On Thursday, June 21, Mayor Jennings' appointees on the City Planning Board, approved THE QUANTUM BIG BOX HOUSING PLAN for this site. Now, we know that the Mayor's appointees would not do anything that the Mayor did not approve of. Therefore, approval of the Quantum project, and it's success or failure rest squarely with Mayor Jennings.
As noted in the attached letter which I sent to Mayor Jennings in January of this year, and sent again for entry into the Planning Board Record, the legacy, good or bad will be his. He will have to answer for it in 2009, if he stands for re-election.
For Entry in Record, Plan Board June 21, 2007
Hon Ray Joyce and Members
Albany City Planning Board
It has come to my attention (not via Notice) that the Planning Board will consider a condo proposal at New Scotland Ave/Whitehall Rd. this coming Thursday , June 21.
This best use for the 8 plus acre parcel at Whitehall Rd/New Scotland Ave is fthe Daniel P O.Connell Senior
Housing/Neighborhood Community Center and Memorial Pocket Park.
This proposal meets a vital need for more senior housing that will permit long-time elderly single family homeowners to remain in the neighborhood as time nears for them to sell their homes. In addition, this proposal would ensure the residential integrity and quality of life in this neighborhood, as well as the stability of the city property tax base, to which this single family residential neighborhood makes a significant contribution. (See current revaluation in process).
Please review the enclosed letter to Mayor Jennings regarding development proposals for this site and the 7.2 care parcel on Krum Kill Rd., and enter this letter into the record of your June 21, 2007 Planning Board Meeting.
I urge you to do what Dan O'Connell would do for the long time, loyal Democrats from this neighborhood.
As you know Dan lived only a liitle way down Whitehall Rd. The Daniel P O'Connell Senior Housing/Neighborhood Community Center/Memorial Pocket Park would be a fitting tribute to Dan, meet the
needs of elderly homeowners, who are ready to transition to senior housing, as well as maintain and improve
the neighborhood residential integrity and quality of life, and contribute to the stability of the city property tax base.
In short, this plan is best for the site in question at Whitehall Rd and New Scotland Ave. We trust you will concur.
Joseph P Sullivan, President BPCNA
January 26, 2007Hon. Jerry Jennings, MayorCity of AlbanyMayor Jennings:Two development proposals are before the City Planning Board seeking approval. Neither, are in the best interests of maintaining the residential integrity and quality of life in the adjoining single family residentiallyzoned neighborhoods of Wards 8, 14 and 15. I urge you to support two alternatives.We have proposed viable alternatives that will maintain the residential integrity and quality of life in these single family residential neighborhoods as well as the maintenance and enhancement of the city property tax base.First, the 7.2 acre Krum Kill Rd parcel. This is a wooded, steep sloped ravine, containing two wetlands , atributary of the Normans Kill, and an ancient historical Indian camp site. The best use of this parcel is as a natural area which provides wildlife and bird habitat, whose woodlands provide erosion and flood control functions, as well as buffering existing single family neighborhoods from noise and air pollution from the NYSThruway. As, you know, a 3rd lane will be added, increasing that noise and vehicle pollution.It is not a suitable site for big box, multiple housing units, with no proper parking. To approve the proposed project would devalue the surrounding single family homes and further erode the city tax base, in turn negatively impacting support of city schools and city government services, like police, fire and water.The alternative here is to have the landowner-developer deed the 7.2 acre parcel to the City as a natural area,and have the Common Council rezone it Land Conservation. In return, compensate him through a Transfer of Development Rights arrangement, where he is awarded land or buildings, of equivalent value, from the City Vacant Land and Buildings Inventory (which you presented at your recent State of the City address). Mr K then builds needed downtown housing, that goes back on the property tax rolls, and furthers your efforts to revitalize downtown.Second, the 8 to 10 acres of woodland, New Scotland at Whitehall, is proposed as a site for a pocket park at the corner (which we have advocated and support) and more big box housing adjacent (which we do not support). The BZA recently granted a zoning variance for this proposal, without proper Notice of Hearing to me as Buckingham Pond/Crestwood Neighborhood Association. Same was true of the BZA approval of the 70 ft cell phone tower on AJC land, Whitehall Rd. As you are aware, our Association is on record as opposing and offering alternatives to both.The best alternative , is to build needed senior housing, adjacent to the pocket park, and perhaps, a neighborhood community center. For the past four years, or more, we have been on record as advocatingthe Daniel P O'Connell, Memorial Pocket Park, at the corner, and Dan O'Connell Senior Housing/Neighborhood Community Center on the adjacent 8-10 acres. Ours is an aging population of single family homeowners, who have lived in the neighborhood for many years, paying significant property taxes and loyally supporting the Democratic Party at every election. These elderly homeowners are at the time in life where they are ready to sell their single family homes. They should be able to remain in their neighborhood and construction of the Dan O'Connell Senior housing would make this possible. As you know Dan lived further down on Whitehall Rd. You can be sure he would do this for the people. So, why would you and the current Democratic Council Members not do the same? Several years ago, I had arranged for a developer who would have built the senior housing there and donated the corner as the pocket park. For some reason, he got no where with the City.Big box housing is not suitable for either of the above locations. Poor design, cheap construction, location, traffic patterns and other factors present the risks that the developers will not be able to sell their big box units for the hoped for return. To recoup their losses, developers would likely opt to rent, particularly through HUD and Section 8 housing programs. Exhibit A is the poorly designed and constructed box housing units which are being added to the original Buckingham Mews. The City, by continuing to approve such substandard housing, is ultimately contributing to the decline of the residential integrity and quality of life in the surrounding single family neighborhoods, and further eroding the property tax base and support for city schools and city services.Compensation for the landowners-developer, return for deeding the Whitehall-New Scotland land to the City for construction of the Dan O' Connell Senior Housing/ Neighborhood Community Center/Memorial Pocket Park could occur through the same Transfer of Development Right arrangement, whereby they are awardedland. buildings from the City Vacant Land/Building Inventory, build their housing, make their money, provide needed housing, and improve the city property tax base in already blighted neighborhoods.It all boils down to smart vs dumb growth. Which will it be? The choice is yours. You are the Man-the Mayor and the legacy will be yours.Do the right thing for the people and neighborhood here, Thank you.
Joseph P Sullivan, PresidentBuckingham Pond/Crestwood NA
AS APPROVED BY THE PLANNING BOARD , THE QUANTUM PROJECT IS LIKELY TO FAIL, BECAUSE:
1. No, berm with mature trees was proposed, or required to block noise, lights and vehicle exhausts from the adjacent NYS Thruway. Keep in mind that a third lane is slated to be added to the Thruway, Northbound betwen Exits 23 and 24, which directly impacts the Quantum project.
2. Quality of construction was not addressed or required. If the Quantum big box houses are constructed of the materials, and in the manner, of the extension of Buckingham Mews (Krumkill at Friebel), prospective buyers will not be getting their monies worth. Likely, the developers will not get their asking prices.
3. No performance bond was required of the Quantum developer, to address the question of what happens if the big box housing units (4 units in each of 13 big boxes) do not sell. Will the developers turn to Section 8 rentals in an attempt to recoup their losses? Will the City allow them this option? The neighborhood residential integrity and quality of life would be negatively impacted and the city property tax eroded were this to happen. Homeowners would find that their homes would sell far below what they are revalued and assessed for.
4. The question of the 3/4 acre pocket park at the corner of Whitehall and New Scotland, was left unstipulated. The parcel should be deeded to the City of Albany, the derelict gas station building razed, the upper soil layers removed, and clean fill brought in to construct a rolling berm, planted with a variety of conifers, hardwoods and flowering bushes. A flag pole, a small granite monument, and some benches would complete the Daniel P O'Connell Memorial Pocket Park. ...... Leaving the title to the parcel with the developer, who would raze the building and seed the parcel, is not a pocket park as we have proposed, and is entirely unacceptable!
5. Busy morning and evening rush hour impacts on New Scotland Avenue and Whitehall Road of the vehicles entering and leaving the Quantum Project site, were not adequately addressed.
6. The Quantum project does not offer a viable alternative for most neighborhood seniors to remain in the neighborhood upn selling their current single family homes. It makes no economic sense for seniors on fixed incomes, to sell their homes and turn around to pay $240,000 or more for and unit on the ground floor of a big box house. Add to that the annual fees required of a homeowners association.
The die has been cast by the Mayor. We hope that the Quantum project is successful, if only for the sake of the neighborhood. We wish all concerned, well.
However, to increase the chances of success of the Quantum project, and thereby assure the neighborhood residential integrity and quality of life; and to prevent erosion of adjacent home values and the city property tax base, Mayor Jennings and his city minions are going to have to address the above issues before finallly signing off on this and other projects referred to in my January 2007 letter (above).
J P Sullivan, President