Parking around Ellis Hospital, one of Schenectady’s largest employers, has been problematic for decades, as the hospital keeps expanding on a basically fixed footprint. The situation figures to get worse when its newly expanded emergency room opens in 2015 — which is why it’s hard to blame the hospital for wanting to erect the largest parking garage the city will allow.
But the hospital’s proposal for a three-story garage on Rosa Road, approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals in June, was enough of a stretch — just seven feet off the sidewalk where 27 feet are required. In an urban setting, such as downtown, that kind of building would have made sense; but in a residential setting like the one around Ellis, it’s too much.
Now, because it saved enough money on its ER project, the hospital can afford a larger garage: five stories. But even with the proposed 15-foot setback, its 52-foot height would be too imposing for the neighborhood.
It’s unclear whether Ellis really needs that much more parking. Its problem seems more to do with employees who refuse to avail themselves of the hospital’s free shuttle system — parking a mile or so away on Hillside Avenue and taking a free bus to work — than with patients and their families. These employees are living in the past, when the hospital was a lot smaller and the neighborhood was less crowded. The hospital, which does prohibit them from using the existing garage or surface lots, can’t force them not to hog so many of the on-street spaces around the hospital.
The city could, however, adopting a residential permit parking system along the lines of Albany’s new one near the Capitol. Freeing up spaces around the hospital for residents and short-term parkers during the day would eliminate the need for a five-story behemoth.
Three stories, 15 feet from the sidewalk, should suffice.