Posted by: David Giacalone | June 5, 2017

Riverside Parkland alienation status

update: see “what the parkland alienation resolutions mean” (June 13, 2017)


ParkAlienationMapA
 In an unusual meeting late this afternoon, June 5, 2017, Schenectady’s Mayor, Corporation Counsel and seven Council members met with a half dozen residents of the Stockade to discuss a resolution pending before the Council to request permission from the State of New York to alienate about a half acre of Riverside Park to be used as the location of a new sewerage pumping station. The image to right depicts and explains the Park Alienation situation in Schenectady as of tonight. Click on it for a larger version. There is additional discussion below.

Background:

  • PumpStationRendering1 A set of renderings was presented to the Stockade Association Board (on March 1, 2017), by CHA engineering consultants, showing a very large pumping station covering virtually all of the West Lawn of Riverside Park.
  •  The Stockade Association voted unanimously on May 18 to ask the City not to take any part of Riverside Park to use for a non-park purpose.
  • Mayor Gary McCarthy has been indicating for the past couple of weeks that he would ask the engineers and City Staff to come up with a new design that would stay as much as possible within the current (“Old”) pump station fencing, but it might have to go 15′ to 20′ into the Park.
  • Nonetheless, saying they must vote this week to approve a bill alienating the Riverside Park parcel, due to the very imminent end of the Legislative session, the Mayor has asked the Council to approve a parkland alienation bill that would permit the City to take virtually all of the West Lawn for use as a pumping station, amounting to 0.5 acres.

 See tinyurl.com/NotInOurPark for discussion of the taking of Riverside Park land for a pumping station, other materials and links, the Stockade Association petition, and many photos of the affected parkland, and the proposed pump station renderings.

The Meeting. Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico started the informal meeting by saying that State staffers told him the Riverside Park alienation bill is not ready on their end to submit to the Legislature, but will be in a day or so, and they will make no changes to it. Because the Council cannot vote on the alienation bill until it is filed at the Legislature, there could be no vote tonight on it at the Special Council Meeting, but one will be held as soon as the Legislative staff says the Bill is ready. Mr. Falotico stated that the Legislature staff would not allow the time needed for the City and then the Legislative staff to prepare a new Bill focusing on a smaller parcel of land. 

Mr. Falotico also reassured all present that passage of the bill by the NYS Legislature does not force or require the alienation of the full half-acre parcel, but merely grants the City “home rule power” to do so. The Council must act again to actually take the land out of use as parkland. Any “unused” portion of the parcel of parkland designated in the Bill will be rededicated as Parkland.

  • Council President Leesa Perazzo asked why we simply could not take the time necessary to come up with a new location/design so that Council could know whether parkland was needed. She was rebuffed. Suggestions to redo the proposed Bill to designate a smaller parcel no more than 20′ wide to be alienated were also rejected. But the Mayor and Council members all committed to working for a pumping station that would be kept as much as possible within the current lot, and (after a discussion by Paul LaFond with a consultant about the maximum amount of space the new design would need), that the new design would have a footprint that extended no more than 30′ into the Park, including buffer landscaping and fencing.

Outcome: The Council will vote on two resolutions in the near future, they hope by the end of the week. One is the Alienation Bill alienating the whole half acre piece spreading to Governor’sLane. Although not clearly stated, there seems to be a consensus that the Second Resolution should say the Council will not agree to a protrusion in the Park that extends more than 30’ from the current fence (including the landscaping and buffer within the 30’ perimeter). All other land in the alienation bill will be re-dedicated as parkland, and will be available to use as parkland unless construction activity prevents it.

A new design may be available in 3 to 4 weeks showing the “footprint” of the new pumping station. At that time, the City will be able to say how much of the current parkland, if any, will be needed for the new pump station. The design of the outer shell of the building and landscaping, etc., will be at the next stage and will receive public input.

Mr. Falotico confirmed that the land the City is offering to substitute or “exchange” in order to compensate for any lost parkland in Riverside Park, will be part of the upcoming Gateway Plaza, the redesigned and enlarged Liberty Park.

NIOPsignE Afterthoughts (June 6, 2017): There are a lot of factors at play here, and vigilance will be needed by the Council and interested members of the public, to achieve the goal of no alienation of parkland, or the smallest feasible parcel taken out of park use. Some of the issues of concern to me were stated in an email that I sent to Council Member Ed Kosiur today (June 6); a similar message was sent to Council President Leesa Perazzo; here are excerpts:

hello, Ed, 

Thank you for your willingness to hear our concerns, and efforts to preserve Riverside Park.

I think you would agree that “As small as possible” is not much reassurance when there are so many factors that go into the design of the mechanical portions of a pumping station. E.g., how close is too close to the Old Pump House to ensure its stability during construction? How tall is too tall and how balance height, depth, footprint tradeoffs? How many extra dollars of costs is too many when trying to minimize the square footage and bulk of the footprint?

In the real world, the client has a finite piece of land, usually surrounded by other people’s land or a road or water, and the engineers and architects are told “build within this parcel.” Not, “take another 20 or 30 feet from our neighbor if you think it advisable.” . . . 

The wording of the 2nd Resolution becomes very important, and every bit of wiggle-room and vagueness puts the Park in jeopardy. . . . 

I hope you and your Council colleagues will assert your right to be kept informed. The Park Alienation survey Map they gave you/us was based on a survey done in June 2015 and April 2017, and was completed on April 11, 2017. When were YOU told of the giant piece of Park they were asking for? 

  • Perhaps the Resolution could say “City Council intends that no unnecessary parkland be alienated, and it shall approve no contract with a design taking a portion of parkland extending more than 30 ft. from the current pumping station fence”.

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