Sunday, August 10, 2008

Attorney General Cuomo asked to probe Cascino

Attorney General Cuomo asked to probe Cascino
The Roe Jan Independent

COPAKE--Two state legislators have asked state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate Copake Valley Farm owner Salvatore Cascino.

Following a public outcry at Mr. Cascino's efforts for over a decade to circumvent local and state regulations, and the length of time it has taken for the court to sanction him, Assemblyman Marcus Molinaro (R-103rd) has joined forces with State Senator Stephen Saland (R-41st) to call for a thorough investigation of Mr. Cascino's activities not only by the state Attorney General's Office, but also the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Assemblyman Molinaro announced his and the senator's intentions in a letter to the editor that appears in this issue. The Independent called for an investigation of Mr. Cascino in an editorial last week.

"Senator Saland and I agree. Mr. Cascino must be held accountable and his activities must comply with local, state and federal law. He is responsible for adhering to all appropriate codes and regulations. Columbia County Judge [Acting Supreme Court Judge] Jonathan Nichols and the Office of the Attorney General have decided clearly on the matter," says the assemblyman in his letter.

Mr. Cascino is currently under a temporary restraining order intended to prevent him from dumping any more waste or other materials on his property, but neighbors and town officials believe the prohibited activity is continuing.

Mr. Molinaro noted that there is "unanimity" between his office and the senator's that more should be done by the state to monitor Mr. Cascino's ongoing activity in and around the districts they represent. He said in a phone interview Thursday that he also wants to understand why and how this has gone on for so long.

"We're not presuming anything other than enforcement of clear violations," said the assemblyman, adding that state Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Patrick Hooker is being included in communications from him and Senator Saland on the matter, "so he is aware of our concerns."

The letter to the attorney general was expected to go out late Thursday or Friday at the latest.
Mr. Molinaro also noted his joint sponsorship with Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-92nd) of Westchester, of a bill that would require applicants for DEC permits to include any and all records about prior violations of the law.

The bill was approved by the Assembly, but was introduced too late to be taken up by the Senate before the end of the legislative session. The assemblyman anticipates the re-introduction of the bill in the next session.

Senator Saland could not be reached for comment before press deadline yesterday.
Most recently, on August 2, the Town of Copake's ongoing litigation against Mr. Cascino was the subject of a special meeting attended by about 100 people. Many of the residents who spoke at that meeting called for the involvement of the attorney general in getting Mr. Cascino to comply with the law. Mr. Cascino has been in violation of state or town law at his Copake Valley Farm property for the past 11 years.

Attorney Carl G. Whitbeck, the town's special counsel on the Cascino matter, told the crowd at the August 2 meeting that the Town Board had agreed in July to pursue yet another contempt motion against Mr. Cascino for continuing to dump unknown materials on his 300-acre property in violation of a temporary restraining order issued in November 2006 by Judge Jonathan Nichols.

Residents have witnessed and photographed large dump trucks pulling onto the Cascino property from points south on Route 22 and dumping loads of what could be soil or could be crushed up construction and demolition (C+D) debris, Mr. Whitbeck said at the August 2 meeting.
The judge's restraining order prevents Mr. Cascino from constructing or excavating or depositing material of any type on the property.
Judge Nichols still has a prior contempt motion and the principal lawsuit before him, which have not yet been heard.
Also pending against Mr. Cascino is an enforcement action brought by the attorney general on behalf of the state Department of Environmental Conservation for violations of state law because he filled in a wetland and along the Noster Kill, a protected trout stream, and built a 30-foot-wide steel bridge across the stream without obtaining permits.

The attorney general's office worked out a settlement agreement, called a consent order, that requires Mr. Cascino to remove all the fill he deposited in the wetlands, pay over $100,000 in penalties, close the bridge and remove the road he built leading to it.

While Mr. Cascino has apparently completed delineation of the wetlands and gotten approval for a remediation plan in the area north of Lackawanna Road, Mr. Whitbeck said at the August 2 meeting that officials at the Attorney General's Office told him that Mr. Cascino had not gotten DEC approval for a remediation plan in the area of the bridge and has now accrued two violations of the consent order timetables.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is now demanding that Mr. Cascino submit the required documents by August 12 or be ordered to appear before Judge Nichols again, said Mr. Whitbeck.
Mr. Cascino recently made application to the town Planning Board to build several new structures, including a just-under 25,000-square-foot barn and a grain silo system. A public hearing on those plans was scheduled before the Planning Board August 7.

Attorney Anna Kirschner, who represents Mr. Cascino on his building proposals, said she had no comment on Assemblyman Molinaro's and Senator Saland's call for an investigation of her client by the attorney general.

She did have a lot to say about other things, maintaining that there is no C+D debris on the Cascino property. She invited people to go to "check [Mr. Cascino's] yard at 4 Exterior Street in the Bronx," the site of his Bronx-based waste hauling business, to see that he does not deal in C+D, just concrete, asphalt, rocks and soil, which he processes in a grinder.

Ms. Kirschner also said her client is still interested in giving the town his steel bridge and connecting road over the Noster Kill. She said that if the town won't accept it because it is the subject of litigation and wants to wait until the litigation is settled then the road will no longer be intact because Mr. Cascino has been ordered by the attorney general to remove it. If the town agrees to accept the bridge and road, she said, "the issue disappears."
To contact Diane Valden email

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Editorial: What's a dumper to do?

Editorial: What's a dumper to do?
PITY POOR SAL CASCINO. Look at all the people picking on him: a mean
ol' county judge, a grumpy state attorney general and the tree-huggers
at the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Even his
neighbors on the Copake Planning Board have it in for him. And all he
wants is to be left alone to raise his herd of dump trucks.

We've listened to sympathy expressed recently for Mr. Cascino and his
Copake Valley Farm operation along Route 22 in the Town of Copake. The
gist of it is that the guy has the right to do what he wants on his
300-acre property.

Fair enough. But let's say your next-door neighbors build an
amusement park, and one morning you wake up to the sound of a roller
coaster outside your bedroom window. That can't happen to you, because
your town has laws that limit where a person can put a roller coaster,
right? But what happens if your neighbor ignores the law?

Without obtaining a permit Mr. Cascino messed with the Noster
Kill, a protected trout stream that runs through his property,
changing it so much that the DEC ordered him to put it back the way it
was. Maybe Mr. Cascino thought that the rules didn't apply to him. He
blew off the concerns of environmental authorities until the Attorney
General's Office intervened and forced him to repair the damage he had
caused to a resource the public has an interest in preserving.

Does anybody really care about the fate of a few fish and
reptiles? Possibly not, but consider this: Mr. Cascino has dumped a
whole lot of what looks like construction and demolition debris on his
land, despite a town prohibition against dumping that kind of stuff.

In cities you often have to knock down an old building in order
to build a new one, and the debris from the demolition has to go
somewhere. The taxpayers in a town like Copake might benefit someday
from accepting this type of waste under carefully regulated
conditions. But right now the town does not allow the debris to be
spread over fields and dumped beside streams. Mr. Cascino has no more
right than any other citizen to ignore laws that don't suit him.

His activities grew so blatant that last year County Court Judge
Jonathan Nichols imposed a temporary restraining order that forbids
Mr. Cascino from doing any kind of construction or excavation at his
property. But the town believes some work continues at the site. It's
as if the judge's ruling meant nothing to Mr. Cascino. Neighbors have
photographed dump trucks driving up Route 22 and dropping their loads
at his Copake Valley Farm.

This county has good reason to fear unregulated dumping. There
is at least one lingering hazardous waste site here that was once used
for construction and demolition debris. According to at least one
expert, that waste was "cocktailed"--laced with toxic materials like
PCBs that would have been far more expensive to dispose of safely.

Now, after persistently flouting state and local regulations and
behaving as if he needn't obey a county judge, Mr. Cascino has the
gall to propose new construction at his site and to have his lawyer
resist calls by the town Planning Board to provide a comprehensive
plan showing the facilities he already has and all the new structures
he expects to build.

Mr. Cascino's behavior constitutes a threat that extends well
beyond the borders of Copake. The town has mounted a sophisticated
legal case in an attempt to force him to comply with the law. So far,
it hasn't worked. If he gets away with doing as he sees fit here, he
can do it anywhere.

In the past only the power of the state attorney general, Andrew
Cuomo, has deterred him. It's time for town and county officials to
call for a thorough investigation by the attorney general of Mr.
Cascino and his operations--not only in Copake but in the Bronx,
Dutchess County and anywhere else he does business.

In the meantime, the Planning Board should stick by its
requirement that Mr. Cascino provide one document that details all the
existing and proposed facilities on his property. Until he delivers
that data, the town should suspend its review of whatever he wants to
do next.

His agents portray him as just another beleaguered farmer, but
the people of Copake now know Sal Cascino better than that. He's a guy
who shows nothing but contempt for the community and its standards,
and for the law.