Kevin Vandeburgh proposes to build 240 apartment units at 1011 2nd Avenue. A critical indigenous heritage site of national importance (it is National Register eligible, as affirmed by the developer’s engineering consultant of MJ Engineering). It is also home to several county rare and potentially home to globally rare species.
To be able to build this apartment development, the developer needs the City to change the zoning code of the property (from R-1 single family, detached to P Planned development).
The Friends of the Mahicantuck are a grassroots community coalition of local residents, indigenous leaders and local, regional and state-wide organizations. We work to:
- Stop the development
- Prevent the change in zoning code
- Protect and preserve the land for generations to come, and
- Create a historical and ecological preservation and cultural center for the benefit of the community and city.
- If the rezoning would be approved: What guarantees that the developer does actually build any of the plans he is currently presenting — and not build anything he wants to as long as it is permitted?
- How much revenue does the city expect, taking into account indirect costs — e.g. Increased public safety costs, street maintenance and increased traffic cost, increased costs for additional students in school district, police and fire station capacities, etc.? Is our price that low, to make us accept destroying heritage sites and our last waterfront forest, and endangering rare species on the land?
- Increased density has negative impacts on the archeological sites, on rare plant species, on runoff and water pollution, and many more. The rezoning has potentials for direct negative environmental impacts. Given these facts, when will you or the lead agency make a positive SEQRA declaration and begin a full environmental assessment and environmental impact statement?
- I hope you will give a negative recommendation as soon as possible. Today is better than tomorrow. In case you are not ready for a negative declaration: given the rare species that ecologists have found recently — will you commit today to refrain from giving a positive declaration about the rezoning until all parties were able to provide a proper and independent ecological assessments of the site between May and September.
- The developer has obvious and specific plans to build on the site. He presented them today. Why is the planning commission not insisting that the developer submit to the Zoning Board of Appeals so that rezoning and site plans can be reviewed together and properly addressed in a non-segemented SEQRA review? Why are you not recommending against a rezoning without that?
WHY SHOULD THE PLANNING COMMISSION RECOMMEND AGAINST THE REZONING?
Troy is home to a rich and important history. It’s preservation is important — and the positive effects are clear, when one looks downtown.
But what of the many historical sites and places that are not in downtown? It is time to preserve all of history! The land at 1011 2nd Avenue is particularly special. It is a nationally important indigenous heritage site, and eligible for the National Register.
Artifacts found on the site date back to 1500-3000 B.C. That is 5000 years of activity! The Mahican peoples were the original custodians of this land and still maintain strong ties to it.
Shouldn’t that be worth preserving?
In fact, it does! After all, the site is National Register eligible; has therefore national significance. Why would we destroy such an important asset?
Ecologists working with the Friends of the Mahicantuck identified in an initial survey a number of rare plant species on the property. This includes the Scrub Oak, which was only found at three other locations across Rensselaer County. They also are an indicator for the potential presence of other rare species, including globally rare species.
This means that any high density development of this land would be devastating to rare species and local ecologies. Rezoning and development must be prevented.
At the very least, approval of the rezoning needs to be postponed until more in-depth ecological studies are conducted in the warmer months between May and October, when more species can be properly documented and identified.
Besides these rare species, several other special communities are guests on this land regularly, including beavers, red foxes, and bald eagles.
Besides the cost associated with strains on the local infrastructure, this development will also lead to additional direct and indirect costs for the local residents and the overall neighborhood.
The development will lead to significant loss of property value and resale value due to the loss of greenspace and waterfront, which also negatively impacts the city budget.
The tax savings of industrial development may measure a few hundred dollars a year per taxpayer, but the loss in property values measures in the thousands. Typically it takes decades of tax savings to make up for the loss in property value.
Property value will decline with the loss of a significant greenspace and undeveloped waterfront forest property.
Rental increases in surrounding housing are expected to increase due to the amenities at the property, clearly designed for the use of renters at the property.
As a R1 zone, the rezoning will significantly increase noise levels due to increased population density, increased traffic and the loss of green space as natural noise shield; this will significantly disrupt the character, but also the health of the otherwise characteristically quiet neighborhood. It will also constitute a major nuisance for the local residents.
Have you driven past the land before? Right after the Hannaford at the Waterford bridge the street becomes a two-lane road. It makes a narrow bend. Right now, with all the snow on the ground, there is barely room for two cars next to each other.
Imagine the cars of an additional 240 residents driving to and from the apartments on this street? Perhaps, most of them at the same time, early morning, when everyone leaves to work? This is a recipe for traffic jams and dangerous situations. Introduce pedestrians, and disaster is guaranteed!
A high density development at this location would be seriously dangerous!
Housing demand is a limited resource. With several housing projects already underway, this development is a risk to the city’s development. There are only so many people looking for apartments at any given time.
This is even more important, as there are several neglected and/or abandoned sites across Troy and especially in the immediate area of 1011 2nd Ave and in Lansingburgh. The area just two blocks south is explicitly designated as a priority investment area in Troy’s “Realize Troy” Comprehensive Plan. The sites of the former Price Chopper and Leonard Hospital urgently need redevelopment.
Building the development at the untouched forest and Indigneous heritage site makes no sense, when there is urgent demand for revitalizing already developed land close by. This development would take important resources and capacities away from developing these neglected sites.
Because of that, and with housing demand being a limited resource, the proposed development and rezoning would only hurt the city’s ability for sustainable and targeted growth and development.
The developer needs a change in zoning code to build his project. The city is currently reviewing this request and will make a decision about the rezone soon.
However, the developer did not submit any application with the Zoning Board of Appeals. In reality, the city and Planning Commission are not conducting a site review and are only reviewing the potential rezoning.
THIS IS DANGEROUS.
The site plans that the developer is currently discussing with the Planning Commission are nothing but empty promises. There is no legal requirement to build any of the things he is currently presenting to the Commission, should the rezoning be approved.
What the developer is doing is painting a rosy picture and scaring people into submission with vague and unrealistic “alternative proposals”. This means, should the city approve the rezoning, that the developer can build pretty much anything he wants to. THE CITY IS GIVING HIM A BLANK CHECK. There is little to stop him from paving over the entire site and build as many buildings and units as he possibly can fit, as long as he secures the necessary permits.
While developers often pay for the initial development and construction cost, the City of Troy will be responsible for critical maintenance and public service costs. This includes :
- Increased road maintenance and traffic management costs
- Increased resource strain for the public school system with the influx of large amounts of new residents in short time
- Increased costs for other public services, including the fire department, garbage collection, public safety, etc.
As Marhon writes: Rapid growth “[…] provided the local government with the immediate revenues that come from new growth — permit fees, utility fees, property tax increases, sales tax — and, in exchange the city takes on the long term responsibility of servicing and maintaining all the new infrastructure. The money comes in handy in the present while the future obligation is, well … a long time in the future.”
Here is an example (this involves mathematics — but if that’s not your case, you can just copy paste and share it with the city):
SECTION 4 — B: ECONOMIC BASELINE CALCULATION — Public Service Cost
Increased public spending for services outweighs the anticipated revenue.
Based on comparative data of similar developments in similar locations in Troy we offer an (generously calculated) anticipated tax revenue for the city around $300,000.00
The anticipated tax revenue for the school district we assess (similarly generously) with $400.000,00.
(Based on approximated unit value calculations).
Increase in Cost Spending for Public Schools (TROY SCHOOL DISTRICT):
At the same time, in the state of New York, an average of annually $22,366 are spent per pupil on the public education system [S4-8]. In Troy this number is closer to $28,000, but we will use the more conservative average.
A conservative estimate would be 40 new pupils entering the Troy School System — an estimate that is very conservative for 240 apartment units.
This leads to an increased cost spending of $894,640.
Anticipated Revenue Increase for Troy School District …………. Approx. 400,000
Approximate Cost Increase: Public Service — School ………….. Approx. $894,640
COST TO DISTRICT AS DIRECT RESULT FROM DEVELOPMENT: APPROX. $498,640
This leads to a shortfall of $494,000.00
Increase in Costs For City of Troy On the Example of Public Safety Alone:
Public Safety: Estimates for cost increases for the Fire and Police Services are hard to estimate. One way to estimate this is the per capita spending for police services. According to the 2020 proposed Budget, a total of $40,329,791 will be expended for safety services [S4-9]. This excludes overtime, extraordinary expenditures and other expenditures not listed in the general budget itemization. The population of Troy lies at 49,826 for 2017.
This results in a per capita spending of (rounded) $800. With 240 units, and an conservatively estimated 1.75 persons living in each unit, this leads to a total increase of cost of: 240x800x1.75 = $336,000.00
Approximate Revenue for City …………………………………….. Approx. $300,000
Approximate Cost Increase: Public Service — Safety ………….. Approx. $336,000
This leads to an conservatively anticipated increase in cost associated with the development of for public safety alone of $36,000/year.
This does not incorporate other increased public service costs, such as road maintenance, etc.
The city should listen to their constituents. Residents and the wider public do not want to see this land developed. 2300 supporters already signed our petition (you should do so too — www.change.org/save1011now). At previous public hearings, experts and residents alike spoke out in opposition to the rezoning and development. At the most recent city council hearing on the matter, on September 10, the public spoke in opposition for over 3 hours. Not a single statement in support was made.
We advocate for a win-win-win solution to save this ecologically, culturally and historically unique land and push for the creation of a historical and ecological preservation park that would better serve the community.
The land offers an opportunity for the city. Imagine a preservation and cultural center that preserves the historical, ecological and archeological unique features of this land for the public and provides cultural, educational and community programs. This could bring important organizations to the city and put it on the map as leader in protecting its cultural, historical and ecological assets.
Instead, this opportunity goes unused. Apparently the city’s imagination ends with yet another one of the ever same developments.
We are ready to realize this vision, working with partners to secure funds and create capacities. We are prepared to work with community organizations to create a protected space with public access, trails and educational opportunities at the land.
This solution should be possible: The developer does not currently own the property in question, but holds an option to purchase the land. He has not purchased this property yet!
And we would be more than happy to support the developer in bringing his vision to a better suited, readily available site in Troy.
The city worked previously with developers to find alternative sites. Many abandoned and neglected sites are close by. The former Price Chopper comes to mind or the recently cleared site of the former Leonard Hospital. At the same time, the Friends of the Mahicantuck are working diligently with partners to secure the resources to create a preserve, maintain it, and provide cultural and educational programming for the community. People can donate to help our work on our website.
The 2018 Troy Comprehensive plan suggests a careful and soft development approach for the Lansingburgh neighborhood. That the proposed development — and the rezoning that would be necessary for it to go forward — would be inconsistent with the comprehensive plan.
This is important, because the law — New York’s zoning enabling statutes — requires a rezoning to be consistent with the comprehensive plan.
The Troy Comprehensive Plan addresses the complexity of Lansingburgh: In proposing a soft and gradual development, it emphasizes what the residents deeply value: green and natural spaces, the quiet character of the signal home residential neighborhood.
If the City Council takes its role and responsibilities seriously, it really cannot grant the rezoning, because it stands in conflict with the comprehensive plan and state rules regarding spot zoning.
Instead, a careful development approach that is consistent with the comprehensive plan would address the infrastructure and development needs of the neighborhood while preserving its character and its community and natural assets.
The comprehensive plan identifies several areas in the neighborhood as priority areas for development — places and properties that have been long abandoned; This provides the chance of gradual infrastructure improvements along with the slow and continuous development of the neighborhood.
At the same time, such a careful approach avoids rising rents and gentrification, allowing the current residents of the neighborhood to stay in their community — major risk that a large scale development at 1011 2nd Ave would undoubtedly cause.
The city’s sewage and water management infrastructure is already at capacity. In the last few years, Troy was in violation of state reporting laws in association with massive sewage overflows — leading to significant cost for the community. In fact, Troy is the worst polluter in regards to overflows in the region. The city itself acknowledged that:
“Unfortunately, sewer overflow events are fairly routine for shoreline communities like Troy.”
It is in this context that the proposed development and its impacts on the loss of this land will significantly escalate this already urgent emergency. The location of the site at the very north of the city, combined with its size and its impact on the city’s sewer system will lead to significant environmental and monetary costs for the city, all its residents, the Hudson River, and downstream communities.
The property is directly adjacent to the Hudson; This means development impacts on this land will significantly affect the flood resilience of Troy, particularly because of its location upstream of the entire city (last property before the city line).
The rezoning will bring higher tensity to this land. That means more pavement, less soil to absorb water. All the pollution will run into the river.
The undeveloped higher elevation provides additional protection against runoff and to the integrity of the areas of the land that comprise a flood zone. Studies show the importance of such natural assets in runoff protection
A high density development will significantly increase runoff pollution through the loss of water absorbing forest and forest soils and the use of impervious material as well as the associated increased traffic and pollution. This only constitutes an increased threat of environmental harm on surrounding communities, downstream communities and the Hudson river itself.
Natural, forested spaces are a critical asset to the city’s environmental and climate resilience.
This area, upstream of the entire city, significantly protects the city from flooding directly (as a buffer flood zone for flooding) and indirectly by preventing runoff and maintaining the integrity of the river bank.
Allowing for high density development on the site would significantly interfere with the ability of this land to absorb runoff and protect the city from river pollution and flooding.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) estimates that by 2080 the City of Troy could face over 3 feet of sea-level rise due to global climate change. Rainfall events are also expected to become less predictable, more extreme, and occur in the form of heavy downpours or extended droughts. The elevation of the 100-year floodplain and the city’s history of extreme flooding suggest that the threat of damage to and loss of property is heightened.
The rezoning would make the forest particularly vulnerable. impacts on public health are consequential.
Forested areas serve as “natural air conditioning” for the surrounding communities in urban centers and provide a natural refuge and relief from oppressive summer heat; a climate risk that is anticipated to significantly increase for the city of Troy.
A recent article published in the New York Times (August 24, 2020) discusses the direct relationship between health, income and racial disparities in relationship to exposures to extreme heat in the urban context.
Air Quality will be negatively impacted too, both directly and indirectly. Increased traffic will cause worse air quality in the neighborhood. Additionally, the loss of tree and natural space will further exacerbate air quality loss.
Do we really want yet another ticky-tacky housing complex? [Link to video]
A rezoning of this parcel would allow for a large scale development of the site that ultimately would destroy the environmental and ecological resource of the last undeveloped forest along the Hudson in the entire city of Troy.
In the current zoning as R-1 single family residential, detached, the environmental impact of potential development — while still extraordinarily adverse — would be significantly limited in comparison to the full-scale development that a rezoning to P Planned Development would make possible.
In the lack of a better protection of the parcel and a lasting environmental and historic preservation, maintaining the current code R-1 is the best bet to avoid negative impacts on this critical ecological and environmental asset and its interactions with the Hudson River.
The residents of 240 newly built apartments will significantly increase pressures on public services and infrastructure.
The proposed development will significantly increase the infrastructure and public service costs, particularly in this R1-zoned residential area. It will in particular negatively impact the local community in terms of infrastructure and public service availability. Several studies have consistently shown the associated increased costs of and strain on critical services associated with developments such as the one proposed here (see evidence for Section 4). Abrupt development growth that does not follow smart and soft growth guidelines and do not utilize existing infrastructure and e.g. vacant properties or buildings, significantly strains services through rapid influx, including amongst others:
- Increased pressure on already strained school services
- Increased pressure on already strained garbage collection
- Increased pressure on already strained emergency services
- Increased need for road maintenance
- Increased pressure on already over-capacity sewage system