Starting Friday, the public will be able to view and comment on an updated environmental review of the proposed Mohawk Harbor project in Schenectady.
The Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority decided earlier this year to update the environmental impact statement it prepared in 2010 as lead agency for a state environmental quality review of the former American Locomotive Co. site. At the time, plans called for a mix of housing, commercial and office space at the 60-acre site along Erie Boulevard aimed at revitalizing the city’s waterfront.
But plans have grown considerably since then. The Galesi Group of Rotterdam is now hoping to build a 160,000-square-foot casino, an additional 185-room hotel and a 50-slip harbor that requires widening a portion of the Mohawk River by 30 to 40 feet. An updated environmental review was the responsible action to take, Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said.
“The project has changed in quite a few elements,” he said. “They’re all positive changes, in our opinion. A whole generation of Schenectadians grew up looking at a brownfield that was not contributing anything to the city, so this is a very important step in moving forward the Mohawk Harbor project.”
The report is more than 1,000 pages long and was prepared by Bergmann Associates of Albany with assistance from a handful of other engineering and architectural firms. It will be posted Friday on the Metroplex website at www.schenectadymetroplex.com. Hard copies will be available at Metroplex headquarters on the fourth floor of Center City at 433 State St.
The public has until 5 p.m. on Sept. 22 to submit written comments to Metroplex. There will also be an opportunity to provide oral comments to the Metroplex board at a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 11 at 6 p.m.
A 40-page executive summary of the report provided Wednesday by Metroplex had only good things to say about the environmental impact of the development.
“The redevelopment of the site will have a beneficial impact on the environment as the former industrial land is and continues to be remediated,” it reads. “Raising the entire site above the 100-year flood plain and adding an embayment [harbor] will help improve storm water quality flowing into the Mohawk.”
The board voted 6-1 Wednesday night to accept the draft statement as complete. The lone holdout was board member Edward Capovani, who objected to language in the statement that indicated Metroplex has the right to seize a small piece of property near the site by eminent domain.
T.R. Johnson Engineer of Latham prepared a study in July that looked at traffic impacts from a full build-out of the site with a casino. Access to the site would differ from the original project, as casino patrons would generate 681 new vehicular trips during morning rush hour and 1,615 new trips during evening rush hour.
A new entrance was proposed on Maxon Road, a short road by Price Chopper headquarters on Nott Street that extends across Erie Boulevard and is used to get to STS Steel’s property, which directly abuts the site. The steel company has been embroiled in lawsuits with the Galesi Group over easements and access rights to its site and has said it feels it’s being pushed out of its home of 25 years.
Metroplex officials met with STS Steel officials Wednesday to discuss access to the site, Gillen said.
Capovani said he was disturbed by language in the draft report that describes an acquisition of STS Steel land as “de minimis,” meaning something that’s too trivial to be concerned with.
“Is it trivial to STS?” he asked. “I doubt it.”
Gillen reassured him Metroplex has no intention of relying on eminent domain to gain access to the site. Instead, he said, they’ve been engaged in ongoing “good, productive discussions” with the company.
Capovani said he couldn’t vote to support the environmental impact statement Wednesday if it in any way involved eminent domain seizure of the STS property. In response, the board voted to go into executive session for 16 minutes to discuss the potential terms of a real estate transaction.
Afterward, Capovani still voted against the resolution.
The widening of the river and construction of the harbor still requires approvals and permits from agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the state Canal Corp. and the state Office of General Services.