A few dozen Stockade residents on Tuesday night made known their opposition to a planned pump station in Riverside Park, questioning the practicality of a replacement building.
Prior to getting discussion underway, Fred Heitkamp, 74, said he hoped the neighborhood could emulate Sesame Street, where everyone gets along. He lamented some of the divisiveness surrounding previous discussion about the pump station project and other issues.
“The point I want to make is, I think it is possible to disagree with neighbors without airing it in public,” he said. “It would be much nicer if you could go to your neighbor and talk to them, but please do not air it in front of everyone.”
The meeting was intended to clarify what information residents still lacked, and what questions they still had regarding plans for a new pump station in Riverside Park. City and project officials provided details and rationale for the plans, and fielded questions from concerned neighbors.
“We are absolutely taking the input of the public seriously, and we are trying to build the best project that we can for you,” said Mike Miller, a representative from CHA Consulting, the company working on the project.
A community advisory group met a few times in recent months to provide input on the project, though some residents were frustrated that more neighbors weren’t included.
The current pump station sits at the edge of Riverside Park, where it has been pumping sewage for more than 50 years. Of the roughly 30 residents at St. George’s Great Hall on Tuesday night, almost all were opposed to the plan to build a new station in the vicinity of the existing one.
“There’s this illusion people are OK with it, but people are not OK with it,” said John Samatulski, a developer who’s doing flood mitigation work on other Stockade properties.
Residents were primarily unsure why the existing building couldn’t just be retrofitted, and some were concerned that a new structure would block views of Riverside Park and the Mohawk River.
CHA has gone through a number of iterations for the building design in an effort to minimize its footprint, Miller said. The most recent design would take up 0.2 acres in Riverside Park, he said, which would be similar to the existing station. Relocating a new station could be expensive and disruptive, Miller said.
There are a number of obstacles involved in rehabbing the current station, Miller said. For example, it can’t be rebuilt and faces certain other limitations because the New York State Historic Preservation Office lists it as a historic structure, he said.
One Front Street resident questioned that argument, saying certain homes in the neighborhood are being raised above the floodplain to address the same issue. He also suggested a new station could be built elsewhere in the area, though he was unsure of the cost.
The current pump station on North Ferry Street handles about 70 percent of the city’s sewage before it’s sent to the wastewater treatment plant, said Paul Lafond, director of general services for Schenectady. Lafond also attended Tuesday's meeting.
The existing building, which sustained significant damage in Hurricane Irene, is not flood-proof, and rehabbing it would cost as much or more than building a new station, Lafond said. The new structure would elevate critical gears, generators and other equipment above the floodplain, he said.
The city would repurpose the existing pump station, possibly as a community center. However, the building would not be flood-proof.
The City Council approved a replacement station in September 2014. The city will cover a portion of the costs with $3 million from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery’s New York Rising Program, with another $3.25 million expected to be financed through city borrowing.
“There’s plenty of blame for why people haven’t jumped on this sooner,” said Heitkamp, a North Street resident, noting the new pump station has been in the works for years.