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Park South redevelopment plan gets final OK

Park South renderings

A rendering of the mixed use buildings along New Scotland Ave.

Updated with newer renderings

The plan to clear and redevelop two whole blocks in Albany's Park South neighborhood got approval to move ahead from the city planning board Thursday evening. Phased demolition of the existing buildings will be starting soon, and construction is slated to begin this October.

The $110 million project -- a collaboration between Albany Medical Center and Tri-City Rentals -- includes more than 265 residential units, retail space along New Scotland Ave, a large medical office building, and a parking garage. Much of the plan has been met with enthusiasm and support by city leaders and community members, but the garage -- and its size -- has been a frequent target of criticism. And Thursday evening was no different.

There's a new batch of renderings above in large format, if you'd like to have a look -- click or scroll all the way up.

park south redevelopment satellite initial announcement
A satellite view of the redevelopment area, from the project's announcement last summer.

This latest round of discussion about the 816-space garage was prompted by the results of a parking and transportation study of the project that was recently released. The consultancy hired to produce the report concluded that the number of new parking spaces in the project overshot the forecasted demand by about 120 spaces. But rather than adjust the size of the parking garage, the report noted the extra capacity presented "a great opportunity to accommodate the parking for other future uses at this site."

Both the excess capacity and the future uses drew attention during the public comment period ahead of the planning board vote.

Martin Daley* -- whose family lives a block and a half from the redevelopment site, and is a frequent commenter and advocate on transportation planning issues -- urged the board to take the study's conclusion about the forecasted extra spaces into account when thinking about the size of the garage, and framed not doing so as a failure to apply the principles of the city's Albany 2030 comprehensive plan.

Andrew Harvey, the president of the Park South Neighborhood Association, commented that the study's mention of future uses "raises some interesting issues" -- and "what those future needs might be is something to grapple with." But he also praised the overall project and predicted it would prompt a "real renaissance" in the adjacent areas.

Common Council member Judy Doesschate -- whose ward borders the redevelopment area -- reported that residents in her district had expressed concerns about the size of the garage, and the parking study appeared to lend weight to that skepticism. "It doesn't make sense to me to spend money on quality studies that we don't use," she said. After the vote, she told us there are a lot of positive aspects to the project overall, but she was disappointed by the garage angle. "I think the garage should be smaller, the residents asked for it to be smaller, and the study documented that it didn't need be as big as it is."

The planning board's vote to approve the project plan was unanimous, and was not preceded by any public discussion by the board.

park south parking garage rendering 2013 Robin original proposalpark south parking garage rendering 2014-April
Top: The original proposed parking garage. Bottom: A design dated to this past April, after public comments and feedback.

What's next

"It's been a good process," said Rich Rosen, VP of Columbia Development, which is coordinating the project's development for Albany Med and Tri-City Rentals. "I can honestly sit here today and look at the new plan that got approved and say it's a better plan than what we came in with. It was a long road, but we're happy and excited to start."

And about the size of the parking garage? Rosen said Columbia disagreed with some of the ratios used in the consultant's report to determine potential parking demand, and the total number of new spaces being added by the project -- 920 -- is about 200 fewer than the total Columbia had wanted based on its own experience with these sorts of projects.

But Rosen called the discussion around the project on urban planning topics very constructive. "It's kind of a new signal and a new vibe that we're getting from the city. So the next project that we come in with, all the things that we experienced in this project, we'll be more proactive in some of the methodologies and designs that we learned through public comment, the Common Council, the planning board, some of the concerns from local residents. We feel like going forward, working in the city of Albany, this project is hopefully going to set the tone for future development and we look forward to being part of that."

After the planning board meeting ended, Rosen and Doesschate struck a bet. The wager, as Doesschate described it: "I bet him a quarter that there will be a hundred empty parking spaces in that garage on a regular basis. So he has accepted the bet. And we'll see who collects in 2.5 to 3 years."
____

*Martin Daley has written for AOA a handful of times.

Earlier on AOA:
+ How much parking is enough?
+ Albany Common Council approves amendments to Park South plan
+ Two new options for Park South
+ A bit more about the Park South redevelopment and that big parking garage
+ The big plan for residential and retail redevelopment in Albany's Park South

Comments

Such a disappointment!! All of the institutional partners have failed us again, despite the loud outcry about the alternative solutions. Wasting a whole city block on parking, rather than mix-used development, when we could have "parked" a new parking garage on the existing surface parking lots that dominate this neighborhood is a boneheaded, shortsighted move. If a renaissance wants to come, it just lost a whole city block to suburban placating deadweight (aka, the parking garage).

Earth to Albany....Earth to Albany....it is the year 2014.....large scale projects built around storing cars rather than people are past their expiration date!!!! Please look around this area and see what has destroyed our inner cities...start on Wolf Road then Cruise over to Crossgates, then perhaps Harriman Campus...then to make things even more depressing go to the Latham Circle Mall.....let's get with the 21 first century...we can no longer afford suburban development based on the automobile. What we need is grass roots development on a small scale one block at a time....not more parking lots-garages.......but wait Casino gambling is the future!!!! What planet do you people live on????

Thanks for covering this issue, AOA. I was dismayed that despite the impact of this project on the city there was no media coverage beyond your presence. There were four speakers on the issue. Two pleaded with the board to consider the study's recommendations and reduce the size of the garage. Two, representing the neighborhood association, complemented the overall project and talked about on street parking.

The lack of media coverage and public participation leads me to two conclusions:

A. Despite the palpable opposition to the size of the garage facility, in the end it didn't matter that much

B. We're so used to failure in Albany we've accepted it as business as usual.

To say I'm disappointed in the Planning Board and the administration for not pressing the issue of the garage bulk is an understatement. I like many others, was under the impression that neighborhoods would have a greater stake in development that affects them.

It's not just the Park South Urban Renewal plan or 2030 Plan that was trumped - the bike plan, Sustainability Plan got a rousing rejection too. Consider one of the goals of the Sustainability plan:

"Currently, City of Albany employees commute in single occupancy vehicles more than 80% of the time. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from employee commute, we are looking to implement initiatives that encourage City employees to use alternative modes of transportation such as carpooling, riding public transportation, walking, biking, and telecommuting."

Did we get some speed bumps, pedestrian crosswalks, and bike racks out of the study? Yup. Those elements should come with the project from the start, they shouldn't require a $30,000 study. But they're almost trivial. Because while we've "encouraged" walking, biking, and transit, we've rolled out the proverbial red carpet to NOT use those modes. We're begging people to drive in and not live or shop nearby. To add insult to injury, when the developer applies for a $16 million PILOT on the "community garage" we'll actually be subsidizing people to drive in. Think about that for a second. Instead of supporting the neighborhood and upholding the ideals of the plans we've written this city will leverage tax dollars to encourage single occupancy vehicle transportation into the city rather than investing those dollars into making livable neighborhoods.

I also thank AOA for covering this topic and am disappointed at the lack of coverage by other media sources. However, I’m further disappointed in our leadership, from the Mayor down to the Common Council, who essentially green lighted this project with little to no strings that would have reinforced all those great plans the City has published in support of walkability, sustainability, mix-use development and access to jobs by those who reside in the City. I unfortunately didn’t make it to the meeting due to work putting me on the road, with this meeting being a high priority for me.

Daleyplanit suggests that there was a limited audience at the meeting, but am curious at how many folks reached out via mail/email. I know I provided a passionate critique on the issue to the board, yet received no response, which begs a larger issue of whether anyone is really listening, no matter the volume of feedback provided. Additionally, I wrote to the Mayor back in January, who provided assurances that this would be numbers driven. I don’t know what numbers she was looking at, but I guess that talk that Jeff Speck provided last year about “our good bones” was also ignored by her, for this development undoes some of those bones and doubles down on corporate suburbia.

For the life of me, I don’t get why we have rushed into putting in another parking garage, when, 1) We have plenty of existing parking that is under capacity, per just released Parking/Traffic Management Study; 2) Have plenty of traffic demand management policy choices in the tool kit that have thus far been underutilized; 3) The institutional partners in this neighborhood could work out deal to place a parking garage within an existing suffice parking lot, if the demand warranted it down the road. Once again, shortsighted thinking influenced by a notion that any development must be good development. We all know how that ended up for folks around the ESP or I-787 cooridor.

I think this is a pretty acceptable plan, but I still don't understand the need for the awful parking garage. If it has to be built that large, why can't they go underground for a couple of the levels so it doesn't protrude over the housing? It just doesn't make sense from an architectural standpoint. I had thought Albany was trying to maintain its nice architecture, but this is not doing anything to support that. However, it's certainly better than the awful Patroon Creek/Alexander Apartments development which doesn't even have sidewalks. The developer for the project (I think it was Columbia too) certainly did not incorporate anything approaching decent planning principles for that site, and the whole place is atrocious.

This parking garage has been a contentious debate, and an ongoing conversation. The design of the garage has changed and improved by leaps and bounds because of community push. It is no longer an eyesore. The developer was asked to provide a better design, and they did after it was demanded of them. You can compare the current design to past iterations to see the evolution. The original design was originally an ugly, looming parking lot, and is now a structure that respects the urban fabric.

As to the size, the Nelson/Nygaard study uses many assumptions to get at the conclusion that there is 150-200 spaces of excess capacity in the existing design. These are national metrics that raise serious questions as to fitness for the City of Albany. It's important to study impacts, absolutely. However, it's important to question the theoretical inputs of your calculations, absolutely. Questions as to some of the methodology and its cohesion to the specifics of Albany were talked about at length after the final study was made public. Just because a finding is in a study, it does not make it true. I'm often surprised at how easily people will swallow a finding in a study if its presented in a colorful graphic. Ask them to explain their opinion about the methodology used for the statistic, and you will likely receive a blank stare.

The current design for the garage is 816 spaces, 6 stories (136 spaces per story). IF the garage were to be lowered by the 'excess', this would result in a lowering of 1 story. It would be a 5 story garage and not a 6. The adjacent proposed medical office building is 5 stories, and the proposed mixed use buildings on New Scotland between Dana and Myrtle are 6 stories. The garage's current design fits in with the design of the development, and it does not dominate the development. Parking garages are a much better use than surface parking lots. Surface parking lots are probably the lowest and worst use for a place. As the study proposes, any excess capacity can be used to accommodate future demand, because this is a rapidly changing area of the city. The point that the mission of the study is not to access what happens to this neighborhood tomorrow is 100% illogical. Assessing future realities of land use is entirely what urban planning is. It's planning. For your place's future. A parking garage's ability to reduce the footprint of surface parking by satisfying the demand of future development is a vital point to take seriously. Planning yourself into a corner is shortsighted, and will make future urban infill of surface parking lots nearly impossible. Any ability of an attractively built garage to handle 1 story of future capacity in a fast developing area of the city will help support the call for future infill of the city's far too many surface parking lots, and will reduce the call for more surface parking, or additional parking lots.

1. No one is debating the look of the garage didn't improve. That should have been addressed from the get-go. To some, the design of the garage's exterior was a distraction, perhaps intended, so that the 'compromise' made didn't actually affect the fundamental issue with this garage - the bulk.

2. Let's talk about the methodology? What was wrong? Was there a previous draft of the study that made a different conclusion? If so, how did the city substantiate the claim that the methodology was incorrect? Why was this never discussed? - this is why there's a feeling of a lack of transparency

3. " and it does not dominate the development." I'll grant this is opinion - but it's not just the appearance of the building that gets a gripe - it's the function. Again, adding capacity created demand, demand urges capacity - this is a fundamental. We'll build now and study later? That's absurd.

4. What future development? he PSURP amendment made the rounds, and no development outside the amendment was discussed. The scope of the study didn't include future development. The consultant reviewed the traffic and capacity vs demand for what was proposed and all of the sudden the conclusions are rendered as inconsequential because of future development that's never been discussed or publicly vetted?

5. "Assessing future realities of land use is entirely what urban planning is. It's planning." Where's the assessment of future land use? It was the PSURP, then it's amendment, now those get tossed out the window? What's the good? Why plan at all? What's upsetting is the balance of values, or the lack there of. This development is happening in a neighborhood. The developer, on their word, cannot drive the process.

I've been to more planning board meetings than I care to think of - it's a labor of loathe because it's a sacrifice an especially frustrating when there's no discussion and no dissent. It feels like the outcome has been pre-destined, regardless of the recommendations, or lack there-of, of plans and studies.

Hopefully this will change. Hopefully the community will have a voice and not be held hostage. Each and every day, when I walk out my front door I look to my right at AMC and have to wrestle with the question - will this development benefit the surrounding neighborhood? It hasn't yet. And by the time that garage is up and humming, with 816 more people driving in and out back and forth to points unknown but not nearby, I'll still be here, dealing with the consequences. That's the trouble, I'm not free to take it or leave it, and it scares me.

To Alison's point -- infill of surface lots with future non-parking uses will be an important step for much of the area near Albany Med, and I'd love to see that happen in the very near future.

On a related note, proposals for an infill garage over surface parking rather than expanding the footprint of the PSURP garage has been part of the neighbor dialogue over the past 9 or 10 months right here on AOA and other venues as an alternative to doubling the size of the PSURP garage on little Myrtle Ave. Albany Med owns a large surface lot on New Scotland, so even if shared parking was never an option in the foreseeable future (even though it really needs to be), I've had multiple discussions with people who thought it would make more sense to build a parking structure on land that was already dedicated to parking -- like the Albany Med lot on New Scotland.

Yes, the Park South Urban Renewal Plan always called for a garage in the Myrtle/Morris area, and I never advocated turning back the clock to pre-2006 finalization of the PSURP. But the concern that was never addressed was that a garage of this size is not the right scale for little Myrtle Avenue, and it will negatively impact the quality of life on the nearby residential blocks.

Rich was wondering how many people wrote in to the Planning Board because they weren't able to make last night's meeting. I know of at least 3 additional letters of people opposing the size of the garage who I don't believe made it to last night's meeting: (i) a neighbor on the block of Myrtle between S Lake and Robin, (ii) Virginia Hammer of the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association, and (iii) me. Here's what I wrote: http://www.scribd.com/doc/230565425/Golby-Memo-to-Planning-Board-June-2014

I know a lot of people are continually frustrated by the lack of commitment by anyone in positions of power to green solutions to transportation. I am, too.
I'd love to see dedicated biking lanes, not shared roadways. I'd love to see Albany bring back some retro-style trolley cars. I feel like it would encourage people to take public transportation in nice weather.
I hope the Capital CarShare is a success.

With that being said, I don't really see this development as a problem. Albany Med has a lot of patients from out of town, and even with the newer parking garage and expanded valet service, they still have a lot of trouble finding parking during the day.

And just think, in a few years all these parking lots could be powering the associated buildings with the power of 'solar roadways' tech. The indiegogo campaign has raised over 2x it's 2mil goal - https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-roadways

@Alison, I do appreciate that this study is just one factoid in a number of studies (whether specific to Albany or generic to a mid-size urban city), and think that the specific Parking/Traffic Management Study being leveraged by opponents to the parking garage (myself being one of them) is flawed in that it just did a sampling of the area on one day and should have looked at the parking situation over a course of a month on differing days. However, as someone who walks/buses through this corridor and who once worked at AMC, I can personally attest that this study is pretty good at highlighting that there is an ample abundance of parking in the area with excess capacity to boot to meet growth in the immediate future.

I think the crux of the issue is the 5 minute walking rule that the study leaned in on, which I think most developers will discount right up front, because they don’t feel that folks will realistically walk 5 minutes from Point A (parked car) to Point B (residential/commercial establishment), so we need parking outside every dang building we put up (as is the current reality of the Park South/University Heights neighborhood). There could be some truth to that and it is certainly displayed in suburbia, but we’re talking about establishing a walkable, mixed use community in a dense urban environment, and should disabuse folks of this notion. I became a City of Albany homeowner in order to enjoy the benefits of walkability, not see that disrupted to accommodate suburban commuters.

There are plenty of solutions to better utilize current parking infrastructure that have been highlighted countless times, both short term and long term. I think we both are looking long term, but utilizing differing lens to seek that future goal. Whereas , you see the parking garage as a catalyst to promote density and accommodate future parking needs, in order to prevent future parking lots from being built or to encourage mix-use in-fill within existing surface lots, I think we should pursue this in the reverse. We shouldn’t be wasting a block of prime developable land for a parking garage, when current capacity is sufficient or could be better utilized (the AMC lots are empty after 5pm, why not rent them out, or work out a deal with the hospital to have these co-shared by tenants of the proposed Tri-City rental property, who largely will not need parking until they return from their jobs after 5pm). This will give all the institutional partners (AMC, City, State, Albany Law, Albany Pharmacy, you name it) a few years to assess their current surface lot infrastructure and target a game plan for developing a parking garage on what exists, if demand warrants it down the road. In the meantime, we can use that block of prime in-fill slated for the garage to encourage more mix-use in-fill.

My fear, a legitimate one, is that we’ve put the cart before the horse, wasting prime land on another parking garage, loosing leverage on having our institutional partners finally come together on the parking wasteland they preside over, and most likely, we’ll not see their existing parking empire transitioned to mix-use in-fill, as you suggest will come about by positioning folks to the new parking garage over better management of the existing parking infrastructure.

Rich, well put. The NN is not to be accepted or discounted wholesale. There is both value in the study, and some elements which raise doubts. This should probably be the take away in most critical reads. Also, all fears surrounding providing an abundance of parking are legitimate fears, all the time. There are 4 surface lots in this project from Dana to Morris to Myrtle, totaling 101 spots. They take up as much footprint as the garage which provides 816 (in a building that is respectful of the surrounding development, which cannot be overstated, this is very important to an urban landscape). Also included are bike lane sharrow and signage, pedestrian signals, electric car charging stations, bike storage, bus shelters, and existing developments between AMC and CDTA to further encourage transit usage.

Disappointing! I am a resident of Park South, looking forward to moving out of this neighborhood before construction starts. I love it here, but the noise from the helicopters and ambulances is enough already. I don't think I can handle construction noise for who knows how long. People are correct to point out the high number of surface lots in this area that just contribute to SPRAWL. Keep milking that Albany Med cash cow, Albany. Your residents will move out to the suburbs or to cities that actually listen.

What do you call a city that can't say no?

A doormat.

www.timesunion.com/local/article/Inside-Politics-Nontaxable-cloak-upsets-5565826.php

TDM isn't required at all actually, but suggested. The planning board let the horse out of the barn on a hope and a prayer. So to encourage transit? Really? How did the board encourage transit without pulling the reigns back on the garage? That's like handing a kid an ice cream cone during dinner and saying "eat your veggies."

The TDM pilot program isn't even coming from AMC's coffers." It's coming from the IDA. It's predicated on financial assistance. So actually the city is paying for those "free" passes that won't be competitively marketed because that undermines the excessive garage. They're They'd be stupid to come forward and say "Transit is a success" Because it would fuel the fire about the ignored study.

I'm done. There was a chance, the city blew it, and the consequences are permanent.

Now, if only New York would allow me to claim my house a Start-up NY zone because I've studied energy efficient transportation.

This is a tale of a group of suburban overlords (James Barba of the sprawling lands of Colonie; Joseph Nicolla and Rich Rosen who hail on the sweet, green cul de sacs within the Kingdom of the Guilded Lands; and, the Massry Family, famous for their amazing McMansions in the Ville of Loudon), who presided over the City of Albany, using their wealth and leadership to exact their desired ends. For them, all decisions flowed from a suburban lens, for them, it was their suburban counterparts who had to be looked after. However, let us steady the frame and hone in on the heart of this story, which recounts a people from the Park South neighborhood and more broadly, a City constantly abused, misappropriated, and taken advantage of, to fill the purses of its suburban friends. We cannot discount our overlords’ abilities to pull a myriad number of strings silently in the background, in order to achieve their ultimate plans to continue this relationship with the City.


Park South, long side-swept, compared to its more prosperous neighbors to the Northeast (Center Square), to the Northwest (Pine Hills), and to the South (Helderberg), was a neighborhood dominated by run down residences, devoid of any substantive commercial activity, yet always felt the looming presence of the Albany Medical Center and its institutional partners further South. Mr. Barba and his dominating AMC empire, had a very noble task of helping the sick and infirm, which might cause pause to criticize. However, the scales of justice, equity, and mutually reinforcing relationships, seemed to always favor the Empire and its suburban allies.


The scales long tipped away from the City, which was routed into a position to subsidize the Empire’s operations, without justice payment. This empire was long on promises to the community, yet short on full filling them. Jobs predominately went to the suburban allies, with limited outreach or educational assistance to the City’s peoples to help pull them into its network. Roads, lighting, sewer services, and public safety all provided to this Empire by the City, while the Empire continued to recklessly pave over in-fill with open surface lots, in order to funnel in its suburban workforce. The Empire even began to pull residences within its orbit, providing minimal upkeep in one hand, yet using the other to cast in shame its competitors in the slum lord game. It was bleak times for the Park South Neighborhood.


Finally, a distressed people called to arms and decided to rectify their lot in life by creating a master plan that would redevelop their corner of the City and bring prosperity and well-being to its peoples. The Empire took notice, and the Empire, short of delivering on its promises, saw another opportunity to latch onto its feeble neighbors to extract more opportunities for itself (and its sister partners, of Tri-City Rentals and Columbia Development), with broad claims that they would finally provide more access to its jobs for the people of the neighborhood and City proper, and as importantly, seek solutions in how to provide assistance to a City that long subsidized its operations.


A plan was indeed developed, the people, the Empire, and its suburban institutional allies all signed on. The plan wasn’t perfect, and possessed a host of devilish details that could snap back at the peoples of Park South. Most importantly, it sidestepped the notion of convening a task force to finally assess the over abundance of surface parking lots managed by a host of allies, and strike a strategic plan on how to better coordinate this parking excess and if appropriate, co-opt a present surface lot for a future parking garage. Instead, a new garage was to be built, within Park South, the notion of acting smartly and long term by re-using existing parking infrastructure, too alien for the suburban overlords. After all, we couldn’t expect anything less from Mr. Barba-Nicolla-Rosen-Massry-et al, who have long hailed from suburban communities that don’t hesitate to put backhoe to fresh, green open space, in order to ever sprawl out rather than build-up.


However, ever able to master the ability to play well with words and coerce its subjects, the Empire was able to make claim that this garage was a smart design because it did preciously what the suburbs did not do, build up. The irony was sweet, the messaging subtle, but to the peoples of Park South, they saw through the ploy and realized its was a cop out on better managing the sprawling asphalt maze that had become of their City, and another tilt of the scales back towards the suburbs and reward its allies by placating their addiction to the automobile.


Yet, the plan in its entirety, was far from bad for the people, and overall it would at least provide them with a few steps up in life, infusing this corner with a commercial activity long not seen, and that could not be discounted. Did the scales look to tilt in the City’s favor, or at least build hope that a mutually beneficial relationship could be fostered. Sadly, my friends, the tale doesn’t bode well for this distressed neighborhood and its City. Promises remain promises.


With a finalized plan, and all the various committees, boards and leaders meeting to bless the plan via the powers vested in their offices, the Empire and its suburban parties finally produced conceptual images of their master plan. Immediately, the peoples were offended by the massive nature of a parking garage subject to a quarter of the plan’s developable land. How dare they plant such an ugly, inefficient monstrosity in their neighborhood. The Empire heard quickly, and quickly they made changes to the plan, applying better planning principles to the garage so that it would “blend in” better with the existing neighborhood. Yet, this was the Empire’s whole plan, the string it was pulling silently in the background, in order to divert the peoples’ eyes from the true issue. That true issue being that parking remained abundant, cheap and accessible throughout the Empire. The law of the land (in suburbia) was that one can never have too much parking, and the suburbanites need to be able to park within striking distance from their destination was paramount. After all, the suburbanite was a queer individual, willing to wait hours in a drive through line at the local grease pit, within their automobile, when instead, they could have saved much time just walking in to the empty line inside. The car was King, and the Empire, despite its power, choose to bow to its own lord, the Car, rather than challenge it.


Alas, a distressed City and a distressed people, have once again fallen to their knees, acquiescing to its suburban overlords and lapping up what little crumbs they were willing to offer in order to further their own agendas, no matter how righteous. Time will only tell if the Empire will finally give in and make right on its promises. Will a better pedestrian infrastructure be installed, providing dedicated biking lanes and pedestrian signaling that truly favors the walker, rather than forcing them to quickly trudge across the street as cars refuse to acknowledge their presence and right of way. Will the City and its peoples be forced to subsidize another parking edifice, helping to pay for free or cheap parking to its suburban neighbors. Will the Empire, instead of mere token $70k to CDTA, truly back a transit oriented development in its back yard, that will help alleviate the crushing congestion within this neighborhood and attract young millennials who refuse to be slaves to a machine on four wheels that remains idle for 23 hours of the day. Will the Empire finally devote money and resources to job training or academic scholarship to the City’s peoples, so that they may join the Empire in its noble task of assisting the sick and infirm.


Time will only tell, but time has told us not to hold our breath...yet, there is promise in the notion that a generational change is occurring, and the suburban peoples are seeing how ill their way is to the environment, their relationships, and their wallet. The tide is turning back to the City and just maybe, its voice will grow loud enough to convince the suburban overlords to do the challenging things, the right things, the honorable things.

I neglected to include this very important comment yesterday -- THANK YOU, AOA for covering the PSURP amendments and discussion around them so thoroughly and thoughtfully!

Also, thanks for adding the April 21 design renderings which I hadn't had a chance to see. Interesting that in "View 11" (the corner of Robin and Myrtle) it appears that there is a sidewalk on the south side of Myrtle. There currently is no sidewalk there, and because I wasn't able to follow the Planning Board process as closely as I would have liked, I don't know whether the Planning Board required the addition of a sidewalk on the south side of Myrtle. I did occasionally ask the Planning Dept staff about the viability of a sidewalk going on the hospital side of the street over the past few months, which would make walking much safer for pedestrians -- and the response never seemed like it was going to happen. I'll check back with the Planning Department on Monday.

Many of those houses on Morris are also home to stray/feral cats, what does AMC/the City plan to do? Bulldoze them?

Park South had a lot of promise but the city sort of let AMC swallow it whole.

I don't understand why/how the City can believe it knows better than Nelson Nygaard? A nationally reputable transportation planning consultant. Whereas Albany is a small city in upstate NY that can't seem to get out of it's own way and let progress happen. The City thinks it knows better than every consultant it works with. And as a result we keep getting half-hearted and vague plans that do nothing but look good on a list of things the City has done, or help the City chase more grant money to continue to waste on bad products.

Be sure to ignore the sidewalks in on the south side (hospital building side) of Myrtle in the rendering. The Planning Board did not require any new sidewalks on that side of the street. Instead, I believe there will be wider side walks on the garage side of Myrtle -- apparently to give the school kids and other pedestrians more space to wildly flail their arms and alert drivers entering and exiting the garage of their existence. So much for our complete streets ordinance -- unbelievable.

Love the reply about trusting the transportation planning consultant!! I am sure they "trusted" similar types when the city planned the Empire State Plaza and the web of spaghetti road system that destroyed a city! I'm sure they "trusted" Robert Moses in NYC or the dopes that built the elevated expressway thru Boston in the 1970's or the "experts" that razed Pennsylvania Station, or the .........on and on.. Again I still find it so hard to believe that the Romans made more beautiful and functional cities 2000 years ago!!! PLEASE SOMEONE explain to me how that is possible??!?!?!

It still bothers me that there is little talk about what happens/happened to all those people--many of whom worked at AMC--who live/lived in that neighborhood. Many of those residents walk/walked to work, too. Indeed, the parking garage, in plain English, sucks and will be yet another way for a major not-for-profit to generate profit, probably in violation of the law. But *that* is putting the cart before the horse; people live/lived there, and very little has been said about them lately.

Oh, and one more thing: Mayor Sheehan put Barba--the head of AMC--in charge of the city's not-for-profit committee tasked with determining what, if anything, not-for-profits like Albany Medical Center should be contributing to the city's tax base (point of reference: 61% of Albany is tax exempt, with the state, AMC, CNSE-nanotech, St. Rose, etc., being some of the largest culprits; they all require city services and do not pay a dime for them). The "fox guarding the hen house," indeed. But we all should remember that the person in charge of the entity that is gentrifying an entire neighborhood--Barba--has been allowed to do so first by Jennings, and now by Sheehan.

Nothing has changed from one administration to the next.

Thank you Mayor Sheehan, Honorable Common Council, the esteemed Planning Board and most importantly, the respected private, public and non-profit partners of the University Heights neighborhood. After years of public input, debate, and planning you have come up with a development that cuts into the City’s efforts to promote “Complete Streets” design, refused to reinvest within the albatross of existing parking that haunts this neighborhood, shackled the city tax payers into further subsidization of suburban parking needs versus true transit oriented development (hehe, $70k to promote a universal access agreement with CDTA, is that really all you can do), and essentially told younger homeowners like myself to ignore that mirage of a walkable, sustainable city and learn to love the suburban dream of being a slave to one’s car. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! My job of convincing my immediate suburban peers and friends in NYC who are looking to relocate upstate has become all that harder. Why adopt our fair city, when they can just go to the suburbs and get the same un-walkable, asphalt heavy infrastructure.

BS - I understand where you're coming from but developers/builders are separate from planning consultants. Unfortunately in Albany the developer has more influence than any plan or planner ever has, and its unfortunate. There are good and bad consultants, in this case I happen to know that N/N is pretty knowledgeable and forward thinking in this realm of things.

Believe me Vincent, this neighborhood is nothing close to "gentrified." I live in it and I'm seeing my property value crash. I'd LOVE to see gentrification.

Oh Albany- then what is the point of the city hiring planning consultants if their recommendations go out the window? At one point there was a plan for Park South but the planners never enforced it.

As I wagered, surprise, surprise, the parking garage is the first piece of this whole project that will get implemented first. Truely disappointing and saddening. So much for mix-use, smart growth, complete streets design in Albany.

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=gmail&attid=0.3&thid=146ee311fb8490e9&mt=application/pdf&url=https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui%3D2%26ik%3D4d9cb41ec9%26view%3Datt%26th%3D146ee311fb8490e9%26attid%3D0.3%26disp%3Dsafe%26realattid%3D9909d41ee359991c_0.3%26zw&sig=AHIEtbSMATF7R9wv4zoU8jUrn3H7DN9fJw

Not sure what the big deal is. People need to park their cars. If your going to build a parking garage, build it up and reclaim the space from the empty lots for other usages. Im a greenie, prius driving liberal but if you guys magically think cars are going to disappear from albany your on crack. Parking garages are necessary evils in cities; it is much better than the sprawl of lots scattered all over this area today. Another thing that the parking garages do is make considering residents of albany, and the city of albany, to better cope with the winter snow.

@Gex, I agree in concept that this garage should be able to reclaim space from other surface lots, which could then be redeveloped, but that hasn't happened when the two other garages were built. Additionally, most lots (surface and the current parking garages) are not used to capacity, so why waste a whole "developable" block to parking if you already have excess parking. Furthermore, this corridor is currently choked with traffic and there are several traffic demand management strategies to further drive down car use that haven't been employed; which would equal even more excess parking within the current parking stock.

I don't completely disagree with your assessment that cars/parking garages are a necessary evil, but at the end of the day a study conducted on this project clearly presented no need for a garage, highlighted the current lack of investment in traffic demand management strategies, and noted that the mix-use piece would be jeopardized without backing a complete street design that encourages safe, efficient travel for all in this corridor.

I do hope I'm over reacting, but at the end of the day, we may have traded several half-filled surface lots, for several half-filled parking garages, which could have been devoted to more mix-use commercial/residential development and sounder investments against mass-transit/compete street use.

Just spent a week in a small european city of 80,000 that felt like 300,000 by the amount of acitiviy, life, and foot traffic. In the entire week I never saw one "casino" nor one "convention center" nor one car park above 4 stories. It was magical, they had this thing called a small city with parks and stores and condos and homes and apartments and PEOPLE! They had buses and cabs and people were out walking to and from their jobs and homes!There were restaurants and theaters and you could walk just about anywhere-safely- in 15-20 minutes. They even had a "wharehouse" district that was...get this----full of wharehouses and something called factories where many of the people who walked around could earn money! There was still a lot of auto traffic but when you were stuck in it you were looking out at cute architecture and landscape...not a Hooter's or a Red Lobster! I know here comes the old USA-Albany reply "well why don't you just move there if it's so great crap yada yada yada". I say why don't we try to make it better here?!

@Bill and @ Rich

Several folks lobbied the City hard for weeks to reduce the size of the Garage, and a study even suggested the "needed "capacity was over estimated, but alas, unanimous votes for the larger garage. Is it coincidence that both chairs of the planning and zoning board have been replaced since then? Simply make a visit to an AMC garage, or look at Google Earth and view historical satellite imagery and you'll see the top floor of the garages are always empty. Too bad, with all the storm-water management issues in the city, this could have been greenspace. Maybe even an Afrim's Dome. Ooops. Bad planning.

The garage going up first may not be a sign the rest of the project is dead, however. It's the heaviest, tallest, and most complex building and it's the center of the block. That means there are deep foundations to pour, tall cranes to bring in, and assembly areas for pre-cast sections of the building. That requires a lot of space. I believe he reason the garage went up first is simply due to space needed for staging and construction.

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