On a blustery and cold January Thursday, at the Schunnemunk Trailhead beneath the Moodna Trestle, Senator James Skoufis spoke to and had discussions with about 15 concerned residents who braved the weather to check on the Senator's plan to pressure the DEC to enforce the SIX Stop Work Orders that have been issued on the Keen Equities Clovewood Project.
The public has been pleading with the DEC, saying that despite the fact that the DEC has the power to issue $37,500 fine per day, they just continue construction, and sensitive Schunnemunk lands are at risk. He said "They should be fining them hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars for violating and ignoring the law." Standing next to a big lettered sign saying "NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW", Skoufis vowed to keep the pressure on, saying DEC should issue the absolute maximum amounts of fines. He added that there are 3 very basic outstanding permits that still have not been met, without which construction should not be happening. Skoufis said, "The Cease and Desist Orders issued in May, June, July, August, September, and November of 2022, prohibit any work to proceed at the site, except for steps taken to prevent soil erosion. The orders dealt with permit infractions relating to Article 11 (fish and wildlife) and Article 17 (water pollution control) of Environmental Conservation Law, the former relating to the habitat and foraging habits of a threatened species, the timber rattlesnake. "
Communication between the concerned residents and the Village about these matters in recent months has been complicated by absence of Mayor Kalaj since sometime in November. An email sent to him a month ago about a proposed extension of Mangin Road that would have to go through County owned Gonzaga Park remains unanswered, along with a request for a map of the path that the road would take and whether there is existing work with permits and a plan to mitigate impacts on Gonzaga views.
Not only has the Mayor been absent. After promising copies of a Village resolution, and stating that "The name has been changed", the Village's Ward representative on the Town Board has also been absent more than present over the past 6 weeks, making transparency of the Village's activities relative to Clovewood even more problemmatic.
At the Thursday Press Conference the Senator repeated comments he made in a letter to the DEC last month about the extraordinary impacts the Clovewood Project would have on both the environment and existing residents, as currently planned. He ended the press conference saying that the only recourse left is to hit these developers with what they will understand , that is: fines.
“Given the developers’ flagrant violation of not one, not two, but six DEC directives to halt all work, I can’t stand by and allow these scofflaws to continue unchecked,” said Skoufis. “Today, I’m again calling on the DEC to levy the maximum possible fines against these bad actors and shut their flagrancy down. A hammer needs to be dropped on Clovewood’s developers to clearly demonstrate once and for all that they’re not above the law." He added "This is not a 'one and done' thing", promising to keep pressing the issue at the state level.