Farewell, Latham checkerboard water towers

Pair of Latham checkerboard towers.

They have a checkered past. And present. But no future.

By Akum Norder

Update: Colonie says the dismantling has been postponed until there's warmer weather. [Troy Record]

If you're driving through Latham this week, tip your cap to the checkerboard towers.

Demolition of Latham's landmark water towers is scheduled to start today.

The FAA has said the towers have to be removed because they're on the flight path of a runway at the Albany International Airport.

In a way, we have the airport to thank for the towers' distinctive paint job: it was intended to make them more visible to pilots. They're even checkerboard on top:

But a runway extension, completed in 2003, prompted the FAA to declare the tanks an obstruction.

"Now, we have to make a nonstandard approach to the center line of the runway. If the water towers were to be relocated, it would allow us to use a standard approach," FAA spokesman Jim Peters told the Times Union in 2000. "Another reason we are doing this is the airport's runway, at some point, will be extended for use by heavier jets. The heavier jets cannot use the runway now because of its length." [TU]

Residents voiced concerns over the years that with the towers gone, planes would fly in lower over nearby homes. An airport spokesman said in 2001 that wouldn't be a concern, because the touchdown point for planes on that runway would not change. [TU]

The big tank was built in 1964; two smaller tanks, 1932. With a combined capacity of over 3 million gallons, they supplied water to more than 75,000 people.

The water has already been drained. Workers will be taking the tanks apart section by section. [CBS6]

Latham won't look the same without them.


Well great. Now how in the heck am I supposed to know if I’m in Latham? Or Clifton Park? Or Peachtree City? Or Fairview? Or Agrestic?

Back in the day when I was a SUNY Plattsburgh student from Westchester, those towers were more than a landmark. If you were headed north on the Northway, seeing those towers signaled you better stop to pee, eat and get gas (mandatory for my Olds Delta 88). You were about to leave civilization. If you were headed south, it marked your return to civilization and the halfway point to home and hearth. Despite their ugliness, they still evoked feelings some 35 years later.

I still believe it's the only good piece of art in this whole area. Well, besides the bicyclist on the side of the building on Henry Johnson and Western Ave.

By the way, from the CBS6 article: "The entire project is costing 11.1 million dollars but 5.9 million of that is paid for through stimulus dollars." I can think of about 5.9 million other things that stimulus money could have been spent on. And what about the rest? Is Colonie or Albany County spending it?

I could be wrong, but I think the airport is paying for the rest of the removal. Before the runway was extended, the airport would have done an avigation easement assessment of all the properties, structures and vegetation that would be affected by the new approach path, and decidewhat would need to be purchased and/or removed. The costs associated with that would have gone into the decision to extend the runway.

I would never have guessed that it would cost 11.1 million to remove those towers.

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