Schenectady County

Schenectady’s mayor tells Assembly panel of infrastructure needs

Mayor Gary McCarthy says he would like to see a state funding stream for municipalities to address a
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy at the State of the State address in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center on Wednesday, January 13, 2016.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy at the State of the State address in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center on Wednesday, January 13, 2016.

Mayor Gary McCarthy says he would like to see a state funding stream for municipalities to address aging infrastructure and for Schenectady to incorporate 21st century technology.

McCarthy, a Democrat in his second term, testified before the state Assembly’s Standing Committee on Cities Monday morning in Albany along with neighboring mayors to push for support for local infrastructure projects.

“The challenges of aging infrastructure presents one of the most critical hurdles in the recovery of growth across our entire state,” McCarthy said. “You’re seeing a renewed interest in cities. People are starting to move back. We want to be able to create an environment that allows people to take advantage of communities, take pride in where they live and do it in a cost effective manner.”

McCarthy’s comments on the need for additional investments in water, sewer and roads echoed those of nearby mayors Kathy Sheehan in Albany and Patrick Madden in Troy.

The city of Schenectady provides sewer services for Scotia, parts of Glenville and Niskayuna and a portion of southern Saratoga County. The city also has a similar agreement for water with Niskayuna.

“We price that competitively and make a little bit of money on it,” McCarthy said. “It would be cheaper than if they had to build and maintain their own systems.”

McCarthy specifically addressed repairs to Erie Boulevard, saying the city does not have the money to fix the remaining one-third of the road. About two-thirds — from I-890 to Union Street — was rebuilt as part of a $14 million project.

“With state and federal funding we redeveloped part of Erie Boulevard,” he said. “It will allow access in and out of the casino and our continued development of downtown.”

He estimated that development of the rest of Erie would cost more than $3 million.

“I don’t have that money in place to be able to start construction,” he said.

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, D-Bronx, chairman of the committee on cities, asked McCarthy if the developer of the casino project off of Erie would put in money for the project.

McCarthy said the Galesi Group of Rotterdam, the developer behind rehabilitating the old Alco site into Mohawk Harbor, is contributing toward some subsurface work but not paying for Erie’s surface repairs.

“It’s an old industrial site where we’re redeveloping it,” he said. “You have to make the numbers work to undertake the project. We have to be cognizant of those costs.”

At the same time, the city’s first roundabout will be built at the intersection of Erie Boulevard and Nott Street with a majority of the project cost coming from state and federal funding.

Construction of the roundabout, located at the entrance of the Mohawk Harbor site, will pickup again in March with the geometry of the roundabout expected to be completed by July.

Galesi is developing the 60-acre brownfield with housing, hotels, office and retail space, a harbor and one of the state’s first commercial casinos. The project comes with a $480 million total price tag.

McCarthy’s comments were unique from his counterparts in other Capital Region cities in regards to technology. McCarthy said he is looking to focus on wireless communication citywide.

He recently created a Smart City Advisory Commission, chaired by former GE tech chief Mark Little, which is tasked with making Schenectady a “smart city” by incorporating technology into areas like education, public safety and street maintenance.

The eight-member commission is meeting for the second time at Schenectady City Hall on Thursday behind closed doors.

High-tech streetlights were installed by Cisco in front of City Hall with LED lights, high-definition cameras and Wi-Fi. The plan is to also install those streetlights on Union Street, State Street and ultimately citywide.

The streetlights would include motion sensors, the option to program lighting levels, cameras that could take photos of the street, the expansion of Internet access and other features, McCarthy said.

“So much of what you see with regard to how we can use technology to better monitor and better improve our infrastructure is the way of the future and in the end we will be more economical as well,” Assemblywoman Patricia Fahey, D-Albany, said.

McCarthy said an old industrial city, like Schenectady, needs state and federal money to help repair infrastructure and in turn attract and retain businesses and residents.

“Our neighborhoods are still very much challenged,” he said. “You have some good neighborhoods but housing stock is old. Tax rates in suburban areas are lower than urban areas and it becomes hard to attract people. We have to make sure we have infrastructure in place to provide what people want and need.”

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

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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