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State Officials To Make Albany South End Air Quality Announcement

1st ward Councilwoman Dorcey Applyrs led the town hall-style meeting at Ezra Prentice.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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In 2016, 1st ward Councilwoman Dorcey Applyrs led a town hall-style meeting at Ezra Prentice.

State officials are about to reveal the long-awaited results of an air monitoring study in Albany's South End.

For years residents of the Ezra Prentice homes say they’ve endured sounds and smells from trains passing through their backyard. They’ve cited the "oil trains" that transport crude oil to the port of Albany, not to mention the tractor-trailers that rumble along Pearl Street on the other side of the complex, hauling various freight in and out of the port area.

Air quality and truck traffic just two of several environmental concerns affecting Ezra Prentice, whose residents have a 40 percent asthma rate compared against 11 percent countywide.  They've spent nearly a decade searching for answers and say the air hasn’t gotten any better.

In July 2017 , State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos joined local leaders there, announcing the start of an air monitoring study. Almost a year later, in June 2018, DEC released the results of a heavy vehicle traffic pattern study.

Potential contributors to pollution included city buses, school buses and tractor-trailers that enter and exit the neighborhood on ramps leading to and from I-787, a conduit for industrial traffic.

The study identified 22 alternate traffic routes that truckers could use along with strategies including enforcement of truck route policy, emissions reduction and education.  Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan told residents she'd directed city trucks to avoid the neighborhood if they had no official business there.    "Our recycling trucks are taking alternative routes. They will not be moving county waste through Ezra." 

Residents have been waiting for air quality study result since, including neighborhood activist and former Common Councilor Dom Calsolaro.   "We've been anxiously awaiting the results of this study which originally was gonna be given to the residents of Ezra and the community in March of this year. So here it is seven months later, and we are finally, hopefully finally going to see the results of that air quality study."

Calsolaro says he visited the agency several months ago for an update direct from Commissioner Seggos.

"I asked if there was something not good in the report, and that's why it was being delayed. And all I kept getting was 'well, it had to be reviewed, it had to be this,' and 'a different department now was looking it over before it could be public.' All kinds of excuses, so I don't know. We're wondering if the numbers aren't gonna be good, if the numbers, especially for the small particulates, the really tiny ones you don't see that can actually get into people's lungs, which come off from not just diesel engine trucks, but actually more from motor vehicles and cars. Maybe those results are a little bit higher than what they were expecting."  The lack of answers frustrated Calsolaro, who says the study was completed "months and months ago, way before March."

DEC declined to comment ahead of a Monday afternoon press conference scheduled for 2 p.m. at Ezra Prentice.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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