Don’t accept rosy predictions for downtown casino
Your May 2 editorial ignored The Gazette's own article from the prior day [May 1], which explains why Schenectady City Council President Peggy King tabled a casino zoning resolution: She did not have the votes to pass it. Ms. King wants to vote as soon as her arm-twisting achieves a council majority.
It is irresponsible for politicians to merely accept rosy predictions from interested parties, professional development cheerleaders and businessmen expecting to partner with a casino. We should thank any council member who refuses to be rushed or pushed into supporting the covert Alco casino.
Urban casinos are risky endeavors, requiring serious analysis. The New York State Gaming Task Force Report to the governor (1996), which favored upstate casinos, said: 1) Stand-alone casinos draw far fewer people from outside the area than a resort-style casino, meaning relatively few overnight stays and a 150-mile market area impacted by nearby casinos; and 2) Most regular casino customers come from within a 25-mile radius, making the casino simply part of the local leisure marketplace (draining dollars from others).
The report also warned of potential crime problems at and near urban casinos, including "prostitution, panhandling, pick-pocketing and purse snatching"; economic crimes by pathological gamblers; and vehicle-related crimes like DUI and automobile break-ins. Such crime is especially worrisome for the nearby Stockade, which was granted historic district protection specifically to preserve its residential characteristics. Street crime and constant drive-through traffic will hurt quality of life in the Stockade, where 55.6 percent of voters said "no" last November to any upstate casinos.
The small, boutique casino promised by some supporters would still be a crime magnet. Moreover, the Site Location Board states it is primarily looking for the maximum amount of capital investment, tax revenue generation, good jobs and quality "amenities." A mini-casino can't achieve those goals and is unlikely to be proposed.
Schenectady is not desperate enough to risk a casino; it has better development options. Those who want gaming will soon have other casinos within easy driving distance.
Energy plan has info on greenhouse gases
Tom Ellis' letter, "NYSERDA full of hot air but lacks info on greenhouse gases," is off the mark.
The Draft New York State Energy Plan reflects an integrated effort by the state to increase renewable energy and energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintain reliable energy systems that provide affordable energy to New Yorkers. The draft plan identifies strategies that are needed to transform the state's energy sector into one that is reliable and resilient and will drive economic growth.
The plan clearly states the state's direction to implement strategies to reduce the intensity of carbon emissions in the energy sector by 50 percent by 2030, putting New York on a pathway to emissions reductions of 80 percent by 2050. It should be noted that the key findings of the greenhouse gas inventory and the energy efficiency and renewable energy potential study are reflected in Volume II of the draft plan.
We also need to correct Mr. Ellis' greenhouse gas emissions forecast. The 9 percent emissions reduction in 2030 he cited reflects a "status quo" emissions reduction level if no new policies or programs are carried out as identified in the draft plan.
We expect action on the plan, which establishes a baseline from which new approaches to emissions reductions will be designed, in order to meet the 50 percent intensity reduction level.
A transformed energy sector requires new approaches.
The draft plan highlights some of these new innovative approaches, such as the New York Green Bank, which will help drive private investment and foster increasing levels of energy efficiency and renewable energy, and the New York Sun program, which will drive growth in the state's solar industry and make solar technology more affordable.
These initiatives and other market and technology innovations will help New York contribute to global, long-term greenhouse gas-emission reductions and will address climate change.
The public can submit comments on the draft plan through May 30 at www.energyplan.ny.gov.
John B. Rhodes
The writer is president and CEO of NYSERDA and chair of the Energy Planning Board.
Allowing murals may help reduce graffiti
Regarding Sara Foss's May 6 column, "Seeing graffiti in a whole new blight": Graffiti in the city of Schenectady has been an ongoing problem that the city administration needs to realize that if you keep combating a problem with a solution that does not work, change the approach to the solution.
There is no question that graffiti is everywhere and on everything. Many times, the tags are hateful words or markings toward a certain group of people or religion, making it very intimidating to see. The approach Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo has championed, enlisting teens assigned by the courts to carry out community service to eradicate the graffiti problem, is a small step in the right direction.
The real problem is that the amount of graffiti outpaces the ability of the teens to clean it up. During Mayor Al Jurczynski's administration, he purchased an excellent graffiti cleaner product and distributed it to staff. Along with the mayor, they attacked the city's graffiti problem, which only led to recidivism by the graffiti artists.
I suggest Ms. Perazzo go to City Hall and have a conversation with City Clerk Chuck Thorne. Many years ago, before Chuck was employed by the city, I was meeting the city neighborhood associations promoting city initiatives, and Chuck happened to be promoting murals for the city of Schenectady as a way of combating graffiti. This has been proven successful in major cities across the United States.
Chuck had statistics on how areas where murals were promoted decreased graffiti by staggering numbers. The teens from the different neighborhoods would have contests for the murals that they produced to represent their part of the city.
There was a sense of pride in the murals and the statistics showed that the murals were rarely vandalized.
It is time for a new approach to an old problem. Just ask Chuck.