Schenectady County

Harbor work underway at former Alco site

A harbor is being built and roads are being carved now on the old Alco land as part of Galesi Group’
David M. Buicko, chief operating officer of the Galesi Group, shows the walkway next to the Mohawk River that is under construction for the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor on Wednesday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
David M. Buicko, chief operating officer of the Galesi Group, shows the walkway next to the Mohawk River that is under construction for the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor on Wednesday.

A harbor is being built and roads are being carved now on the old Alco land as part of Galesi Group’s massive redevelopment of the 60-acre brownfield site.

It doesn’t look like much is happening on the property from Erie Boulevard, but step onto the site and workers with Rifenburg Construction of Troy are building a harbor, making roads and compacting soil to prep for housing and a casino.

“It’s one of the smartest things or one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done in my life,” joked David Buicko, chief operating officer of the Galesi Group.

Austin DiSiena of Rifenburg said up to 20 people are working on the site each day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the help of several subcontractors.

“It’s nice to be here on a beautiful day like today,” he said Wednesday during a tour of the site. “But no one wanted to be here in the winter.”

The harbor walls, which are made of steel, are coming to Schenectady from Connecticut and should arrive in the next couple of weeks, Buicko said.

In the meantime, Rifenburg is digging out soil to form the harbor, which will be on the northern end of the site toward Freemans Bridge Road. Apartments and office and retail buildings will be erected around the 50-slip harbor.

Buicko declined to disclose the price and terms of Rifenberg’s contract as part of the $480 million development.

“In a few months, there will be water here,” DiSiena said pointing to an area in the middle of the property a couple of feet lower than the rest of the site.

Dirt dug up to make the harbor is being used on other parts of the site to raise it above the 100-year floodplain. Dirt was also transported to the site from a slope-stabilization project off Balltown Road in Niskayuna.

Large pipes could be seen sitting on the site by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s small nuclear reactor. Those pipes are for the site’s new water and sewer lines, which will also replace some of the city’s existing lines.

“We’ll put the new lines through the site next week,” DiSiena said.

The 124-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel will be the first building erected on the site. DiSiena said it would start going up in about two months, followed by the apartments.

Meanwhile, on the southern end of the site, a large steel tamper suspended from a crane is dropped onto the soil. It hits the ground with a loud thud and shakes the entire site.

The technique, called dynamic compaction, is being used to increase the density of the soil before Galesi develops the foundation for buildings.

Pieces of steel could be seen in small piles throughout the site. That steel was what was found underground from when the site was occupied by American Locomotive Co.

DiSiena said the contractor has been working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation as workers encounter materials, like tanks, and contaminants, like petroleum, underground.

The locomotive manufacturer left the site in 1969 after being there for more than 100 years. General Electric and other small industrial manufacturers later occupied the site.

Galesi purchased the property in 2010. The developer was left to clean up contaminants there, including arsenic, lead, mercury and petroleum.

The outstanding issue is underground water and soil contamination — under STS Steel and extending to the river — that could cause toxic vapors to leak into future buildings on site.

“The remedy selected for this cleanup involves an injection of an oxidant to mix with the contaminated soil and groundwater to speed up the natural breakdown of the chlorinated solvents into their nonhazardous constituents,” the DEC said in an email.

The DEC said it’s currently reviewing the treatment option and expects injections to happen later this year.

The site is part of the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. The DEC said Galesi anticipates completing the cleanup by March 2016 but that there is no DEC-set timeframe to do so.

Rush Street Gaming of Chicago was recommended for a casino license by the state Gaming Facility Location Board to build a $330 million casino at Mohawk Harbor off Erie Boulevard along the Mohawk River.

The casino operator is seeking site-plan approval for the casino during the Planning Commission’s meeting next Wednesday. City Planner Christine Primiano said the commission plans to wait to vote on the design until its following meeting on July 15.

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