Saratoga County

Rexford residents raise concerns regarding landscaping of Rivers Ledge project

Rexford residents David Smith, right, and Jeff Downing discuss the light pollution of the new construction of Rivers Ledge located in Niskayuna, shown from a porch across the Mohawk River in Rexford on Jan. 26, 2022.

Rexford residents David Smith, right, and Jeff Downing discuss the light pollution of the new construction of Rivers Ledge located in Niskayuna, shown from a porch across the Mohawk River in Rexford on Jan. 26, 2022.

Rexford residents Dave Smith and Jeff Downing used to look out of their Mohawk River homes and see plush green trees across the river lining the grounds where Rivers Ledge Apartments now exist. 

But when the development began, those trees went away. Rexford residents weren’t happy, reaching out to the town of Niskayuna — where the work was being done — to discuss not only the view they would now be seeing, but the light pollution from the project. 

“Basically what’s going to happen is anyone pulling in, their lights are going to come right across and into our houses,” Downing said. “I’ve already got shadows on my north-facing walls when I get up at night.”

Downing and Smith have been leading the way for Rexford residents on the issue, even sending a petition to Niskayuna in May with 45 signatures.

“Basically everyone signed,” Smith said. 

But it’s not just Rexford residents being affected. Smith and Downing said there are Alplaus residents being affected too. 

“Since construction began, we have witnessed in dismay, the total deforestation of the former park site, as well as all-natural vegetation buffers surrounding areas of the site of the apartment complex on the riverfront,” states the petition. “All-natural trees and the majority of the vegetation along the waterfront and the apartments property line has been fully destroyed.”

An email exchange of conversations regarding the issue continued for a few months with the town following the petition and then Smith said he stopped hearing from the town around October after requesting they be kept in the loop regarding landscaping. 

“They just aren’t discussing anything with us anymore,” Smith said. “They don’t return emails.”

The two men said they aren’t against development, but they want to ensure there is proper screening, so they and others won’t be impacted by the light pollution and that trees and other natural habitation will be brought back. 

Smith said that while almost all of the trees along the river were removed, many other trees not along the river were kept, including ones abutting other people’s properties. 

“They basically put a small city into this, with no concern for the people around it as far as light pollution, noise pollution,” Downing said.

The men said they want to see trees staggered along the Mohawk, including larger caliper evergreen and deciduous trees, to reduce the light pollution from the development.

“We just want to see some decent landscaping, a good landscape architect to come in and figure out how to make it so we’re not looking at lights all the time,” Downing said.

Also, by having more trees, birds that previously visited the area and other animals would continue to come back, including an eagle the two men have spotted from time to time. 

“Unless this natural habitat is restored/returned, we fear many of these beautiful birds will no longer populate this riverbank area for sanctuary, and the fish community will be adversely impacted,” the petition states. 

The developer has provided updated drawings, said Chuck Pafundi, director of real estate development for Luizzi Companies. 

“We believe we corrected all the issues,” he said. 

He said they included screening wherever cars pull into the parking lots. They also lowered the height of the lamp posts and reduced how many are on site. 

However, Town Planner Laura Robertson said they have not received the final landscaping plan from the developer and that she has been emailing them about every other week to make sure they include certain items in their plans. 

“The landscaping plan for the onsite Rivers Ledge planting on the 9/27/2021 Planning Board packet is the most up to date but not the final,” Robertson said in an email. “We will continue to work with the developer to add diversity of species and buffering where we can.”

There is a separate plan for trees in the park, including along the trail that is below where the development is being built. 

“Some of the trees in the park were planted in the fall and more will be planted in the spring,” Robertson said. “There are a variety of large and small species, flowering and native plants. The town is also considering adding some disease-resistant Elms to the park in the spring.”

Robertson said the developer currently has a temporary certificate of occupancy, but the final certificate won’t come until the developer satisfies the town’s various requests.

Smith and Downing said the documents that they’ve seen so far regarding plantings definitely don’t meet their needs.

Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected] or at 518-478-3320. 

Categories: Saratoga County, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

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