A public hearing on proposed street names at Mohawk Harbor drew fewer people than expected, with Schenectady business leaders and officials being the majority who spoke in favor of the names.
A total of nine people voiced their opinions on the names proposed for within the Mohawk Harbor site — Rush Street, Harborside Drive and Mohawk Harbor Way — during a City Council meeting Monday evening. Three city residents said they are against the names, while six people strongly supported them.
Those who spoke in favor of the names included Jim Salengo, executive director of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation; Chuck Steiner, president of the Schenectady County Chamber, an affiliate of the Capital Region Chamber; Schenectady County Legislator Gary Hughes; and David Buicko, chief operating officer of the Galesi Group.
Galesi is developing the old Alco site off Erie Boulevard into the Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, in partnership with Rush Street Gaming of Chicago, along with housing, hotels, office and retail buildings, and a 50-boat-slip harbor.
Buicko encouraged the council to decide on the names quickly so the developer can market the property to potential customers and tenants.
“Nobody knows where to make deliveries,” he said. “With GPS we need to start this. We need to make simple names. We have to start something new. The street names are ours. It’s not Rush. It’s Galesi naming them.”
Council members Marion Porterfield and Vince Riggi previously expressed concerns about the name Rush Street, saying they do not want the street to be named after the casino operator Rush Street Gaming.
In a letter to the council last month, Rush Street CEO Greg Carlin said the proposed name is actually the name of a street in Chicago. He said the name “must be about the future of the site and not the past.”
Several speakers noted the county Legislature’s resolution last week naming the future bike-hike trail at the property along the Mohawk River the Alco Heritage Trail, giving a nod to the site’s industrial past.
The 1.5-mile bike trail will cover the entire waterfront section of the site and will extend from the Western Gateway Bridge to Freemans Bridge. The county also plans to put historical markers and signage along the bike trail to tell the history of Alco.
Hughes noted during the hearing that the county is looking to relocate miSci’s Alco locomotive on Nott Terrace to the site.
“Rarely do municipalities question the names of the streets,” Hughes said. “It strikes me as somewhat offensive to the developers to suggest the project is too risky for the names the developer proposed. Roger Hull Place and Georgetta Dix prove how easy it is to rename a street given the unlikely possibility that were to happen.”
Porterfield said she believes the council, in addition to the county, should do something to recognize the history of the site.
Riggi said he has received a number of phone calls and emails from local residents suggesting that the street names pay tribute to Alco.
“I feel like the citizens are saying ‘could our heritage and history be noted like they did in Chicago?’ I don’t think that is beyond the realm of possibility,” Porterfield said. “I think this is another opportunity for there to be community involvement.”
Steiner said the chamber supports the proposed street names and would like to capitalize on the Rush Street name as an entertainment destination, as it is in Chicago.
“It will not just be a street but it will be a destination,” he said. “Schenectady is moving forward. Of course we will always embrace our past, but also support needed changes for the city’s promising future.”
Buicko said Galesi started the process of considering street names a year ago, meeting with focus groups and conducting surveys. He said the future steakhouse on site would feature historical photos of Schenectady.
“We listed names of past presidents of Alco, names of locomotives, names of mayors,” Buicko said. “The bulk of the responses, these were the names picked by most of the people.”
The council will discuss the street names again on Monday in the Public Service and Utilities committee meeting, then vote on a resolution the following week.
The roads are not expected to be built until the fall. Once established, the council would have to hold another public hearing and pass an ordinance officially naming the city-owned streets.
The proposed Rush Street would be an extension of Nott Street off the future roundabout at the intersection of Erie Boulevard and Nott at the entrance to the Mohawk Harbor site.
Off of Rush Street and running the length of the site along the manmade harbor would be the proposed Harborside Drive. And off of Harborside Drive would be the proposed Mohawk Harbor Way, which would be an extension of Maxon Road.
Also during the meeting Monday evening, the council approved the sale of 19 properties, including 15 vacant lots and four buildings, on Barrett Street and Seminary Place as part of the Live-In Schenectady project.
The council approved the sale of the properties for a total of $200,000 to a group of 15 investors who are planning a $1.5 million development of 10 homes in the area, followed by another 15 homes.
The council also voted in favor of a resolution supporting fair funding for public education in Schenectady.
The resolution notes that the Schenectady City School District receives only 55 percent of the foundation aid it’s supposed to based on the state formula.
The average that school districts in the state receive is 82 percent based on the foundation aid formula and 97 percent of school districts statewide are funded at higher rates than Schenectady, the resolution states.
The mayor and the council are calling on state legislators to push for full implementation of the state’s foundation aid formula for Schenectady in this year’s state budget.
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.