The City Council is moving forward with plans to lease land from New York state for a new public safety facility on Henning Road from the state.
The council, which met Tuesday night without the public present due to state restrictions on public gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak, voted 3-0 to request lead agency status for environmental review of the lease, which would be with the state Franchise Oversight Board. Assuming no other public agency objects, the city could declare itself lead agency at the April 7 council meeting.
City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis said the proposed lease would be a perpetual lease that would give the city up to four years to develop a fire station/emergency medical response building, and not allow any other uses. As long the site is used for a fire station, the lease would be at no cost to the city.
However, if the city does go ahead with building plans, it will have to put up to $75,000 to cover the cost of the state Office of General Services overseeing construction of the fire station for building code compliance.
Some opposition to the proposed site has emerged. Attorney Claudia Braymer, representing concerned neighbors, recently wrote to city officials arguing that a public safety facility at that location is not allowed under the city’s comprehensive land use plan, and isn’t the best location for a facility to serve the areas east of the Northway. It could also have negative impacts on the horses and track workers, she wrote.
“The fire/EMS facility would have negative impacts on noise, traffic, community character, aesthetics, historic resources, plants, and potentially groundwater/surface water,” Braymer wrote.
Construction of a public safety building on the site would require a separate environmental review, DeLeonardis said. A consultant is now studying conceptual designs and what would need to be included if an emergency station were to be built there, on the eastern edge of the New York Racing Association’s Oklahoma training track property.
The station would be the city’s third, intended to serve the city’s East Side. Residents there have long called for emergency services to be closer to where they live.
Preliminary discussions have been about a 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot, three-bay station, costing anywhere between $3 million and $6 million, but city officials have said those are rough estimates subject to change, depending on what the consultant finds.
Last October, Mayor Meg Kelly announced that the city had a tentative agreement with the New York Racing Association for the site. Simultaneously, the state Franchise Oversight Board authorized NYRA to negotiate a long-term lease agreement with the city for 2.36 acres of NYRA-owned land.
Both NYRA and the Franchise Oversite Board members have spoken in support of the station, noting their long-time concerns about fire safety and visitor safety during the annual summer NYRA Saratoga thoroughbred racing meet.
For city officials, a fire station on Henning Road would achieve a goal they have been working toward for 30 years, to the frustration of many both inside and outside city government.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.