Schenectady County

Action delayed on Schenectady apartments plan

Residents of the Front Street neighborhood say they’re concerned about parking and traffic with a lo
A rendering of the proposed hotel at Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor. (Image provided)
A rendering of the proposed hotel at Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor. (Image provided)

Residents of the Front Street neighborhood say they’re concerned about parking and traffic with a local developer’s proposal for a 60-unit apartment building on Erie Boulevard.

David Fusco is proposing a $5.5 million apartment building on a vacant site that he owns at 1419 Erie Blvd., next to Front Street, that would include 60 one- and two-bedroom units and be four stories tall.

Several members of the East Front Street Neighborhood Association said during a city Planning Commission meeting Wednesday evening that they’re concerned about increased traffic as a result of the housing.

The site would include two access points, with one on Erie Boulevard and another on Front Street. Nearby residents say that Front Street cannot handle any more cars on the narrow road.

The project proposal comes with a total of 62 parking spaces as part of a surface lot on the 4-acre property. That’s one parking space per apartment unit.

“Our gripe is the parking situation,” said Carmella Ruscitto, president of the neighborhood association. “There are usually two cars to a family, especially with two-bedroom units. We’re not saying he can’t build. We want the cars out on Erie Boulevard.”

Ruscitto’s sister, Mary Ann, said Fusco attended the neighborhood association’s meeting on Friday and that he said the project was “a done deal.” She said she didn’t like Fusco’s attitude.

Fusco was not present at the Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, sending an engineer and an architect involved with the proposed project instead.

“I don’t believe we need 60 rental properties,” Ruscitto said. “There are many places that are empty and deteriorating and people have walked away from. We’re not trying to be difficult. We want him to develop this property. But why should our neighborhood suffer for his bad business practices?”

The nine-member Planning Commission decided to table the project proposal.

Commissioner Chris Rush said he believes having an exit onto Front Street is “inviting trouble.” He said he would also like to see a right-hand turn only onto Front Street.

Commissioner Jason Bogdanowicz-Wilson said he would like to see an entrance and exit on Erie Boulevard to mitigate traffic flow on Front Street. Commissioner Mary Moore Wallinger agreed.

Commissioner Brad Lewis said he believes there is no need for additional parking spaces with less people opting to own vehicles nowadays.

The building is located in the city’s downtown zoning district, from which the commission removed a parking requirement a couple of months ago, City Planner Christine Primiano said. It’s unclear where that stands with the City Council.

“There is a potential this proposal as it stands would require a variance or be in compliance,” Primiano said. “There could be changes made to only have access via Erie Boulevard. That could eliminate some residents’ concerns.”

CASINO HOTEL

The Planning Commission unanimously approved Rush Street Gaming’s plan to expand the hotel at Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor from 150 rooms to 163 and add additional parking spaces.

The Chicago-based casino operator’s hotel — the brand name has not yet been announced — will now have a reconfigured pool, additional rooms, more parking spaces, and a minor change in building materials.

“The biggest change is that the hotel has gone from 150 rooms to 163,” said Mike Levin, principal of Development Management Associates. “I think that’s a good thing. Each of these hotels have their own specifications.”

With the addition of 13 rooms, there will be another 13 parking spaces on the site. That brings the total number of parking spaces for the casino and hotel to 1,744, Levin said.

Brian Fink, principal with Las Vegas-based architect Klai Juba, said the hotel now has a “more richer feel” with precast tile. “Everything else is still relatively the same,” he said.

The contemporary streetlights on the site will be consistent with the “smart technology” push the city is working toward, Primiano said.

Last week, Mayor Gary McCarthy announced the creation of a Smart City Advisory Commission that would work to make the city smarter and more high-tech with the goal of enhancing services and cutting costs.

Commissioner Tom Carey said he believes there is too much parking taking up prime real estate on the riverfront property.

“I would like to see less of an impact on the riverfront site for the rest of the community,” he said. “It’s striking how much parking is on the site and is not consistent with increasing walkability in the city. It’s a shame you couldn’t do a better job with that.”

The $330 million Rivers Casino was approved for a casino license by the state Gaming Commission last month. Levin said construction on the foundations for the casino started in December.

Levin said Rush Street is looking to receive its building permit from the city in February, with construction of the casino expected to start in March. The casino would then open its doors by June 2017, he said.

The signage package, including the 80-foot-tall casino pylon sign, is expected to come before the Planning Commission for approval within the next couple of months.

In addition to the casino and its adjacent hotel, the Galesi Group is transforming the 60-acre old Alco site off Erie Boulevard, renamed Mohawk Harbor, with housing, another hotel, office and retail space, and a harbor along the Mohawk River.

Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.

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