A final environmental statement on the proposed expansion of the Port of Albany is expected to include an analysis of “environmental justice” health and quality of life issues for South End residents.
That analysis follows calls from state Attorney General Letitia James and Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy to determine the impact on residents.
In September, the state attorney general’s office submitted a letter to the town urging them to consider the expansion’s impact to the health and quality of life of residents living at Ezra Prentice Homes, a federally subsidized housing complex on the outskirts of the city of Albany.
James’ office suggested officials include Ezra Prentice residents in the decision-making process and consider alternatives to the project that would lessen air emissions and other quality of life impacts.
“It does not appear that the project sponsor or the Planning Board have made affirmative efforts to secure the involvement or participation of the approximately 400 residents of the Ezra Prentice community, either at the conceptual project development phase or in developing the (draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement),” an attorney general staff member from the Environmental Protection Bureau wrote in a letter. “In addition, no analysis of the disproportionate impacts of the project on Ezra Prentice or other potential environmental justice areas are included in the (statement).”
The Port of Albany last year purchased 80 acres of land in the town of Bethlehem for potential expansion or storage and assembly of offshore wind turbine parts. Port officials and the town have been working through the environmental review process.
“There will actually be an environmental justice chapter in the final Generic Environmental Impact Statement,” said Megan Daly, director of economic development and procurement for the Albany Port District Commission. “It’s actually something that’s already a part of the process, so when that was brought to the surface in public comments, we felt it important to make that very clear.”
Daly said the commission expects to submit the final environmental statement to the town within the next week or two.
Residents of Ezra Prentice, located on South Pearl Street in the middle of a heavy industrial zone, have dealt with health issues and traffic concerns from the neighboring port for years. They must deal with idling freight trains and 18-wheelers rumbling through their neighborhood, spewing diesel fumes as they exit Interstate 787.
Traffic and air quality studies have been conducted to determine the extent of the industrial impact to residents as well as consider ways to mitigate the issues.
The state departments of Environmental Conservation and Health will unveil results of an air quality study from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, at the Ezra Prentice community room on South Pearl.
Daly said some of those impacts were highlighted in the draft review they completed, but the final will go into more detail. She added the environmental analysis considered the most intense use of the land to help determine what was feasible going forward.
Earlier this month, McCoy echoed the attorney general’s sentiments and noted that planned restrictions for truck traffic on Route 144 in Bethlehem should extend to the Ezra Prentice community.
“There are several ways to achieve this outcome, such as routing trucks through the port from the north entrance or building a new highway interchange as suggested by the attorney general,” McCoy wrote. “Taking these appropriate actions now will ensure that when the time comes to tout the job growth, the tax revenue, and overall economic impact of a port expansion, we will know that these benefits did not come at the expense of the residents of Ezra Prentice.”