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Meeting with Tri-City at the Becker’s, Carver Laraway and Donald Zee, 2003


Subject: Re: Meeting with Tri-City at the Becker's
Date: November 5, 2006 at 11:18:47 PM EST

The meeting was with Donald Zee, lawyer for "developers" and land speculators, and Carver Laraway, who identified himself as the owner of Tri-City Aggregates.  In attendance was me, Larry Becker, Tom McPheeters, Steve Stofelano, and three Mansion people who I vaguely recognized but don't know their names.

Zee, of course, is a pro at this sort of stuff, he claimed to have done this in 45 municipalities, and seemed intent on impressing us with how much experience he had.  Laraway, surprisingly, is experienced at dealing with neighbors.  He kept smiling and eye contacting the whole time, although he looked a little strained at the end.  He denied having any connection with Tri-City Aggregates of Holly, Michigan, which is an Inc. instead of an LLC like he is.  I find it very hard to believe that he never even HEARD of an outfit that has the same name, does exactly what he does, and indeed has been operating in New York State (among others). Laraway has his fingers in a lot of pies, he is pretty large.   He does project construction, that is, infrastructure, for "developer" Eli Weiss (sp?) in Colonie, Guilderland, Bethlehem and elsewhere, and on the new Northway Mall and Mohawk Mall.  He has something to do with landscaping supply, and operates Canaday Sweepers, which contracts out street sweeping services to municipalities.  And, he already owns an asphalt plant in Schoharie, an old plant which he bought two years ago.  Zee indicated that applications and impact statements on this Schoharie plant were filed at the time of this purchase.  However, it is interesting that Laraway simply began operating the plant and apparently made no significant upgrades to pollution control.

What he has in mind is to produce asphalt for his own use, because he feels he is paying too-high prices from the suppliers already in the area, who have, he says, the local market locked up.  It seems that the Schoharie plant is too far away from whatever operations he has in mind in the Capital District to be cost effective. The pollution control is a "totally enclosed plant and bag" type, which Laraway described as a giant vacuum cleaner bag that sucks up air pollutants.  It is, of course, "state of the art."  Production will be done on a "will call demand," which means there will be no storage of finished product at the site.  (It just occured to me that they will have to store sand, stone and oil on the site, the materials that are used in production. Duh.)

In all the documents they say this will provide 20 jobs, Laraway said 20-25 jobs.  There was a short discussion on where the Hearst Rag got the 6 jobs figure, which appears to be mysterious.  All the permits (state and city) allow the plant to triple in size, 20 jobs may be what could happen if the plant gets bigger, and the reality for now is six jobs.  Laraway said, "All my employees make more than $50,000 a year, including drivers (!), and own a piece of the company."  However, in answer to a direct question, he would NOT commit to hiring from the local community.  "We have some blacks working for us," he said.

So why does he want to build in the South End?  It is zoned heavy industrial by the Port, and there are not a lot of those around.  There is plenty of infrastructure, roads, rail, etc. but no river use. Proximity to oil, stone and sand are also important.  There's plenty of oil in the Port, but stone and and sand will be brought in from 8 miles away.  Again, no mention of availability of workforce.

Afellow whose name I didn't catch zeroed in on the truck traffic.  The documents talk about 50 trucks a day hauling finished product (22 tons per truck).  But there have to be empty trucks coming in.  Also, there have to be trucks carrying materials in, empty going out.  "So the truck traffic is actually four times that figure, correct?" this fellow said. Both Zee and Laraway reluctantly admitted that this was correct.

Zee very carefully and consistently kept steering the discussion away from air quality, it became my job to bring it back to that topic. Whenever air quality questions got specific, both of them claimed a lack of knowledge and stopped talking.  Very slick.  For example, when I asked if the "state of the art" pollution controls screened out particles less than ten microns, both of them acted as if that was an obtuse technical question and referred it to engineers!  I asked about the pollutants coming out of the stack, such as 13.2 pounds of battery acid per hour, 60 pounds of carbon monoxide per hour, 12.75 pounds of particulates per hour, etc. etc. etc. they neither confirmed nor denied this, although all this in the air permit application.

The electricity for the plant will be provided by a deisel generator that will run constantly, make noise and expel pollutants.  So far, no statements have been filed about this puppy, and I find it hard to believe that there are no regulations governing this monster. Apparently, availability of electricity is not a factor in determining the siting of this plant.  Neither Zee not Laraway so much as acknowledged my questions about this thing.  Clearly, this is a weak point that we need to focus on.

Another air issue was the statement I caught in the documents, "Odor masking chemicals can be mixed with the asphalt" to kill the smell. Laraway, oddly enough, was more than happy to explain that this was usually a pine smell.  Leaving aside the unspoken issue of asphalt odors, what are these chemicals, and how exactly is an artificial pine smell better than the smell of hot asphalt?

Finally, It appears that Zee and Laraway had two reasons for meeting with the Mansion neighbors.  One is to scope out the depth of opposition in the wealthiest neighborhood of the South End, in other words, how likely are they to get sued.  The other was to try to generate a warm fuzzy feeling among the neighbors, or at the very least an aura of uncertainty.  These guys came close to succeeding, but I think I did a fair good job of keeping the issue on track and subverting that happy attitude.  Let's just keep asking ourselves, how many people in the South End will this plant maim or kill?

In today's Gazette, there was an item that the American Lung Association, in a new report, has issued both Albany and Troy a grade of "F".  By contrast, Schenectady got a "C".