AT A REGULAR MEETING OF THE TOWN BOARD OF THE TOWN OF NISKAYUNA DULY CALLED AND HELD ON THE 29TH DAY OF APRIL, 2008, AT THE NISKAYUNA TOWN BOARD ROOM, ONE NISKAYUNA CIRCLE, NISKAYUNA, NEW YORK, THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS WERE PRESENT:
JULIE M. McDONNELL, COUNCILWOMAN
MARIA P. FREUND, COUNCILWOMAN
DIANE P. O’DONNELL, COUNCILWOMAN
LIZ ORZEL KASPER, COUNCILWOMAN (absent)
JOE LANDRY, SUPERVISOR
Others present: Helen Kopke, Town Clerk; Eric Dickson, Town Attorney; Lew Moskowitz, Chief of Police; Paul Sebesta, Comptroller; Matthew Yetto, Jr. Engineer; Frank Gavin, Superintendent of Highways; Richard Pollock, Superintendent of Water & Sewer; and Kathy Matern, Town Planner.
Firefighter of the Year Award and Rookie of the Year Award
Supervisor Landry presented Certificates of Merit for Firefighter of the Year and Rookie of the Year for the Town’s fire districts.
Fire District No. 1
Nick Persons received Firefighter of the Year and he is currently taking the firefighter course in Utica. Nick joined the department as a volunteer, quickly came up the ranks and became an EMT and the EMS Lieutenant in 2007. He conducted all the EMS training for volunteers, developed a new volunteer orientation program for the Grand Boulevard Fire Company, updated the volunteer vehicle driver training program, received commendations from the Regional Emergency Medical organization for cardiac reversals, attended Paramedic School, received the Basic Life Support Provider of the Year, responded to over 432 of their 1,963 calls and was the number two responder. He did all of this while going to school obtaining his Paramedic certification.
Rookie of the Year, Craig Hafner, joined the Grand Boulevard Fire Company in April 2007 and immediately had a positive impact on the residents of the district and was very available for day time responses. He trained quickly as a Class 1 Emergency Vehicle Driver so he could drive the ambulances, took all of the required New York State Fire fighter courses that he could in his first eight months as a volunteer and became an Interior Firefighter in less than a year. Out of the 1,963 emergency calls he personally responded to 494 and was the top responder for the Grand Boulevard Fire Company.
Fire District No. 2 Fire Fighter of the Year was given to Gerry Barbiero. He became an EMT and quickly became an Interior Firefighter. He ran their open house and is one of the top responders for calls and training.
Stanford Heights Firefighter of the Year was awarded to Paul Avery and has been with the department for two years. He was the number one responder for fire and EMS for about 400 calls out of their 850 calls. He is very dedicated and has participated in community service, and their open house for fire prevention.
Smoke Free Parks
A presentation on Smoke Free Parks was conducted by Jeanie Orr, Project Coordinator, Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition. One of their missions is to promote initiatives for the health of our communities including tobacco free parks.
In New York, over 40 municipalities have adopted smoke free or tobacco free policies for their parks, playgrounds, pools, and picnic areas. The City of Schenectady has made their Tiny Tot Land smoke-free along with their municipal pools. The Town of Colonie has a no smoking policy in their playground and the Town of Clifton Park has a smoke free policy for all their pools.
Ms. Orr described the risks of smoke and tobacco along with the benefits of initiating outdoor tobacco free areas within the Town. If the Town decides to adopt this policy, their organization can provide signs at no cost to the Town. She suggested that the Town publicize the policy through signs, newsletters, our website, brochures, and newspaper articles. She distributed information to the Board describing how other municipalities have instituted this idea.
Powell Road Public Hearing No. 1 - A public hearing was held to consider the amendment of the Town’s Official Map to eliminate the paper street known as Powell Road.
When no members of the public wished to be heard, Supervisor Landry closed the public hearing.
St. James Square & Metroplex Public Hearing No. 2 - A public hearing was held to consider enactment of a local law to increase the boundaries of the Schenectady Metroplex service district to include St. James Square Plaza.
XXXXX, Angelina Drive, and County Legislative Representative for District 3, supports enactment of this local law to include St. James Square in the Metroplex service territory. We have watched St. James Square with vacant space for too long. There is a total of 80,000 SF of vacant space in the complex which makes up one of the largest vacant structures in the County. They need to attract office tenants and fill the remaining retail space with tenants that support the office space. He has spoken to Ray Gillen and Susan Savage and their goal is to have every possible economic tool available to redevelop this space. Metroplex has a history of doing this type of development and we should take advantage of their expertise.
XXXXX, Seneca Road, and President of the Chamber of Schenectady County,
is in support of St. James Square being included in the Metroplex Development Authority Service area and encouraged the Board to vote in favor of enacting this local law. The Chamber recognizes and acknowledges that Metroplex is a one of a kind economic engine in New York State and has proven to become a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Schenectady, job creation, millions of dollars of investment and the retention and growth of existing businesses in the County.
The expertise of marketing and the utilization of the Metroplex Economic Development tools offer the owners of the Square and the Town a focused, collaborative, and coordinated implementation for a successful economic development plan. Allowing St. James Square to be included in the Metroplex footprint makes good business sense for all of the stake holders.
XXXXX, 1919 Pawtucket Road, is not opposed to including St. James Square in the Metroplex Service District under the condition that Metroplex does not have the ability to overrule local zoning. She believes this may have been included in the final legislation and she feels this is a major concern. She would not want to see the current zoning disrupted without due consideration by the Planning Board and Town Board. The plaza is located in the heart of the Town and abuts the high school and residential areas and it is important that the community standard be maintained. She thinks Metroplex has been very responsible but leadership changes over time and she would like to safeguard the site.
XXXXX, 2229 Fairlawn Parkway thinks this is a good initiative and is good foresight and planning for St. James Square. She hoped that once this is resolved that the Board moves on to Hannaford Plaza.
XXXXX, 1465 Clifton Park Road, and member of the Metroplex Board, believes that placing St. James Square in the Metroplex service district provides another resource in filling some long vacant commercial space. The Metroplex Authority has a lot of financial tools available to it in terms of loans, grants and financing assistance. They can also help leverage State grant money, Empire Zone money, IDA and pilot programs and can also help with façade improvements.
Having the plaza vacant has lost us sales tax revenue and we need an anchor store to attract shoppers to other less visible stores. Extending Metroplex to businesses will get Niskayuna up to par with our neighboring communities in terms of having commercial, light-industrial zones eligible for Metroplex grant funds.
XXXXX, 23 Pinecrest Drive and owner of LT’s Grill in St. James Plaza, has tried for the last 1-1/2 years to promote the plaza with very little support. Many residents do not know what businesses are in the plaza and he appreciates the support that Metroplex can offer. His business needs help and whatever we can do to get people into the mall will help.
XXXXX, General Manager of Niskayuna Coop, highly supports Metroplex and this plan. An office complex would be a perfect fit for this large space which would generate business for everyone.
XXXXX, City of Schenectady, felt that if original legislation for Metroplex allowed for other towns in the County to avail themselves of Metroplex’s offerings the Town would be crazy not to go for it. She has worked with Ray Gillen for a number of years and has found him to be an amazing advocate for development in Schenectady and the outlying Towns. He could analyze why this has happened to St. James Square. Niskayuna has some of the highest rate of income in the upstate area and yet we can’t support retail establishments in this square. She suggested that the Town perform market analysis and look at this as to why this situation occurred here.
XXXXX, 1405 Hempstead Court, Principal Broker, Pyramid Brokerage Company, has been retained by the owners of Phase II of the square which was developed on three parcels. The owner of the first two parcels is very close to securing the third parcel (Phase II). The current owners of Phase II are debt collectors and there has been difficulty marketing the property for the past two years. When the entire property is controlled by one entity it can move forward in a focused manner.
His firm has national contacts and also does marketing analysis. He feels that St. James Square will have a minor retail component and will be a suburban office complex with a retail mix as there is no suburban office space in Schenectady County. When he was asked to market Phase II none of the major developers in the Capital District were interested in this property. We now have ownership that will take this over with professional management and he expects to see good things happen by fall.
XXXXX, 830 Karenwold, Schenectady, Commissioner of Planning & Economic Development for Schenectady County, and Chairman of Metroplex, believes the Board shares the commitment that this space needs to find new users that reflect Niskayuna’s interests and needs. The new owner is aggressive and owns many properties like this. It is a very well financed company and in recent weeks they have been showing the property to tech companies, retailers, medical companies and a mix of businesses who could occupy the space.
Metroplex will obey and be in complete conformance with all Town rules, regulations, and zoning requirements. He praised Town staff and stated they will inform the Town of any leads and will obey all Town requirements while the Town acts as lead agency on the project. With the exception of the very large buildings at the Alco Plant, this is the largest vacant commercial structure in Schenectady County with over 80,000 SF of vacant space. Their goal is to fill it with a great mix of retail and office users that will create good paying jobs.
XXXXX, 1452 Via Del Mar, and past President of the Niskayuna Coop, thinks Metroplex is an excellent tool and what St. James Square desperately needs. He is thrilled with the idea that the Town will have the resources to have the property filled successfully and will help the surrounding businesses. This is also good for the neighborhood and can do nothing but good.
XXXXX, 2260 Grand Boulevard and current President of the Niskayuna Coop, also supports help from Metroplex. As an architect, he feels the plaza needs a face lift and feels this would be the most responsible development step the Town could take for attracting offices.
XXXXX, 2455 Brookshire Drive, stated that the concept of converting St. James Square to office and retail seems like a good idea and a good fit. The lose seems to be that people haven’t shopped there and she feels it is because the major draw had gone bankrupt. She wondered if the Town Board had thoroughly investigated exactly how much involvement the Town will have on the reconditioning and renting of the space much of which has never been occupied.
PRIVILEGE OF THE FLOOR
XXXXX, 2229 Fairlawn Parkway, noted that her aunt’s house was recently reassessed for $210,000 but will be going on the market soon with a listing price of between $139,000 and $169,000 (according to real estate professionals). She thinks the increases residents experienced in reassessments will present a problem to many residents including retired, families with young children, and families with children in college. We are all suffering from the economic woes of fuel and food and the last thing they can afford are higher tax increases on top of the reassessment.
She hoped that St. James Square was the beginning of resolving some of these problems by bringing in more commercial property to offset the heavily taxed property owners. She is also concerned about the company that performed our revaluation after Rotterdam had complaints.
XXXXX, 3454 Albany Street, stated that he is in favor of a town-wide moratorium on new construction. His main concern is the Stanford Home and surrounding property. He wished the Board will help educate people of the history associated with this building which has been here as long as the Town.
Mr. Lester noted the recent death of Ralph Cognetta a 26-year veteran who was a Foreman for the Highway Department.. At his funeral he saw no recognition of his service to the Town and would like to see something done by the Town to praise and celebrate his years of service.
XXXXX, 344 Sheridan Avenue, Albany, also suggested a development moratorium to give the Town time to reorganize our planning and conceptualization balancing out what is put where and what limitations we want. The Town could approach the state legislature for an enabling bill to participate in Community Preservation Act. This bill has been pending for years and would enable the Town to charge a 2-1/2% land surcharge for property transfers to buy land for parks, preserves, development rights, and historic properties. He gave a copy of the bill to the Board for its consideration.
XXXXX, 1082 Regent Street, doesn’t know if a quasi tech-office space will work at St. James Square but he applauds the effort as the right thing to do. The Stanford residence is probably not the best place for business or retail because there is already something there of value which adds green space.
Peter Kent recently spoke to the Board and made some suggestions for efficiencies and he wondered if the Board had looked at his recommendations. If the Board wished, the State Comptroller’s Office offers help with reviewing budgets to help lower costs and overhead for the Town.
Supervisor Landry noted that Mr. Kent appeared last year during the budget process and the Board could get his recommendations from the minutes of that meeting.
XXXXX, Chair, Schenectady Heritage Foundation ( a not-for-profit group that fosters historic preservation in Schenectady County) urged the Town to establish a limited building moratorium for 6 to 12 months to address overall planning that would take into consideration the historic resources of the Town, such as monuments, that are not currently part of our Comprehensive Plan. She believes all the issues talked about tonight are connected. The Town should take a look at why residents haven’t supported merchants at St. James Square in the past. These should be looked before the Board takes the radical step of destroying a historic resource like the Stanford Mansion. The current developer has not talked about demolishing the historic part of the building, but
to destroy the greenery and park-like setting would be a waste.
They don’t have all the answers such as what to do with this land, but it’s worth stepping back from the commercial frenzy of building another drug store to take another look at how this can be used for Niskayuna’s benefit.
XXXXX, Filmore Street, expressed his concern about the safety of residents around Albany Street. The street is too narrow and vehicles often speed endangering children and pedestrians. The street is especially dangerous during morning and afternoon rush hours and he felt that residents on this side of Town do not receive services they deserve. He supports a building moratorium and would like the Town to look into what has gone wrong with the transactions surrounding the Ingersoll Home.
XXXXX, 2421 Troy Road, President of the Friends of Stanford Home, stated they won the case in September which nullified the Special Use Permit then lost the appeal to the Highbridge developer. They plan to proceed to the Court of Appeals and will also be producing a brief for a building injunction to protect the land should the Highbridge and the Trustees finally exchange deeds which a secret contract had promised would happen three years ago. This arrangement between the two entities was never revealed in Town meetings. They haven’t given up in dealing with what they thought were duplicities and lapses in legal procedures during the contracts between Highbridge and the Trustees.
They had filed a complaint with Donald Siegel, Assistant Attorney General, Bureau of Charities, who did not act on this complaint at the time, however, in March, Mr. Siegel forwarded documents to the Attorney General, Division of Charities in New York City.
They are urging a limited building moratorium by the Town and would like the support the three Town Board members who have supported the preservation of this site. She urged them to continue to seek ways to preserve this property from any destruction of the land, topography, the building, and the trees. She knows there is work going on to seek a better solution to building another mall.. She hopes that the two Councilpersons who supported the developers of the mall would also look at the viability of the future of any stores that might be put there. She has arranged for a botanist to walk the parameter of the property this Saturday, May 3 at 9 a.m. and invited all to attend.
Supervisor Landry invited representatives from the organization to give a full presentation May 8 at 4:30 to the Economic Development, Historic Preservation, and Environmental Conservation Committee.
XXXXX, 2355 Brookshire Drive, agrees with a temporary building moratorium. There are lands that should be looked at for future development. This is not only to preserve the Ingersoll Home but to preserve the rest of our 14 square miles.
The temporarily members of the Board of Assessment Review attended a three hour course run by the County Real Property Services and are all qualified to be temporary Board members who will assist the permanent members. They may or may not be used depending on the grievance process.
She felt that a long-standing Zoning Board member, Thomas Przyzek, should have received recognition for his many years of excellent service to that Board. He was respected and appointed by both Democrats and Republican administrations and did a fine job.
XXXXX, Bradley Street, Schenectady, told the Board that people from Schenectady are concerned about Niskayuna and St. James Plaza. She would like to keep the Stanford Home property as it is today.
XXXXX, 2205 Dean Street, spoke in support of the moratorium.
XXXXX, Filmore Street, spoke in support of the moratorium.
XXXXX, whose family home is on Consaul Road, supported a building moratorium. She does not want to disturb the entrance to Schenectady.
Councilwoman O’Donnell reproted that the Highway Department will receive an additional $27,000 in CHIPS money for road improvements. Post cards have been mailed to residents regarding a zone change for leaf pickup in particular areas of Town. The Department is currently picking up leaves and brush on a random basis and will start their zone schedule on May 12. Repair of lawns effected resurfacing on Fox Hollow have started. Their next meeting is Friday, May 9 at 7:30 a.m.
Councilwoman McDonnell announced for the Education & Recreation Committee spring sports are underway. The Committee continues to work closely with clubs and other community organizations to put more centralized information on the web site so Town residents can access all opportunities for their youth on the web site and link directly to registrations.
They are working on on-line registrations for Town programs and anticipate having on-line registrations for fall soccer which will help develop an e-mail list for announcements.
Next meeting is Wednesday, May 7, at the Community Center at 7:30 p.m.
Councilwoman Freund, stated Public Works is starting to hire summer laborers and student interns. Their next meeting is May 7 at 7:30 a.m.
Niska-Day is Saturday, May 17 with a change in venue to Craig Elementary School. The parade will start at the same place but end at St. James Plaza and she requested volunteers to help with parking at Craig School. Councilwoman McDonnell and Supervisor Landry were asked to participate as judges in the float competition. Niska-Day now has its own web site (www.niskaday.org) or a link can be found on the Town’s website.
Supervisor Landry announced for the Public Safety Committee that the Board will be ratifying the PBA Contract at tonight’s meeting. Both the Pubic Safety Committee and the Parks & Senior Programs Committee announcements will be forthcoming as soon as Councilwoman Kasper returns.
The Economic Development & Historic Preservation & Environmental Conservation Committee will meet on Thursday, May 8, 4:30 p.m. in the Paul Schaffer Room. The Finance & General Government Committee will meet on Monday, May 12, at
6 p.m. in the Paul Schaffer Room.
The following resolutions were approved with a vote of four ayes (Councilman Kasper was absent) unless otherwise noted.
Resolution 2008-79 appoints Joshua Wyman to the position of Civilian Police Dispatcher, on a permanent basis, at a salary of $28,238 per year, effectively immediately.
Resolution 2008-80 calls for a public hearing, May 27, 2008 at 7 p.m. to consider an application by Dr. Gerald Brescia for the reuse of 1758 Union Street as a medical/professional office.
Resolution 2008-81 appoints a list of individuals as temporary seasonal laborers in the Parks Department effective May 1, 2008.
Resolution 2008-82 authorizes the acceptance of the proposal from Thomas J. Loehr Excavating to furnish all necessary equipment, labor, and trucking in conjunction with emergency repairs for the Highway Department and Water & Sewer Department and authorizes expenditures up to a total amount not to exceed $10,000.
Resolution 2008-83 appoints Joshua P. Schmidt, to the position of Maintenance Worker in the Water & Sewer Department, effective immediately, at a rate of $15.47 per hour.
Resolution 2008-84 appoints a list of individuals to the position of part-time summer laborers and student interns in the Water & Sewer Department, without benefits, effective May 12, 2008.
Resolution 2008-85 appoints Andrew C. Smith, to the position of full-time Grounds Worker in the Parks Department at a salary of $14.2582 per hour, effective May 1, 2008.
Resolution 2008-86 authorizes the Comptroller to make various transfers of funds in the 2008 Budget.
Resolution 2008-87 accepts the bid from Digital Ally, for the purchase of six in-car video systems and six flash memory cards for use by the Police Department for a total of $24,750.
Resolution 2008-88 calls for a public hearing May 15, 2008 at 7 p.m. on a proposed increase and improvement of facilities of Consolidated Water District No. 1 consisting of the development of four (4) new water wells.
Resolution 2008-89 authorizes the purchase of adjustable manhole riser rings from American Highway Products at a total annual cost not to exceed $9,500.
Resolution 2008-90 approves the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement and authorizes the Supervisor to enter into a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Niskayuna Police Benevolent Association for the period January 21, 2007 until December 31, 2008.
Resolution 2008-91 appoints Corinne Cazer, Karen Lombardo, Michelle Mazuryk, and Paul Moore to a one-year term as temporary members of the Board of Assessment Review, effective immediately, at a compensation of $50 per session, not to exceed $150 per day.
At this time with a motion by Councilwoman McDonnell, which was seconded by Councilwoman O’Donnell, the Board unanimously voted to enter into Executive Session to discuss contract negotiations.
There being no further business to come before the Board, Supervisor Landry adjourned the meeting.
Helen F. Kopke, Town Clerk