As neighbors fume, hearing on Saugerties dumps grinds on

A group of neighbors, angered by the slow-moving pace of the judicial process, took to picketing outside of the county office building on the morning of Oct. 30, and later, as seen here, in the village of Saugerties. (photo by Christina Coulter)

After 18 hours of testimony in State Supreme Court since the hearings into whether a Temporary Restraining Order blocking the town of Saugerties from enforcing its anti-dumping laws should be lifted, Judge Richard Mott will hear final arguments at 2:40 p.m. Monday, November 4 at the Ulster County Courthouse. 

“I continue to have a really high level or frustration about this because [the matter] seems so cut and dried, but that’s because we still see the trucks going up day after day…it makes you lose faith in our system,” said resident Susan Greenstein, a neighbor to one of  three Karolys’ Saugerties properties he has used as construction and demolition dump sites for out of county material. “We look forward to the oral arguments, I can’t wait to hear Mr. (John) Greco (attorney for the town) and Mr. (Melvin) Higgins (Karolys’ lawyer) go at that. How many hours has this gone on for?” Greenstein has attended every court hearing.

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Her comment came after yet another session in open court, in which Saugerties town engineer Joe Mihm, questioned by Greco, took the stand to interpret DEC test results of material on the three properties, at 1446 Route 212, 90 Goat Hill Road and 33 and 43 Fel Qui Road and to rebut claims made at an earlier court date by Karolys-hired engineer Robert LoPinto of Walden Engineering.

Mihm estimated that there are 27,700 cubic yards of fill at the Fel Qui road site and that 46,216 cubic yards of C&D material currently sit on the 90 Goat Hill Road. He said that he came to these figures using aerial mapping provided by the Ulster County Geographic Information System of the sites, which is available for the public online. Mihm estimated that the fill was about five feet high and came to the aforementioned figure. Any site that houses more than five cubic yards of C&D material, Mihm said, is required to obtain a landfill disposal permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Mihm also said that one of the samples taken from the Fel Qui site had over twelve times the DEC-established limit for PCB’s.

According to Mihm and DEC test results, permitted levels of lead, zinc and mercury were found in samples taken from all three properties. At the 1446 Route 212 site and the Fel Qui site, excess quantities of benzo(a)anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(b)flouranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, chrysene and indendo(1,2,3-C,D) pyrene were found. Additionally, at the Fel Qui site, lindane, DDE and the decades-banned DDT were found. Mihm listed these substances on the stand.

“These cleanup objectives were derived to be protective of human health and the environment,” said Mihm when asked why standards limiting the amount of these materials were in place.

Higgins, on cross examination, asked Mihm whether a other properties and businesses in town with piles of construction and demolition material had applied for beneficial use permits, defined by Mihm in his testimony as a permit from the DEC to reuse otherwise disallowed material; Mott pointed out that Karolys had never applied for a beneficial use determination, either.

“No one else has applied for one, but my client is being made out to be the bad guy because he doesn’t have one!” explained Higgins.

Higgins stuck to his argument that Karolys was the victim of selective enforcement when his chance to cross examine Saugerties supervisor Fred Costello Jr. came up. 

Town attorney John Greco asked Costello in direct examination, if he was aware of Karolys’ religion or his political affiliation, and whether he and Karolys had exchanged any negative interactions barring the issue in court. Costello denied all the allegations. 

But Higgins’ cross-examination of Costello became heated — at one point, Costello asked the judge if the defense lawyer was “allowed to point at [him] like that” and said that he felt Higgins was becoming aggressive.

“Mr. Costello, would it be fair to say that you’ve gone on record in your capacity as a town supervisor on a number of occasions since this proceeding started that it was this town’s purpose and intent to close Karolys’ business down and stop his business?” Higgins asked on cross-examination.

Costello replied that he had been careful to use the phrase “a resolution to this matter” with local newspapers and in public contexts.

Higgins asked why the town had not intervened on other businesses in town with C&D material on their properties.

“I have baked brownies at my house for a bake sale, and I would not say I’m a bakery,” said Costello. “Because someone is in a construction and excavation business and they may host materials from another job on [their property] if it does not exceed 5,000 yards, [it is not an issue].”

Judge Mott intervened and asked Costello how he could demonstrate that the town was not enforcing their laws selectively.

“The volume of material, the impact on the neighborhood…far exceeds the accumulation of the rest of the properties that have been brought before the court,” responded Costello.

 “No one in the town of Saugerties has applied or is acting in a manner of processing solid waste material, especially [ones with contaminants] and none from outside of the community.”

At previous court hearings, locations cited by Karolys’ defense are Rothe Recycling, the parking lot off Jane Street behind The Partition Bar (deemed irrelevant because of its location in the separate jurisdiction of the village), another property on Route 212, a property on Route 32 and the Town Transfer Station.

For now, the Saugerties Police Department cannot intercept trucks bearing construction and demolition material from coming to Karolys’ three properties. Neighbor Mike Ferraro, who initially brought the town’s attention to Karolys’ dumping operation, said that between eight and 10 trucks have come onto the property each day

“We’re waiting right now to get our hands untied at a local level. Once our hands are untied we can take action against Mr. Karolys for the dumping,” said Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra. “Right now, the order in place bars us from conducting any law enforcement type activity against him.”

At 2:40 p.m. on Nov. 4, both Greco and Higgins will present closing arguments before Mott.

Karolys will also appear in Woodstock Town Court at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 to answer to charges of receiving C&D material outside of the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. time window stipulated in the restraining order against the town.

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