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Posted on April 16 at 10:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mr. Hershberg also made it quite clear that they would be back asking for a variance to allow more signage than is permitted in Article IX of the zoning code. He pointed out that they have frontage on two streets. The Zoning Code already permits an additional amount of signage when a building has sides on two streets, but apparently Marriott/Galesi wants more.
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The recent zoning amendments took the casino complex out of the regulations in Article IX for signs, when it granted 19,000 sq. ft. of signage to the casino portion of Mohawk Harbor. But, the original Mohawk Harbor marina-hotel-mixed-use project remains subject to Article IX. Of course, the applicant has no fear that its request for more signage might be rejected.


From: Schenectady approves hotel for casino site


Posted on March 24 at 2:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sara, The Gambling War Between the States is heating up and will surely get ugly. According to the Hartford Courant (March 19), Connecticut is about to give approval for up to three more casinos, "placed strategically near state highways that lead to competing out-of-state casino developments." The stated purpose is to preserve the level of revenues and jobs. It apparently makes no difference that a recent Quinnipiac University Poll found that voters opposed expanded gaming in Connecticut by a ratio of nearly 4-to-1.
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Before passing the bill, the committee considered and rejected an amendment that would have kept the casinos from ever receiving state financial aid. The two Indian Tribes that now compete by separately running the Mohegan and Foxwoods Casinos (true destination resorts) will jointly run the three "strategic" casinos, rather than competing to operate each of the three and to make each something more than an uninspiring regional facility meant to slow the seepage of gamblers out of state. One of the few opposing legislators pointed out that rather than making the existing casinos even better, they are merely "looking to get people's money before they drive too far."
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The Connecticut legislators favoring casino expansion are, like their NY counterparts, soothing their consciences over the social problems they will create by mandating the new casinos give money for a Problem Gamblingfund. As I often ask myself about our so-called representatives, "Are they knaves, or fools, or both?"


From: NY casino success would buck trend


Posted on February 28 at 11:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This is a most peculiar Report by a government Board. From its introductory "Disclaimer" page, we learn that:
. "In reaching its determinations, the Board has relied on the actual information or material submitted in [each] application."
. "To the extent that this report contains any errors or omissions, the staff is solely responsible for such errors or omissions, and such errors and omissions are not findings adopted by the Board."
. "For the vast majority of Applicants, the results of the consultants' estimates [of gaming revenues] were substantially lower than those of the Applicants.
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While the Board states the negatives of the other applications, it accepts all the Rivers Casino numbers, projections, promises at face value. The Report never mentions any of the opponents' concerns over higher crime, proximity to Union College and the Stockade, traffic problems, impact on families, etc., much less explain why the concerns were not important. It also fails to explain how a site that already had a $200 million project, in a County that brags of its strong revitalization, meets the criteria of helping spur development.
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The state traffic experts did not make "findings", as reported by the Gazette above, but merely "suggest" that the Schenectady Casino's traffic analysis is "highly detailed with specific analysis of intersections leading to the site," without finding that the Casino's analysis is competent or the details plausible.
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Most telling, the Board simply counts comments pro and con, without considering the source or the strength of the arguments. It is hard to take the Location Board's analysis any more seriously than we should take Rush Streets projections and its promises to protect the interests of the people of Schenectady. Like our City Council, the Location Board has, in its words, "relied on the actual information or material submitted" by the Applicant.


From: Report: Schenectady casino won on location, operator's record


Posted on February 6 at 11:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

gplante227, It sounds like we may both want the same thing: The continued guarantee in the zoning law of public access to the bike trail and the waterfront, accomplished in the current law by requiring an easement on behalf of the public. The amendments to C-3 proposed by the Mayor and owner of the property delete that guarantee from the existing law. The City Council is unwilling to further discuss the issue, explain why the easement requirement is being removed, and demand more details from Mohawk Harbor's owners as to what they plan to do about public access to the bike trail and to the waterfront itself. Instead, the Mayor and majority of the Council want immediate passage of the proposed amendments. Their reason for rushing forward is the existence of an unexplained tight deadline, that I believe is exaggerated or nonexistent.
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The above article is about City Council going forward with the C-3 amendments immediately in a form that continues to take out the current guarantee of permanent public access. When you wrote on behalf of those who "support this moving forward w/out further delay!", it appeared that you wanted the proposed amendments to C-3 to go forward immediately despite their deleting the permanent easement and guarantee of public access. That is why I responded to your comment by saying, "You appear to be willing to give away public access to the waterfront (and even the bike path) for a false deadline." If the amendments go forward "without delay", we would have to depend on the owners of the site to grant public access, instead of it being guaranteed as a matter of law in the zoning ordinance. I am grateful for your clarification.
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Putting the permanent guarantee of public access back into the C-3 ordinance will not slow down the construction, dedication and opening of the State bike trail.
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I am not sure who you are referring to when you say, "So make the connection naysaying minority of waterfront neighbors." Every person who I know who is asking the City Council to slow down and do the amendments in a more responsible manner supports the existence of the bike trail AND the existence in the law of a permanent right to access to the Trail and to the waterfront.
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p.s. I am not sure why you are condemning me for not caring about graffiti. Within 15 minutes of learning about the latest graffiti attack, I was outside on a cold Sunday morning taking photos of the graffiti and immediately sent them to the 350-member Stockade Yahoo email list to warn of the problem. If you Google /Stockade graffiti Giacalone/ you will see this is a topic that has concerned me for quite awhile and resulted in my documenting Stockade graffiti and condemning it, along with sharing documentation with the police.


From: Schenectady City Council mulls zoning for Mohawk Harbor


Posted on February 4 at 5:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Gerald, You appear to be willing to give away public access to the waterfront (and even the bike path) for a false deadline. There is no rush, except the apparent rush to bow down before the Casino Gang. A delay to actually know what the pig in this poke zoning might grow up to be, and to guarantee public access, will not cause this casino to miss a deadline, no matter how many times Peggy and Garry and Dave say there is a tight deadline.
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There is nothing in the amended version of the C-3 that even guarantees public access to the State bike-hike trail. It mandates that a trail be built but says nothing about requiring a public right to use it (as Ms. Mancini admitted last night), or forming a permanent agreement to keep it open as part of the State Trail. Indeed, the amendments do not even mention the State Trail. If the Casino Gang has every intention to permit permanent public access to the Trail, why are they demanding that the City leave any such requirement out of the zoning amendments?
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On the other hand, these amendments don't merely leave out the guarantee, they remove the explicit requirement of an easement guaranteeing permanent public access. The current C-3 law reflects the purpose for creating the district :

. . §264-14(F)

. . (2) Public access and recreation features.

. . (a) Waterfront surface easement. Public access shall be dedicated in the form of a perpetual surface easement, duly executed and in a proper form for recording in the Schenectady County Clerk’s Office and satisfactory to the City Corporation Counsel, for the purpose of assuring public access to and public enjoyment of the waterfront.
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Not only is the above easement provision to assure "public access to and public enjoyment of the waterfront" being deleted, with no replacement, the new provisions make it clear that there is no requirement to install landscaping, benches, esplanades, etc., so that the pubic can "enjoy" the waterfront, and not just move along the Trail. Under traditional legal evaluation of legislative intent, City Council deleting an explicit requirement of waterfront access while intentionally failing to include that requirement elsewhere yields one clear result: There is no right to public access to the Trail or the waterfront.
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If you are really dedicated to that State Trail connecting at Mohawk Harbor, you should be demanding explicit provisions requiring public access to the Trail, the waterfront, and the docks, and not demanding Immediate Action in service of a fake deadline. There would be no delay right now to ensure public access if the Casino Gang didn't persuade their public servants to delete the easement requirement. And, the provisions could be restored with a few minutes at a word processor.


From: Schenectady City Council mulls zoning for Mohawk Harbor


Posted on February 4 at 12:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

My legal opinion (as a retired lawyer who has recently focused on zoning law) is that the Planning Commission can tell you about colors, style and placement, but cannot force you to have less signage than the zoning code allows. I think Mr Falotico feels pretty much the same way, so we are told that "Corporation Council Carl Falotico stressed that the commission has the ability to evaluate the aesthetic visual impact of the project even if the plans satisfy zoning requirements." "Aesthetic visual impact" does not sound like "the Commission can force a height less than 110'," nor "it can require less than 19,000 square feet of signage."
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The irony, which is actually City Hall's goal apparently, is that Galesi and Rush Street will make the same argument as mine above, and of course ,they will get their way.
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Ms. Mancini equates using the bike trail and "access to retail" with riverbank access, while admitting that the zoning amendments do not require public access. It is becoming hard to write parody about our City Hall. My suggestions recently that you will end up with "Keep on Moving" signs on the trail (if Galesi decides to keep it open), and "Customers Only" signs along the riverbank. See discussion at http://tinyurl.com/BadZoningLaw
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Also, Ms. Mancini forgot to mention that (1) only ONE pylon is discussed in the SEQRA statement, but the Amendments allow "pylon signs"; and (2) in the SEQRA report the Applicant only asked for 15,000 sq. ft. of signage, not 19,000.


From: Schenectady City Council mulls zoning for Mohawk Harbor


Posted on February 3 at 5:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There is an important typo in the Letter above with the title "Zoning changes need to be studied further". The actual maximum height of a freestanding sign under the current law for the C-3 district is seven (7) feet, not 70, as is printed in the Letter to the Editor. Therefore, in the list of significant changes that the amendments to district C-3 would make to the current C-3 ordinance, the 2nd item should say that the proposed amendments to C-3 would:
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2) Change a 7-foot limit on freestanding signs to [permitting] a 90-foot pylon, without even a line-of-sight study.
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Thanks, Opinion department, for printing my Letter. Please make the correction described above.


From: Forces will come back to bite us on gas price


Posted on January 29 at 12:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you for trying to slow down this needless and reckless rush to turn Schenectady's zoning decisions over to the people who have the most to gain from lax standards. The casino applicant told Metroplex in early August 2014 that it wanted a 110' tall gaming facility, so you can bet it has had its own design renderings for a long time. And, it would not be hard for Rush Street (or, how radical, City staffers) to present a slide show or video showing its use of signage and lighting at its Des Plaines casino (where it "only" uses 12,500 sq. ft. of signage).
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It is important to remember that there is no "tight deadline." The two-year deadline for completion of the project starts when the actual gaming license is granted, and no one knows how long the “vetting” process will take and when the license will be granted. As you know, the developer still brags about how far along the site is (they had already spent $100 million there over a year ago and much more since), and how they have their approved Environmental Impact Statement, and brownfield mitigation cruising to conclusion.
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Furthermore, Rush Street was chosen (and touted by the Mayor and Ms. King) because it has significant experience operating casinos, and has already designed casino facilities that are much like the one they will put in Schenectady. Of course, the Galesi Group, the Capital Region’s largest developer commercial property, has the experience to get the job done as quickly as any developer (and the Gaming Board does not expect miracles when it asks for a two-year opening.). And, Sheraton has designed and launched a few hotels since its first one in 1937. Remember, also, Mohawk Harbor faces none of the sort of local opposition that can tie the project up in court or administrative proceedings for long periods. (But, this sloppy bit of zoning. which goes against the City's Comprehensive Plan's waterfront guidance, might just inspire a law suit.)

For more information see the links at http://tinyurl.com/CasinoZoning


From: Editorial: Public needs to see impact of zoning


Posted on January 27 at 1:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It was discouraging to watch supporters proclaim the urgent need for C-3 waterfront zoning so that the casino could exist in Schenectady. C-3 Waterfront zoning already exists and nothing in it prevents the casino from operating successfully. The issue is whether the proposed amendments to C-3, which have provisions far more lax and generous than are imposed on businesses in every other zoning district, are appropriate and best serve Schenectady's residents and future. And, especially important is whether the Council should be rushed to pass these extreme changes, on novel issues with which it has no experience, before requiring more information on just what the casino plans to do on the site? Specific questions include:
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Should Schenectady's signage ordinance, Article IX of the zoning law, be made inapplicable to the casino and its accessory uses? Should the casino be allowed to have 19,000 square feet of signage, when shopping centers in Schenectady only get 150 sq. ft. plus one sq. foot for each foot of storefront, and the casino told Metroplex it would use a maximum of 15,000 sq. ft.? Should the current 7' limit on freestanding signs be changed to 90' for the casino (when the Parker Inn is only 99 feet tall), and the casino's justification is that people won't be able to find it otherwise?
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Should the Casino be allowed to put up 110' buildings (with no special permit required), when the C-3 district was created to preserve riverside views and control growth? And, when the casino has constantly circulated renderings that show a hotel of about 65 feet along the riverbank and a gaming facility much shorter than the hotel? [it has been spreading the false excuse that the old ALCO site had 130' structures that blocked all views of the river, rather than the typical long 50' structures that actually existed at the site.]
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Should the current guarantee of a permanent right to public access to the riverfront, and of a portion of the dock space reserved for the public, be totally deleted from the C-3 zoning ordinance, leaving public access into the future up to the owner, which has repeated constantly lately that "this is private property" when riverfront access is mentioned?
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Should we give a lot of weight to the recent approval of the C-3 amendments by the Planning Commission, when the commissioners where not given even one page of materials explaining the amendments and the reasons they were selected; when the commissioners admitted they were not experienced with issues and facts related to casino zoning; and when the people who gave the Commission point by point explanations and justifications for the proposed amendments were not the City's Development and Legal staff, but were Mr. Buicko from Galesi Group and a lawyer and consultant of Rush Street Gaming?
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Let's stop, research and think. For more discussion of the issues raised by the proposed amendments to the C-3 zoning ordinance, go to
http://tinyurl.com/CasinoZoning


From: Majority at Schenectady hearing back zoning changes for Alco site


Posted on January 23 at 10:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You forgot to mention another important change from the current law: The section requiring a permanent easement for public access to the riverbank has been deleted, as has the section requiring that a minimum of 10% of linear dock footage be available for public use. A lot of people would like to know why, and also how public access will be obtained and secure without a permanent easement.
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The City's Comprehensive Plan calls for the City to secure and enhance public access to this scarce riverside resource. I didn't see an exception in the Plan for casino operators. Is anyone at City Hall looking out for the public?


From: Hearing set in Schenectady for Alco site rezoning


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