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State to weigh feedback on controversial liquor store application

State to weigh feedback on controversial liquor store application

Hearings expected this summer
State to weigh feedback on controversial liquor store application
A former barber shop on Albany Street in Schenectady is the planned site of a liquor store called “Bleu Wine and Liquor Inc.”
Photographer: Erica Miller

SCHENECTADY — The owner of a building that may house a liquor store in Hamilton Hill has formally filed for a license with the state. 

A notice has been posted on the door of the building at 844 Albany St. by the State Liquor Authority (SLA) announcing the pending application. 

SLA confirmed building owner Anju Sukhai applied under the name “Bleu Wines & Liquors, Inc.” on May 22.

The notification joins a "coming soon" sign trumpeting the proposed new retailer next to a slab of plywood placed over an apparently damaged storefront window. 

The proposal has generated controversy from Hamilton Hill residents and non-profit groups serving the community who contend a liquor store would reverse positive trends taking root in the neighborhood, one of the city's poorest. Critics of the proposed store worry that it would negatively affect vulnerable residents, many of whom are prone to substance abuse. 

While the Schenectady Planning Commission voted in February to give site plan approval to the proposed business, opponents submitted at least 200 signatures to City Hall in April in an attempt to quash the project and give community residents more influence in future decisions.

The petitions ask the City Council to “identify and implement any way to deny” the application.

While those signatures were largely symbolic — there is no legislative requirement for the City Council to act on the requests — the SLA will take fresh concerns into account when weighing whether to issue the permit, a SLA spokesman said.

“Definitely community sentiment is something we weigh,” the spokesman said. 

But those concerns must be voiced anew during the SLA's review process.

Sukhai’s application must go before the full SLA board for a hearing, which are held biweekly in New York City.

That hearing is open to members of the public, who are free to offer testify both for and against the project.

“Each application submitted to the SLA is reviewed on its individual merits,” according to the agency’s website, “taking into account the recommendations of local law enforcement, government officials, community boards and members of the public.”

Those submitting a formal comment with the SLA will receive a notification alerting them to the hearing, which typically begins 10 weeks after the application has been filed.

SLA also solicits comments from the four closest liquor stores in the area of the proposed site to obtain information on gross sales at their locations.

Community Builders noted there are five liquor stores within seven minutes of the proposed location, according to a letter the non-profit group penned in opposition to the project.

Neighborhood leaders voiced a fresh round of criticism on Friday.

Sister Linda Neil works at St. Joseph’s Place, a community ministry located across Albany Street from the proposed site.

The space would be better suited for a laundromat, she said, noting the neighborhood offers few choices to residents, including those who have to share units at nearby apartment complexes.

Sukhai could not be reached for comment.

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