Neighbors living near the site of a proposed $6.4 million indoor recreation center sued the city on Monday, saying the building is being planned at the wrong place and in the wrong economic climate.
“The building is what amounts to a basketball facility on open parkland,” said Ann Bullock of Lincoln Avenue, one of 12 neighbors included in the lawsuit filed by The Friends of South Side Park. “I’m concerned about the loss of green space,” Bullock said.
The 33,000-square-foot indoor recreation building and a 51-car parking lot are planned at the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and Worth Street, where a 3.4-acre city park is located.
Attorney Joseph C. Berger of the Clifton Park law firm of Berger, Ducharme, Harp and Clark LLP filed the lawsuit Monday in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa.
Berger said the city did not follow its own rules and regulations in moving the recreation center project along.
The City Council, he said, violated the state Environmental Quality Review Act by indicating the project would have no significant impact on the surrounding area.
Berger also charged that the City Council “never even took the basic step of submitting the project to the Zoning Board of Appeals for variances.”
“As a result, the site plan was never completed before submittal to the Planning Board and now the Planning Board has approved an incomplete site plan,” Berger said.
Mayor Scott Johnson said Monday he has not seen the lawsuit yet but defended the city’s actions in relation to the project on the city’s South Side.
Johnson said the city is exempt from city zoning regulations, according to the city zoning ordinance.
“But we took a more cautious [approach] and gave [the plans] to the Planning Board,” Johnson said.
Johnson said some people who live near the South Side Park have been against the indoor facility since it was first proposed nearly a year ago. He said those concerned residents will not stop the project.
“It’s also a good project,” Johnson said. “It’s really time for the people with concerns to reassess them.”
“We have gone beyond what we have to do,” Johnson added.
He said the city would “prevail” in court in the Article 78 proceeding filed on Monday. He said the filing of the lawsuit is an “unfortunate” act done by people looking out for their own self-interests.
Bullock said placing the recreation building in the South Side Park would prevent city residents from using the park for other purposes such as cross-country skiing and ice skating in winter and various sports, including outdoor basketball, in the summer.
She said the City Council’s priorities appear to be misplaced during the current economic crisis in the state and nation.
Bullock said the city needs to address its public safety and infrastructure needs during such dire economic times rather than spending millions of dollars on a recreation building.
“This is the wrong project, on the wrong site, at the wrong time,” said William Mirabile of Vanderbilt Avenue, one of the Friends of South Side Park.
“It’s like putting a battleship in a mill pond,” Mirabile said in a statement.
“The City Council, in filling out the environmental assessment form, stated that there are no large impacts,” Mirabile said. “Yet, if constructed, the project would completely overwhelm this neighborhood.”
Berger said the return date on the lawsuit is Jan. 19, with the city required to respond to the charges by Jan. 14 in Ballston Spa.