Helderberg Neighborhood Association
Meeting Minutes of March 16, 2005
Notes prepared by Jennifer Viggiani, at the request of Secretary Kim
Alvarez, who could not make the meeting.
Albany Presentation on Midtown Colleges Study and Update on Park South.
Craig Waltz introduced Rebecca Brownell, City of Albany Department of
Development and Planning, and later joined by Georgette Steffens, Albany Home
Store for their presentation on the City of Albany’s Midtown Colleges Study and
also for an update on the City of Albany’s Park South Plan.
big ideas from the Midtown presentation:
consultants have conducted a market analysis of the Midtown area -- which
will be released in the future.
homeownership in the Midtown area, and do so with the support of the
colleges and institutions.
- Idea is to
leverage colleges’ investment -- into such proposed programs as
employer-assisted housing programs.
- Looking to
create different types of mortgage products -- and to identify incentives
for new residents
- Looking for
incentives and ways to help existing homeowners as well
- The study is
also looking into ways to retain the college graduates in Albany.
Extensive discussion followed the presentation.
questions were raised by HNA members and asked of the city staff including, but
not limited to the ones noted below with additional highlights of the
- What types of
incentives for existing homeowners?
incentives for landlords to fix up their properties?
- Who owns the
properties? What is for sale? Has the city looked closely at the 2004
sales? What will be the
composition of the ownership for this area?
- Will folks be
displaced? Georgette Steffens
--said the project is proposed to be about market-driven initiatives.
- What about
folks who want to “get out” and sell, but can’t afford to move someplace
- Is the city
looking into affordable middle-class, senior housing -- maybe here or
elsewhere in the city? There is
not a lot anywhere in the city.
- Is it a goal
to remove students to campus living -- like Empire Commons -- which makes
it then hard for private landlords to compete for rentals to students?
- What about
holding colleges accountable for their students’ behavior?
- Is the idea
for the colleges to buy up and build more? Hamilton & Hudson is potentially a target opportunity
for improved student housing.
- How to
address the speculative buying by out-of-towners? This is making it unaffordable for some
Brownell, with the City planning department: noted that the city through this study is looking to land
the homeownership zone boundaries -- to reach out and help with incentives
in a targeted area -- so that results can be visible and not diluted...
- Rebecca also
noted the difficulties with the county auction requirements but noted the
city has a vacant building registry, but overall not a lot of options for
dealing with blighted properties in neighborhoods.
- In areas
such as worst student slum areas -- where there has been a loss of
students and concerns with the housing and neighborhood quality further
declining -- the study is looking to bring students back to the student
- The city
also wants to create “branding areas” for the neighborhoods, and help
with marketing the neighborhoods.
- “Bring back to the way they
- The city is looking into
creating some special products specific for landlords -- to help address
the quality of life issues.
Sano: Need codes and enforcement
to keep doing a better job and quicker turnaround.
- How make the
Albany Home Store more competitive -- with its ADAP program? One HNA resident noted that only one
lender is involved with the housing programs, and that she felt there was
predatory lending in her opinion.
- Georgette Steffens,
Director of the Albany Home Store noted that a new Response for Proposals
was being developed for a renewed ADAP, because Fannie Mae was ending its
- She also
noted that because of the low incomes in the Census tracts for Midtown study, that if folks buy homes
within this location, there may be more opportunities for qualifying for
more affordable housing mortgage products.
- City staff
presented that the city is receiving New York State Department of State
funding to conduct marketing of city’s 29 neighborhoods -- to promote what
the different neighborhoods have to offer. Also the idea of one city-wide, city-living marketing
brochure. The city would welcome
the HNA’s sending a letter of support for the grant. The city will be looking for one
marketing representative from each neighborhood. Neighborhood programming.
- Discussion of
creating a preferred landlord list for students.
- One resident
posed to the city: What
can we do starting now? Do we need
to wait for the city to finish this study to know that there are things to
take care of? Let’s get started
now and not wait. What about
enforcement through the certificate of occupancy tool?
- What about
families? Are there any
strategies for attracting families?
Are there any strategies for creating places for kids? used to be lots of kids in these
- What is the
purpose of the education district in the Midtown plan -- what is proposed
and meant by this?
- What about
the city’s interest in areas on the edge of the Midtown plan?
- Liked the
investment in the C-1 district on upper New Scotland Avenue, near St.
Peter’s; what about the rest of the C-1 along New Scotland Avenue. Let’s
be wise with our resources here.
Let’s make this area a priority for the city too.
City staff: In the Midtown plan, city is looking for opportunities for college
growth and expansion -- where it will work for the neighborhood. Looking for a framework for the educational
and academic institutional growth.
University Heights Association is a model
for shared services. May be an
opportunity to expand on this model for the Midtown area.
City is looking into shared opportunities
for shared services.
staff: the Park South planning
project has been underway since 2002 and is ongoing.
have said they want: a diversity
of landlords; not more students; and employee-assisted housing.
- The Park
South plan calls for:
- 20-27 new
- 100 - 160
new apartments (rehab or infill construction)
- 50,000 s.f.
of medical office space
- goal is to
find enough investment back into Park South -- to inspire others to come
- Along New
Scotland Avenue -- plan calls for new mixed-uses
rehabilitation is happening privately
- the plan
recommend that Park South is an opportunity for 400-800 students if the
neighborhood is good enough, or becomes “the place to be”
- The plan is
to target investment -- and so areas will be focused.
- The urban
renewal boundary designation that is proposed for the city council to
vote upon -- would create the boundaries of the zone eligible for urban
renewal and set the stage for letting the next steps take place. However, the city council may only act
on eminent domain -- in response to a proposed development plan. (The RFP is due March 18 for developers
proposals.) City staff indicated
that it is a slow process towards eminent domain proceedings. City can’t act on eminent domain
unless each individual parcel proposed -- comes back before the city
council for vote. Eminent domain
-- is an action of a last resort.... The Park South redevelopment will
likely go the Albany Medical Center’s underutilized properties
- At this
stage, the Park South plan is a concept design -- but further study is
of Park South plan:
residents stated concerns -- they don’t want to see urban renewal. Already lived through the building of
the Empire State Plaza.
enforcement: is there enough city
staff to do the proper code enforcement?
- More training
recommended/needed for city staff that deal with code enforcement. Whole
department for code enforcement needs revamping and more cohesiveness.
Also noted that the city needs to do a better job of follow-up related to
code enforcement. (Rebecca
Brownell noted that properties that are HUD properties are most difficult
to deal with because the city can’t enforce against the federal
Rissberger, police officer, Albany Police Department, pointed out that the
city did a comprehensive, multi-department, extensive 6-week focused
initiative in Park South -- with code enforcement working with public
safety to crack down on a whole range of issues from quality of life to
- One student
from Albany Law School suggested the idea that an entity should buy up
parcels under a not for profit and rehab the parcels through such a
Sano: let’s attract professionals
for homeownership - and use the universities for this
- Sue: Be
bolder. Thinks city is being too
incremental with its current plan for Park South.
other wrap-up comments as the Park South and Midtown discussion came towards a
- Does the city
have a plan to incentive the C-1 districts and more commercial incentives
- Note: city will be meeting with lenders/lending
institutions to talk up the commercial components as well as homeowner
- City has just
published a city business guide.
- One resident
said they really like the idea of the Delaware Avenue Associations/ UHA --
walk to work program
- Need to
address “quality of life” as part of the plan
- What about --
addressing the roads and sidewalks infrastructure for the Midtown and Park
south plans? Monies are needed
for not just housing and commercial, but also for investment in roads and
other infrastructure. Jim Sano
noted it is of strong interest to get the county and state to take greater
ownership in investing in county and state highways that run through the
City of Albany.
and Other HNA Business:
Region Homebuyers Fair: Saturday,
April 16, at the new Albany Housing Authority building, 200 South Pearl Street,
Albany, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free
Kathi Rissberger, police officer, City of Albany Police, discussed a
slight rise in graffiti, city-wide, in addition to recent incidents in the
neighborhood. The city police have a
special task force working on this latest issue -- which is graffiti by acid
etched onto glass windows -- causing irreparable damages. Shutter Speed Photo and Sheehey Opticians
were present at the meeting -- they had been impacted with these damages within
last 24 hours. Matt Sheehey and Kathy
of Shutter Speed Photo called for more police patrols. Windows have to be replaced in these
incidents -- so damage is costly. Kathi
Rissberger said they didn’t think the issue was gang-related, and that the
police had some significant leads. The
key will be to catch this criminal activity “in the act.” The police have a database of the number,
location and amount of damage of these acid etching graffiti incidents. Kathi R. will follow-up on how the acid is
being sold. If anyone in the
neighborhood sees graffiti, call Department of General Services at 434-CITY --
to reach their graffiti-busters unit.
To report any suspicious activities or suspicious people in the
neighborhood -- as always, please call the police.
An Albany Law School student suggested that maybe students could get
involved in a neighborhood watch -- because college students need things to do
-- and maybe this a way to get them involved.
Kathi R. noted that the Pine Hills neighborhood used to have a “walk and
Theft on the rise.
Kathi Rissberger also noted that there is a rise in identity theft for
everyone to be aware of -- related to Internet scamming -- known as
“phishing.” She advised not to give
out personal identification information over the Internet -- unless you are
sure of the legitimacy of the website.
Victims Month and Take Back the Night.
Deb Schramek announced that “Take Back the Night” to honor victims of
sexual assaults will be held on Thursday, April 14 at Washington Park, in
Albany, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
On April 16 at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, at 1 p.m. a vigil will
be held at the Crime Victims Memorial at the ESP.
Council Member Jim Sano Street Tree Program
Jim Sano announced that he will help residents with their participation
to have a street tree planted in front of their homes.
Spree and Plant Swap
Jennifer Viggiani announced the “Spring Spree and Scavenger Hunt” --
sidewalk festival event to be sponsored by HNA in support of our neighborhood
businesses. Event is on Saturday, April
30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. along New Scotland Avenue. The idea is to bring people out to get to know our local
businesses. There will be activities
for kids and adults, and directions on how to participate in the scavenger
hunt. A raffle will be held for the
scavenger hunt participants.
agenda - preview
Olga announced that one topic for HNA’s May meeting will be a speaker
about the topic of traffic.
Avenue -- Proposal for Re-Zoning Commercial Office Parcel to C-2 Highway
Shawn Morris announced this proposal for a site just north of the
existing McDonald’s on Holland Avenue, and shared some concerns that this
re-zoning would impact both the Helderberg Neighborhood as well as Delaware
Avenue neighborhood. The proposal is by
developer Tom Burke (has developed in Pine Hills neighborhood) to develop a
14,000 s.f. Walgreen’s pharmacy with a drive thru as well as a commercial
strip, potentially for a take out restaurant and a bank with a drive thru. C-2 zoning is the same zoning that is
allowed for Central Avenue. The
concern was raised about the impacts to the three closest pharmacies in the
neighborhood, and a new one at Crestwood Plaza. Shawn Morris said she was
against the re-zoning out of concerns for the neighborhood character and
businesses. Susan VanDeventer said she
supported the idea of a new pharmacy that would be convenient to drive to. Craig Waltz and Jennifer Viggiani each spoke
and said they were against the re-zoning out of concerns for the neighborhoods.
Craig called for a motion to vote to write a letter to the City of
Albany City Council against the re-zoning, to be presented to the City Council
at its March 21, 2005 public hearing on the matter. Motion was seconded. Vote
was carried, with one nay.
of Fire Captain Thomas Rankin of Engine 11 on New Scotland Avenue
Vote to make a contribution to the family’s selected fund for $100 to
the Blessed Sacrament Church in memory of the Fire Captain. Olga made the motion, Jim Sano seconded the
motion. Motion carried unanimously.