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Suburban malls can survive with more density, diversity

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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Suburban malls can survive with more density, diversity

Sara Foss made some good points in her recent column, “Malls of the past a thing of the past?” about the uncertain future of the traditional local mall like Rotterdam Square and the need for investment and reinvention — for example, by becoming “lifestyles centers” — to remain competitive with big-box stores, mega malls, and the Internet.

I believe increasing both the diversity and density of activities are necessary to ensure that malls remain both vibrant community centers and commercially viable. But beyond the usual mix of retail, dining and entertainment, these suburban malls should also become even more like an urban downtown, by growing vertically with new office/hotel towers.

Stuyvesant Plaza’s 170,000-square-foot, 10-story Executive Park Tower and the recently built 104-room, five-story Hilton Garden Inn at Clifton Park Center demonstrate that high-rise development can be accommodated within an existing shopping center development.

Malls are also more transit- and pedestrian-friendly than big-box highway strip development; you can take the bus and then walk between destinations.

The concept of joint use parking should be employed at all malls. Observe a shopping center during the weekday and you will see acres of empty parking spaces, because the highest demand for stores and cinemas is during the evenings, weekends and holidays. In stark contrast, office parking lots sit empty at night and on the weekend. This is a waste; there is no reason why at least a quarter of parking spaces at the typical mall couldn’t do double duty, since retail, cinema and office space together have staggered peak periods of demand. You should be able to add a large amount of new office space at malls without increasing the size of the existing parking lots.

A new office tower or hotel generates additional revenue for the mall landlord, increases weekday daylight foot traffic for existing retail and restaurant tenants, adds to the local tax base, and enhances overall regional environmental sustainability by making efficient use of existing resources (parking spaces) and reducing the need for new greenfield construction.

Benjamin J. Turon

Ballston Spa

Sch’dy needs county, not city court, judge

Who in heaven’s name decided that the city of Schenectady needed a fourth city judge [Jan. 28 Gazette]? As someone who has dealings with our court system, it has been decidedly evident for years that Schenectady County was in desperate need of at least another county court judge, which would give us two.

That, incidentally, would put us on a par with neighboring Fulton County and its 50,000-some residents, which regularly shares one of its county judges with our county because of the workload. We also must regularly pull in a judge from any one of several other counties in the judicial district. The need for visiting judges has been the established norm in the county for years.

I have also noted that others, more knowledgeable than I, have cited similar workload issues in our Family Court, which does have two judges. While this may also be the case, I have heard no one talk of the need for a fourth city judge.

Is it still possible to revise the state-level action and enable the county to secure the services of a second jurist?

Robert K. Corliss

Schenectady

The writer is co-chairman of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Schenectady.

Raise minimum wage for workers, economy

Republican congressional leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner oppose raising the federal minimum wage, arguing that such an action would be a “job killer.” Mr. Boehner has said that: “When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it.”

If Mr. Boehner’s assertion is correct, then it must follow that lowering the minimum wage would increase employment. What a simple solution to the unemployment problem: “the more we lower the price of employment, the more we get.” Of course, all these new low-wage employees would require substantial assistance from programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid, seriously increasing the financial burden on taxpayers.

There is no evidence to support Mr. Boehner’s assertion. In fact, many studies suggest that raising the minimum wage would stimulate the economy and create jobs, since low-wage earners tend to spend all of their income on goods and services.

Mr. Boehner is simply spouting the rhetoric of employers who seek to hire low-wage workers because this strategy increases their profits. The presence of millions of undocumented immigrants in our labor force is further testament to this practice.

Businesses are unlikely to increase wages without government intervention. The growing income inequality in our country is a moral disgrace which has the potential to cause social instability. The working poor in America deserve a “living wage,” not just a “minimum wage.”

Don Steiner

Niskayuna

Playing politics over plowing in Glenville

Re Feb. 15 letter, “Could Glenville plows have responded any slower”: It is a shame that Mrs. Draves used her husband’s political loss as a means to attack the arduous work of the town of Glenville highway employees.

During my tenure as an employee with the highway department, regardless of the highway superintendent’s political affiliations, the employees always served the community with efficiency. To suggest we would discriminate based upon party preferences is nothing more than an insult to the integrity of the employees.

Save the ridiculous political rhetoric for election time.

Robert Kirkham

Glenville

The writer is a medium equipment operator for the town of Glenville.

*

Re Michele Draves’ Feb. 15 letter, “Why so slow with Glenville plowing?”: I find it kind of petty and childish to be making a snowstorm into a political issue.

This snow season has been very busy for a lot of municipalities up and down the East Coast, especially in the Capital Region. From my own observations, each town has been doing its best to keep up with the snow; and at a rate of two to three inches an hour, there’s only so much you can do with the limited resources you may have.

I suggest Mrs. Draves should call Tom Coppola, the highway superintendent, or Chris Koetzle, the town supervisor (who both won election with overwhelming support from the voters in the Scotia/Glenville area), with any concerns on the operations of this great town of ours.

What I read from her letter was a sore loser making a minor situation into a political issue.

Timothy J. Gaffney Jr.

Glenville

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