Common Council Member 15th Ward
19 Vine Street
Albany, New York 12203
Dear Planning Board Members,
I am asking that you delay a decision on 563 New Scotland Avenue if you were going to make one in August until the September meeting. There are many reasons that I am making this request:
It is not unreasonable to wait 30 more days for a project of this size that will have an impact to the neighborhood and the city. While I am not opposed to a development at this site, it is important that we get this right for our city.
STOP THE STORIES!
You may be wondering who we are and what stories we want to stop, so here is some background. Most of the people involved in this endeavor started as members of a neighborhood association, wanting to know what was happening in their neighborhood in particular and throughout the City of Albany in general. Individual associations noticed an increase in proposals from developers for high density projects, far larger than the buildings they replaced, and with the potential to place great strains on the City’s aging infrastructure and existing services, as well as drastically changing the character of both the immediate and surrounding neighborhoods. People from different associations started to exchange information, and we ended up with a consortium of people who united in their goal of working to ensure that new development is not only appropriate to its location, but also is executed in conformity with all applicable laws, codes and regulations.
As to the stories, there are two types that we would like to stop. The first is the extra stories that are included in the design of new buildings and turn them into buildings that intrude on and dominate their surroundings, rather than enhancing the atmosphere of the neighborhood. The second type is stories that circulate without a solid foundation in fact, and form the basis for decisions without really being understood. We research and verify as many of these stories as we can; our ultimate goal is not to stop development, but to ensure that it is the most appropriate type for our neighborhoods.
Please continue to explore our site for more detailed information. Thank you for checking in with us.
"Why should developers be encouraged to trade-off energy efficiency, storm-water management and affordable housing based on the developer's economic priorities rather than the city's long term benefits?"
Zach Simpson participated in the 999th Focus on Albany podcast!
Here's some context from Zach:
"I mentioned Stop the Stories a little bit, and I also touched on the issue of plasma collection centers towards the tail end of the podcast. For those unaware, CSL Plasma is a multibillion dollar Australian based biopharmaceutical company that is trying to put a for pay plasma center in Hannaford Plaza near Colvin and Central. You donate your plasma and they give you a gift card to be used for whatever you want. There are a myriad of issues with these facilities, many of which I uncovered and presented to the Planning Board and Common Council subcommittee. Common Council Member Mike O’Brien, a handful of members of my neighborhood association, and I stood up and spoke up against the amendment to the USDO that would have allowed for these facilities to be within 250 ft or a residential property line. The matter was tabled in the Common Council subcommittee, but the issue will eventually reappear for further discussion and review.
Please read the June 28, 2019 statement to the Common Council by clicking the link!
Stop the Stories! - Who we are and what we want:
1. We are long-time residents of all ages of the City of Albany with representation from all of the neighborhood associations.
2. We want responsible, lawful development that is consistent with our neighborhoods.
3. We want our voices heard and we want the City to listen to us, its tax-paying residents, not just the developers.
4. We don’t want to stop progress. We want to help decide what progress IS for our City.
5. Giant apartment buildings that do not fit in existing neighborhoods and that will provide 20-year tax avoidance for developers are irresponsible and should not be allowed.
6. The USDO isn’t keeping development consistent with existing neighborhood characteristics and isn’t considering impacts from the development on traffic, infrastructure and environmental concerns.
7. The City must pause development until proper Environmental Impact Statements can be done to ensure that all environmental conditions will be met prior to the proposed developments, so that infrastructure can be strengthened and so that the public can have a chance to weigh in.
8. Traffic in the City of Albany is growing daily. The hospitals are continuing to grow, adding more drivers, and these proposed apartments will add many more drivers to our roads. We want the City to fix the traffic problems we currently have before adding more people to our roads. Where are the promised solutions from the traffic study? There is no additional information on the St. Peter’s Hospital Traffic Study, and no future meetings have been scheduled. Why not? We are being told that these apartments will be built to make the city “walkable” – however, most of the residents are likely to have cars.
9. With so much flooding currently in the City of Albany, we are very concerned about the additional sewage in our water infrastructure. The infrastructure must be strengthened.
10. Many current City rentals are nowhere near capacity. Where is the assurance from the City that these new, giant developments will be filled? Who are the proposed renters and how will they afford these new spaces?
11. The developers have stated that there will be 4 YEARS OF DEMOLITION, EXCAVATION AND CONSTRUCTION for the 563 New Scotland Avenue proposed apartments. How can this be allowed across the street from a hospital and residential homes?
12. High voltage wires and fire concerns at 1211 Western Avenue have not been addressed. Neighbors and residents are extremely concerned about the fire potential.
To the Editor re the TU editorial of 6/5/19 re Albany development:
I would like to respond to the editorial of 6/5/19 which omitted information that is critical to the issue of development in Albany. For example:
· Concerned citizens are not opposed to development of low-story apartment houses, a number of which are in our neighborhood. We are opposed to development that is irresponsible and detrimental to our neighborhood and city.
· We are in favor of responsibly expanding the city's tax base and having walkable neighborhoods that are safe.
· Apartment complexes that dominate the neighborhood skylines and walkways are nonsensical when there are more suitable locations for these developments.
The ReZone Albany plan (USDO) goals, includes, "(3) Protect and preserve the City’s residential neighborhoods” The city is neither protecting nor preserving the neighborhoods and housing values of those who already live here. What then might potential residents expect and learn from our experience?
For more information, go to https://stopthestories.org/.
This was sent to Christopher P. Spencer, Commissioner of Planning, Brad Glass, Planning Director, Mayor Sheehan, Brian Shea:
I thought that the goal of the USDO was to encourage development that is consistent with extant neighborhoods, with the idea that we could boost our population and increase tax revenue. In effect, it feels as if the goal, in actuality, is to bring in loads of renters at the expense of those of us who have been here for decades, if not generations, and who have been contributing to the community in all kinds of ways. In the rush to build new developments, it doesn't seem as if any care has been taken to ensure that:
1. the water infrastructure can handle all the additional sewage when there is a massive amount of rain.
2. there is someplace to put the garbage, since Rapp Road is closing soon.
3. the roads can handle the additional traffic.
4. the new buildings are of appropriate height.
5. there will be enough renters to fill all these spaces, given that so many city rentals are already nowhere near capacity.
6. the city is equipped to maintain codes.
7. homeowners have been adequately apprised of what the construction process will be like over a period of years.
8. environmental impact statements have been completed.
9. High voltage wires are overhead the fire chief said: Based on the latest concept drawings and fire code analysis, AFD has approved the life safety and fire safety aspects of the concept plans for the proposed project located at 1211 Western Ave, Albany, NY in accordance with the 2015 Fire Codes. Approval is contingent on the overhead utilities in front of the proposed structure get relocated underground prior to the start of the project. Planning Board said: The Applicant must bury utility lines on Western Avenue prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy. By then the building is built. What if National Grid refuses to bury the line? There are 7 different utility companies on the pole.
It just seems like developers have gotten carte blanche to build whatever they want, and meanwhile, we homeowners, who have invested everything we've got in our homes and neighborhoods, are wondering whether our housing values will collapse as a result of these developments, which seem likely to ruin our neighborhoods. Either outcome - that there continues to be a dearth of renters, thus leaving these buildings empty and under-regulated, or that lots of renters come (from somewhere!), and there simply isn't the physical and regulatory capacity to handle them all, seems quite problematic.
Why can't we slow down and make sure the USDO is working for us, not the other way around?
Meanwhile, the city is filled with vacant buildings that are not being managed or renovated at all. It's as if the idea is to put in super high-density buildings in our neighborhoods uptown, while simultaneously abandoning the good folks who live elsewhere amid crumbling buildings. It just seems like we don't have a coherent vision for a sustainable, 21st century Albany, so developers are just running us over, in some cases with information that appears actively dishonest.
It is very important that as many people come to the Common Council meeting and tell your representative how you feel about these projects. June 3, 6PM, Albany City Hall on your calendar. This is the date of the next Common Council meeting.
- Vince Riguso
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