Trustees OK acquisition of 3.3-acre tract from Harriman campus
By JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST, Staff writer
First published in print: Wednesday, November 18, 2009
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 email@example.com.