ALBANY After a monthslong national search, the Capital District Regional Planning Commission announced its new executive director Wednesday.
Mark A. Castiglione will take over Dec. 1 for Rocco Ferraro, who is retiring at the end of December.
Ferraro is only the fourth director the CDRPC has had in its 50 years. When he announced in January that this year would be his last, he was widely praised for his thoroughness and expertise, and his success encouraging a regional rather than individual outlook for the region’s municipalities.
Castiglione told The Gazette on Wednesday he would work to continue this record of regional collaboration.
“It’s certainly big shoes to fill,” he said of succeeding Ferraro. “I’m really looking to build on what he has done and what the staff has done.”
The CDRPC was created in 1967 by Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties to streamline planning efforts and avoid duplication of effort and expense. Its mission has evolved, and today it provides analyses of data, trends, opportunities, and challenges facing the region; supports planning activities regionwide; and conducts regional programs including analytics and mapping, economic development, sustainable communities, water quality and human services.
The word “region” keeps popping up because issues facing municipalities individually and collectively often overlap municipal borders and can be inefficient or difficult for one municipality to address on its own.
“All of these things take a regional conversation,” Castiglione said.
He is currently the acting executive director of the Hudson River Valley Greenway and Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, and will step into another key role with the Hudson River in his new job: The CDRPC is helping lead the effort to reduce sewage discharges into the Hudson from Albany and several nearby communities that have combined storm and sanitary sewer systems, which overflow during heavy rains.
“The health of the Hudson River has really been a tremendous success story,” Castiglione said. “There is still a lot of work that remains.”
He said the threats to Hudson River water quality also extend beyond the older cities with leaky sewers farther upstream into the watershed, where development practices can be optimized to reduce runoff.
“Investing in the infrastructure that we need to help solve the problem is costly, but I also think there are a whole range of responses,” Castiglione said, citing as an example permeable pavement, which lets rainwater soak through into the ground rather than run into a sewer.
“What is critical for a sustainable future is to really find a balance between environmental values and economic development.”
Castiglione said CDRPC would work with its partners in government and the economic development community on economic, environmental and planning matters.
“You can’t solve this problem working with a single municipality,” he said.
Castiglione is a Kingston-area native who lives in Albany with his wife, Elizabeth. He is a planner certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners and holds a bachelor’s degree in U.S. history and master’s degree in regional planning from the University at Albany.
Passing the baton
Ferraro said in retirement he will continue as an adjunct professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University at Albany and continue on the Clifton Park Planning Board, which he chairs.
“My time at the Commission has been both meaningful and rewarding,” he said in a news release. “I have been fortunate to meet and work with so many wonderful people along the way, and together we have made a difference. I am happy to pass the baton to Mark Castiglione who is an excellent choice to lead CDRPC into its next chapter.”
Ferraro has served the commission for more than 30 years, first as director of planning services and then, since 2003, as executive director.