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Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations

 

Meeting Minutes June 5, 2002

Albany Public Library

 

Howard Stoller, CANA Chair, called the meeting to order.

Introductions

Minutes - Minutes of the May meeting are corrected to include the fact that although CANA originally backed School 10 for the location of the Artists’ All Faith Center, the site a 453 North Pearl Street was selected. Additionally, Betsy Scherer’s email address is corrected to bshearer@Quixnet.net.

Guest Speakers – Joseph Stellato and Bart Bush, Office of Real Property Management and Development, New York State Office of General Services

Deputy Commissioner Bush and Director Stellato attended the meeting to present information and addressed concerns about the proposed Redevelopment Strategy for the Harriman State Office Campus.

In 1998 the Office of General Services was successful in obtaining the necessary support from the Governor and legislature to begin implementation of a strategy for the modernization of Capital District State offices, also known as "The Albany Plan. Of the five key components to the plan, the modernization and/or renovation of the 50-year-old Harriman Campus is the last to be studied and considered. The consulting team of Hamilton, Rabinovitz, & Alschuler conducted studies and interviews necessary to prepare a redevelopment study. The study determined that the buildings at the Campus have outgrown their useful life and are not a good working environment for the thousands individuals working at the 300+ acre site. It is generally accepted in the building industry that office and commercial buildings erected during the 1950’s and 1960’s are presently inferior and inefficient; as a result, several buildings at the Campus will be demolished and replaced rather than renovated.

After evaluating the present conditions at the Campus, it was determined that the cost of complete rehabilitation would be approximately $300 million and, after completed, would still not be acceptable. The Capital District is attractive to business; therefore, the study considered replacing the office buildings on the site with hotels, residences, recreational facilities, and/or "big box" retail facilities before primarily focusing on redeveloping the site as a complex of buildings to be leased to businesses engaged in research and development. Companies in that field have expressed an interest in forming an academic partnership with SUNY, and the Harriman Campus’s proximity to the SUNY campus is expected to increase their interest. There is an abundance of grant money available for partnerships such as this, which adds to its appeal.

State offices that are presently located on the Harriman Campus would be relocated to the downtown areas of Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and Troy and provide an economic advantage to those areas. The transformation and transition is expected to take ten to twenty years to complete.

Messrs. Stellato and Bush emphasized that the proposal to redevelop the Campus for use as a research and development complex is a recommendation only at this stage and that the plan may, in fact, change. Materials have been distributed and published that provide a visual plan of the proposed use are very preliminary and will certainly change as the plan develops.

Any redevelopment proposal for the site involves SEQR. The period for public comment will be open until June 18. OGS will be meeting with the Empire State Development Corporation to develop a recommendation to the governor and legislature. They are seeking input and comments now and as the project develops.

The following issues were raised by attendees and addressed by Mr. Stellato and Mr. Bush.

The Campus is often perceived as one large, asphalt parking lot that is very disconnected from the City, and the drawings of the proposed redevelopment do not seem to change that impression. The addition of green space and/or the re-establishment of the area to the original street grid would reincorporate the Campus into City. It is apparent that the ring roads prevent convenient access to the Campus. Discussions are underway with CDTA to address better public transportation into and around the Campus as it is redeveloped.

(The speakers emphasized that the drawings presented form a general impression of the area after redevelopment. They will change many times before a final plan is adopted)

Members suggested that the campus, or part of it, be developed for community use.

The comment was made that the proposed plan has a look to it that emulates a shopping center and that more green space would be desirable.

The Campus is very difficult to negotiate. The ring roads are confusing and, unless you are familiar with them, can be dangerous to maneuver. Additionally they keep the Campus isolated. It does not appear to be a destination for anyone who does not work there. It needs to be inviting.

Another effect of the ring roads is that they lead into the major highways. Many workers at the Campus do not use the roads that lead to the neighborhoods and businesses. Therefore, better integration of the Campus into the community via infrastructure and public transportation is desirable.

Removal of the ring roads is unlikely because of the expense to demolish them. It is anticipated that if the Campus becomes part of a research and development partnership with SUNY, roadways providing direct access between the two campuses will be built.

The number of people working at the location will be approximately the same.

Concern about the possible congestion of traffic in the area was raised, particularly in light of the proposed site of Albany’s new middle school so close to the Campus. Better access by public transportation should be offered as well as incentives for employees at the site to car pool.

Members expressed concern about Albany’s ownership in the plan and what benefits it will receive from redevelopment of the Campus. Implementation of any redevelopment strategy will require that a partnership be formed between OGS, SUNYA, and ESDC, and the authors of the study have recommended the formation of a quasi-public development entity to combine the resources of the three participants. That development corporation will be comprised of residents of Albany, representatives from SUNYA, NYS, ESDC, and government leaders from the City of Albany. Although the City’s role is not yet defined, it will have a formal role in planning and implementation. The City and its residents are encouraged to read the plan (available on the CANA website) and become active participants. OGS welcomes comments via letter, email (public.information@ogs.state.ny.us) or telephone calls. A link to the website will be sent to Howie Stoller and made available to CANA members.

The City is likely to receive $60 million over 20 years if the Campus is redeveloped into a tech park.

The type of research and development proposed will not be intrusive to the surrounding neighborhoods.

Some types of research being considered include thin films, nano sciences, atmospheric sciences, genomics, fuel cells, molecular research, neurobiology, and plasma research.

None of the land either on the Campus or at SUNY located in the Town of Guilderland.

A draft timeline is being developed for publication prior to public hearings and the SEQR process.

The student housing presently under construction on the SUNY campus was not planned in partnership with the City of Albany. Members requested and received assurances that Albany would participate in the redevelopment process and not simply be asked to approve a plan subsequent to its development.

Use as residential housing has not been excluded although is difficult for the planners to envision.

The consultants have conducted extensive interviews with Albanians in order to include their views in the final plan.

Successful research parks in the cities of Boston, New Haven, Worcester, Richmond Cambridge, and North Greenbush were analyzed as models for the SUNY tech park.

Amenities such as retail and eating establishments are planned in the model for the new work force that is expected to populate the proposed tech park.

Messrs. Stellato and Bush can provide an update to CANA at the September meeting. At that time, they expect to be able to also present information about the environmental impact study.

 

Communications and Announcements

PO Matthew Montesano presented information about the "Watch Your Car" decal program as well as the VIN Etching Program that was presented at the CANA meeting of June 6, 2001. The CANA website now contains a link which can be accessed to enroll in these programs.

§ Howard Stoller gave report of CANA’s finances.

§ Gene Solan distributed information about the Neighborhood Resource Center, Inc., and requested that neighborhood association contact and boundary updates be submitted to him within 30 days.

§ On behalf of Tom McPheeters, Rev. Joyce Harwell announced that ARISE will sponsor a daylong event at SUNYA on July 17, 2002, to address the problem of vacant housing in the City of Albany. Input from neighborhood representatives and citizens is being sought. Other issues to be discussed include instruction and training programs relative to the care of houses.

§ Marggie Skinner updated members on the history of Albany exhibit that will be held at SUNY in the fall. Photographs of eight of Albany’s neighborhoods have been submitted, and members are encouraged to contact her or Wes Balla to have additional photos or information considered.

§ Newly elected library board members Mary Ellen O’Connor and Mimi Mounteer were congratulated.

 

 

 

Committee Reports

University and Community Relations – Tom Gebhardt

§ Information about the off-campus hotline calls was distributed. Since the 1991-92 academic year, hotline calls have decreased 73%.

§ The next meeting of the committee will be at 7:00 PM on June 12 at the Albany Police Department at 526 Central Avenue. Guest Speaker Anthony J. Capece will present information about the plans to improve the Central Business District

§ The "Safe Summer" Campaign is underway.

§ The committee will develop their 13-point plan over the summer.

Reapportionment Committee – Marggie Skinner

Donald Wardle (United Tenants) urged CANA members to attend one of the City Reapportionment Commission’s remaining few meetings within the next two weeks and take advantage of the 15-minute comment period that precedes each of their meetings. The incumbent city council members seem to be influencing the decisions being made by the Commission. The final proposal by the Commission will be made shortly, and it may be another ten years before there is another opportunity to address reapportionment.

There will be no CANA meetings in July and August. The next meeting is scheduled for September 4, 2002.

The meeting adjourned at 8:25 PM.adjed at 8:25.