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ALCO Tunnels Pique Anti-Casino Group's Concern

David Giacalone

A Schenectady anti-casino group's environmental objection to the proposed Electric City casino site has fallen on deaf ears, as the state's Gaming Facility Location Board moves ahead with plans to announce its decision Wednesday in Albany.

Stockade resident David Giacalone  has been the primary spokesperson for the group called "Stop the Schenectady Casino." He has raised an issue he calls "The ALCO tunnel cover-up," which questions the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority’s environmental review of the project.     "I believe it also raises questions about the credibility of the Schenectady Gazette which, has taken an editorial position in favor of the casino and ever since then, on its news pages, has done. I believe, everything possible to avoid negative news about Rush Street Gaming and Galesi group, the applicants and also to be as dismissive as possible about the existence of any organized opposition in the city of Schenectady to the casino."

Giacalone thinks at the very least, an archeologist should have been allowed to inspect tunnels under ALCO building 332. The developers told the Schenectady Gazette that the tunnels were concrete casings designed to protect underground infrastructure and had no historical or archaeological  value. They said the casings were removed and the ground filled in. It has been suggested that the tunnels could have served as "escape routes" for employees, as the heavy industrial site would likely have been a military target during wartime.

Giacalone is concerned that the truth behind the tunnels will never see light of day - he maintains the casino developer asked the newspaper not to report on the find.

Daily Gazette editor Judy Patrick insists there has been NO "cover-up."    "We reported on the underground structures they found at the old ALCO site in October. Our reporters are still investigating to see if there's more involved. We've talked to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, who said what was found was common at old industrial sites, and that no further study as warranted. We also talked to specialists in the field of historic preservation, history and archaeology , includingthe historian at the ALCO museum out in Amsterdam. We specifically have requested more information from the state office of parks, recreation and historic preservation, which we think would have been involved in any decision about whether or not there was something underneath the site that needed to be investigated further. But we haven't heard all the answers to the questions we have for them."

Patrick adds the bottom line is that the Gazette, which has editorially supported the casino,  hasn't found a story there --- yet ---  In the meantime, Giacalone is challenging the Metroplex Authority to conduct more thorough, transparent reviews of any future development projects in the Electric City and present itself more like a regulator, rather than a cheerleader, when acting in governmental roles such as reviewing environmental impact statements.

For its part, Metroplex has been praised for conducting a “thorough review” of the ALCO site by developers the Galesi group. The state board is expected to announce on Wednesday afternoon the winning bids for up to four casinos in upstate New York.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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