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Schenectady Approves Casino Design

Artist rendering of the Rivers Casino.
Rush Street Gaming, LLC

The Rivers Casino project will move ahead with its current design after the city of Schenectady gave approval Wednesday night, though one controversial aspect remains a sticking point.

Representatives of the Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor got the green light from the Schenectady Planning Commission at Wednesday’s special meeting.

The appearance of the casino has been debated since a new concept was unveiled in early June. Several residents criticized the dark brick and industrial design of the project that contrasted with an earlier submission used when operator Rush Street Gaming sought its casino license.

A tweaked design with lighter colors and more windows was submitted earlier this month and was met with a somewhat warmer reception.

At the meeting, Chuck Steiner, President and CEO of the Chamber of Schenectady County, praised the casino representatives for their flexibility and planning board for their input.

"The site plan review process has allowed for constructive and positive recommendations to make the casino an exciting destination for thousands of visitors that will be coming to Schenectady, at the same time, for our residents of the city and county, a structure and facility that we can all be proud of and point to with proud and admiration," said Steiner.

Along with praise, the casino project that will be built on the site of a former rail manufacturing facility was not without scrutiny. City resident Camille Sasinowski...

"The ALCO developers owe the neighborhood, the neighborhoods — all of them that will be affected their due diligence and courtesy, and the light pollution certainly isn't going to sell any housing."

Still under the microscope is the casino's 80-foot pylon sign. The sign features a 32-foot LED message board and is to be set back 750 feet from the adjacent roadway. Developers have said they need every foot of the structure.

Echoing some concerns from the public, Planning Commissioner Tom Carey thinks the sign is too big.

"I would encourage the developer to do anything to mitigate the impact of the sign," said Carey.

Before the project came to vote, the commission decided that site-plan approval would hinge on slight modifications to the pylon, though location and height would not be changed. And with that, the project was granted the go-ahead.

Dave Buicko, president of the Galesi Group, the company partnering with Rush Street to build apartments and mixed-use commercial space at the site, said the tweaks to the sign are doable.

"All it is is the matter of color, design, and some people like black, some people like white, some people like red. You got a lot different opinions. We got a strong planning board and they gave their opinions. So they'll tweak it. You want to make it work. It's set back. It's not going to be something that's so obstrusive, it is going to fit in with the rest of the decor of the casino so from that standpoint  we conformed to the height restrictions, we conformed to what the city already approved," said Buicko. "I think it was a good healthy dialogue and a win for everybody."

On his quick exit out of city hall, project designer Mike Levin with Development Management Associates agreed that the project can move forward with the changes to the sign.

"We're fine. We can live with it and we're good. We're very good. We're happy and we're gonna build this thing."

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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