Schenectady County

Deadline nears to comment on Mohawk Harbor plan

Want to comment on the proposed Mohawk Harbor? Saturday is the deadline.
A rendering of the proposed Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady.
A rendering of the proposed Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady.

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The deadline for comments on the proposed dredging of the Mohawk River to be received by the Army Corps of Engineers is Saturday. Comments may be emailed to [email protected] or sent by traditional mail to Brad Sherwood, Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, CENAN-OP-R, Upstate Regulatory Field Office, 1 Buffington Street, Bldg. 10, 3rd Floor, Watervliet, NY 12189-4000.

Want to comment on the proposed Mohawk Harbor? Saturday is the deadline.

Many from the nearby Stockade neighborhood have already sent comments, asking for detailed reviews of everything from flooding risks to sewage contamination.

The Army Corps of Engineers is gathering public input until Saturday, when it will sort through the comments and send the most relevant to the developer and various other agencies. Those groups will be able to respond while the Army Corps does its own research, then the Army Corps will decide whether to grant a permit to cut a harbor into the land next to the Mohawk River.

The harbor would be in the former Alco property off Erie Boulevard. If the Galesi Group, a local developer, gets a permit, it plans to build condos and apartments around the harbor, as well as a hotel, restaurants and retail establishments.

Nearby, a casino has been proposed if it is granted a license this fall by the state Gaming Commission. The casino developers, too, are hoping for the harbor — they’ve named their proposal Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor, and they see the harbor as a significant draw.

Some residents think much more must be done before the harbor could be built, however.

“They need to do a thorough analysis and review of the site for contamination, including radioactive materials,” said chemical engineer and Stockade resident Larry Schmidt, who sent a four-page letter detailing his concerns to the Army Corps.

He’s also worried about the nuclear reactor on the site, which Alco built decades ago. The company went on to build two more power plants, both of which were found to leak tritium. They were closed down, and he worries the prototype at Alco had similar problems.

He wants the land tested to make sure there’s no buried contamination before the Galesi Group starts digging to build a harbor.

He’s also concerned about the city’s occasional releases of raw sewage. The city has for years tried to improve its sewage system, but stormwater flows in and overwhelms the sewer plant. As a last resort in those cases, the city opens a gate and lets raw sewage into the river. Schmidt wants to know whether that sewage could back up into the harbor.

“I do want to see the area developed,” he said, “but only after the Army Corps of Engineers has done its due diligence and declares the site safe.”

Others are worried about flooding. The Galesi Group has provided computerized tests that indicate there will be no increased risk of flooding after the proposed development, but some residents asked the Army Corps to look through that data carefully.

“I have no technical expertise,” said resident David Giacalone, who sent in comments. “If there’s anything more than a very minimal amount of risk, you have to tell the applicant to change their plans.”

Resident Jean Zegger also wrote a letter in hopes of grabbing the Army Corps’ attention.

“They’re so novel, I think they get read,” she said.

In her letter, Zegger said she told the Corps the Stockade neighborhood was a “very special place” because of its historic buildings.

“You’ve got four centuries of history,” she said, adding that many owners see themselves as caretakers of their houses.

Extreme floods discourage some of those homeowners, she added. After the last major flood, some owners moved out.

“That’s weakening to the district,” she said.

She added that she told the Army Corps not to accept even a small amount of additional flooding risk.

“You might say it won’t increase much,” she said, “but one foot means water in another family’s first floor.”

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