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Thread: Buying Woodland and Meadow to Save the City's Water

  1. #1

    Default Buying Woodland and Meadow to Save the City's Water

    December 20, 2003

    Buying Woodland and Meadow to Save the City's Water


    It is an open-space advocate's dream. Take $270 million and 10 years and buy pristine land on the edge of one of the most developed urban centers in the world. When you are done, skip the Champagne and instead take a sip of unfiltered New York City tap water.

    That is essentially the mission of a team of New York City Department of Environmental Protection staff members as they execute a 1997 agreement intended to help the city avoid building a water filtration plant for the Catskill-Delaware system. The price tag for such a plant ranges from $6 billion to $8 billion.

    The cornerstone of the agreement — signed by city, state and federal officials as well as environmentalists and some 60 municipalities — is land acquisition. The idea was to protect the most sensitive land in the city's 2,000-square-mile watershed from the effects of development and, in turn, protect the city's water supply.

    The crusade to protect the watershed received another push forward yesterday when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that the city was setting aside an additional $25 million for land acquisition in the smaller Croton system on the east side of the Hudson River.

    New York City is under court order to build a $1.3 billion filtration plant for that system, which supplies about 10 percent of the city's drinking water. In all, the city has now acquired more than 50,000 acres of land across its two watersheds, preserving a swath of the Hudson Valley that has experienced extraordinary development pressures in recent years. Since the agreement, the city has more than doubled its land holdings in the watershed, to 7.9 percent of the land from 3.7 percent. "It's a one-time shot of 10 to 15 years when the city will be buying these lands, and after that it might go away," said Dave Tobias, director of the acquisition program for the Department of Enviromental Protection. "It's an historic opportunity."

    The agreement stipulated that the city would "solicit" 350,000 acres of land within the Catskill-Delaware watershed. It is a sprawling area that encompasses the Catskill Mountains as well as rural points north, but also includes a small portion of the more congested counties east of the Hudson River. The term solicit was chosen in deference to fears about the potential for New York City to acquire the land through eminent domain.

    The land-acquisition program is predicated on a willing-buyer and willing-seller arrangement. Officials hope to buy as many as a third of the 350,000 acres. "If you want to tell us to get lost, we'll get lost," Mr. Tobias said. "It's a big watershed area and there are a lot of interested people out there." One of them is Robert Greenhall, who, with his wife, Myrna, lives on the 225 acres the couple own in eastern Delaware County. Two years ago the couple sold their development rights to the city for $125,000 in the form of a conservation easement. From Mr. Greenhall's perspective, the sale was a win-win. The couple retained ownership of the land, with its woods and meadows now preserved in perpetuity, and they have more money to help their grandchildren through college.

    "They have the same goals as we have," Mr. Greenhall said of the city officials. "We want to protect our land and keep it undeveloped and beautiful. We looked at this and said: `Let's do it. Why not?' "

    Because of the need to avoid filtration, the bulk of the land the city has protected either through outright purchase or conservation easement is in the Catskill-Delaware watershed. But 1,200 acres have also been protected in the Croton watershed.

    Conservation easements can mean more hassle for the city in terms of negotiating how the land will be managed in the future. But the city says the easements give them access to land that might not come on the market otherwise.

    "These are people who don't want to sell their property," Mr. Tobias said of the landowners. "They want to stay on their land and they have been good stewards, so we are basically paying them to continue to be good stewards."

    The coming years could pose more of a challenge. Not only has the city already picked the "low-hanging fruit," as Mr. Tobias put it, but it is now in competition with David Bowie, Brad Pitt and others who have embraced the charm of the Catskills, particularly since the terror attacks of Sept. 11.

    According to Harris L. Safier, owner of Westwood Metes & Bounds Realty in Ulster County, prices for "raw land" have risen 40 percent in the past two years.

    The Department of Environmental Protection must pay taxes on the land it buys. "That was a big part of the watershed agreement — that we couldn't erode the tax base of the Catskills," said Ira A. Stern, director of the division of watershed lands and community planning for the city agency. "With such a large-scale program like this, we could have had an effect on certain towns."

    Mr. Stern and Mr. Tobias crossed over into city government from the world of land conservation. Formerly, Mr. Stern was executive director of the Dutchess Land Conservancy, while Mr. Tobias was the assistant director of the Nature Conservancy's eastern New York chapter.

    Both men praise the process underlying the land-acquisition program. Landowners, Mr. Tobias said, have the opportunity to "show off the waterfall and the views" to an independent appraiser, who then determines the fair-market value. That, in turn, becomes the city's offer.

    In reissuing the filtration-avoidance determination last year, the E.P.A. recognized the city's efforts in the Catskill-Delaware watershed, which supplies New York City with 90 percent of its water. The city has also spent $75 million on five new waste-water treatment plants, with plans to build two more. And the Catskill Watershed Corporation, using city funds, has repaired 1,800 failing septic systems.

    In the meantime, the Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the city to begin filtering water from the smaller Croton system. The order had led to uneasiness among some environmentalists.

    "There would have been a temptation to say that the filtration plant would clean up all the mess," said Eric A. Goldstein, a senior lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "So why bother preventing pollution from flowing into the reservoirs in the first place?"

    Last summer the council and two other environmental groups endorsed the plant after winning assurances from city officials that filtration would not mean abandonment of preservation efforts. Mr. Goldstein said the mayor's announcement on Friday was a "first step in fulfilling that commitment."

    Chris Ward, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, said the city was poised to become one of the largest landowners in New York State. "It's not just buying land," he said. "It's knowing the ecology of the land and combining science and real estate acquisition in a way that I don't think any other city has done."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2


    February 8, 2004

    A Boon for the Catskills, or Something in the Water?


    A model of the planned Belleayre Resort.

    SHANDAKEN, N.Y. - Even now, almost 100 years later, people in these parts have not forgiven New York City for flooding some of the best Catskill Mountain flatlands so that New Yorkers could take their 15-minute showers. A few local residents have been known to relieve themselves right in New York City's reservoirs, just to get even.

    Though they still hold a grudge, many residents have recently turned to the city for help in one of the fiercest land disputes in the Catskills since, well, since the New York reservoirs were built.

    Dean Gitter, an actor turned developer who came to these round-shouldered hills more than 30 years ago, plans to build a five-star resort here that he says will save the Catskills, a region that everyone agrees has seen better days.

    Mr. Gitter envisions two championship-caliber 18-hole golf courses, one on each side of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, which is owned by the state. Clustered around each golf course would be a luxury hotel, time-share apartments, restaurants, swimming pools, spas and tennis courts, all built to what he says are strict environmental standards.

    The $250 million year-round resort - which is supported by most local officials and businessmen - would draw thousands of visitors from the city, 120 miles away, Mr. Gitter says, just as the Catskills' legendary trout streams and misty landscapes drew them a century ago.

    His opponents are afraid that putting such a huge development in the watershed of the nation's largest municipal water system would pollute the nearby Ashokan Reservoir. Those who came to the mountains for a vegan, Zen-infused, counterculture way of life fear that the project would destroy what they came to enjoy. With the development now reaching the critical stage of environmental review, some have sought the aid of an unfamiliar ally. "Many of us actually are glad that the city is here now," said Judith Wyman, chairwoman of the Friends of Catskill Park, which opposes the project. "City residents and most of the people here want the same thing - we want clean water as much as they do and we don't want over-development any more than the city does." New York City also wants to avoid spending $6 billion for a monster filtration plant that the federal government has threatened to order built if the city cannot assure the purity of its upstate reservoirs. The surest way to avoid that cost is to make sure land in the 2,000-square-mile watershed is publicly owned and undeveloped, so New York has tried to purchase as much as possible of the 70 percent of the property still privately owned.

    But the city hasn't always been so concerned with making friends in the Catskills. It once tried to impose watershed rules that severely limited how owners could use their property, but local communities, feeling their authority was being usurped and their hopes for economic development were being undermined, fought back. To avoid lawsuits, New York signed an agreement in 1997 to forgo condemnations and buy property or easements only from willing sellers.

    The city also promised to upgrade local wastewater treatment plants. In exchange, local leaders got a commitment from the city to consider permitting developments that provided jobs but did not pollute the water.

    The city tried unsuccessfully to buy the land near Belleayre before Mr. Gitter could acquire it. Now it is in the delicate position of judging the environmental merits of his project.

    "If we are perceived as being pro-development or anti-development for whatever reason, it will jeopardize the integrity of the memorandum of agreement," said Christopher O. Ward, commissioner of the city's Department of Environmental Protection.

    At issue, everyone involved agrees, is not only the water drunk by 9 million people in New York City and environs, but the future of the Catskills. Mr. Gitter and his supporters say that their project, known as The Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park, can revive the region, which once offered grand hotels that served tourists attracted by the cooling summer breezes and the good fishing. Now lodging in Delaware and Ulster Counties has dwindled to a few hundred beds.

    The proposed resort, with 400 hotel rooms, five restaurants, a conference center, two spas, 351 time shares and 21 luxury homes on more than 500 acres, would generate more than 750 full- and part-time jobs, and millions in local and state taxes, the development group said.

    The principal architect, Emilio Ambasz, is known for his environmentally sensitive designs. He proposed a hotel that would be terraced into the mountainside, with grass and bushes planted on its roofs. The effluent from two new wastewater treatment plants would be recycled and used to irrigate the golf courses.

    Opponents say the project will generate so much waste and traffic, and disturb so much soil, that there is no way to protect the water and the wilderness. In turn, Mr. Gitter says it is time for the 6,720-page environmental impact statement, and not emotion, to be the basis on which a decision is made. Mr. Gitter said he is ready to begin construction as soon as the project passes an environmental review. The state Department of Environmental Conservation is leading the review and will accept comments on the project until at least Feb. 24. The project requires approval of various local, state, federal and New York City authorities.

    "There's a lot of places easier to do a development in than New York State," said Emily H. Fisher , a member of the board of the American Museum of Natural History who has owned a second home in the Catskills for decades and who is a principal of Mr. Gitter's development group. "We're watched over by the city and the state so carefully that this development will not impact the quality of the city's water at all."

    Erich T. Griesser, a long-time resident who runs a lodge and is co-president of the Belleayre Region Lodging and Tourism Association, said he has listened to all the arguments, analyzed the concerns, and concluded that the project would help businesses without harming the environment. "The pluses are far greater than the minuses," Mr. Griesser said.

    But in the local newspapers, at roadside diners and during raucous public hearings, other residents have made it clear that they want the Sleepy Hollow feel of the Catskills to stay the way it is.

    "This project is going to redefine Catskill Park, and I resent that, because this project is not what we're about," said Tom Alworth, executive director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development.

    What is generally known as the Catskills is southwest of here in Sullivan County, just outside the blue line that surrounds the 705,000 public and privately owned acres of Catskill Park on maps. Artists and craftsmen have long sought ways to live inside the blue line, and today many still sacrifice high salaries and conveniences like cellphones for the serenity of truly dark nights where visible stars far outnumber car headlights. "This is our life and these are our mountains," said Alexander Linas, 22, of Mount Tremper. "We don't need this development."

    Before a recent public hearing at a local school, Mr. Linas stood in single-digit temperatures holding a sign that read "Save the Catskills." When Mr. Gitter addressed the crowd of more than 600 people, he mentioned the sign. "Now the question is," the developer asked, "save from what?"

    "From you," a voice replied.

    Mr. Gitter was unruffled. "Those of us involved in this project think the Catskills must be saved from economic decline," Mr. Gitter said, amid boos and catcalls. "We're all interested in saving the Catskills and we have our own views about how to do that."

    "Go home," shouted someone.

    "This is my home sir," Mr. Gitter said. "This has been my home for 34 years."

    Mr. Gitter has served on the Shandaken planning board and various development committees, and he represented local communities in some negotiations of the agreement with New York City. He runs a lodge and retail center in Mount Tremper called Catskill Corners, along with the nearby Emerson Inn.

    He also has been involved in several big projects outside the Catskills that were never built. In the late 1980's Mr. Gitter had plans for a $500 million China-United States trade center outside Stewart Airport in Newburgh. Local homeowners opposed it, and Mr. Gitter took his plans to Baltimore County, Maryland, but that project was scuttled too.

    "What difference does that make?" Mr. Gitter said angrily when asked about those projects. "I've been here a long time and I've done a lot of credible things."

    Mr. Gitter said several economic studies over the last 40 years have all concluded that year-round tourism is the best way to reinvigorate the Catskill economy. And he said the project has to be big to attract a major hotel chain and lenders willing to put up more than $150 million in financing. He said he also has to offset the cost of bringing in roads, water treatment plants and electric lines.

    Environmentalists argue that steep slopes and thin soils here make building on hillsides too risky. They also say that falling back on big tourism projects is shortsighted.

    "Even if, from an economic standpoint, this kind of project was justified 10 years ago, that's no longer the case," said Eric A. Goldstein, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Mr. Goldstein said that technological advances like the Internet have made it possible for many local residents and transplanted New Yorkers to both live and work in hamlets like Mount Tremper, Phoenicia and Pine Hill.

    But one of the most forceful local voices against the development came from a member of the Chase family, a clan that has lived in these hills so long local people call the place they live Chase Mountain.

    Sherret Spaulding Chase, 86, of Shokan, still seethes at "the painfully high cost to those displaced" by New York's reservoirs a century ago, but he challenged city officials to "bite the bullet, step up to their responsibilities, and say no," to Mr. Gitter's proposal by finding that it would irreparably harm the city's water supply. At the recent public hearing he suggested what only a short time ago would have been unthinkable. Mr. Chase proposed that New York City offer to buy Mr. Gitter's land, and if he refuses, take it through condemnation, much the way good bottomland was taken for reservoirs a century ago.

    Pleading for city intervention might seem contradictory, given the region's lingering resentment, but Mr. Chase said it is just common sense. "If New York wasn't going to take care of the land," he said, "it never should have taken it."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  3. #3


    February 17, 2004

    Protection for a City's Water

    New York is among the few American cities enjoying high-quality unfiltered drinking water, most of it from reservoirs in the Catskill-Delaware watershed west of the Hudson River. Keeping things that way means protecting the streams feeding the reservoirs from contamination, which in turn means restraining commercial and residential development. A clean watershed will also save the city $6 billion - the cost of building a filtration plant, which the federal government will require if New York cannot guarantee the purity of its upstate reservoirs.

    In recent years, the city and the upstate communities have together done a solid job of protecting the watershed, largely as a result of a 1997 agreement under which the communities pledged to avoid large-scale development in exchange for various forms of economic assistance from the city. In addition, the city agreed to buy land from willing sellers to serve as buffer zones around the reservoirs - an important step because the biggest threat to clean water is polluted runoff from farms, housing developments, roads and strip malls.

    The 1997 agreement now faces its biggest test. An upstate developer, Dean Gitter, is seeking state and city permission to build a five-star resort on opposite sides of Belleayre Mountain, where the state maintains a ski center. Belleayre is 120 miles northwest of the city and within 20 miles of two major reservoirs; the most important is the Ashokan. Mr. Gitter is not thinking small: his 500-acre resort would include 400 hotel rooms, 5 restaurants, a conference center, 2 spas, 351 time-share apartments and 2 golf courses. Having lived in the Catskills for 34 years, Mr. Gitter is no interloper. He says that his design incorporates every possible safeguard, and that the project will generate more than 700 jobs in one of the state's poorest regions.

    Inevitably, however, a project of this size carries risks that extend beyond the boundaries of the project itself and over which Mr. Gitter may have little control. For instance, environmentalists fear that the project will not only destabilize the mountain's thin soil, sending polluted rainwater into streams feeding the Ashokan, but will inevitably invite secondary development, including - fatally, in their view - a widening of Route 28, the area's main artery. That, they say, would be the beginning of the end for New York's unfiltered water supply.

    Incredibly, the state's Department of Environmental Conservation had planned to close the public comment period on the project on Feb. 24 - hardly time to examine the 6,000-plus pages of an environmental impact statement that was made available for public inspection in early December. Under pressure, it has now agreed to extend the comment period until April 23. These months should be used wisely. However well-intentioned Mr. Gitter's motives, the sheer size of his project raises serious questions deserving the most serious examination.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  4. #4


    April 24, 2004

    Water Woes Put Catskills Golf Resort in Doubt


    New York City intends to withhold permits for a luxury golf resort proposed for the Catskill Mountains, effectively blocking construction, unless the developer does more to avoid polluting the city's upstate water supply, officials said yesterday.

    The Department of Environmental Protection, which runs the city's vast and complex water supply system, said the development, Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park, "does not embody environmentally responsible growth" as currently designed. By regulation, officials explained, the city is prohibited from approving projects that threaten the purity of the city's water.

    In comments on the development's draft environmental impact statement that were posted on the department's Web site, city officials said the 6,720-page document was filled with "errors, inconsistencies, data gaps and flawed logic."

    They criticized many aspects of the project's design, but took particular aim at the plans for two 18-hole championship golf courses on the mountainside, which the developer would first have to level.

    "The range of reasonable alternatives for this site cannot include a golf course," the officials said, arguing that the construction would turn hundreds of acres of wooded land into "a source of pesticides, fertilizers, phosphorus and other nutrients, suspended solids and other water pollutants."

    The development group, Crossroads Ventures of Mount Tremper, N.Y., accused the city of trying to impose its will on upstate communities.

    "The city is sending a very clear signal that there should be no large project in the watershed," said Daniel A. Ruzow, a lawyer representing the developer. "The strident tone the city is taking is destructive of the ability to maintain working relationships."

    The $250 million Belleayre project, one of the largest proposals in the Catskills in decades, would include 400 hotel rooms, a conference center, several restaurants and hundreds of housing units on more than 500 acres of mountainside flanking the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in the town of Shandaken, in Ulster County. To prepare the steep slopes for construction, the developer would have to remove 86,000 mature trees and 189,000 saplings before excavating two million cubic yards of soil, according to government estimates. Construction would take more than four years.

    The city also considered the developer's plan inadequate for preventing storm-water runoff from polluting tributaries that flow into two of New York's major water supply reservoirs. And the city cast doubt on the developer's projection that the development would not lead to backcountry sprawl. City officials' objections would not immediately kill the project, but they do suggest that the developer would have a hard time gaining the necessary approvals without modifying existing plans.

    The Belleayre proposal represents the most serious test of the city's relationship with the upstate communities from which it gets its drinking water. Thousands of acres in the mountain towns were condemned when the city built reservoirs early in the last century, and many residents resent what they call the city's arrogance and interference in local affairs.

    In 1997, under pressure from the federal government to ensure the quality of the water supply or build a hugely expensive filtration plant, the city entered into an agreement with the Catskill communities to support environmentally responsible development in the watershed.

    Dean Gitter, the developer who leads the Crossroads Ventures group, said in a statement that the city had broken that promise. "The city has effectively torn up the agreement," he said, "and declared war on the people of the Catskills."

    Residents of Shandaken and other towns in the area have criticized the development, arguing that its size and scale would overwhelm the area and threaten New York's water supply. But there also has been significant support for the project from businesses in the community, and from local and state officials who believe that a new resort can be built in a way that protects the environment and provides badly needed jobs.

    The approval process for such a large project in such a sensitive landscape is complex and long-lasting. An extended period of public comment on the developer's draft environmental impact statement ended yesterday. All the comments will be reviewed by the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

    The state can then ask the developer to address questions that have arisen in the last few months. The developer could provide the information or modify the project so that the concerns are addressed. Final approval will be determined by the state, which along with the city is responsible for issuing permits the developer needs to proceed.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  5. #5


    June 30, 2004

    City to Purchase 90 Acres to Safeguard Watershed


    WHITE PLAINS, June 29 - New York City has completed a deal to help purchase land within an area covering 383 acres in Westchester County in order to protect the watershed that provides part of the city's drinking supply, officials said Tuesday.

    Almost 200 of the 383 acres, which consist of tracts owned by two local families, are within the city's Croton watershed on the eastern side of the Hudson River. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has classified the watershed land as having the highest priority for preservation.

    Under a $7.5 million deal arranged by the Westchester Land Trust, New York City will pay Lewisboro roughly $1 million to help conserve about 90 acres of land located inside the watershed. Other financing sources for the agreement include a $1 million pledge by Lewisboro and a total of $5.5 million in donations from two private foundations.

    Additional financing may come from the sale of at least three existing structures on the land, said Paul Gallay, executive director of the Westchester Land Trust. The deal is part of an effort by Lewisboro to protect the 383 acres from development.

    "Through this deal, we are reaffirming that the city is committed to protecting the Croton watershed," said Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection. He said the 383 acres represented the largest tract of watershed land that had been set aside on the eastern side of the Hudson.

    Of all the city's water sources, the Croton watershed is the only one covered by an order from the federal government to build a filtration plant to decrease pollutants.

    The filtration plant, which is expected to cost $1.5 billion, would be the only such plant in a system that supplies 1.2 billion gallons of water a day to nine million people in New York City and its northern suburbs.

    The federal order to build the filtration plant has prompted concern among environmentalists that the city would focus its water supply protection efforts on the western side of the Hudson.

    The western side, which provides roughly 90 percent of New York City's water supply, has a protected watershed area covering more than one million acres, while the eastern side, which supplies about 10 percent of the water, has a protected watershed area of 240,000 acres, Mr. Michaels said.

    The agreement in Westchester is part of the city's land acquisition program, which, since 1997, has set aside more than 50,000 acres in nine counties for conservation. Of those, 1,218 acres were in Westchester.

    Officials involved in the transaction emphasized the importance of working together in smoothing the process.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  6. #6


    August 9, 2004

    Water, and Competing Rural Interests, Everywhere


    Dean Meret of Putman Valley returns from fishing on the Croton Reservoir, part of the area where recreation is expanding.

    Want to grow hay, log trees or tap maple syrup?

    Could be New York City is the place to start.

    Far from its skyscrapers and subways, the city has begun leasing hundreds of acres of farmland and forests around its drinking water reservoirs in the Catskills and the Hudson Valley for traditional rural uses. City officials are even considering marketing a line of maple candies, with the label "made in the New York City watershed."

    To promote the expanded usage, the city's Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees activities in the vast watershed, has dispatched its employees to town hall meetings and country fairs around the state. Last week, for instance, they set up a booth at the Ulster County Fair in New Paltz, handing out refrigerator magnets with scenic vistas of the reservoirs and fly swatters emblazoned with the D.E.P. logo.

    New York City has been forced to assume the role of country squire at a time when it is rapidly becoming one of the largest landowners in upstate New York. It owns more than 103,000 acres of prime undeveloped land in the watershed, roughly half the size of the entire city. Of that, 58,639 acres were purchased since 1997, as part of a landmark agreement with the federal and state governments and the upstate communities.

    Under that agreement, the city was able to avoid building a $6 billion filtration plant by agreeing to a host of water-quality initiatives, including upgrading sewage treatment plants and spending up to $250 million to buy land around the reservoirs to serve as buffer zones. (in all, $134.4 million has been spent so far.) Local communities, in turn, pledged to avoid large-scale development in exchange for recreational use of the lands and various forms of economic assistance from the city.

    "This is one of the great social experiments in American history," said Christopher O. Ward, the city's environmental commissioner, who makes a point of trekking out to the region several times a month. "It's linking an urban need for water quality with rural development."

    Mr. Ward said the city's efforts to work with the upstate communities have progressed well beyond the original agreement. In response to requests from farmers, the city has leased 210 acres for hay fields in Delaware and Greene Counties, and 875 acres for logging and other forestry projects in those counties as well as in Ulster and Sullivan. Last winter, there were 2,650 taps from maple trees on city-owned property in Delaware, Sullivan and Schoharie Counties.

    Next month, the environmental department will sponsor a series of five hearings around the state on proposed rule changes intended to increase public access to its watershed lands. The department has issued more than 77,000 permits in the past three years for fishing, hiking, hunting and other approved recreational pastimes in the watershed.

    Even so, the city's latest efforts have met with suspicion and outright hostility in many of the towns and villages that flank its upstate reservoirs. Some residents complain that the city, under the guise of friendship and assistance, has actually overstepped its authority and interfered with local development issues by imposing a permit system and other restrictions on lands that were once freely used.

    "We'll have two or three months where upstate and downstate communities get along just fine, and then we'll hit a bump in the road and we're at each other's throats," said Alan Rosa, executive director of the Catskill Watershed Corporation, a private group that provides water protection and economic development programs. "The '97 agreement was a shotgun marriage, so it's pretty much a shotgun relationship."

    Things have grown particularly touchy, city officials and others say, because of a looming battle over a proposed luxury golf resort in the Catskills near the city's watershed. Backed by a well-known upstate developer, Dean Gitter, the $250 million complex near Belleayre Mountain has won support among local officials and residents eager to bring more revenue and jobs to the region. But its potential impact on the watershed has also stirred vigorous opposition among environmentalists and city officials.

    New York City's water system was pieced together in the early 1900's after state lawmakers authorized the city to purchase and, in some cases, appropriate upstate lands that were flooded to create a network of 19 reservoirs. It now supplies drinking water to nine million residents in New York City and surrounding areas.

    For most of that time, the reservoirs and their adjacent lands were largely kept off-limits to communities, except for some restricted recreational fishing and boating. But a cornerstone of the 1997 agreement was that as the city acquired more lands for the watershed, it would allow increased activities on them.

    Robert Cross Jr., the supervisor of the town of Shandaken, which has a population of just over 3,000, said that most of the city-owned property in his part of the Catskills remains unavailable for recreation - a major problem for a town that relies heavily on tourism. "We're waiting to see what the city's going to do to make things better," he said.

    City officials say that they have made it a priority to open more land for recreation, and to allow agriculture and forestry leases as a way to help the local economies. The environmental department shifted its staff and resources to manage its ever-growing land holdings. It has 45 full-time inspectors focusing on land management issues based in field offices throughout the region. It is distributing a newsletter, called "Watershed Recreation," listing information about group hikes, cleanups and other events.

    And, for the first time, the department is proposing to allow people to use certain areas in the city's watershed, such as parking lots and scenic overlooks, without a permit as part of a series of changes that could take effect as early as October.

    "It may seem as if the city is taking on additional responsibility by becoming land stewards in the watershed," said Eric A. Goldstein, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that monitors the water system. "But this is a crucial piece for protecting the city's single largest capital asset - the reservoirs that provide drinking water to half of the state's population."

    Still, many critics have countered that the city's efforts simply do not go far enough to help struggling towns and villages. While the city paid more than $83 million in local property taxes last year and provided millions more in other economic assistance, many upstate residents say they could reap far more benefits if the land were developed.

    In the case of the Belleayre golf resort, some residents have objected to what they see as the city's aligning itself with environmental advocates against the project, which is being reviewed by the state. "We've seen little opportunity for a dialogue about the project, and that's the most frustrating part," said Daniel A. Ruzow, a lawyer who represents Mr. Gitter's development group, Crossroads Ventures.

    Mr. Ward said that while the city remains committed to economic development in the upstate communities, it has a responsibility to ensure that it takes place in an environmentally sensitive manner.

    Declaring New York City to be "a positive force and neighbor for upstate communities," he said city officials plan to expand farming, forestry and recreation opportunities on city lands, but are still working out the best way to do it.

    "The D.E.P., like any private landowner," he said, "needs to understand who is on their property and what they're doing."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  7. #7


    November 1, 2004

    Reports Offer Inside Look at City Agency's Lapses


    The Croton Reservoir, in Westchester County, is part of a vast network that supplies water for New York City.

    In August 2001, an unusual legal drama began unfolding in federal court in White Plains. The agency that oversees New York City's vast water system pleaded guilty to violating the nation's environmental laws. It had discharged mercury-contaminated water for two years into a pool that flowed into an upstate reservoir and had allowed employees to use machinery contaminated with PCB's for more than a decade without protection.

    The judge took an extraordinary action: He appointed an outside monitor to supervise the agency's work.

    Then came the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the case receded from public view. But the monitor, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in environmental cases, got to work, visiting reservoirs, interviewing employees, chasing anonymous tips and combing records. He also filed detailed reports with the judge.

    Now, three years later, those reports offer a revealing chronicle of violations, mishaps, oversights, and even low comedy by the agency, the Department of Environmental Protection, charged with protecting the safety of the city's drinking water.

    They also provide a detailed account of the inner workings of a city department, complete with byzantine office politics and assorted characters like the longtime manager who rejected a request for protective gear.

    The reports also charge that the agency failed to adequately discipline the veteran manager, who was also accused of undercutting efforts to comply with the law.

    The reports assert that even after its conviction, the department failed to properly document hazardous waste disposal, delayed cleaning up chemical spills and moved slowly to improve safety at a Bronx reservoir where an employee was sucked into a drainpipe and killed.

    In one note in 2002, the monitor also observed that members of a special hazardous-spills response unit had communications equipment and cars that were barely working. They did not have a boat. And despite its specialized training, the squad was often called to clean pigeon droppings off agency buildings whose roofs were in disrepair, the monitor said.

    While these lapses are troubling, federal officials said, the city's water has been found to be safe.

    In a separate investigation, federal prosecutors announced last month that they were looking into whether the city had misrepresented the lead levels in its drinking water.

    A spokeswoman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg would not comment on the monitor's reports.

    Shortly before he left office last week for a job in private business, the agency's commissioner, Christopher Ward, did not dispute the thrust of the findings, but said in a phone interview that many dated to the period after the 2001 guilty plea, and that since then, the department had made "historic strides."

    It has "transformed itself from within," Mr. Ward said, "and now is an agency which works diligently on all aspects to ensure full compliance."

    In his recent reports, including one filed in September, the monitor, A. Patrick Nucciarone, credits the agency with making progress. The monitor's supervision of the agency was to have lasted three years, but the judge, Charles L. Brieant, has extended it for a fourth year, saying it "seemed to be necessary and appropriate."

    David N. Kelley, the United States attorney in Manhattan, whose office sought the extension, said by phone: "The lack of senior management oversight, and the need for greater accuracy in reporting on compliance, are among the recurring themes of the monitor's reports. We'll stay the course through the probationary period until the goals of full compliance are met."

    Charges against a government agency are highly unusual. In pleading guilty, the agency admitted that from 1998 to 2000, it knowingly discharged mercury-contaminated water into a pool that flowed into the Rondout Reservoir in Sullivan County.

    It also admitted that in Westchester County, it had used machinery contaminated with PCB's to control the flow of water without protecting employees who came into contact with the equipment. As part of its sentence, the agency was fined $50,000.

    The department, which has 6,000 employees, operates a huge network of aqueducts, reservoirs, tunnels and pipes to supply more than one billion gallons of water to New York City each day.

    Paul Shechtman, a lawyer representing the department, said its employees had for years been single-minded about their mission: "to make sure each morning that water showed up at your tap."

    "It was clean," Mr. Shechtman said. "It tasted good. People would say, 'It's the best water in the United States.' And they took enormous pride in it."

    But prosecutors said there had been a deeply ingrained belief among at least some managers in the department that their task was only to deliver the water - and that given the enormous quantities of water flowing through the system, any chemicals that might be discharged would have no measurable effect. The view was, "Dilution is the solution to pollution," prosecutors wrote.

    As Mr. Nucciarone summarized the problem in his first report to the court, "The federal investigation found a management in need of education, and a culture in need of change."

    But a look at three years of monitor's reports provides a glimpse at how hard it was for the agency to change that culture as it tried to clean up its act.

    For example, Mr. Nucciarone cited the case of a veteran manager, Thomas Hook, who, according to the agency, supervised more than 370 employees and was responsible for all operations and engineering work in the city's upstate water supply system.

    Mr. Hook had a long record of questionable conduct, Mr. Nucciarone contended, citing incidents in which he was accused of castigating employees for trying to report spills or refusing a request to buy protective gear for workers assigned to enter contaminated buildings.

    Yet the agency had not suspended or disciplined Mr. Hook, Mr. Nucciarone noted. Instead, Mr. Hook was reassigned to a nonsupervisory position in design and construction, with no formal announcement to the agency's employees about why the transfer was made.

    Writing to Mr. Nucciarone to explain the decision, Commissioner Ward cited Mr. Hook's more than 30 years of service, and said it would be inappropriate and unfair to make a public announcement that the transfer was punitive.

    Mr. Nucciarone disagreed. "Immunity from punishment because of senior status is the precise source of the culture deficiency" that had to be purged, he wrote to the judge.

    Mr. Kelley, the United States attorney, also wrote to Judge Brieant, citing the monitor's findings and adding that his office's own investigation had found that for years, Mr. Hook had helped perpetuate "a climate of fear, intimidation and neglect" that encouraged the covering up of violations. Mr. Kelley said that suspension and loss of pay were routine penalties for rank-and-file employees, even for such infractions as failure to wear hard hats.

    By not informing its employees that Mr. Hook had been punished for his actions, Mr. Kelley asserted, the department was sending "a powerful message" that its discipline was "at best, selective."

    In a telephone interview, Commissioner Ward said Mr. Hook's reassignment had been understood agency-wide and "set a tone and practice for the agency in terms of the importance and seriousness of this issue." He acknowledged that Mr. Hook had failed in terms of legal and regulatory obligations and said the department had "responded accordingly."

    But, he said, "Tom Hook was and is a committed D.E.P. employee," adding that he "remains a valuable asset to the department."

    Mr. Hook declined to comment, other than to say, "The bottom line is, it's ruined a career."

    In his reports, Mr. Nucciarone also contended that the agency had failed to quickly address workplace conditions in the Jerome Park Reservoir in the Bronx, where an employee was killed in 2001. The worker, Archie Tyler, lost his footing in several feet of water and was sucked into a 20-inch-wide drain he was trying to unclog.

    Although the need for a safety platform was quickly identified, Mr. Nucciarone wrote, construction was not expected to begin until late 2004. An agency spokesman said the unclogging procedure would not be performed again until the platform was in place.

    Delays in compliance were not unusual, Mr. Nucciarone reported. In May 2002, for example, he noted that the agency had just followed up on a 1999 request to 21 upstate water districts to remove and replace flow meters that contained mercury.

    Mr. Nucciarone said he was disconcerted to learn that the 1999 request had resulted from a memo - written 13 years earlier - that cited the meters as "potential health risks" for workers.

    Under the terms of its probation, the agency was to develop a system to prevent and detect violations, but it moved so slowly that in February 2003, James B. Comey, then the United States attorney, asked Judge Brieant to order that the monitor come up with a compliance schedule and that daily fines be imposed if the department did not adhere to it. The department agreed to a timetable.

    In some reports, however, Mr. Nucciarone described the Herculean efforts it took to determine compliance. "Dozens of telephone calls and memos are necessary," he wrote earlier this year, "just to learn whether required eye wash stations have been delivered to and installed within distant facilities."

    In his September 2004 report, Mr. Nucciarone wrote that unannounced visits to four buildings had turned up the fact that 30 of 88 problems had been inaccurately reported as fixed. He reminded the department that accurate reporting was one of the "cornerstones of an effectively administered compliance program."

    In his May 2002 report, Mr. Nucciarone reported poor conditions for the hazardous materials team.

    The team was responsible for responding to spills in the nearly 2,000-square-mile watershed north of the city. Four of its members, assigned to the area east of the Hudson River, shared a windowless office with manageable space for one person, the monitor wrote.

    Because the office was in a thick-walled stone building behind a large hill, its radio communication system was ineffective, Mr. Nucciarone wrote. "Perhaps worse," he added, "the four share two old, poorly maintained vehicles for use in responding to emergency calls."

    On top of that, he wrote, "they do not have a boat."

    At least twice, he said, team members were called to a spill, but were not allowed to use agency cars. On another occasion, he said, they were not allowed to use a boat to assist with spill control.

    But there was one thing they did regularly accomplish, he added: "Despite their training, the Hazmat team is often called to clean pigeon feces from buildings with roofs in disrepair."

    In an update several months later, Mr. Nucciarone said the team had obtained more trucks and other response vehicles, along with an effective mobile-communications system. But he said he was not aware of changes in the team's working conditions or in its duties cleaning pigeon droppings.

    Mr. Ward, the commissioner, said the department had "diligently upgraded its Hazmat capability throughout the watershed, and today is well on its way to a state-of-the-art response team."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  8. #8
    The Dude Abides
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    NYC - Financial District


    Land Deal Will Restrict Development in Watershed


    Published: July 23, 2005

    More than 650 acres of trees, shrubs and trout brooks in New York City's Croton watershed where houses had been planned will instead be preserved under a joint agreement announced yesterday by Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

    The Croton watershed is the smallest of the city's three reservoir systems, but it is under the greatest threat from development and pollution. The heavily wooded 654-acre parcel, known as the Angle Fly Preserve, is the largest privately held piece of property in Westchester County.

    A New York City developer who agreed to sell the land had planned to build 108 houses on it.

    "We will continue to invest in the preservation of our watershed so that we ensure safe drinking water for all New Yorkers," Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement.

    Under the agreement, the state will acquire a conservation easement restricting development on 370 acres of the land in the town of Somers that is known as the Eagle River property. The state will pay for the easement with $3.2 million from the Environmental Protection Fund, which is set aside for land acquisition and important state and local environmental programs.

    New York City will acquire an adjacent 269 acres of land near the Amawalk Reservoir within the Croton watershed. The city will pay $9.4 million for the land, with the money coming from a $25 million watershed land acquisition fund set up by Mr. Bloomberg in 2003.

    The town of Somers and Westchester County will contribute about $4 million to the deal and will get to use 15 acres of the land for recreational fields and a community center.

    Negotiations on the complex deal began more than a year ago. The Westchester Land Trust, a conservation organization, helped negotiate it.

    While the agreement preserves a small amount of land compared with large land acquisitions in the Adirondack Mountains, or in the city's Catskill Mountains Watershed, it is considered important because the pressure for development is much greater in Westchester County than in those areas.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  9. #9


    November 28, 2005

    Dam at a Catskill Reservoir Needs Emergency Repair, City Says


    FULTONHAM, N.Y., Nov. 23 - A massive 78-year-old dam in the Catskill Mountains that is owned by New York City does not meet state safety standards and will have to undergo emergency repairs before next spring's snow melt.

    City officials said there was a remote possibility that the Gilboa Dam would fail if there was a record storm and snow melt, sending the 20 billion gallons of water in the Schoharie Reservoir roaring through the valley below, a historic area of covered bridges and small farms that is home to about 5,000 people.

    In an attempt to reduce the danger as quickly as possible, the city has been trying to lower the reservoir level in recent weeks by sending as much as 540 million gallons of water a day through a 17-mile tunnel. The water flows into a more southerly reservoir, the Ashokan, where it must be treated with aluminum sulfates to remove sediments before it is released to New York City.

    But the Schoharie Reservoir refills with rain as fast as the water drains out. The city is now considering hanging 10 large drainage hoses, 24 inches in diameter, over the top of the dam to siphon out more water.
    The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which owns the 1,800-foot-long dam, has held several meetings with frightened local residents, trying to explain the risk without provoking panic.

    "We don't expect to have a failure of the dam," Emily Lloyd, commissioner of the department, calmly told about 150 local residents who packed into the pine-paneled community room of the United Methodist Church here during a light snowstorm last Tuesday night. "We do have some concerns that we want to share with you."

    In the wake of the breakdown of civil order in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Lloyd said she felt it was necessary to inform residents of the danger and to help them prepare an evacuation plan, though the chance that the dam will fail is remote.

    City officials said the emergency was based on a question of safety that is caused by a shift in weather patterns, not a sudden deterioration of the dam. There have been scientific indications that the climate of the Northeast is changing and that storms that were once rare are now far more common.

    The Schoharie Valley was hit with 100-year-floods in 1955, 1987 and again in 1996, when the Schoharie Reservoir reached its all-time high water level, more than six and a half feet over the top of the dam. A flood in April nearly matched that, and the area was hit with record rainfall in October.

    "Seems like we've got 100-year floods coming every nine years now," said Fred Risse, a local farmer whose land lies in the flood plain of the Schoharie Creek. "What happens when we get another?"

    Extreme weather led the department to recalculate the dam's safety risk. And because it does not know the condition of the bedrock below the 183-foot high dam, it has had to assume that it is in the worst condition possible.

    That uncertainty, combined with accelerated deterioration of the dam's stone facing in the last 25 years, and some other possible defects discovered in recent inspections, have increased the likelihood that the dam could fail under extreme conditions.

    Commissioner Lloyd said the dam was still safe under normal conditions. But in the event of the worst possible storm - a 1-in-10,000-year flood - the dam would have no reserve strength and therefore no longer meets state safety standards.

    Such a storm would have to be monstrous, with 25 inches of rain in 72 hours. It would push the water in the reservoir eight feet above the dam, two feet higher than the record level in 1996.

    "If there were a series of terrible storms, we might, over a few days, have to get the people's attention, and we don't want to do that on short notice," Ms. Lloyd said in an interview after last Tuesday's meeting. "We want to err on the side of being prepared, and we can't do that without reaching out to people this way."

    While declaring an emergency gets people's attention, it can also cause panic if people fear that a collapse is imminent. Local newspapers have been filled with breathless stories about floods, failures and evacuations since the commissioner first met with local officials in late October.

    Residents of this rustic and historic valley, 110 miles north of New York City, have grown increasingly uneasy. No strangers to floods, they have demanded to know how much time they would have to evacuate, where they are supposed to go, and who would notify them. Some have moved valuables to higher ground, and they worry about sending their children to school.

    "They've got everybody hitting the panic button," said Imer Barton of Schoharie, who concedes that he sees things differently because he lives on a hill, out of danger. "It's good to be knowledgeable, but this is not a new problem."

    The Gilboa Dam was completed in 1927. It was built in two sections, a stepped concrete dam more than 1,000 feet long that abuts an earthen berm on Schoharie Creek. It is the northernmost of the city's 22 dams and was identified several years ago as most in need of repair.

    Howard R. Bartholomew, a retired history teacher and cabinetmaker who has lived downstream of the dam his entire life, said he had watched it steadily deteriorate.

    "This was a marvel of engineering," said Mr. Bartholomew, 62, as he stood on an embankment overlooking the dam. He pointed out that many of the three-foot thick bluestone blocks on the downstream side of the dam had been washed away. Steel reinforcing bars are exposed, and the enormous concrete apron on the spillway below the dam is pockmarked with holes.

    "There's only one word for this," he said. "Appalling."

    At Tuesday night's meeting, residents asked how the city could have ignored the dam for so long. Gail S. Schaffer, a former New York State secretary of state who lives in Blenheim, close to the dam, said the years of deferred maintenance "bordered on negligence."

    The Schoharie Reservoir provides about 16 percent of New York's drinking water and cannot be shut down while repairs take place.
    Rather, the city plans to drop the reservoir level by up to 16 feet, relieving pressure on the structure. Early next year, engineers will cut a notch 200 feet long in the top of the dam's westernmost section to keep the water level low.

    The dam is still sturdy enough, engineers said. It is 150 feet wide at its base and composed primarily of high-strength concrete. Rodney E. Holderbaum, a consulting engineer hired by the city for this project, said the concrete was in comparatively good shape beneath the missing bluestone blocks. The main concern is not erosion. Rather, excess water pressure from a monster flood could cause the dam to slide out of place if the bedrock beneath it is weak.

    In determining the dam's margin of safety, engineers had to assume that the bedrock was badly deteriorated. But Paul Rush, director of West of Hudson Operations for the Department of Environmental Protection, said the bedrock was unlikely to be in such poor condition.

    The commissioner's decision to issue an emergency advisory allows the city to undertake $18 million in repairs without going through the normal bidding process, which can take months.

    The city plans to drill up to 90 holes in the dam, some straight down from the top into the bedrock, and others diagonally at the toe of the dam. Anchors will then be cemented into the bottom of those shafts, and posts and cables will be run up to the surface so they can be tightened.

    Lawrence Sweeney of Watsonville, who lost his house in the 1996 flood, said he doubted that the repair would work. "Soon as you start putting holes in there, it's like using an ice pick on a block of ice," he said. "It's going to break."

    Mr. Rush said that this kind of repair had been used successfully on 1,000 dams around the world.

    Once the reinforcements are complete, he said, the Gilboa Dam should again meet state safety standards.

    The dam is scheduled to undergo a complete $200 million reconstruction beginning in 2010.

  10. #10
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Gilboa Dam Spillway ( ) :

    The Dam nearing completion:

  11. #11


    Gotham Gazette -

    Off the Farm and Into the Faucet

    by Sam Williams
    28 Jun 2006

    Like many U.S. farmers, Ulster County dairyman Tom Hutson is a businessman first and a romantic second. In New York City recently to accept a $10,000 Steward of the Land award from the American Farmland Trust, Hutson made a point of pulling a plastic bag of dirt out of his pocket and delivering a brief comment on its contents.

    “I’m a farmer, so you just have to understand one thing,” said Hutson, holding up a sample of bottomland soil scooped that morning on his family’s 380-acre River Haven farm in DeLancey, N.Y. “This is gold to me.”

    But the contents of Hutson’s little bag has significance for New York City residents as well. Hutson’s farm is within the Catskills/Delaware watershed, the city’s primary source of drinking water. What he does on his land has a direct impact on the purity of the water coming out of New York City’s taps – and on how much the city must spend to keep that water clean.

    Hutson is a member of the Watershed Agricultural Council, a city- and state-sponsored organization designed to reduce organic pollution within the Catskills/Delaware watershed. He earned his award by letting his farm serve as a laboratory for testing the council’s land management recommendations. Starting in 1994, Hutson has retained “buffer strips” -- wide swaths of vegetation alongside streams – intended to protect the waterways on his farm from direct fertilizer runoff and bank erosion. He has built manure containment systems and implemented a rotational grazing program to minimize and distribute the impact his 108-animal herd has on the farm’s 100 acres of pasture. Hutson also adopted the Watershed Area Council’s forest management plan, limiting cutting and development on the 57 acres of woodland within his farm boundaries.

    “Nobody cares more about protecting the land than a farmer,” says Hutson. “But when you’re developing a whole farm plan, there’s a real learning curve involved. Farming’s tough enough as it is.”

    Good Environment, Good Business

    To help Hutson make the adjustment, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection kicked in $100,000. The money is part of a $100 million effort to protect New York City’s drinking water at its source. The program has two goals, according to Barry Beckhardt, program director for the Department of Environmental Protection’s Watershed Agricultural & Forestry Program. It wants to encourage upstate farm managers to do the right thing environmentally and it hopes keep those farms in business instead of succumbing to development pressures.

    “Instead of supporting farms through subsidies, we’re proposing that farmers be supported by the way they protect the land,” says Beckhardt.

    Development in the city’s second major water source, the Croton Watershed, is already forcing the city to build a plant to filter runoff before the water. The plant, to be constructed in Van Cortlandt Park, is currently estimated to cost at least $1.3 billion. And to make room for it, the city is devoting a 10-acre portion of Van Cortlandt Park to the plant’s construction. Building a similar filtration plant for the Catskills water supply would cost an easy $4 billion, Beckhardt estimates.

    In light of that, the $10 million a year being spent by Watershed Area Council makes economic sense. “This is clearly a more cost effective approach,” Beckhardt says.

    The Watershed Agricultural Council owes its existence to a 1992 deal between the city and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In exchange for preserving wild acreage and reducing runoff from the 300 farms in the Catskills/Delaware watershed, the city has been able to avoid the need to filter water from that region. Working through the council, the city has managed to pull 15,000 acres out of farmland development, and by 1995 had gotten at least 85 percent of the affected farms to sign up for a pollution prevention program. In return, the Watershed Agricultural Council doled out subsidies to cover the cost of wastewater diversion ditches, barnyard drainage systems and other pollution reduction strategies. The council also helped participating farms draw attention to their products under the “Pure Catskills” brand name.

    “The goal is to strengthen the linkages between the producers upstate and the consumers in New York,” says Beckhardt. “It doesn’t make sense to do all this and have the farmers go out of business.”

    Marketing the Catskills

    “Pure Catskills” has helped farmers looking for a local edge in the commodity foods marketplace. Still, as Hutson notes, many farms have a hard time taking advantage of the program. The cultivated acreage on River Haven is devoted mainly to hay and other surplus forage crops that the farm sells to neighboring dairies. As for the milk, most of that is pooled and sold through regional cooperatives and routed to New York City via bulk distributors. Elmhurst Dairy, a Queens-based distributor that bills its milk as “New York’s Own” but not “Pure Catskills,” handles Hutson’s milk.

    “Milk is such a perishable commodity,” Hutson says. “You’ve gotta move it every day, and that makes it hard to market as locally produced.”

    While direct marketing of “Pure Catskills” milk may not yet make economic sense, the New York City greenmarket system has provided support to the upstate farm economy. According to the Council on the Environment for New York City, an organization that provides information on greenmarket produce and schedules, the city’s 51 markets have helped sustain 11,000 acres of cultivated farmland and keep 27,000-plus acres total out of development.

    “The good news is that New York City boasts the best greenmarket system in the country,” says Jeremiah Cosgrove, northeast regional director for American Farmland Trust. “The only thing missing right now is the consumer education component. We’re trying to make it so food buyers in the city recognize that the few cents extra they pay on local dairy products or local produce is actually a cost savings when you compare it to the amount they save on their taxes if the city has to build a new filtration plant.”

    Eric Goldstein is co-director of the urban program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Gotham Gazette -

  12. #12


    The Environmental Protection Agency released a draft "Filtration Avoidance Determination," which names New York City as one of only five large cities in the country with drinking water that does not need traditional purification. The city has agreed to spend $300 million over the next 10 years to acquire undeveloped land in the watershed as a means of protection. In addition, the city is constructing a facility to provide water disinfection using ultraviolet light to maintain the quality of drinking water.


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