Comments by dagiacalone
Posted on March 24 at 10:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Thank you for an excellent editorial that touches on many of the most important points relevant to the Pylon. When Rush Street comes back with a new version of a giant, free-standing sign or LCD screen, it needs -- as you have said -- to submit an independent visual impact assessment for the proposed size, location and orientation of the structure. Only then can we begin to estimate its effects on residents and traffic nearby and on the overall skyline of our City.
I hope City Hall (from the Mayor and Corporation Counsel, to City Council and the Planning Commission) has learned a very big lesson. They Rushed to change the zoning signage restrictions from allowing one 7' freestanding sign with 75 sq. ft. of signage, to 80' tall and virtually no limit; and from a pylon with an 8' wide sign and 5' wide base to no limit on the width (resulting in a proposed pylon 38' wide); and, they did it in a Rush, solely on the very specious claims of needing the monster pylon for the casino to be seen and for Erie Blvd. traffic to know where to turn soon enough to safely enter the traffic rotary.
One example: In justifying the City's request to amend the zoning law and allow a 20,000 sq. ft. limit on signage for the casino, Corporation Counsel told me the Casino started negotiating by asking for 100,000 sq. ft. He seemed to have forgotten that the Casino told Metroplex and the Racing Commission it would need at most 15,000 sq. ft. And, now it has submitted a plan for about 8,000 sq. ft.
City Hall and the public need to keep the Casino's gross exaggerations of its needs in mind whenever they come asking for special treatment. They need to be watchdogs protecting the public, not cheerleaders repeating the casino's claims, or weaponless Snowmen guarding the gates of our City like on the night of the 1690 Massacre. Our leaders must take their time, use common sense, ask probing questions, and require full submissions about the factual basis of an Applicants' claims and deadline assertions, especially on projects as big and important as Mohawk Harbor and its Casino.
Posted on March 23 at 2:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)
The pylon sign plan has not been "killed", it has been postponed, and your headline does the public a disservice. Rush Street has certainly not promised there will be no huge pylon or giant LCD screen. It is more likely that the Planning office or commissioners are not satisfied with the latest version of the pylon and Rush Street is not willing to postpone approval of the rest of its signage.
There is no way Rush Street will have a casino that does not have a giant "branding sign" saying Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor, and they are well under the generous signage allowance granted by City Hall. On the bright side, this delay will remove any excuse Rush Street and the Planning Commission might try to use for failing to do a thorough Visual Impact Assessment of the pylon sign, with line-of-sight and computer analysis of its impact on nearby residents (such as Fusco's Erie Blvd. apartments, East Front Street, Goose Hill, the Stockade and College Park), and on traffic safety. The Dept. of Environmental Conservation's policy statement on Visual Impact Assessment, for example, says that a formal visual impact assessment is needed, with at least a line-of-site survey, whenever any component of a project can be seen from an historic district, such as the Stockade, with mitigation measures taken to prevent any significant visual impact from the District. [see http://tinyurl.com/VisImpactDEC ]
Posted on March 23 at 11:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Good luck to Automated Dynamics. Mr. Langone makes a good point when he says tearing down the building “will open the casino to Erie Boulevard. That will make the casino more visible from the road." It is more proof the casino spokesmen, who have always planned for the building to come down, were intentionally misleading the Planning Commission and citizens when it said it needs an 80' monster pylon sign because the casino can't be seen from Erie Boulevard. Of course, we all knew it was a phony excuse and the Commission simply ignored the facts to give the casino what it wanted, despite the effects on neighborhoods, traffic safety, and our skyline.
Posted on March 17 at 12:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)
When the possibility of there being a Casino here was first in the news, the Malozzis were very quick to say how great the Casino would be for Schenectady and that it would not hurt Downtown businesses. We'll have to wait to see just how business owners fare who are not in the Galesi-Metroplex-Casino Inner Circle.
Mr. Buicko seems to forget that there is supposed to be plenty of green space at Mohawk Harbor, with limitations on the footprint total of the structures. Let's hope the Planning Commission, or better yet the Planning Staff upfront, remind him. I'm fairly sure the new PC Chair, Mary Wallinger, with her landscape architecture background, is a lot more likely to insist on green space than Mr. Lewis, who never seems to take off his Metroplex hat, would be. Since Mohawk Harbor has rejected full public access to the riverbank, and is limiting it to "hiking and biking" on the Trail, it cannot claim footprint bonuses due to extra public access.
Posted on March 15 at 1:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)
p.s. I sent the points in the prior Comment to City Council and to Reporter Vicarro around 2 PM Monday afternoon.
Posted on March 15 at 1:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)
There are many reasons to reject the name "Rush Street", and many more reasons to honor the history and contributions of ALCO and its workforce at Mohawk Harbor. Honoring our past with a name like American Locomotive Way (or Street or Drive) would be an important reminder to our residents and visitors of our proud and productive past, and of our faith in a future filled with achievements beyond the narrow scope of the gaming industry. It would also recognize that Mohawk Harbor and its Casino can be an Engine for Economic Growth in Schenectady, without also suggesting that Schenectady should be or somehow already is proud of the City's role in the Gaming Industry and related businesses. The casino may bring jobs and added revenues, but it will never bring us civic pride, much less help America win a war or create important new technology.
Why is "Rush Street" an inappropriate name?
1. Virtually no one in our City or the likely geographic area of the casino's market knows what Rush Street Chicago is. The few that do would only be disappointed to see its pale reflection here. Rush Street Schenectady will be almost as different from its Chicago namesake as our Wall Street is to the one in Manhattan.
2. Rush Street Chicago was named after Benjamin Rush, a prominent physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence. But, Dr. Rush was a major force against gaming and drunkenness, and tried to ban them in our new Constitution. He surely would decline the "honor" of having his name plastered on every Casino brochure.
3. The drug connections with the word "rush" should alone make the name anathema for our casino compound.
4. Naming the Street after Rush Street Gaming is at best premature and would be proof that Fools Rush In. Rush Street Gaming has yet to prove that it will be a good corporate neighbor or citizen in Schenectady. There is plenty of proof that RSG asks for much and gives virtually nothing it is not forced by law to give. It has been far more generous at its other casino locations with extra funding for local development and community services, and general mitigation of impact expenses. In addition, in 2012, like good businessmen, Neil Bluhm and Greg Carlin sold their Riverwalk Casino in Vicksburg, Miss., only four years after it opened. That makes the Rush Street connection less than solid.
Honoring our ALCO history and signaling our belief in a future that will once again be productive and worthy of civic pride are goals that point strongly to rejection of the street name Rush Street. For more on this topic, with links to related materials, see http://tinyurl.com/RushStWrong
Posted on March 13 at 11:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)
It is a pretty good bet that there will be many more young problem gamblers in Schenectady when the casino opens. For a discussion and links to materials (including Rush Street Gaming's targeting of young gamblers), see http://tinyurl.com/CollegeCasino
I hope that the psychology and sociology departments (and related disciplines) at SCCC, and Union College, will help its students and our community learn about the impact and prevention of problem gambling and the social impact of urban casinos on their communities. And, I hope the Gazette will start some in depth coverage of these issues and possible solutions.
Posted on March 7 at 1:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Re PILOTS, Ms. Viccaro, please ask Mr. Gillen to explain what he means by "Now folks are paying basically the market rate tax levels that make us competitive." He certainly does not mean they are paying property taxes as if they were assessed at market value. Does he mean 1) paying a rate that would allow the developer a big enough profit to be willing to come to Schenectady, or to be able to charge a sales price or rent low enough to attract tenants or buyers to Schenectady? Or, 2) a rate that makes Schenectady competitive with development honchos and politicians in other municipalities trying to attract development? Or, 3) Something else?
We could also use some details on just who is getting those jobs and how the reality compares to the promised number of jobs, what "recurring revenues" are actually coming in during the life of the PILOTS, and just how the residents of our County are seeing a "great return on investment."
Posted on March 6 at 8:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)
This opinion piece raises important issues that require thoughtful consideration, and not the seat-of-the-pants lawmaking and rubber-stamp approval process so loved by Mayor McCarthy. It appears to be another situation where the Mayor has dreamt up a zoning change to help a particular class of developer without doing the research, acquiring the stats and facts, or engaging in the discussion of alternatives and unintended consequences that would allow thoughtful consideration by the Planning Commission or the public. There clearly is no urgency that requires quick action, although there may be a developer/contributor pressing for a quick change in the law.
Anyone who has lived in a truly walkable City knows that downtown Schenectady is far from that goal (in good weather, much less bitter cold or shadeless Downtown summers). The prospective tenants sought after by the Development Cheerleaders will almost all have cars or want one as soon as it is affordable -- to get to a real grocery or apparel store, or to participate in rural recreation, or drive home from the sort of professional job that requires long, often uncontrollable hours. When they realize there is no convenient, inexpensive, or safe place to park in the early or late evening, they'll be looking elsewhere for an upper-market place to live.
The Planning Commission was given about one sentence in writing to explain the many, complex changes to Waterfront zoning demanded by the casino last year. The City Council was given virtually no explanation for the Mayor's successful request to have the unfettered authority to greatly increase parking meter fees, and to start charging in the evening and on weekends and holidays. No outsider with any background in planning, zoning law, or common sense can look at how such important decisions are made and still think of Schenectady as a Smart City.
Smart Cities do more than hook up dimmer switches to light fixtures. They do their homework to learn the needs of the residents and businesses, to see what other cities have done in similar situations, to realistically gauge the effects of a proposed change, and to encourage a discussion before even considering voting on major changes or asking the public to respond without the benefit of necessary background information and time.
Posted on March 6 at 7:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Thanks for reminding the community how mportant and fragile the Stockade is. Protecting the Stockade will take vigilance and dollars, and people willing to tell City Hall when it is being shortsighted or wrongheaded.