Monday, November 30, 2009

UAlbany Presentation to Harriman Research & Technology Development Corporation

President George Philip and Assistant Vice President John Giarusso made a presentation to the Harriman Research & Technology Development Corporation (HRTDC) at its board meeting today to explain its proposal to locate student housing on the Harriman Campus, instead of in the Southeast Corner woods adjacent to the west side of Tudor Road.

Mr. Giarrusso noted that dormitory utilization on the Uptown Campus is very high, with students making use of lounges as dormitory room space.  UAlbany is also in the process of renovating all four student quads, and needs additional space to be used as these quads are renovated.

According to Mr. Giarrusso, any student housing would have to be within walking distance of the uptown campus, and be accessible to other UAlbany services, such as Security and Residential Life.

UAlbany is looking at two options for the new dormitories:

1) Use the Southeast Corner

As this option last stood, an earthen berm would be placed on top of the rise between UAlbany and the neighbors.

University Drive would be relocated parallel to the berm.  This move would place the buildings further away from the neighbors, and eliminate a street crossing for the students.  The 3.3 acres acquired from the Harriman Campus would be used to route the relocated University Drive.  There would be no connection with the Harriman Campus.

Parking for 350 vehicles would be placed west of the relocated University Drive, and two five story buildings would be placed west of the parking lots and east of Iroquois Lake.

As designed, UAlbany intended to hide the new buildings from view of the neighbors.

This option is currently on hold, due to neighborhood opposition.

2) Move the site north onto the Harriman Campus.

In this option, access and parking for the dorms would be located in the 3.3 acre triangle of land acquired from the Harriman.

The buildings would be located in the space between the current ring roads on the corner of the campus.  Again, the intent is to move the buildings away from the neighbors.

The ring roads would be reconfigured to run east of the proposed buildings.

With this option, a corner of the proposed parking lot will adjoin Tudor Road, rather than having development along the entire edge of the property.

Also, by being placed further north, it would be easier to reach the Patroon Creek for storm water drainage, rather than the Krumkill, if needed.

UAlbany believes the timeline for the project is urgent, and will look for HRDTC action at its January 11, 2010 meeting.  It will develop more detailed information for the Harriman in this time.  They would still use Dormitory Authority funding to build the project, including the ring road relocation.  They will also have to use competitive bidding for the construction of the buildings.

UAlbany's presentation and request were clear, direct, and well received by the Board members.  However, Mayor Jennings expressed his opinion that if the need for housing is urgent, that the original Southeast corner plan was fine.

If you have an opportunity to talk to the Mayor's office, you should ask about his apparent lack of support for the residents of Eagle Hill.

Some Questions and Answers about Harriman Development

Who was selected as the preferred developer on the Harriman Campus?

The Albany Heights Team, consisting of BBL Construction Services, BBL Development Group, Columbia Development Companies, Clough Harbour & Associates LLP, Woodward Connor Gillies Seleman Architects all of Albany; M+W Zander, Watervliet; Toll Brothers, Horsham, Pa.; and Ocean Hospitalities, Portsmouth, N.H.

What will be developed?

The Harriman Research and Technology Development Corporation is interested in:
  • Development of office/R&D facilities
  • Administrative offices for technology focused industries
  • Hotel/conference facilities
  • Residential development
  • Associated convenience retail

How will the Albany Heights Team acquire the land?

Land will be declared as “Unappropriated”, and transferred from OGS to ESDC and then to the Albany Heights Team by means of a Land Disposition and Development Agreement/Contract of Sale or a long term ground leases. The conveyance of land will be subject to protective covenants and restrictions to protect the interests of NYS, ESDC and HRTDC.

What parcels may be developed?

There are three areas that are available for development

Section A – 62.6 acres of vacant land on the western end of the campus, which includes both the campus inner and outer ring road. ‘H’ Parking Lot (913 spaces). Adjacent to State Police Campus, UAlbany Campus, Tudor Road, Clarendon Road and west side of Cambridge Road.

UAlbany is proposing the use of 11 acres out of Section A – The 3.3 acres proposed by Mayor Jennings, and an additional 7 or so acres.

Section E-2 – Buildings 1 and 1A and a contiguous 28.2 acres of land in the southeast corner of the campus, across from Brevator Street. “B’ (334 spaces) and ‘C’ Parking Lots (604 spaces).

Section D-1 – 49.9 acres of land and three existing buildings. Buildings ‘3’ Cafeteria – Credit Union, ‘4’ Transportation and ‘5’ Transportation Administration. ‘D’ Parking Lot (193 spaces), ‘J’ Parking Lot (112 spaces). Strip between Washington Avenue and Building ‘17’ Heating and Refrigeration Building.

Here is a map:

Columbia Development tapped for massive Harriman project

Last updated: 2:53 p.m., Monday, November 30, 2009

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ALBANY -- A team led by Columbia Development Cos. has been chosen to redevelop the Harriman State Office Campus in Albany.

The surprise decision today by the board of the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corp. came more than a year after Columbia and rival development companies submitted proposals for the 330-acre campus near the University at Albany.

The state has long wanted to turn the campus, now home to state office buildings and workers, into a hotbed of private development. But those plans, first proposed in 2003, had seemed stalled -- until today.

Columbia Development is associated with BBL Construction Services, the prominent and politically connected construction firm.

For its Harriman plans, Columbia has partnered with some high-powered firms: Toll Brothers, the nation's largest home builder; M+W Zander, a German engineering company involved in building the Albany NanoTech complex and the GlobalFoundries plant in Malta; and Ocean Hospitalities, the New Hampshire company that last year purchased The Sagamore resort in Bolton Landing.

The Columbia plan beat out one by The Howard Cos. of Colonie, which proposed a redevelopment that would have included Choice Hotels, one of the world's largest hotel franchisers, and Street-Works LLC, a White Plains company that says it focuses on "the creation of mixed-use projects around great public places throughout the United States."

The Galesi Group of Rotterdam submitted a plan but withdrew it last September.

The Harriman board vote awarding development rights to Harriman was unanimous and came after a brief executive session. Board members did not discuss the Columbia plan or unveil what the proposal contains.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Meeting with UAlbany - Report on Consideration of Other Dorm Locations

Today, Ray Moran, Michael Weisberg and I met with UAlbany officials concerning options for the location of their proposed dormitory buildings.

UAlbany was represented by:

George Philip, President
Vincent Delio, Chief of Staff
Miriam Trementozzi, Assistant Vice-President Communications Engagements
John Giarrusso, Assistant Vice-President for Physical Facilities
Thomas Gebhardt, Director, Personal Safety and Off-Campus Affairs

UAlbany also met with city officials yesterday.

UAlbany is examining construction of student housing on the Harriman Campus. The Harriman Research and Technology Development Corporation (HRTDC) Board will be holding meetings on this subject as follows:

Monday, November 30, 2009 at 12:00 PM and
Monday, January 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM

30 South Pearl Street
Albany, New York

Use of Harriman Campus lands will require the approval of the HRDTC Board. We'll be following these meetings with great interest!

Also, on November 17, 2009 the SUNY Board of Trustees approved a resolution which will allow SUNY to discuss the acquisition of a 3.3 acre parcel located north of the Southeast Corner site, and to the side of the Harriman ring roads. UAlbany does appear to be actively pursuing a Harriman Campus site.

UAlbany also reviewed the previously identified State Quad and Dutch Quad sites for the new dorms, which were considered in last year's Feasibility Study, but again rejected them as unsuitable.

The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) draft report is scheduled to be released December 2, 2009, but may be delayed by a week. The study will discuss development of the Southeast Corner, but will note that other sites are being considered, and that further environmental review may be required.

Ray, Michael and I are guardedly hopeful that the Harriman option will work for UAlbany and the Eagle Hill neighbors.

Please let us know any information that you may have about the proposed dorms!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Steve Sokal

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SUNY moves on Harriman, Herring says, ‘whoa’

November 18, 2009 at 10:11 am by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist

From today’s paper: SUNY trustees yesterday approved the acquisition of 3.3 acres from the Harriman State Office Campus — potentially the site of a controversial new dorm.

Less than 24 hours earlier, 13th Ward Councilman Daniel Herring, who represents parts of the nearby Eagle Hill neighborhood, introduced this resolution calling for UAlbany not to build on the 12 wooded acres adjacent to Tudor Road.

Councilman Michael O’Brien also supports the measure, which was sent to the planning committee, which Herring chairs.

Herring said he believes there were enough votes to pass it but that he wanted to use the committee as a venue to engage UAlbany officials about their plans.

In response to neighborhood resistance, UAlbany said last month it would look at other options — but hasn’t yet said what those might be.

Eagle Hill residents have started this blog to fight the plan.

Click here to see the comments on the TU blog or to post your own.

SUNY moves on plan for land

Trustees OK acquisition of 3.3-acre tract from Harriman campus

First published in print: Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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ALBANY -- The trustees of the state university system on Tuesday approved the acquisition of 3.3 acres from the Harriman State Office Campus, land that one day could help house as many as 500 students.

The vote came less than 24 hours after Councilman Daniel Herring, who represents residents near the University at Albany's uptown campus, introduced a resolution calling on the university not to build a controversial new dorm there.

SUNY's move to acquire the land from the Office of General Services, however, did little to clarify UAlbany's intentions for those in the city who have battled the development.

Last month, the university, responding to resistance from residents and elected officials, said it would consider alternatives to building the two five-story dorms on about 12 wooded acres of the campus' southeast corner near Tudor Road.

But the Harriman land transfer was first suggested as a way to soften opposition to that original proposal, leaving some to wonder how seriously UAlbany is considering other options.

On Monday, a UAlbany spokesman said the university plans to meet soon with residents and local officials to discuss alternatives, but the school has not discussed them publicly and continues to eye the southeast corner as a "viable" site.

The land transfer is significant because it also touches on the long-debated plans to redevelop the 330-acre state office campus into a private technology park that would put the land back on the city tax rolls.

While some view UAlbany's expansion into Harriman as preferable to encroaching on neighborhoods like Eagle Hill, others -- like Councilman Michael O'Brien, who also supports Herring's resolution -- fear a land-grab by the university will keep much of that prized land tax-exempt.

Still others suggest UAlbany should construct a dorm farther downtown.

The Harriman Research and Technology Development Corporation, the subsidiary of the state's economic development arm charged with ushering Harriman's public-private transition, met last month for the first time in over a year.

UAlbany is exempt from city zoning laws, and Herring's resolution would not be binding on the university.

Among other things, it cites concerns about traffic, flooding, sewer capacity and the fact that UAlbany already uses city fire and EMS services without paying taxes for them.

Herring is chairman of the Common Council's planning committee, which will review the measure. He said he hopes to use it as a venue to engage UAlbany officials about their plans, even if city lawmakers hold no official sway over them.

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at

Monday, November 16, 2009

SUNY trustees weigh Harriman land deal for dorm

Last updated: 3:17 p.m., Monday, November 16, 2009

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ALBANY -- Even as the University at Albany has publicly tabled plans to build a new uptown dorm amid outcry from neighbors, the state university system is moving to secure land from the Harriman State Office Campus to accommodate the facility.

At a meeting Tuesday, the SUNY Board of Trustees will consider a resolution approving the transfer of 3.3 acres from the state Office of General Services, which controls the sprawling Harriman campus, to the state university system.

The parcel was first proposed as a way to lessen the impact of the proposed 500-bed apartment-style dorms on neighbors, who forcefully opposed construction on about 12 wooded acres on the uptown UAlbany campus' southeast corner, near Tudor Road.

Mayor Jerry Jennings proposed the transfer in September as a way to ease neighbors concerns, which include noise, traffic, sewer capacity and storm-water runoff from the site.

That was before UAlbany, confronted with solid opposition from residents and elected officials, agreed last month to consider other options.

UAlbany has still not said publicly what options it will consider. The university plans to meet privately with residents and local officials in the "near future" to discuss alternatives, said Karl Luntta, a school spokesman.

Luntta stressed, however, that UAlbany has not ruled out building in the southeast corner, which remains "viable as an option."

"The transfer of that land from the Harriman Campus to the university would be consistent with our original plan," Luntta said. David Henahan, a spokesman for the SUNY system, said the trustees finance committee gave the transfer a positive recommendation on Friday.

"It's just transfer of jurisdiction" from one state entity to another, Henahan said, noting and there would be no money exchanged.

Henahan said the resolution would permit Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to reach out to OGS to transfer the land.

The deal is significant not only because of the friction between the UAlbany and its neighbors about the dorm but also because it touches on the larger issue of the future of the state office campus, a 330-acre swath of tax-exempt land that the city covets as a way to generate revenue.

Plans backed by the state to redevelop the land as a private technology park, stalled for more than a year, have recently begun to show signs of life. In the meantime, the city has pushed for millions in state money as compensation in lieu of property taxes on the land.

While residents -- including Assemblyman Jack McEneny -- have encouraged UAlbany to expand into Harriman instead of toward their homes, some city officials fear that, contrary to the comprehensive redevelopment plans, the office campus will be carved up piecemeal and without focus.

The SUNY vote also comes as the statewide system experienced its largest enrollment increase ever this year, while UAlbany was one of a handful of schools whose enrollment declined. UAlbany saw a decrease of about 1 percent -- or about 186 students -- to 18,018.

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Agenda Item for November 16, 2009 City Council Meeting

TO:         John Marsolais, City Clerk

FROM:   Daniel Herring and Michael O'Brien, Council Members

RE:         Request for Common Council Legislation
                Supporting Memorandum

DATE:   November 12, 2009



  To officially express the position of the Common Council





WHEREAS, the University at Albany has a large student population and many of the students come to the Unversity from outside of the Capital Region therefore requiring local student housing, and

WHEREAS, the University has a capital plan which calls for the building of a campus dorm to house five hundred students, and

WHEREAS, one of the primary locations proposed for this large student dorm is an approximately eleven acre plot of land located adjacent to Tudor Road in the City of Albany, and

WHEREAS, the City of Albany is impacted in many ways by the University, providing to it fire and safety services, EMS services, streets and traffic services, water and sewer services, and other necessary services.  Despite the impact and service provided, the University is largely autonomous. It does not pay real property taxes and is not requred to comply with local zoning and planning laws, and

WHEREAS, the resident neighbors of the University have expressed serious concerns regarding the impact of such large proposed student dorm on their neighborhood, and

WHEREAS, there are many genuine concerns over locating such a large facility at this site including the section of Western Avenue in proximity to the proposed site for this student dorm, has been the location of numerous accidents in recent years, including three fatalities, the development of this currently wooded approximately eleven acre area would cause additional storm water runoff into an area of Western Avenue which is already prone to flooding, the closest sanitary sewer line to the proposed site is only a twelve inch diameter pipe, the combined downstream storm water capacity is already inadequate to handle the current overflow, causing sewer back ups even in down stream areas remote from the University Campus, the existing conditions already necessitate a SPEDES permit for the overflow discharge of sanitary sewerage into the Krumkill Creek at the City of Albany's Woodville Pumping Station, and the additional sewer use from the project would potentially violate the consent order between the City of Albany and the Department of Environmental Conservation regarding combined sewer overflow levels, and

WHEREAS, the University has already been designated as its own lead agency in determining whether or not to conduct a full SEQRA environmental review regarding the proposed construction project, and

WHEREAS, the ideal of a University is to foster cooperation and understanding between academia and its host community, and

WHEREAS, the Common Council appreciates the recent efforts of the University to consider alternatives to this location and to take a closer look at the impacts of the proposal

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Common Council of the City of Albany calls upon the State University of New York at Albany, the University of the State of New York, the New York State Dormitory Authority, and all other involved governmental agencies, to refrain from building the proposed student dorm on the approximately eleven acre site adjacent to Tudor Road in the City of Albany, and to consider other sites which will have less negative impact on the City of Albany and its neighborhoods.

UAlbany Dormitory Project and City Council – Where are we now?

In the October 31, 2009 Times Union, we read that President George Philip was willing to reconsider the proposed dormitory project on the southeast corner of the campus, that UAlbany will be reaching out to elected and community leaders to explore viable options, and that the process will be slowed down. There has been nothing further to report on this front.

In order to give the City Council an opportunity to express its position on the proposed project, Councilman Dan Herring has placed a proposed resolution on the agenda for City Council's meeting on Monday, November 16, 2009 at 7:00 PM.

Based on the discussion at the Common Council Caucus on Friday night, Dan intends to introduce the resolution and ask that it be referred to the Planning Committee, which he chairs. After review, the committee will report back the resolution to the full Council for its vote.

(The discussion about the resolution was recorded by and occurs at 36 minutes through 40 minutes into the meeting).

It is important that this draft resolution move forward. As UAlbany looks at all of the options for providing student housing, we hope that City Council will be on record against the construction of dormitories next to our neighborhood. Please express your support for this resolution by contacting:

Daniel Herring – Councilman, 13th Ward
(, 438-7527)

Michael O'Brien – Councilman, 12th Ward
( 482-1160)

Sandra Fox, Councilman, 15th Ward
(, 438-8085 or 489-1675)

Frank Commisso Jr., Councilman Elect, 15th Ward
(, 429-8089)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jennings elected to fifth term as mayor

Albany mayor defeats foes after withstanding primary challenge


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First published: Wednesday, November 4, 2009

ALBANY -- If Mayor Jerry Jennings is to forge his legacy in the coming four years, he will do it surrounded by new faces in City Hall.
Jennings, 60, rolled to re-election Tuesday night, two months after having survived his most serious Democratic primary challenge from Councilman Corey Ellis, who continued in the general election on the Working Families Party line.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Jennings had 63 percent of the vote to Ellis' 29 percent and Republican Nathan Lebron's 7 percent.

Jennings won his fifth term as voters tapped two political newcomers and fellow Democrats to serve alongside him in citywide office: Kathy Sheehan as treasurer and Leif Engstrom as chief city auditor.

Sheehan will assume broad control of city finances after trouncing Treasurer Betty Barnette -- a Jennings ally -- in the Democratic primary, and Republican Mary Ann McGinn on Tuesday night.

Barnette, in her own estimation, became a victim of the controversy surrounding the revelations that some in the city were allowed to dodge parking fines -- the so-called "ghost ticket" scandal -- which despite Ellis' efforts never stuck to Jennings.

Engstrom -- who will shape the new office of audit and control charged with critiquing the efficiency of city government -- was all but assured of election, having won the Democratic primary and having no general election opponent.

Jennings' re-election comes as the Common Council is parsing his proposed 2010 budget, which administration officials describe as having walked a fine line to avoid layoffs in the nation and state's still-struggling economies.

Jennings' fiscal nimbleness will be tested as the state's payments in lieu of taxes on the South Mall are due to plummet some $7.8 million in 2011, even as Jennings contends the state should be paying more for its tax-exempt land inside city limits.

Jennings also has pledged to seek a similar PILOT payment for the Harriman State Office Campus, as well as to continue to lobby the state to release that prime land for private development that would put it back on the tax rolls.

The next four years will also figure largely in the future of the city's expanding Rapp Road landfill -- a fiscal and environmental flash point -- and the much-debated downtown convention center, of which Jennings has been a strong supporter.

Last week, Jennings convened a committee to help him pick his sixth police chief in his 16 years as mayor.

"We've had a lot of successes here, and there are challenges no doubt about it," Jennings told reporters.

With the current economy impacting municipal finances throughout the country, "we have to start getting real creative," Jennings said.

Asked how he would get along with Sheehan, he replied: "This has to be a team effort. I'm looking forward to it."

He later told supporters: "Shame on us if we don't work together for the benefit of the people of the city of Albany."

Jennings is poised to become the city's second-longest tenured mayor in its history, behind only Erastus Corning 2nd, who died in 1983 after 41 years in office.

Jennings defeated Ellis in September's the Democratic primary with 56 percent of the vote. But even in falling about 1,800 votes short on primary night, Ellis forced Jennings into the closest mayoral race since he first won in 1993, winning seven of the city's 15 wards as he assailed Jennings' record on blight and crime.

Ellis, 38, was elected to represent Arbor Hill's 3rd Ward in 2005. In January, he will leave public office.

Ellis' primary victories strayed beyond his home territory of the city's lower inner-city wards, spreading into Center Square and two midtown wards that make up Pine Hills.

Jennings spent more than $500,000 on his re-election, which according to a recent snapshot from the state Board of Elections accounted for 86 percent of all spending in the race.

Sheehan, backed by the some of the same forces that backed Ellis, said she plans to work "cooperatively and collaboratively" with Jennings.

Jennings, in an interview, also stressed a message of unity. "I've had discussions with Leif and Kathy, and I'm very confident that they want to do what's best for the people of the city of Albany," he said. These are no times for us to play petty politics and divide this city."

Councilwoman Carolyn McLaughlin was elected Common Council president.

McLaughlin, who for 12 years has represented the South End's 2nd Ward, handily won her Democratic primary over Leonard Ricchiuti in September.

McLaughlin, a veteran of Albany politics, has talked to Jennings about improving communication with the council -- a sore point with some members who complain Jennings' office does not share information.

"That's something he committed to next year," McLaughlin said. "It's really important we have direct communication with the mayor and the council works together to face some of the challenges."

Reach Carleo-Evangelist at 454-5445 or

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Get on our Blog Update List

Many of the neighbors in Eagle Hill currently exchange e-mails, and I use this list to send out blog update notices.

If you want to receive blog update notices, drop me a note at

GE, UAlbany share $14M in stimulus funding for geothermal

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Business Review (Albany)

Direct Link

GE Global Research and the University at Albany will share about $13.7 million in federal stimulus money for geothermal energy technologies.

UAlbany will get $2.77 million to install a large geothermal heat pump system that will serve campus facilities.

GE’s grants are:

•$2.4 million to develop high-temperature components for a pumping system that can access deeper geothermal wells •$3 million to develop new technologies that would enable recovery of geothermal energy from lower temperature heat sources using alternative fluids

•$3.4 million to develop a high-tech sensor that can operate at the high temperatures and pressures needed for enhanced geothermal systems. The technology could lead to more cost-effective ways to drill new wells.

$2.08 million to develop an enhanced geothermal system-specific cable capable of accurate, real-time temperature, pressure, strain and vibration sensing in high temperature geothermal environments.

The grants will be matched with a $353 million in private and non-federal cost-share funds.

The Department of Energy describes this project as "The University at Albany will install a large GHPsystem serving 200,000 sq. ft. of dorm and apartment housing, and will leverage additional incentives from the State of NY."