Tuesday, October 26, 2010

UAlbany drops sewer hookup plan

Published: 12:00 a.m., Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ALBANY -- As construction begins at the site of the University at Albany's new 500-bed dormitory, school officials have given up on a controversial plan to connect the two five-story buildings' sewer system to Albany's aging infrastructure and a pump station along the Krumkill Creek.

UAlbany originally planned to link the new apartment-style dorm to older sewer lines along Western Avenue that lead to the Woodville pump station.

But that plan sparked concerns that the added volume might increase bacteria spilling into the Krumkill during heavy storms, when the pump station is allowed to overflow a certain amount into the Hudson River tributary according to an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The plan also triggered worries that the added volume could exacerbate sewer backups in homes downstream in the city -- a problem DEC has ordered the city to remedy.

Karl Luntta, a UAlbany spokesman, confirmed that the university has decided not to connect to the city's Western Avenue sewers but said UAlbany still believes its plan, which centered on making repairs to the sewer pipes to mitigate the impact of the new volume, would have succeeded.

"We assessed our options," Luntta said. "Certainly there were questions that were being asked, and we do believe that we were in the right place."

The two most likely alternatives are connecting to the town of Guilderland's sewer system, also along Western Avenue, or pumping the sewage north directly to Albany's newer Patroon Creek sewer along Washington Avenue -- both of which would be more costly for UAlbany to maintain.

Luntta said the university hasn't decided which it favors.

Guilderland Supervisor Ken Runion said the town has discussed the possibility of connection with UAlbany -- including an estimated $338,000 mitigation fee the school would have to pay the town to make up for the increased burden on the system.

The fight over the sewer system was the last battle in neighbors' efforts to scuttle the dorm project amid fears it would also cause surface flooding, traffic, noise and other problems on Tudor Road, which is adjacent to the construction site on the campus' southeastern corner near the Boor Sculpture Studio.

To allay some of those fears, UAlbany has amended its plans for the $60 million project, funding permitting, to include rooftop vegetation in parts of the complex, as well as rain gardens and the strategic use of permeable pavement in the new 350-space parking lot -- all to reduce the amount of water flowing off the site and into storm sewers.

Neighbors also protested clearing of the land -- more than a dozen wooded acres, including nearly 3.5 acres of the Harriman State Office Campus.

That work has already begun. This fall, workers will focus on building a berm to shield neighbors from the two five-story buildings and preparations to move the campus ring road, University Drive, some 450 feet east of its current location.

The dorm is expected to open in August 2012.

Reach Jordan Carleo-Evangelist at 454-5445 or jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Found Cat!


Grey, female cat with yellow eyes
Found on Cambridge Road off Western Avenue on 6/13/10

She is having trouble walking

Taken to Hudson-Mohawk Humane Society
Fax: (518) 434-0217
Email: information@mohawkhumane.org

Take exit 6 off I-787
Turn right (north) on Broadway (Route 32)
Go approx. 1/2 mile
Before the first light, make right on Oakland Ave.
Take Oakland to its end

What are community concerns?

I received an e-mail from a neighbor that they had found a lost and possibly injured cat, and asked if I would put a notice on this blog.

As you can tell from the postings to date, I have been writing about the actions of our very large neighbors - UAlbany and and the Harriman Office Campus.  The effects of their actions directly affect the quiet enjoyment of our homes and neighborhood.  Describing their actions has also been important, because UAlbany and the Harriman take years in doing anything.  It is difficult to keep track of where we stand, and what we can do at an appropriate time.  That was my intent for this blog.

The problem is that the message conveyed by making some postings is that you only hear about the big issues - issues that do not quickly go away and where the gains are ambiguous.  I may be able to help in this situation.  But, we shouldn't defined just by our opposition to the University, but how we care for each other.

So, as small as it seems, here is a notice about a lost cat.  It is a concern for a neighbor, and it's a concern for me as a cat owner.  If you have any concerns about everyday life in our part of Albany, pass them on.  Let me hear about what is important to you.

Steve Sokal

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Caucus Talkus

from Albany Citizen One by albanycitizenone

Just a few things on the agenda...not much of interest so far. There is an issue with the SUNY sewer issue...you know, where the community wants to route the wastewater in a way that SUNY doesn't want to route it. Seems the SUNY secret system involves they contacting all the common council members individually for meetings instead of working in the light of day. Wonder if they are registered with New York Public Integrity.

Seems that MOB nipped that in the bud. They will be invited to an open meeting.

If you're following me on Twitter, you already know that Anton has introduced legislation stating that the Common Council endorses Andrew Cuomo's New NY Plan. uh, hum. Sometimes I deserve a medal for holding back the giggles. The council members haven't even seen the 250 page plan...but he asks them to go on record in support of it...which, essentially, this would indicated that the council endorses Cuomo for Governor...to committee it goes.

The pesticides issue is up and it appears they are appointing an ad hoc committee to review the entire committee. Mr. Conti recommends that Bob Cross and Bill Bruce be involved since they were involved in the original legislation. Ms. McLaughlin is recommeding a 60 day turn around on this task force. Ms. Golby has interest in being on the committee...and MOB volunteers.

Mr. Konev has also introed legislation to tell Yellow Cab how to run their company...ya know, like most-favored drivers get better routes...how many people are fit into a cab. Seems that the college students like to share cabs as they all pay just $3. Well, from the old lady over here...count me out of that enjoyment equation. I've been in cabs thinking a second rider would be a split....nope...the cabbie charged me and the second rider the same fee...$25 to go to the same place.

Okay, the talkus has moved back into the pesticide realm with Rozy saying the info never got to the department. I'm betting the ad hoc committee will be looking at that communication gap. (Well, I would hope.) Mr. Conti says that the law committee should have some role in ensuring that the legislation gets to the director of the department.

Seems that Mr. Freeman wants a report on the city's employees...race, salary, gender, residency....seems there's no such report. Mr. Freeman has seen the information but says that Ms. Sheehan (that's who he says...I'm not sure that's right) will not release the information until he gets a "permission slip" from the leaders of the common council.

So, now the report exists...according to Mr. Freeman but he can't get the report. Ms. McLaughlin says she just needs to talk to Ms. Sheehan to release. Seems there's still no Director of Administration yet either. Hmmm....

Hands in the air. Mr. Bailey wants to know if there is anyway to get information prior to the night that a decision must be made. (He's talking about the Planning Department...and the CDBG funding.) Wonder of wonders...Ms. McLaughlin says that, if we invite the department heads to all the meetings...ya know, and develop relationships, you'll have an easier time getting information proactively.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

UAlbany Response to Albany Common Council on Water Issues

Here is a May 11, 2010 letter from Steve Beditz, UAlbany Interim Vice President to the Honorable Michael O'Brien on water issues.

May 11 Letter to Michael OBrien From Steve Beditz UAlbany

The letter included two attachments from UAlbany consultants.

Storm Water Management Methodology

CT Male Response to Common Council

Mr. O'Brien will be proposing a meeting with UAlbany at an upcoming Common Council meeting.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sewers the last front in UAlbany dorm battle

Last updated: 11:46 a.m., Tuesday, May 25, 2010

ALBANY -- The University at Albany is pushing ahead with a 500-bed dorm next to Tudor Road and plans to start construction as soon as July despite opponents' lingering concerns that the project could overwhelm part of the city's already tapped-out sewer system.

Neighbors in the Eagle Hill section have fought the project on numerous fronts, airing fears about increased noise and light pollution as well as traffic and water runoff from what's currently about 12 wooded acres southeast of the Boor Sculpture Studio.

That fight, however, has been largely stymied by the fact that -- as a state entity -- UAlbany is exempt from the city's zoning and planning regulations.

The final battle, however, centers on how the two new five-story apartment buildings will connect to the city's sanitary sewer system -- the only aspect of the project over which local officials have any say. The $70 million project also involves moving the university's ring road about 450 feet further east to push the buildings from nearby houses.

UAlbany intends to send its sewage south, toward Western Avenue and the Woodville Pump Station along the Krumkill.

The pump station, however, is part of one of the older sections of Albany's leaky and -- in some cases -- crumbling combined sewer system, which carries storm water and sewage in the same pipes and overflows into the Hudson River and backs up into homes during severe storms.

Opponents of the project, including the chairman of the Common Council committee that oversees the sewer system, fear the increased volume could violate state Department of Environmental Conservation orders not to make the overflows or backups worse.

"They're content to just go ahead and do it and let us pick up the consequences," said Councilman Michael O'Brien, the committee chairman who represents the 12th Ward.

O'Brien wants guarantees that UAlbany, not the city, will be on the hook for any fines or penalties that result from their connection.

Even more, O'Brien wants the university to pay the added expense to pump the sewage up hill to the north toward Washington Avenue and the Patroon Creek sewer system, which is newer and carries sewer and storm water separately.

In an April letter, all 15 members of the council and Council President Carolyn McLaughlin called on the city's Water Board to reject any southern connection to the sewer system.

In response, university Interim Vice President for Finance and Business Stephen Beditz last week wrote O'Brien saying the council's understanding of the project is flawed. He said the university plans to repair sewer lines downstream that will reduce leaks and illegal connections equal to the amount of sewage the project would add.

That condition was recommended by the Water Board's outside engineer, Daniel Hershberg, who told the council he would still prefer that UAlbany pump its sewage north.

But, Hershberg cautioned the lawmakers, the Water Board has no power to force the university to do so -- or reject the application outright for a connection to the system -- so long as UAlbany meets conditions imposed by the board.

John Kosa, assistant commissioner of the city Department of Water and Water Supply, said the city would not require UAlbany to make repairs to the system if it would not be enough to keep the overflows and backups in check.

"We're not going to allow a connection ... unless we know we can do it without impacting the residents," Kosa said. "We're not going to make it worse. We're the ones that have to deal with it, too."

Fifteenth Ward Councilman Frank Commisso Jr., who represents some of the neighborhoods around the campus, said "it doesn't make sense" that the city can conclude that the northern option is preferable but that the law gives it no power to enforce its preference.

"It's just not night," Commisso said. "The unfortunate thing is that a lot of people are going to end up with flooding in their basements because of it."

Hershberg, however, notes that similar mitigation arrangements have been reached with Albany Medical Center and several new developments along New Scotland Avenue and said he thinks opponents of the dorm are just trying to use the city's Water Board as an 11th-hour roadblock.

"They're trying to have the Albany Water Board ... act as their agent to kill the project," he said.

UAlbany's request is pending before the board. No action will be taken until the board gets clearance from the health department, Kosa said.

Meanwhile, UAlbany is planning to begin construction in July. The dorms are scheduled to open in September 2011.

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Common Council Letter to Albany Water Board and UAlbany

UAlbany had requested a connection to Albany's sewer lines as part of their Final Environmental Impact Statement. The connection would be to the Woodville Pump Station, which is a heavily used facility. The Krumkill receives not only stormwater runoff from our neighborhood, including the UAlbany Campus, but any overflows from the pump station.

These issues were taken up by Michael O'Brien with the General Services, Health and Environment Committee of Common Council. After conducting its investigation, a letter outlining the issues that the City has with the sewer connection was prepared. The Council members agreed with the findings and signed on.

Here is a letter sent to the Water Board and UAlbany concerning this request.

Water Board Letter

The bottom line here is that the proposed construction and sewer connection, while lowest cost to UAlbany, would harm the City and its residents. Pass the message on!