Friday, January 15, 2010

The Morning After The Big Night

We had a great turnout at the UAlbany Meeting last night of about thirty five residents.

Speakers included

Ira Bloom
Steve Burke
Frank Commisso, Jr.
Joe Cunniff
Kathy Johnson
Ray Moran
Michael O'Brian
Don Reeb
Doug Smith
and myself

You can see the show at:

I also heard that WNYT picked up the meeting last night as well.

If you hadn't had the chance yet, you can still send in written comments to UAlbany until the 22nd.

Here is the contact information:

Errol C, Millington, Director
University At Albany
Office of Campus Planning
1400 Washington Ave
Service Building A Room 107
Albany, NY 12222

(518) 442-3400 Phone
(518) 442-3464 Fax

Under the rules of SEQRA, they'll have to take them and respond to them in their Final Statement.  Remember - if they don't hear your concerns, they won't be answered.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Meeting Tonight on UAlbany Student Housing Project

From the original letter from UAlbany -

A Draft Generic Environmental impact Statement (DGEIS) has been completed and accepted for the proposed action described below. Comments are requested and will be accepted by the contact person until January 22, 2010. A public hearing on the DGEIS will be held January 14, 2010 at the Hall of Fame Room, SEFCU Arena, University at Albany, SUNY campus at 7p.m. Copies of the DGEIS are available on the University at Albany, SUNY web site at: and at hard copy repositories located at the University at Albany, SUNY Facilities Management Office and the Main Library on the Uptown Campus,the Guilderland Public Library, and the Hawley Library on the Downtown Campus.

Back to the soapbox -

Please attend this meeting to give voice to your concerns and to hear the concerns of your neighbors!

The meeting tonight should be recorded by a stenographer, and videoed. Under law, UAlbany is obliged to hear all the comments about its proposed action tonight and in any written comments filed by January 22nd.

Based on these comments, the Draft Statement must be revised to answer all expressed concerns to become final. UAlbany expects that this part of the process will be done by the end of February.

The Harriman Research and Development Technology Corporation has made it clear that it won't take any actions, including any land transfers, until UAlbany finishes this Environmental Review Process. This includes both the 3.3 and 11 acre land transfers.

If UAlbany finds 'no significant impact' from its construction program, construction of the Student Housing will begin this spring.

Let UAlbany and HRDTC know that the Student Housing project will have 'significant impact' so that more reasonable development may occur!

Steve Sokal

UAlbany dorm options limited

Harriman development unlikely site, giving Eagle Hill area more weight

First published in print: Thursday, January 14, 2010

Direct Link

ALBANY -- The board charged with overseeing the redevelopment of the Harriman State Office Campus is unlikely to support an 11-acre land transfer to the University at Albany, the only option that school officials said will allow them to move a proposed new dorm farther from nearby homes.

The move means the 500-bed, apartment-style dorm will probably be located on wooded land in the southeast corner of UAlbany's uptown campus, a proposal that has angered neighbors in nearby Eagle Hill who fear increased noise, traffic, flooding and sewer problems.

While stopping short of a formal decision until the university's environmental review process is complete, the board of the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corp. earlier this week indicated it favors a smaller 3.3-acre land transfer that would encroach less on the 330-acre office campus.

The news comes as UAlbany is to host a hearing tonight on the environmental impact of the dorm, along with 12 other projects.

In response to opposition from neighbors and elected officials, the university pitched an alternative to the Harriman board in November that would require about 7.7 more acres of state office campus to allow UAlbany to pull the dorm further from nearby homes. That plan would have also required rerouting a section of the Harriman campus' distinctive ring road.

UAlbany's 11-acre option "less significantly impacts on Tudor Road," said HRTDC Executive Director Peter Wohl, referring to the closest residents, "but it impacts the Harriman campus in a much more severe way ... including the loss of prime developable lands."

The dorm controversy is taking place as HRTDC, a subsidiary of Empire State Development, the state's economic development arm, is pushing ahead with redevelopment of about 140-acres of the Harriman campus as a private high-tech hub.

At the same November meeting where UAlbany made its pitch for the additional 7.7 acres, the board -- which includes UAlbany President George Philip and Mayor Jerry Jennings -- tapped Columbia Development as the preferred developer. The state is negotiating contract details with Columbia.

City officials back redevelopment as a way to get a large chunk of the land, currently tax-exempt, producing revenue for Albany.

Jennings said he understands neighbors' concerns, but he noted that state law requires that UAlbany address them in the environmental review process. He urged residents to take a more holistic view of how the development will benefit Albany.

"The neighbors should think about ... a bigger tax base," said Jennings, who initially proposed the 3.3-acre land transfer as an early way to mitigate their concerns.

He said that while he believes the campus' ring roads should be eliminated to free up more land for development, he doesn't believe it should be done piecemeal.

In a statement, UAlbany said it was "disappointed that our amended proposal ... was not approved" but hailed the board's "conceptual" support for the dorm project using the smaller parcel.

Ultimately, the state Office of General Services, which controls the land, has final say over the transfer. But that is not likely to be an obstacle because OGS Commissioner John Egan is also chairman of the Harriman board.

Meeting today

A public hearing on UAlbany's draft environmental impact statement for the dorm and other projects is scheduled for 7 tonight at the SEFCU Arena.

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Recording of the January 11, 2010 Harriman Board Meeting

Here is Albany Community Television's recording of yesterday's Harriman Research and Technology Development Corporation's meeting. (Thank you again, Joe Cunniff! How else could we see what our government is doing?)

The Board considered and rejected the UAlbany proposal to use 11 acres of Harriman Campus land for its dormitory project. The Board was also briefed on ongoing discussions with Columbia Development, and plans for future construction.

The fifty minutes viewing time for the video is worthwhile for any Albany resident to see what is and will be happening in our neighborhood.

NY seeks advisers for Harriman project

The Business Review (Albany)

Direct Link

Harriman board says developer may be picked within 6 weeks

The state is seeking to hire three advisers as it prepares to develop a slice of its Harriman office campus in Albany, N.Y.

State officials said Monday that three requests for proposals, or RFPs, are almost ready to be issued. The board of directors for the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corp. plans to vote on selected proposals in an April meeting.

The RFPs are one of the next steps the state is taking as it prepares almost half of the 330 acres at the W. Averell Harriman State Office Campus for development.

In late November, the campus’ board of directors unanimously awarded Albany-based Columbia Development Cos. the rights to redevelop 140 acres of the campus—a controversial and abrupt decision, in the eyes of developers who lost the bid to overhaul the campus.

The Harriman board met behind closed doors on Nov. 30, 2009, to discuss development plans before emerging to formally vote to adopt Columbia’s vision.

Throughout last decade, the state has pursued an ambitious plan to renovate the campus to lure high-tech companies and build retail shops and residential units. The initiative stalled repeatedly amid changing state leadership, the recession, tight credit markets and the state’s problems with multi-billion-dollar deficits.

The remainder of the Harriman campus will continue to be used by state agencies that employ 7,300 people.

Peter Wohl, president of the Harriman Research and Technology Development Corp., said the state will soon issue RFPs for three needs:

• a development adviser, to assist with site planning, as well as engineering and environmental studies, as needed

• a property appraiser, to calculate new assessments of the Harriman campus that will replace “outdated” property values on file with the state, Wohl said.

• a consultant to help with the environmental siting process, called the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA. The law requires developers to identify, and address, the “significant environmental aspects” of whatever work is being proposed or permitted.

“That takes nine to 12 months to complete, so we’re looking to engage someone fairly quickly,” Wohl said at a Monday meeting of the Harriman board.

The board plans to vote on winning bids at an April 12 meeting, its next regularly scheduled session.

Wohl said the state is continuing negotiations with Columbia Development. There is no timeline for finishing those talks.

The state has declined to make public any elements of Columbia’s concept for the Harriman campus, citing an exemption in the state’s Freedom of Information law for ongoing contract negotiations.

Monday, January 11, 2010

HRDTC Turns Down UAlbany Request for use of Harriman Campus Land

At today's meeting of the Harriman Research and Development Technology Corporation, the Board turned down a request by UAlbany to use 11 acres of Harriman Campus land for the location of its housing project.

According to Peter Wohl, President of HRDTC, the responsibility of the Corporation is to obtain the maximum value of the Harriman Campus land. The UAlbany proposal failed to meet his objectives. The University would receive the land in a transfer between state agencies. There would not be any money from the lease or sale of the land.

Additionally, UAlbany use of the land would not produce additional tax revenues for the City of Albany, nor would it further promote the primary goal of HRDTC to further research and development projects in Albany. For these reasons, Mr. Wohl called for rejection of the UAlbany proposal, and the Board agreed with his recommendation.

As a result, UAlbany's alternate plan for the location of the housing project has been rejected. UAlbany will continue development along the property line along the west side of Tudor Road.

I have two comments about the effects of this decision:

Whether it is UAlbany or HRDTC as the responsible agency, the housing project is slated to proceed, despite the concerns of the Eagle Hill neighborhood, UAlbany's preferences, or the opposition of many of our elected officials. The actions of the board of the HRDTC should be brought to the attention of the public and our elected officials.

Second, UAlbany will continue with the only plan that they have prepared at this point. On Thursday night, there will be a meeting to discuss the Environmental Impact Statement that they have prepared. Please read their report, attend the meeting, if possible, or provide your written comments to UAlbany by January 22nd.

We have been successful in reaching UAlbany, and obtaining some respect, and meaningful changes. Please hold onto hope for a better outcome for Eagle Hill!

Steve Sokal