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Wrinkles In Schenectady Casino Planning


As the Rivers Casino project in Schenectady moves forward,  there are some bumps in the road.

A little more than a month ago, public officials and businesspeople were celebrating Schenectady’s casino win. But now, David Giacalone of anti-gaming group Stop the Schenectady Casino is raising concerns over proposed C-3 Waterfront-Casino zoning amendments.

"It's too soon and too quick to have these amendments passed because the changes are simply too great. The decisions are being made in such a rush that the decision-makers, much less the public, are ignorant of all of the important issues," said Giacalone.

He questions many of the changes in the proposed amendments, including the public access requirement being taken out of Schenectady's Waterfront zoning ordinance, the right to a percentage of dock space reserved for public use in the daytime deleted, extending the setbacks from the river an additional 10 feet, nearly doubling the allowable height of buildings, as well as establishing new standards for an estimated 19,000 square feet of signage:   "Casinos have never been regulated before in Schenectady. There has been no attempt to learn what other cities have done about such issues as the total amount of signage to be allowed. The planning commissioners last week admitted they have no idea what 19,000 square feet of signage looks like, and neither does anyone else. They are going totally on the word of the casino owner and developer that they must have that much signage. We need to stop and look at it again."

Giacalone adds there is no justification for the rush to push the amendments through the city council, other than to please the developers. A woman who answered the phone at Galesi Group said no one was available to comment. 

Credit City of Schenectady
Schenectady City Council Member Vince Riggi.

Schenectady City Councilman Vincent Riggi believes the questions being raised are valid ones.   "We all need more information on exactly what it's gonna be, and what it could be, and I don't think enough of that has been presented yet, but I'm very anxious to hear what concerns are brought to the public hearings Monday night at our council meeting."

Riggi says the issues will be taken up in committee. If it moves out of committee the first Monday in February, a vote on the council floor would occur in mid-February.

Meanwhile, Glenville is trying to secure its piece of the pie. State Assemblyman Jim Tedisco has written a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, pointing out that the town is right across the Mohawk River from the Rivers Casino site, and as such will have to deal increased traffic congestion, but isn’t currently slated to receive money as a neighboring community.

"We pulled the slot machines lever, and it came up three cherries and Schenectady won that casino," said Tedisco. "We wanna make sure it goes smoothly and all the municipalities do well. We think and we hope it'll be a great project. It's gonna bring jobs. It's gonna help the economy. It's gonna help all the surrounding municipalities.  It's just that in this case, right on the border, all you have to do is take a half a block walk and you'll be in Glenville. So we're just asking for some review to see if maybe the road has to be widened a little bit, if we can get some help financially with that, and maybe we need a couple of more police officers for traffic control."

In his appeal to Cuomo for compensation in the form of additional highway funding, Tedisco writes that taxpayers will be "burdened with increased traffic and a need for greater police presence." 

Town officials are planning to meet with state representatives and the developers sometime in February.

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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