Posted by: David Giacalone | July 17, 2017

the revised Pump Station Design and Old Pump House QQ

 Last Thursday, July 13, 2017, Schenectady’s Commissioner of Operations, Paul LaFond, sent a 7-page document with the promised revised version of a new North Ferry Street Pump station to the Mayor, City Council, and the President of the Stockade Association, Carol DeLaMater. The plans were developed by the engineering firm CHA, and are in a form much like a Site Plan submission. There were no detailed, lifelike renderings. But, below are two non-technical pages that the general public and neighborhood probably would find the most useful. (click on each for a larger version) The red font was added by the proprietor-editor of this website (David Giacalone).

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. . . Compare with the design presented early this year, by CHA and City Water/Sewer officials, which would have taken up most of Riverside Park’s lovely and unique West Lawn, blocking views of and from the rear of six Stockade district properties:

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In a City where even very silly proposals too often come in the form of Done Deals, most of us who fought to keep the new, monstrous pump station off the west lawn are pleased with this outcome, and the cooperation of City Council members and the Mayor’s Office and City Staff — if some new version does not further encroach upon the Park. [But see, “new pump station is a scene stealer” (April 1, 2021), expected views have been obstructed.]

Here are the main points, as I read the June 2017 Revised Pump Station Document:

  • The above-ground structures have been kept within the original Pump Station Lot. The new main building is two stories above ground and seems to be perhaps 33 feet tall, with Mechanicals/wells underground. The engineer’s drawing shows the new building to be 39’ wide and 62’ deep.

  • Some of the underground mechanics/wells are under a section that intrudes into the Park about 25 feet. That piece of alienated parkland looks like it is a slab now at ground level, and I presume it will have some kind of lawn over it, and be fenced. 

  • If the utilized parkland remains underground-only, Tom Killeen’s view (his property is 29 1/2 Front St.) would not be blocked, even though a 6’ fence might surround the entire New Pump lot.

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. . above: two views from the rear of 29 1/2 Front Street  (click on them to enlarge) . .

  • The dry dock is close to Deborah Ashline’s property at 125 N. Ferry St., which is directly behind the pump station lot. However, the new pump station (unlike the old) will have scrubbers to deal with odiferous exhaust issues, and Mr. Miller of CHA has stated that the new pumps, etc., will also have noise-dampening design. (Click to see Ms. Ashline’s letter to the editor of the Gazette, July 7, 2017, with her concerns about the proposal and her wish that the new pump station, if it must be kept within the current pump station lot, utilize the footprint of the Old Pump House.)


  • Measurement questions for the engineers: What is the footprint is of the new building, dry dock, and “slab”, and any necessary buffer/landscape area. In April, CHA was talking about a footprint on the west lawn that would be reduced to 0.2 acres? The entire lot of the old pump station is 0.39 acres. Also, what is the precise height (above ground) of the new building and of the dry dock; and hold tall is the old pump station?

. . Google Map Satellite View of North Ferry St. Pump Station .. 

In an email letter to Stockade Association Members sent yesterday, July 16, 2017, SA President Carol DeLaMater wrote, in part:

I have shared this design with members of Stockade Association Preservation Committee on Wednesday July 12 and next steps were discussed.  We have requested a presentation on the site plan design within the next few weeks [by project engineers and City officials] in order to ask questions and provide feedback.  We expect this to be a Special Meeting of the Stockade Association with the  invitation extended to interested neighbors.  Any action taken will be dependent on results of presentation but members who had been opposed to any new structures within the park will want to be informed.

When the date is known for the Special Meeting on the Revised Pump Station Design, and as significant new details are learned about the design, the information will be available as updates to this posting.


defending our Park

The Old Pump House

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above: Pump House on Labor Day 2009 [R] and on the day of the Irene Flood (August 2011)


  . .above: from the collection of the Schenectady County Historical Society, Grems-Doolittle Library

Many people in the Stockade and Schenectady had hoped that the Old Pump House would be retro-fitted and rehabilitated instead of building an entirely new pump station. That battle was lost. However, one issue that I believe will need a considerable amount of deliberation very soon is the fate of the Old Pump House.  That may be especially true in a City that recently “lost” the Old Nicholaus Building, and thereby angered many of its residents. Furthermore, consideration of the future of the Old Pump House, which was constructed in 1913 (see rendition above), is logically interwoven with the design of the New Pump Station and its lot. The next stage in the creation of the new pump station is, of course, its architectural/exterior design. It would seem strange to decide upon the exterior design of the New Pump Station without knowing whether the Old Pump House is likely to still be standing beside it, just a couple of feet away and sharing the same “parkscape”.

  • If, for example, the east wall of the new pump station abuts the old House (as in the sketch near the top of this posting), it would probably be unadorned, without windows, etc.  But, if the Old Pump House is coming down, we would replace a quaint and attractive scene from the park and river with the nearly blank side of the 125 North Ferry Street, a two-family dwelling, and the larger New Pump Station facility, which would be in full view on all sides.

 Frankly, I do not know “how popular” the Old Pump House [“OPH”] is among various segments of the Schenectady community and its leaders. Nor do I have any idea what it would cost to keep it adequately maintained, and to remove pumping apparatus and otherwise convert it to some new community or park use. One reason given by the City’s engineers for needing a separate, new pump station is that the Old Pump House has “shifted” off its foundation. Requests for proof of this claim have not been answered. The City has stated that the old structure shifted about a foot, but others say it was less than an inch and the shift might have been decades ago. Any necessary stabilization of the structure is, of course, one required expense, if OPH is to be allowed to stand.

As you can see from the original 1913 rendering above of the “Concrete Pumping Station”, it had a Bandstand on top when it was built. Of course, at that time, it was only a water-pumping station. Given many decades dealing with sewerage, the facility and the grounds around it may need to be “remediated” in some form to remove any toxic substances before it can be removed. [Could Rush Street Gaming and Galesi Group (Rivers Casino and Mohawk Harbor) continue their reputation for removing brown-fields by offering to fund the refurbishing of the Old Pump House as a community grant program, on the scale of Rush Street giveaways in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Des Plaines?]

 One very big problem with retaining the Old Pump House is the current lack of any plan by the City for maintaining it and making sure that it is a secure building in any period in which it is empty and not used for a new purposes. The lack of a plan or set of alternatives presented to the public by City Hall, despite the Mayor having decided at least three years ago to build a new pumping station, suggests there is little will within the McCarthy Administration to spend — or seek from preservationist sources — funds needed to care for the Old Pump House appropriately. Furthermore, Assemblyman Phil Steck is already a vocal proponent of taking it down, and has offered to submit a bill to the NYS Legislature taking the lot and the structure out of the Stockade Historic District.

 Despite my personal fondness for the Old Pump House, I need to learn much more about the options, pros and cons, and costs of alternatives, before giving its survival a thumbs up or down. I believe many people feel strongly about OPH, while others are indifferent, or think another park use could be made of that part of the current pump station lot if it is removed. To me, it is a unique sight from the river and the park, beloved my many, some of whom do not even know what purpose it serves, and is a special structure from a time when industrial architecture had style. Some of my favorite photos include the old pump house. But, I would like to hear a focused debate about the pros and cons of keeping or demolishing or relocating the exterior of the structure, including relative cost of each viable option, before having to come to a conclusion. 

  • If you have an opinion on the future of the Old Pump House, or questions you, too, would like answered, please let the Stockade Association know, and the Mayor and City Council, along with the media. Click for City Council contact information.

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  1. David, do you know how many trees we will lose?`

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