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Harriman campus changes protested

Albany-- Neighbors fear redevelopment will bring noise, lower real estate values

By ERIN DUGGAN, Staff writer
First published: Wednesday, May 29, 2002
After five decades of living alongside the sprawling W. Averill Harriman State Office Campus, residents are wondering what life will be like next to a sprawling high-tech research and development park.

They fear more noise, increased water runoff and declining real estate values as most of the 350-acre campus undergoes a dramatic change to private-sector use.

"This campus as it is now is one big car park, and this makes it worse,'' said Albany resident Paul Bray, who called the Harriman plan "a sprawl project if there ever was one.''

Those and other issues topped the concerns raised at the first public hearing on the redevelopment Tuesday night. The state is taking public comment on the venture before creating a draft environmental impact statement. The draft will also undergo public review before it is finalized, said Daniel Ruzow, an attorney working with the state Office of General Services on the Harriman project.

The public has until June 18 to send their comments in writing to the Office of General Services for input into the first planning phase.

Neighbor Ralph Penney joined several others who questioned what a changing use for the campus will mean to the neighborhood. Penney said the work done at a research park would likely bring more activity -- and more noise -- to the area.

"The state has very limited hours,'' said Penney, who suggested planting more noise-buffing vegetation between the campus and the neighborhood.

Common Council President Helen Desfosses asked planners to evaluate what effect, if any, moving 8,000 state workers off the campus will have on the nearby real estate market.

Council member Michael O'Brien, who represents the area around the campus, criticized SUNY for not volunteering land for at least one public school. The city plans to convert part of Westland Hills park into the site of a third middle school, a move O'Brien opposes.

"SUNY could also be a partner for public education,'' O'Brien said.

O'Brien, who introduced legislation last week asking the state to name the city a "concerned party'' in the planning process, said he's afraid state officials won't weigh public concern enough.

"I don't believe anyone is going to represent the interests of these residents,'' he said.