end of the next election. I may be tinted Red politically but I will vote locally for those individuals who have the needs of our community at stake regardless of party line (as should we all).

Thanks again Ann for keeping us posted on this rather complicated situation.

On September 29, 2005 2:29 PM, puppuluv said:

Mrs. Smith: This desperate fixation with Cudequest, Pellicci, and before that McCarthy etc. is just too sad.

This attitude that we Democrats are all under the spell of others is condescending and it’s why many people said enough was enough. Look at the enormous cross over vote for the new board. They needed no one to tell them that Metro was bad.

Quote the courts, quote the Journal News, qoute North County, our own legal papers: “A state appellate court in May reversed that decision, concluding there was plenty of evidence that violations had occurred and that they threatened the community.”

Ms. Gallelli is a chair of the planning board. Previously she could not say anything because we were in litigation. We are in litigation still. Yet over and over again she now has plenty to say. What is the difference? There is a new board in town. This is not working together. This is a run for mayor again. We all know it. Why pretend.

The old board had their chance. They blew it. If we are unhappy with how the board is handling Metro, we will show up and say so. That’s how it is done.

Ms. Gallelli has made some fine suggestions. No one denies that but she crosses the line when she give our certain types of advice and she serves as chair at the discretion of the mayor.

The fact is that some very bad decisions were made by the planning board. The new board is in charge now and must undo those decisions if possible. Ask the new members for the hundreds, yes hundreds, of letters of support they have received. When Ms. Gallelli is in charge she can negotiate. She’s not.

On September 29, 2005 1:48 PM, Mrs. Smith said:

How can you possibly say that the new Board knows what it is doing, when it has a new lawyer whom we are paying to get up to speed and two new trustees whose only position on M/E is what Maria Cudaquest dictates.

So much for letting the past be the past and working together to move forward for the best interests of Croton…

When even the WCSWC suggests that there should be some negotiation, then perhaps the new board should be listening.

When Greentree/NIR tells some High court judge that they did everything in their power to accomodate Croton and Croton officials refused to talk, we should not be surprised if they give Greentree what they want in view of the village using politically motivated opposition as a reaon not granting the permit.

And can you tell me where it has been proven that “The operation has been found to be a significant threat to the public health and welfare”?

On September 29, 2005 1:22 PM, puppuluv said:

Thank you Ms. Gallelli for your recent post.

But with all due respect to the officials that approved the bad settlement last year, the rail spur years ago, and seem to have forgotten that Judge Nicolai has now been twice overturned in this issue, it is someone else’s turn to handle the Metro Enviro problem that has been passed on to the next generation of Croton officials.

It is amazing how the very people who couldn’t “say anything to the public” before now have plenty to say. The new board is doing fine. You have all had your chances with Metro Enviro. We have been brought here because of what was done by the planning board and the Elliott administration. It is someone else’s turn to handle these issues now.

The operation has been found to be a significant threat to the public health and welfare even when it was regulated by everyone AND a federal monitor.

The people have spoken. They did not want to negotiate. If that were not so, you would be Mayor and Ms. Grant would still be a trustee. That’s not the way it turned out. Please allow our new board to try something other than keeping garbage in Croton for another seven decades.

On September 29, 2005 12:50 PM, weewill said:

1) I say it’s time to stop with the huge fees we pay to attorneys. They’re getting richer and richer as we get poorer and poorer.

2) I don’t think we have nearly enough information about how much the site is worth or whether the village can prove a need to condemn it. If it’s for a new DPW site, how much will it cost us in additon to build that?

And isn’t it true that if the STB grants NIR railroad status, the value of the site immediately goes up? And isn’t that decision to come down momentarily from the STB?

Do we have enough time to get the information needed to entertain eminent domain proceedings?

3) It makes sense to at least hear what Greentree has to say.

4) Same as 3 above.

5) We would have been better off with a regulated Metro Enviro than the result of #5. The Village Board must find a way to resolve this with Greentree or Croton goes down the tube. It makes sense investigate all options.



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