Council poised to override mayor on Chalmers deal

Mayor Ann Thane has vetoed the Common Council’s decision to terminate an option agreement with a Lon

Mayor Ann Thane has vetoed the Common Council’s decision to terminate an option agreement with a Long Island developer, but four aldermen have already called for a meeting to override her decision.

The entire ordeal may not mean anything, however, as Corporation Council Gerard DeCusatis issued an opinion in June that said the Common Council doesn’t have the authority to terminate the agreement anyway.

Uri Kaufman, of Long Island, signed a one-year option agreement in May 2008 to purchase the Chalmers Knitting Mill and convert it into luxury, loft-style apartments.

Four members of the Common Council, Joseph Isabel, R-1st Ward, Daniel Roth, R-2nd Ward, William Wills, D-4th Ward, and Richard Leggiero, R-5th Ward, sponsored a resolution in June to terminate the option agreement with Kaufman.

The one-year agreement gave Kaufman the option to extend the agreement for one year if certain conditions were met, including obtaining market and architectural studies, getting the building appraised and paying $50,000.

The question of whether Kaufman had to pay $50,000 to extend the agreement is debatable, however. DeCusatis said Kaufman doesn’t have to pay the money because the city cannot give him a “marketable” piece of property due to the fact that the building is still contaminated.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is currently studying how to remove the contamination.

Aldermen sponsoring the resolution claimed they had grounds to terminate the agreement based on the fact that Kaufman failed to pay the money after they sought the opinion of an Albany-based attorney.

The vote to terminate the agreement was held off for a month, though, after aldermen learned of a new offer from Kaufman. Both Isabel and Roth changed their stance to allow Kaufman enough time to negotiate with the city.

Isabel said he felt the administration had enough time to negotiate with Kaufman and changed positions again, voting with Wills and Leggiero to terminate the agreement.

The trio has now recruited Roth to their side in an expected override of Thane’s veto, at a special meeting scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Roth said his mind was changed after reading various e-mails between Kaufman, Thane and members of her administration. He said Thane acted unethically, especially over an issue with Kaufman taking materials out of the Chalmers Building.

Thane is on vacation until Monday and said she won’t attend Thursday’s council meeting.

“It’s very unfortunate that they call a meeting when I can’t even attend,” she said. “I hope that people from the public will come out and speak in favor of the Chalmers project because it is so critically important to economic development in the city.”

Kaufman said Tuesday that he intends to go forward with his plans to redevelop the old mill and hopes the council makes the right decision. Kaufman said he believes he has met all necessary requirements and has agreed to put up $50,000.

Should the council vote Thursday to terminate the agreement, Kaufman said he would have to speak with his lawyer to see where to go next.

“Quite honestly I’ve never heard of this happening before,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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