The Schenectady City Council approved naming three streets at Mohawk Harbor Rush Street, Harborside Drive and Mohawk Harbor Way despite continued opposition.
The seven-member council voted 5-2 on a resolution supporting those names during a meeting this evening. Galesi Group is set to build the roads on site this fall. Council members Marion Porterfield and Vince Riggi voted against the names.
Several city residents reiterated their concerns over the name Rush Street, saying it does not fit in well with Schenectady. They received applause from others in attendance at the meeting.
Porterfield again said she would have preferred a name that would pay tribute to the old Alco site’s history. Riggi repeated that he would have liked to see an alternative name to Rush Street put forth by the developer.
Council members in favor of the names — John Ferrari, Ed Kosiur, John Mootooveren, Leesa Perazzo and John Polimeni — stressed the $480 million total investment in revitalizing the 60-acre brownfield off Erie Boulevard with a $330 million casino.
“The payback will be for the residents and for the taxpayers here in the city of Schenectady,” Kosiur said. “We’re looking at least at a minimum of a 10 percent decrease in property taxes.”
Polimeni said a majority of letters he received regarding the street names were in favor of the proposed Rush Street name.
“We’re bringing forth government intrusion that will hurt businesses coming into the city,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to get out of the way.”
Riggi disagreed, saying he believes that is what the council members are elected to do.
“We’re not supposed to represent special interests and developers,” he said.
He continued to say that he is “flabbergasted” by the process.
“All I asked for is to give us some alternatives,” he said. “I’m not saying you can’t name the street whatever you want. But it’s all or nothing. I’m kind of lost on this one. Does it really mean that much? I’m disappointed we couldn’t come to an agreement.”
Mootooveren said he believes the council members are “acting like kindergarten kids” going back-and-forth on the street names.
“What message are we sending to the investors who are looking to come to invest in the city of Schenectady? I’m happy to vote yes for this,” he said.
Last week Porterfield and Riggi attempted to block the resolution from moving out of committee, but Council President Leesa Perazzo opted for a loophole allowing Ferrari and Kosiur to sponsor and co-sponsor, respectively, a letter allowing the legislation to come to a vote.
A public hearing was held on the proposed street names earlier this month. Few people spoke against the names, with several local business leaders and officials strongly voicing their support.
The council is still required to pass an ordinance officially naming the streets once they are built in the fall. The ordinance does require another public hearing to be held on the street names at that time.
The three streets will be city-owned in the future. Rush Street would be an extension of Nott Street at the entrance to the Mohawk Harbor site. Harborside Drive would run the length of the site along the manmade harbor and Mohawk Harbor Way would be an extension of Maxon Road.
Building sale OK’d
The council approved the sale of a two-story building on lower Union Street to Tony Ward, who plans to develop the property with first-floor office space and two upscale apartment units on the second floor.
Ward, of AKW Consulting in Schenectady, bid $50,000 on the historic building and is planning to invest a total of $400,000 into the rehabilitation of the property, according to Jackie Mancini, the city’s director of development.
Ward said he is looking to restore the building by the end of the year. He is partnering with John and Paul Bonacquisti of Bonacquisti Brothers Construction in Cohoes on the project.
Riggi abstained from voting on the sale of the property, noting that Ward was not the highest bidder.
Mark Swanson bid $55,000 on the property and pledged to invest $280,000, a number the council pointed to in executive session during a committee meeting last week as the reason for choosing Ward’s bid.
Swanson’s contractor, Peter Della Ratta, of Simon's Rock, stressed during tonight's meeting that Swanson was the highest bidder.
“I know you’re all aware of the level of interest in this property,” he said. “To put it simply, I’m here to advocate for fairness.”
City Attorney Carl Falotico said the council is not required to accept the highest bidder under city code.
Riggi said he understands that the council doesn’t have to take the highest bidder but that the process of how the city sells properties is subjective.
“Obviously this is a hot property,” he said. “Should we think of having public auctions on certain properties like this? I would like to see maybe some changes in this so there aren’t any questions.”