State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli visited Schenectady to tour progress in the city with local officials on Friday, who said the focus will shift to development in the neighborhoods.
DiNapoli sat down with Mayor Gary McCarthy and ex-GE tech chief Mark Little at City Hall on Friday afternoon to review the city’s plans for high-tech streetlights as part of Schenectady’s Smart City Advisory Commission.
The goal is to install those lights, which include LED bulbs, citywide, and some security cameras with WiFi. They were first put up on Jay Street and recently established along lower Union Street.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, said the next area of focus would be putting the streetlights in the Mont Pleasant neighborhood to enhance public safety and improve services there.
“We’ve had ongoing discussions with the mayor and there will be some state funding to add to that project,” he said. “I think the Mont Pleasant neighborhood will set a good example of what it could do in the neighborhoods. We want to do the whole city but it won’t be done all in one shot.”
McCarthy said the city signed a contract with General Electric to also install a few high-tech streetlights on State Street in downtown.
“I want to learn what works and doesn’t work,” he said. “We are putting them up in a smaller footprint so then we can feel more confident when we go out and do a larger area.”
While outside the new Phyllis Bornt Library Branch on State Street, DiNapoli said he believes Schenectady is ahead of the curve and well positioned to take advantage of state funding programs.
He pointed to the new library branch at 948 State St., which opened late February, as a major resource for the nearby Hamilton Hill neighborhood.
“This is really kind of a model city for revitalization that will not only benefit people of Schenectady but also be an example of what we can do across New York, especially many of our upstate cities that have been struggling,” he said.
DiNapoli said he also got an update from the mayor on construction at Mohawk Harbor, where the Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor is being erected and expected to open by early next year.
Casino operator Rush Street Gaming of Chicago paid the $50 million state licensing fee for the casino on March 31. Of that fee, $2.5 million will be given to the city and the county.
DiNapoli said the funding should be transferred from his office to Schenectady in the next week or so.
DiNapoli announced on Wednesday that money from the licensing fee for the del Lago Resort and Casino in Tyre, Seneca County was distributed to the town and six counties.
“We’re waiting for the check everyday,” McCarthy joked.
McCarthy had said the additional revenue would be used to decrease property taxes.
Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, said they also discussed the issue of building a new City Court with DiNapoli at City Hall.
The state Legislature passed legislation for night court in the city and a fourth city court judge. The court does not have enough space to accommodate the expansion, and the Office of Court Administration is pushing for the city to build a new court.
“The mayor made known to the comptroller his displeasure of the Office of Court Administration for forcing $3 million in spending onto the city to build a new courtroom,” Steck said. “OCA could be more cooperative in trying to help our city manage things better with existing funding. They have to take into account the practical reality of the spending issues the city and the mayor face.”
McCarthy said he believes it’s more cost effective to use an existing courtroom for night court.
“We’re still negotiating with it,” he said. “They want another courtroom. Sometimes the Comptroller’s Office has the ability to review different scenarios and do a cost benefit analysis that will have an impact.”
After the meeting at City Hall and press availability at Phyllis Bornt Library, DiNapoli had lunch with Santabarbara and Steck at Puzzles Bakery and Cafe, stopped in the New York BizLab on State Street and toured the area of the proposed Hillside View Apartments on Craig and Albany streets.
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.