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Proposed Schenectady sidewalk improvements, taxi rules move forward

Proposed Schenectady sidewalk improvements, taxi rules move forward

Council members express concern over impact on low-income residents
Proposed Schenectady sidewalk improvements, taxi rules move forward
Broken slate sidewalks in the Stockade are pcitured in November.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY — The City Council has moved forward a pair of resolutions that would further regulate taxi cabs and allow neighborhoods to form special districts for sidewalk improvements as part of a pilot program. 

The City Development & Planning Committee voted on Tuesday to approve a measure that would allow neighborhoods to create a sidewalk improvement district where 75 percent of property owners sign a petition in favor.

The city would take construction bids and oversee sidewalk replacement, fronting the cost of the repairs.

Residents in the district would then have the option of repaying the cost of the improvements in full, or in payments that would be added to their tax bills over a yet-to-be-determined period.

The city has discussed borrowing $1 million for the work, with the money spent as neighborhood groups petition the city.

Several council members had lingering concerns ahead of the final vote set for Monday.

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo wanted to ensure any possible repairs did not exceed the city’s debt cap.

“We’re well within our cap levels,” responded Councilman John Polimeni. “We’re not looking to go over cap levels.”

Perazzo ultimately voted against the plan, the only vote against.

If costs after seeking bids were deemed too high, the city would have the option of rejecting them, Polimeni said last week.

Perazzo also wanted the final legislation to require more than 75 percent of property owners to sign the petition, as well as a offer relief valve for low-income residents who may not be in a position to absorb increased costs.

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield echoed concerns that costs would be passed on from landlords who own multiple properties to renters.

“I really need to think we need to take a look at how the city could subsidize that for those homeowners,” Porterfield said. “Renters in the city are already having much difficulty. We can’t put people in positions of hardship that affects places where they live and their families.”

City Code dictates that property owners are required to maintain their sidewalks. But many residents fail to have their sidewalks repaired because of the cost or because they aren't aware it is their responsibility to do so, said Councilman John Polimeni last month.

Polimeni said increased costs for renters as part of the initiative wouldn’t be unusual.

“Any code improvements will bring costs to renters,” he said on Tuesday.

He noted the city isn’t conducting the work, but rather facilitating the project at the request of the homeowners.

“The neighborhoods are bringing it forward,” he said.

Porterfield also wanted assurances that sidewalk repairs wouldn’t be later ripped up by city engineering projects.

Polimeni said officials will prioritize coordinating work schedules.

“That’s the goal,” he said.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said the two neighborhoods that have already petitioned for the repairs, the Stockade and a block on McClellan Street, have expressed “broad support” and will serve as pilot projects to garner what residents like and dislike.

“I see that as a little demonstration project,” he said.

The measure could be adopted by the council at its Feb. 25 meeting.

Council President Ed Kosiur and Councilman Vincent Riggi were not at the meeting.

TAXIS

The City Development & Planning Committee also unanimously approved a set of proposed taxi rules developed by the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) as part of an effort to standardize cab service among the Capital Region-area cities and destinations like the Albany International Airport.

Saratoga Springs and Albany have already adopted the ordinance, while Troy is currently in the process of approving the measure.

The proposed rules specify that no cab operating in the city be more than 10 years old, while also setting standards for things like cab cleanliness. The ordinance allows each community to set cab fares within its boundaries and would establish regional fares for intermunicipal cab trips.

CDTA has previously expressed “strong support” of the proposal, but cab companies have said the new rules would require them to pay a higher minimum wage and unregulated competition from ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

Perazzo noted the level of discourse among stakeholders, including representatives from taxi companies.

“I’m happy that we have the ability to set fares,” she said. “It’s not going to be perfect for everyone. I think it was a good legislative process.”

 

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated an incorrect vote on the sidewalk plan. Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo voted against.

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