UAlbany Plans Will Destroy Only Natural “Green Space” Environment on Campus
ALBANY, NY – Residents of Eagle Hill will meet on September 17th, with the President of the University at Albany, Mayor Jennings and other officials at a Public Hearing to discuss plans to construct large 5-story dormitories and a 350 space parking lot on 13 acres of land which remains the only natural untouched environment on the uptown campus. This environment of woods and wetlands slopes down into the backyards of Tudor Road homeowners and is currently used by students, nearby residents and the general public for recreational purposes and to provide a natural buffer between the campus and the quiet residential neighborhood.
At the meeting Eagle Hill residents will share their concerns about the adverse environmental impacts of the construction project, as well as voice their disappointment concerning UAlbany’s lack of communication about their plans. Tudor Road residents discovered the University’s plans only through questioning surveyors who were working in their backyards and on their street during several weeks this past spring. As Steve Sokal, homeowner on Tudor Road points out, “We have had to spread the news ourselves, without assistance from the University or city officials. Many of us have contacted elected officials, and gotten little or no satisfactory response.”
At tonight’s hearing, neighborhood residents expect to learn more about the process by which UAlbany selected the Southeast Corner of the campus to be the construction site, over other proposed alternative sites, and about UAlbany’s preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is required by New York’s Environmental Conservation Law. Neighbors at the hearing also plan to submit their comments about the adverse environmental impacts to UAlbany so they can be added to the EIS. Ira Bloom, another Tudor Road resident explains that he thought “SUNY was involved in the green and sustainable movement, so in the face of New York State's strict Environmental Conservation Law and regulations how can SUNY justify destroying 13 acres of the natural environment and degrading a residential neighborhood to build new dormitories when other reasonable alternative sites are available? It’s worse than paving paradise to put up a parking lot, because they’re also going to add dorms the size of a mid-sized hotel or hospital.”
Other residents are also concerned about the displacement of wildlife, wetland issues and the loss of vegetation that will result in soil erosion and a reduced natural buffer which acts as a visual and noise screen for the neighbors. Another Tudor Road homeowner states, “We occasionally hear fireworks, loud music and DJs’ voices, and sounds from athletic competitions. We are also used to cars zipping up and down our streets, looking for entrance to the University and the Harriman campus. Occasionally we find empty beer bottles thrown on our lawns. We fully realize that we do not live in the country, but adding another 500 students will magnify these disturbances.” Other neighbors are concerned about reduced property values which will result in reduced tax receipts, and the increase in the "service demand" from the City of Albany for Fire and Police, utilities, water, storm water and seasonal drainage, and sanitary sewage. Will city taxes have to be raised to provide for these services?
In the original Master Plan for the University, the intent was to have the Edward Durrell Stone architecture surrounded by University Drive, and bordered on the outside of the drive with green space that would set off the dramatic design of the buildings, and provide a balance of natural and man-made environments. That originally designed balance may now be in jeopardy, as are harmonious relationships with UAlbany’s surrounding neighbors.