Thursday, September 25, 2008

Unprecedented - a third editorial from the Times Union

Preservation, not parking

(print version headlined "Park that plan" )

Albany Times Union
First published: Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Issue: The Fort Orange Club needs to reconsider razing buildings to expand parking.
The Stakes: Why can't the club expand without resorting to a demolition plan?

"Premature" comes the subdued battle cry of Albany's Fort Orange Club, trying to quell its opponents' declarations of victory in their efforts to save two buildings along Washington Avenue, just up the street from the state Capitol.

We just hope there's nothing premature about the city's preservationists, along with neighborhood leaders and activists, hailing the club's apparent reluctance not to try to demolish those buildings after all.

It appears the club won't, for now, further press its case at today's Zoning Board of Appeals meeting to put a parking lot and a stone fence where two buildings now stand at 118-120 Washington Ave. Withdrawal of the application to put up a parking lot doesn't necessarily mean that the buildings will be saved, however. The club could do an end run around the board, and the community, and simply try to get a demolition permit from the city to raze the buildings.

How encouraging it would be, though, to think that a club for Albany's power elite had decided that there was nothing premature about changing its plans and keeping the buildings as they are.

What would be very premature, of course, is the razing of sound, functional and by no means unattractive structures to accommodate a few more parking spaces.

Shortsighted is another word that comes to mind. It's time for the Fort Orange Club and its members to think very differently when it comes to urban transportation and land use. The days of cars coming before all else are over, or should be.

The club is still seeking city approval for the expansion of its health club. We can't think of any reason for the zoning board to object to that. Yet a club willing to make such an investment in exercise facilities might go the extra mile, so to speak. If parking is so scarce on the club's property and on the streets around it, the club might encourage its members to walk or bike to the club. The club might regard the streets of Albany as a further extension of their health club — shared as they would be with the public.

That, come to think of it, would be quite the opposite of premature.

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