Niskayuna tables vote on bonds for park improvements

Issues of drainage would be addressed through state grant funds
The side door of Niskayuna Town Hall on Nott Street Extension is pictured in 2017.
The side door of Niskayuna Town Hall on Nott Street Extension is pictured in 2017.

NISKAYUNA — The Town Board on Tuesday tabled a resolution authorizing the borrowing of $300,000 for improvements at River Road Park.

Board members said they need more information about the improvements before they will vote on the bond resolution.

“I don’t ever see an advantage going into something blind,” said Councilman John Della Ratta, just before the board voted unanimously to table the resolution at Tuesday’s regular board meeting. “We don’t know what the money is for; we don’t know what the plan is for.”

The resolution was sponsored by Republican Supervisor Yasmine Syed, who said $200,000 of the bond money would be used at River Road Park, which will already benefit from a $250,000 grant for improvements secured last year by Assemblyman Phillip Steck (D-Colonie).

Syed said softball fields at the park need work.

“There are currently two fields that are, nine times out of 10, almost completely under water, and kids can’t play on them,” Syed said. “It’s been affecting their ability to actually hold games and tournaments there. Everybody’s been aware of this, certainly since I came on board, that was one of the first meetings we had, with softball.”

The state grant will be used to improve the fields. 

“That’s phase one,” Syed said. “The additional $200,000 (from bonds, if approved) will partially go toward the cost of labor and potentially for a new pavilion. Either we rehab the existing pavilion or we will purchase an entirely new pavilion that may or may not be in a different location within the park.”

Syed said other improvements are needed at the park. She wants to see some kind of safety netting to protect children on the park playground.

“A fair amount of balls from the softball fields have made their way over to the playground,” Syed said. “Knowing that could potentially be a safety issue, we don’t want any of the kids who are playing over there to be potentially hit by a fly ball.”

Also, new paving could take place on walking trails and in the parking lot.

If bonds are issued, Syed said, $100,000 of that money could be spent in other town parks — on playgrounds, pavement and pavilion improvements. Barbecue cooking stands also could be replaced.

Syed said improvement plans were discussed with board members, though the four board members — all Democrats — have disputed that claim.

“We have no supporting documentation of what the improvements are or what he scope of the project would be,” Della Ratta said. “It’s literally like having blindfolds on.”

Della Ratta said softball field improvements to be paid for by the state grant have been discussed. Additional plans involving town money, he said, have not been discussed.

“We need to know what the scope of the project is and what type of improvements we’re talking about, because that park is used for other things besides softball,” Della Ratta added.

He said he believes the issue can be resolved.

“I think once we get a plan and we see the plan has been properly bid and that the work that’s being done isn’t going to dominate the park and the park atmosphere, then there’s not a problem with it,” he said.

Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw agreed.

“The board is eager to move forward on the upgrades to River Road Park we agreed to during the budget process, as well as additional smaller capital projects such as improvements to the dog park,” she said. “All the information we needed to vote was not provided to us for this month’s board meeting. However, we had a good conversation about the priorities and process during the meeting and are in agreement more information will be provided and we will vote next month.”

Councilwoman Lisa Weber said drainage issues at the River Road softball fields have been discussed with Niskayuna softball officials “for years.”

“I was raising some questions (Tuesday night) because we were going to do the bonding without really a line-by-line of what the various things would cost,” she said.

“We got the bonding bills late on Friday, and with Monday being a holiday, we didn’t really have the time to ask those questions and get those details,” Weber also said.

She also believes people who live near River Road Park might want to be consulted before anything happens.

“There’s notifying the neighborhood, showing them what the fields are going to look like,” Weber said. “There are just a bunch of questions — whether the project is going to include lighting, whether there are any other improvements we can do in the park.

“It’s important to notify the surrounding neighborhoods, because it is a neighborhood park. Maybe the community wants some input.”

Syed said she is hopeful the resolution will pass. Even if the bond resolution had been approved this week, she said, work at the parks would not have started until fall.

Contact Daily Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]


Categories: News, Schenectady County

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