April 23, 2008
VIA HAND DELIVERY
Michael Apostol, Chair
City of AlbanyBoard of Zoning Appeals
Re: 118-120 Washington Avenue; application for demolitionof two existing structures and a parking lot permit
Dear Mr. Apostol:
On April 16, the Hudson/Park Neighborhood Association ("H/PNA" or "Hudson/Park") met in its monthly general meeting to discuss, among other things, the application of the Fort Orange Club to demolish two existing office buildings in order to increase its parking lot by roughly 40%. The subject property is located in a C-O, commercial office zoning district.
Although Hudson/Park's membership was generally opposed to the Club's plan, the consensus of the membership was that we would support the determination of the Center Square Neighborhood Association ("Ctr. Sq."), since the destruction is planned to take place within their environs. On April 17, Ctr. Sq. voted to oppose the Club's project. Therefore, please accept this letter in support of Ctr. Sq.'s position, and in opposition to the Club's destructive, unwise and unnecessary plan.
The Club's proposal is to demolish two perfectly serviceable buildings in order to increase the size of its parking lot, despite the fact that they admit in their application that the project would be carried out without the BZA's approval of the unnecessary demolitions. In support of their proposal, the Club states that the buildings are not historic, although such statement is irrelevant because the buildings form part of a harmonious streetscape and are part of the historic fabric of the neighborhood.
Setting aside the issue of whether or not the plan is sensible, Hudson/Park believes that serviceable and structurally sound buildings should not be demolished to form parking lots. An approval of such a plan would set a bad precedent in Albany that could lead to willy-nilly destruction of existing neighborhoods, and could lead to a coring out of the tax base. Further, the subject property is in sight of the Capitol and the Smith building, and if approved by the BZA would be the 2nd time in recent memory that demolition of perfectly serviceable buildings for parking was approved over the objections of the neighboring citizens.
We strongly urge the BZA to reject the Club's application. It is inconceivable that such a plan should be rewarded by approval; it is bad planning and flies in the face of the conclusions of the Re-Capitalize Albany study, which advised leveraging existing building stock to support neighborhood vitality, rather than demolishing such buildings in favor of empty lots containing part-time parking. We also strongly urge the BZA to remember that the City is about to enter a protracted comprehensive planning process that will shape the future of Albany, and the future vitality of its fisc and neighborhoods. Approval of this ill-conceived plan would send the wrong message. Denial of the plan will be a step in the direction of sound planning, neighborhood protection and urban revitalization.
Roger Bearden, President
Hudson/Park Neighborhood Association