Archive for June, 2010

There’s a new proposal from Amsterdam Material Recycling to build a Construction and Demolition landfill on the edge of the Edson Street Industrial Park. Several years ago, the zoning ordinance to allow the landfill to be built got voted down. This new proposal comes at a time when Amsterdam, like almost every city in NY,  is having difficulty balancing their budget and keeping taxes down.  AMR’s proposed deal could conceivably net the city millions of dollars a year for the 6 years the landfill will be open. The letter from the President of AMR to the Mayor was posted on the Venner Vox and suggests that the income could be used by the city to eliminate our city tax for that time period. Subsequent comments seemed to be almost all positive.

I admit, I wasn’t paying much attention to local politics when this came up several years ago, so I’m trying to wrap my head around it now.  My initial gut reaction is that it’s like someone is asking me to eat a can of worms everyday for a month to get a $5,000 prize or something.  If I’m in a desperate situation, and I need money to put food on the table, then I suppose I would have to go for it. But I would still pause for a second to reflect and wonder if things are really that bad that I would feel I would need to submit myself to such an unpleasant and exploitive task.

I know many in Amsterdam feel the situation is that bad. And for homeowners struggling to make ends meet, it may seem like a no-brainer when someone is holding out cash. For me, I can’t help but feel sad to think that with all the great ideas out there for revitalizing our city, there just isn’t enough shared vision and consensus for any leader, public or private, to get any major project off the ground.  And frankly, I don’t see the situation changing anytime soon. If this is the best idea we can implement at this time, then maybe that’s all there is to it.

Some of my concerns…

1. What will be the impact of the landfill on the Amsterdam’s reputation and property values? Best case scenario is that people ignore it,  the money gets spent on improving the city, and theoretically this jump starts our revitalization efforts. Worst case scenario is that our already lackluster reputation in the area gets further maligned as we become known as the Small City with the Big Dump.  We’ll make the city look nice, but no one will want to come.  Doesn’t matter that it’s a C&D landfill, a dump is a dump.

I think it’s important to remember that the NIMBY instinct, however irrational, is strong in prospective homebuyers, not just the existing homeowners.

2. What are the environmental and health risks? Of course C&D landfills are different from a solid waste landfills, but that doesn’t mean they are free from problems. A quick search online comes up with this article  that suggests that the gypsum in sheet rock can break down into methane and hydrogen sulfide gas, which can contaminate the surrounding air.  Are we sure this isn’t going to happen?
3. How do we know that unauthorized materials aren’t going to find their way into the landfill? I know that there are government regulations and oversight and all that stuff, but the offshore oil drilling industry has those too, and look how that turned out!  Are we confident enough that after the project ends, we won’t find hazardous waste was dumped there illegally?

4. What do we do after the project completes?  Best case scenario is that the revenue is invested not only in infrastructure and tax breaks, but also to significantly boost our business development efforts.  If done wisely, the infusion of funds will help us implement a strategy to attract new home buyers and business, so that we continue growing well after the landfill  is closed. However, if the landfill is the only strategy we ever execute, I’m afraid we’ll be right back to where we started.  And then what is there to do except maybe eat some more worms…?