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Public feedback sought on proposed Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation expansion

Public feedback sought on proposed Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation expansion

Public hearing scheduled for Aug. 12

SCHENECTADY — The Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation (DSIC) will continue to host public information sessions this week on its proposed service area expansion.

DSIC wants to expand its boundaries for the first time since 1978, a measure the non-profit corporation believes will allow new locations to be marketed as part of an “expanded, vibrant and unified” downtown.

Feedback has been “generally supportive” since DSIC rolled out the proposal last month, Executive Director Jim Salengo told the City Council's Government Operations Committee on Monday. 

But there are some questions in the community, including from at least one Broadway business owner who said they were not interested because they view the area as a light industrial district and don’t see the benefit, Salengo said.

Another business owner on North Centre Street was also not in favor, but for reasons unrelated to expansion, he said.

DSIC sent out 502 letters last month, at least 73 of which were to potential new properties:

The proposed expansion covers three areas:

A  new strip in the north would stretch along Erie Boulevard from Union Street to the Nott Street traffic circle and cover 21 parcels. 

A second area would bring in Little Italy, encompassing North Center Street, Warren Street and North Jay Street, and include 27 parcels. 

The third would include 26 parcels on Broadway from Clinton Street to the I-890 overpass, an area Salengo said is particularly underdeveloped and would benefit from expansion. 

“Is there any way of morphing the plan or is it all or nothing?” asked Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo, citing the Broadway concerns.

Salengo said, “That’s exactly why we’re doing an exhaustive process as possible to get more feedback. We’re in the information gathering stage and we’re looking at all options.”

Councilman Vince Riggi questioned the costs, citing conversations with the Broadway business owner, and wondered if it would be possible to crack down on people seeking handouts from motorists at the Exit 5 off-ramp.

“I’m getting complaints also about Gateway Park,” he said. “There are still people out there nearly getting hit by cars.”

Expanding the district would require City Council approval and would be subject to a public hearing, which has been scheduled for Aug. 12.

Operations for the service area, which is formally known as the Downtown Special Assessment District, are funded in part by property owners. 

The expansion would carry a cost to incoming businesses. An annual assessment is determined using a formula that considers square footage, street footage and location.

The majority of current members pay $295 annually. 

DSIC provides supplemental services to district members, including marketing support and visual improvements like flower baskets and banners. But also helps with cleaning and maintenance, including snow removal. 

Events and promotions like Schenectady Restaurant Week, Schenectady Soup Stroll, Wing Walk and City Hall-iday Weekend all help to draw in crowds, Salengo said.

If approved, Salengo projected DSIC’s total annual expenses would increase from $750,000 in 2020 to $765,000 in 2021, with numbers for the anticipated new service area rising from $65,000 to $66,300 during that same time period. 

That includes annual 2 percent cost-of-living expenses.

For more information, visit downtownschenectady.org.

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