Schenectady County

Stockade group frets over potential traffic

The Stockade Association has some concerns about traffic from Galesi Group’s proposed Mohawk Harbor
An architectural rendering of the proposed development at the former ALCO site on Erie Boulevard in Schenectady.
An architectural rendering of the proposed development at the former ALCO site on Erie Boulevard in Schenectady.

The Stockade Association has some concerns about traffic from Galesi Group’s proposed Mohawk Harbor project off Erie Boulevard, especially if the site is approved for a casino.

The association said increased development at the former Alco site would have more drivers attempting to find an alternate route to Erie Boulevard, resulting in more traffic within the Stockade Historic District.

“It’s a wonderful thing, the renaissance of Schenectady,” said Mary D’Alessandro, president of the Stockade Association. “There are certain things we would have to deal with though with development at that site. Anytime there is development there are concerns, like with traffic.”

In response to an updated environmental review of the proposed project by the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, the association sent a letter to Metroplex’s board of directors earlier this month requesting that measures be implemented to address their concerns.

“Because of these concerns, the association requests that, at a minimum, there be no direct connection from the development to Front Street and other measures are taken to reduce the likelihood of drivers using the Stockade streets,” the letter states.

The association stressed that traffic spillover already occurs with drivers using Front, Green, Union, North College, North Church and Liberty streets and Washington Avenue as short cuts to I-890 in an effort to avoid taking Erie Boulevard and State Street.

“These drivers often speed down the narrow streets of our historic neighborhood despite the risk to pedestrians and other drivers,” the letter states. “Trucks that are too large to make tight turns have blocked streets for hours as they mistakenly or purposely drive through.”

D’Alessandro said the association is working with the Galesi Group and Metroplex as development moves forward. The Stockade Association has taken a neutral position regarding the proposed Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor.

“We have worked with the Stockade Association and we value the Stockade as an important part of the community,” said David Buicko, chief operating officer of the Galesi Group. “We will work with them to mitigate and address any legitimate concerns they may have.”

Several changes to streets around Mohawk Harbor have been proposed as part of the project. The main access to the site would be off Erie Boulevard across from Maxon Road, with another entrance off Erie Boulevard across from Nott Street.

Roundabout on the way

Before the Mohawk Harbor project was even proposed, Schenectady had plans for its first roundabout at the intersection of Nott Street and Erie Boulevard.

The roundabout would provide direct entry into the site and onto Front Street. A third lane would also be added on Nott Street going toward Freeman’s Bridge Road into Glenville.

“The roundabout would be fully constructed by the time the project is finished,” said Schenectady City Engineer Chris Wallin. “Construction would start in the fall of next year and it would be finished sometime in late 2016. They are two separate projects, but they are related.”

The intersection of Maxon Road and Erie Boulevard would be changed to allow for two-way traffic. Maxon Road would have a right-turn lane and a second lane to go straight or turn left. A traffic light would be placed on Erie Boulevard between Maxon Road and the site’s entrance.

Improvements would also be made to Maxon Road Extension westbound to provide two left-turn lanes. Plans also include widening the westbound approach for right-turn traffic onto Freeman’s Bridge Road.

“We have been in discussions with the Stockade Association about traffic,” Wallin said. “We are not turning a blind eye on the issue of traffic in the Stockade. The Stockade and East Front Street neighborhood are an important part of the process.”

‘We don’t mind’

Carmella Ruscitto, president of the East Front Street Neighborhood Association, dismissed the Stockade Association’s traffic concerns, saying that Front Street would be more affected by the development, not the Stockade.

But Ruscitto said she is not concerned about an increase in traffic on Front Street. She said there have been conversations about limiting access to Front Street, with drivers allowed to make a left turn coming into the site but not allowed to make a right turn leaving the site.

“It’s ridiculous how the Stockade Association doesn’t want anyone around and doesn’t want any improvements,” Ruscitto said. “If anything, Front Street would be getting the traffic, not the Stockade. But we don’t mind the traffic.”

Ruscitto said a majority of residents in the East Front Street neighborhood support development at Mohawk Harbor and the proposed casino project.

The site, with a casino, is expected to attract 681 new drivers during morning peak rush hour and 1,615 new driver during evening peak rush hour, according to a July traffic impact study by T.R. Johnson Engineering.

“I was born here, and I know what the neighborhood was like,” Ruscitto said. “When Alco was here, we were a busy neighborhood. This will make us busy again. If we handled the traffic then, we can handle it now.”

Goose Hill Neighborhood Association President Camille Sasinowski said based on an informal poll a majority of residents in that neighborhood, located on the opposite side of Erie Boulevard, are opposed to a casino at Mohawk Harbor.

Sasinowski said the association is concerned about an increase in traffic, but added the roundabout would probably serve to relieve some of that congestion. Personally, however, she is not a fan of roundabouts.

“I despise roundabouts,” she said. “If you have the smallest bit of a vision problem and aren’t quick enough you can make a mistake. I just don’t care for roundabouts. People have mentioned concerns, but regardless of a casino the roundabout will be coming and the traffic will be coming.”

Wallin said a majority of the proposed traffic changes included in the project’s environmental review would remain the same without a casino. That includes the roundabout and lane changes to Maxon Road and Maxon Road Extension.

Project particulars

Galesi Group’s $150 million Mohawk Harbor project includes housing — 304 apartment units, 70 condominiums and 10 townhouses — a 124-room Courtyard by Marriott and space for offices, retail and technology companies.

The project also includes a 50-slip harbor that calls for widening a portion of the Mohawk River by 30 to 40 feet. Site plans will provide public access to the waterfront with walking and biking paths.

Galesi is waiting on approvals and permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and other agencies for the widening of the river and construction of the harbor.

If Galesi and the developer’s partner, Rush Street Gaming, are awarded a casino license by the state Gaming Commission, the price tag will be bumped up to $450 million with the addition of a Rivers Casino and 150-room Four Points by Sheraton.

Metroplex decided to update the environmental impact statement it prepared in 2010 to include Galesi’s plans for a casino and hotel. The report requires approval before plans are presented to the city of Schenectady.

“We appreciate the comments provided by the Stockade Association,” said Ray Gillen, chairman of Metroplex. “All comments will be addressed as part of the review process. The traffic concerns will be addressed in cooperation with the city of Schenectady.”

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