City lawmakers in New York’s capital said pesticides could be used to battle weeds in two park lakes and to protect the greens of Capital Hills Golf Course.
City lawmakers in Albany, N.Y. temporarily blessed the use of pesticides to battle weeds in two park lakes and to protect the delicate greens on the city-owned Capital Hills Golf Course, in a vote taken towards the end of April, reports the Albany Times-Union
But the exemption — which one dissenting councilman called a bailout for a city that failed to follow its own law — underscored the still-murky future of Albany’s 12-year-old pesticide ban, which is more stringent than state law and which the city itself began ignoring almost as soon as it went into effect, the newspaper reported.
While the measure that was approved by a 10-2 vote will allow the Department of General Services to use various pesticides at the Capital Hills course as well as to battle invasive plants in the city’s Washington Park and Buckingham Lakes through the end of this year, a long-term solution lies in the hands of a council committee grappling with how to fix — or at least better enforce — the law.
The committee’s chairwoman, Councilwoman Leah Golby, said the ban is essentially toothless without the oversight panel that was supposed to police pesticide use by city departments and, where needed, issue exemptions.
For reasons that remain unclear, the so-called Mayor’s Task Force on Water Resources met only a handful of times after the law was passed in 1998, to begin phasing out the use on city property of pesticides considered the most toxic by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
“We don’t have a functioning oversight committee,” Golby said. “There is no Mayor’s Task Force on Water Resources.”
Golby questioned how the city passed the law and then apparently gave little or no thought to how it would continue to use the pesticides needed to maintain its golf course.
The exemption comes nearly a year after news of widespread violations of the law surfaced when families raised questions about a city contractor spraying pesticides while children played nearby in Pine Hills’ Ridgefield Park.
Top Recreation Department officials subsequently acknowledged they did not even know the ban existed.
And while spraying at Ridgefield was stopped completely, city officials contend the quality of the golf course would deteriorate without the chemicals that help keep the playing surfaces healthy. Scott Gallup, Capital Hills’ Course Superintendent, warned lawmakers Thursday that with the former Normanside Country Club, just across the NormansKill River from the Capital Hills course, now open to the public, the competitive pressure is even greater. “This law has the potential to put us at an economic disadvantage,” Gallup said.
That argument, however, failed to persuade Councilman Dominick Calsolaro, a frequent critic of the golf course generally. Calsolaro, who is currently pushing legislation to legalize keeping backyard chickens in the city, questioned how his colleagues could fret so much about the potential health impacts of chickens while so easily green-lighting the use of toxic chemicals on city land.
“Sometimes it’s amazing to me what seems to be so important,” Calsolaro said. “Our parks were covered in this stuff.”
Councilman Lester Freeman also voted against granting the exemption, citing concerns about the public’s exposure. Gallup pledged not to use any pesticides classified by the EPA in the two most toxic categories.
A city attorney also noted that the chemicals are completely legal in New York and could still be used on private property in the city.
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