Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Save Former Home of Women's Rights Advocate!" says HAF

Contact: Susan Holland, Executive Director, Historic Albany Foundation
(518) 465-0876 ext. 11/cell (518) 466-6015


Albany, NY—At today’s press conference, Historic Albany Foundation announced the discovery of documentation that the historically important and significant women’s right’s advocate, Beulah Bailey Thull, lived at 118 Washington Avenue, one of the buildings the Fort Orange Club seeks to demolish to add three parking spots. Mrs. Thull lived at 118 Washington Avenue from 1926 to 1937 when she was instrumental in the formation of the present day CSEA (then called the New York State Association of Civil Service Employees), the New York State League of Women Voters and when she was a speechwriter for then-Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She served from 1934 to 1935, as the only female president ever of CSEA. She has been much celebrated by CSEA on their 100-year anniversary.

“With the new information about Beulah Bailey Thull, saving the buildings and getting the Lower Washington Avenue historic district recommended by the City of Albany’s Historic Resource Commission and approved by the Common Council, becomes more critical than ever. This story now becomes about saving our rich and diverse history such as women’s rights and women’s right to vote, and not just white man’s history” said Susan Holland, Executive Director of Historic Albany Foundation.

118 Washington Avenue’s renovations were completed in 1925 which is the incarnation we see today and as it was when Beulah Bailey Thull was a resident in the newly renovated Ripin Duguid Building.

Mrs. Thull has an illustrious and decorated history. When few women were able to seek higher education, she obtained degrees from Cornell University (1912) and State Library School (1916). In the 1920’s, the position of research assistant to the New York State Tax Commission was created for her. She would use her position with the Tax Commission to educate and advocate with the New York State League of Women Voters, Rensselaer County League of Women Voters, and New York State Association of Civil Service Employees. She would eventually rise to the position of Chief of the research staff of the New York State Department of Tax and Finance. At the height of her career (1929-1937), Mrs. Thull worked with Governors Roosevelt and Lehman for the betterment of State employees. For more biographical information, please see the attachment.

Historic Albany Foundation nominated the Lower Washington Avenue Historic District to the City of Albany’s Historic Resource Commission on March 9, 2010 with the National Register of Historic Places nomination with the State Historic Preservation Office filed on March 19, 2010. Albany’s Department of Development and Planning have not yet put the local district nomination on the Historic Resource Commission meeting calendar. Despite inquiries from Historic Albany on the status of the nomination, no explanation has been given for the delay. Historic Albany continues to work to move the nomination forward.

A grant from Preservation League of New York State with funds from New York State Council on the Arts paid for the nomination and survey of the district.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

News Conference - Thursday 4/29


Contact: Susan Holland, Executive Director
Historic Albany Foundation
(518) 465-0876 ext. 11/cell (518) 466-6015


Albany, NY—Historic Albany Foundation will make an important announcement to the members of the press and public regarding 118-120 Washington Avenue, the buildings that the Fort Orange Club wants demolished for three parking spots.

The press conference takes place on Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 12 PM in front of 118-120 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY. Press releases with full information will be given out at that time.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Parker, Florida Today

Fort Orange Club bullied by Albany

I just wonder how Mr. Albany Conservative would feel if the private property owner next to him wanted to open a slaughterhouse, or a pig farm, or an auto body shop...

Letter to the editor
Thursday, March 4, 2010

My congratulations go to the Fort Orange Club in its fight to tear down two buildings for parking spaces. This issue has been going on for far too long and the city has been bullying the club for years.

Nobody has the right to tell the club what it should do with its private property.

If the Historic Albany Foundation wanted the buildings, it should have bought them.

This is a constitutional issue of property rights. Why should the club be forced to keep buildings it has no use for?
I am a firm believer in individual rights.

Albany's recent moratorium and new demolition rules are just the city's way of legitimizing its idea of what Albany should be.

There are plenty of preserved buildings in Albany. How many more do we need, and why should property owners be forced to pay for these buildings if they do not want to?

Michael Brown

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Support needed for Lower Washington Ave. Historic District

Albany's Historic Resource Commission will hold a public hearing on the nomination of the Lower Washington Avenue Historic District on Wednesday, March 3rd at 5:15 pm in the Common Council chamber at City Hall.

The district will include the south side of Washington Avenue from South Swan Street to Lark Street. Please let the City of Albany's Historic Resource Commission know you support the Lower Washington Avenue Historic District by attending the public hearing on March 3rd and speaking in favor the designation, and/or mailing or emailing a support letter to:

Norman Rice, Chair
Historic Resource Commission
c/o Richard Nicholson
City of Albany
Department of Development and Planning
200 Henry Johnson Boulevard
Albany, NY 12206

Historic Albany Foundation can provide a sample support letter for you to tailor with your own observations. Please email Cara Macri at HAF to receive a copy.

Also, the historic district nomination will need to be ratified by the Common Council at a later date. Please cc: HAF and your Councilmember on your correspondence to ensure your support is recorded in their files.

Supporting Lower Washington Avenue historic district

Lower Wash Hist Dist Support

Board ignored new ordinance

TIMES UNION - Letter to the Editor
First published: Friday, February 19, 2010

As a resident and elected official who represents downtown Albany, I am deeply disappointed by the Fort Orange Club's decision to demolish two buildings to make way for additional parking. What is even more disturbing than these proposed plans however, is the Albany Planning Board's recent vote allowing the project to go forward.

The board's approval completely ignores Albany's recently enacted demolition review ordinance. Indeed, many of the factors the ordinance requires the board to weigh in reviewing demolitions were blatantly ignored, along with the testimony of nearly two dozen citizens, architects and historians who showed up in person to oppose this plan.

Demolition of structurally sound buildings to make way for parking does not fit into Albany's comprehensive plan, nor is it good urban planning or policy. One can only hope that in reviewing future applications, the planning board actually looks at our new ordinance and doesn't simply ignore what it was meant to protect, namely meaningless demolitions that destroy the fabric of our city.

Albany County Legislator
6th District

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Judge: Group sued too soon over Fort Orange Club demolitions

Times Union - Albany NY

Last updated: 12:47 p.m., Wednesday, February 10, 2010

ALBANY -- A judge today dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Planning Board's blessing for the Fort Orange Club to tear down two 19th-century Washington Avenue buildings -- but the demolitions are still not likely to happen anytime soon.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Richard Platkin ruled the Historic Albany Foundation sued too soon because the demolition plans still need to be approved by the city's Board of Zoning Appeals, Historic Resources Commission and once again by the Planning Board before the Building Department can issue a permit to raze the buildings.

For nearly two years, Historic Albany has opposed the 130-year-old private club's plans to demolish the buildings to make way for three new parking spaces in a lot adjacent to the clubhouse, itself one of Albany's most historic buildings.

Historic Albany contends the buildings are part of the historic, urban fabric of lower Washington Avenue, a stone's throw from the Capitol.

Club officials have countered, however, that the buildings, which date to the 1830s, have no historic value and that demolition also will help them convert more spaces from valet parking to self-parking, something members want, while at the same time making the lot safer.

The demolitions are part of the club's larger plans to expand its athletic facilities.

In his 15-page decision, Platkin said the historic preservation group cannot sue until the city actually issues the demolition permit.

"It does place us in a little bit of a precarious position because we won't know the exact moment when the building commissioner grants the demolition permit," said Historic Albany's attorney, George Carpinello.

"We may be involved again in another race to get to the courthouse before the wrecking ball hits the building," he said. "Usually the owner tries to tear the building down before we can get to a judge."

Carpinello noted, however, that Platkin did say that Historic Albany can challenge the Planning Board's determination that the demolitions would have no significant environmental impacts -- just not yet.

The club had contended that the four-month clock for such a challenge started ticking when the Planning Board first issued a so-called "negative declaration" under the State Environmental Quality Review Act in May 2008.

But Platkin rejected that argument, noting the club later withdrew its plans to demolish the buildings amid sharp public backlash in September of that year.

Historic Albany sued Jan. 22, the day after the Planning Board granted its conditional permission for the demolitions -- the first in the wake of a new city ordinance requiring Planning Board review of non-emergency tear-downs.

The law was prompted in part by the club's initial plans to raze the buildings in 2008.
Robert Sweeney, an attorney for the club, has repeatedly called allegations that the club was working covertly to demolish the buildings unfair. He said the club followed established procedure, at the direction of the building department, for six weeks before requesting a demolition permit on Nov. 6.

"The record is very clear on that," Sweeney said, "and it's insulting to the Fort Orange Club to suggest otherwise."

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Carpinello, Sweeney spar over demo permits

On Monday, 2/8, I spent two hours at the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, listening to oral arguments on the matter of the Fort Orange Club’s request to demolish property on 118-120 Washington Avenue to expand their parking lot.

(I typed up this post last night, and decided to wait until this morning - Tuesday - to see what the Albany Times Union had, to fact check. They have nothing. This is a long post, and I don't have the comedic talent of "Albany Citizen One," -- I won't be making up nicknames for the parties involved or commenting on whether or not they are cute -- but I hope some people find this useful or at least interesting. -- CMR)

Representing the Fort Orange Club was attorney Robert Sweeney. Representing the City of Albany was Assistant Corporation Counsel Jeffery Jamison. (They were at the same table.)

Representing Historic Albany Foundation was attorney George Carpinello.

The Judge first sought to establish why Historic Albany Foundation was seeking an injunction to prevent demolition of the buildings when three additional permissions needed to be secured before a demolition permit was granted: approval of the Board of Zoning Appeals, approval of the Planning Board, and the approval of the City’s Commissioner of Buildings.

Mr. Carpinello stated that the injunction was being sought because the Fort Orange Club would not represent that they would not pre-emptively demolish the buildings.

Upon further questioning from the Judge, he noted that the Fort Orange Club might “prepare the buildings for demolition” in ways that would make demolition a fait accompli.

(We have seen too many examples of demolition by neglect – or in too many cases demolition made necessary by property owners who punch holes in the roof to let water in, thereby making the building "unsafe" and requiring "emergency" demolition - CMR)

The injunction protects the status quo, and prevents the irreparable damage of the buildings coming down, said Mr. Carpinello.

The Judge asked Mr. Sweeney what harm would come to the Fort Orange Club if the injunction remained in place, and Mr. Sweeney replied that his client should be allowed by law to park in that spot. The lack of parking is hurting his client, their membership recruiting, their booking of events that always happen at the Club. (Fear of revised NYS ethics laws wouldn’t have anything to do with that, would it? – CMR)

Much discussion ensued over the timing of previous applications and appeals or lack thereof. Additional time was spent arguing whether the Fort Orange Club pulled its application for a demolition permit at the same time it pulled its application for a parking lot permit and height variance for its fencing. (According to an affidavit given by Mr. Jamison, the demo permit was believed no longer active once the Club revised its application in order to move forward with construction of their health facility.) There was additional back-and-forth on whether or not appropriate analysis had been done when a negative declaration was issued on the need for an environmental impact statement (EIS) on these demolitions.

Mr. Carpinello noted that this was a Type I Action that would meet or exceed thresholds listed in the statewide or agency SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) regulations. These are likely to require preparation of an EIS.

FYI -- An EIS concisely describes and analyzes a proposed action which may have a significant impact on the environment. The EIS is available to the public for information and comment. An EIS must include:
  • description of the action, including its need and benefits;
  • description of the environmental setting and areas to be affected;
  • an analysis of all environmental impacts related to the action;
  • an analysis of reasonable alternatives to the action;
  • identification of ways to reduce or avoid adverse environmental impacts.

Ultimately, according to Mr. Carpinello, the Fort Orange Club wants to tear down buildings that date to the 1830s for 3 parking spots. He pointed out the absurdity of the notion that the loss of 3 parking spots would harm the Fort Orange Club.

Mr. Carpinello noted that had a full Environmental Impact Statement been required, the Club would have been required to explore reasonable alternatives and mitigating measures. In lieu of an EIS, they issued a conclusory statement of their belief that the buildings are not worth saving.

Mr. Sweeney argued that his client had explored the possibility of valet parking in the large lots and garages across the street and up the block, but said that the facilities were "packed" at the time Club members and guests needed to use them. He also noted that it wasn't really just 3 parking spots, it was 3 new PLUS the spots they lost when they expanded the footprint of their building to create the new health club wing. Finally, he insisted that while they offered valet parking in their lot currently, for those spots in the back of the lot, what the Club's clients really wanted was an individual parking spot where they could simply pull in and park, without giving their keys to an attendant. And besides, the buildings, while old, had been altered and were not historic, and therefore not worth saving.

Additional discussion of who decides whether buildings are worth saving ensued. Mr. Carpinello referred to testimony given by preservation architect Doug Bucher which spoke to the significance of these buildings which date back to the 1830s.

The Judge wondered why Mr. Carpinello hadn’t provided copies of this testimony, and Mr. Carpinello replied that since the City had convened the hearing at which Mr. Bucher testified, it was the City’s responsibility to provide transcripts, but that they had not yet done so. Mr. Jamison indicated that he was working on it, and waiting to learn the date of return on the petition. (Obviously, I am not a lawyer so I may have some of the terminology wrong. Sorry. – CMR)

There was further discussion of the City’s new demolition review ordinance, and specifically how determinations are made as to whether a building is historically or architecturally significant.

Mr. Carpinello noted that since there was a disagreement among preservation architects (with those paid by the Fort Orange Club noting the insignificance of the buildings – CMR) – what are the options?

The Court does not decide if the buildings are significant, Mr. Carpinello argued, rather it determines if the agency responsible for making that determination followed the guidelines of SEQR – did they analyze alternatives, did they analyze mitigating measures?

Mr. Sweeney said the Club did take a hard look at these criteria and their arguments were in their application for demolition.

Mr. Carpinello indicated that the Fort Orange Club had made a claim of a financial impact in excess of $100,000 in chambers (I don’t recall the exact amount – CMR) but noted that he had not been given a copy of the document outlining those losses. There was some discussion of a confidentiality agreement, and the Judge asked the two attorneys to work it out, and noted that he would take Mr. Carpinello’s request under advisement.

He then noted that he would defer decision on this matter.

I boarded the elevator in the Justice Building with a number of dapper gentlemen from the Fort Orange Club side of the hearing room. As they were trying to figure out which floor they were going to, I pressed the button for “C” – for the Concourse of the Empire State Plaza. One of the gentlemen bellowed to the security guard, “How do we get outta here?” and he replied, “Press C.”

The gentleman said, “Oh, she pressed C, she knows where she’s going.”

And I said, “Yes, I do. And I walked here.”

Monday, February 8, 2010

Supreme Court Decision & Order - 11/23/09

Index No. 9418-09

For those of you keeping score at home, here's a copy of Judge Teresi's decision from 11/09, dismissing the Fort Orange Club's lawsuit against the city of Albany. The dismissal was made on the grounds that the club didn't yet have cause to mount a legal challenge because the city had merely referred its request to demolish the buildings at 118-120 Washington Avenue to the Planning Board, not denied it.

Yes, it is posted on Scribd as "For to Range Club" -- don't know whether that's a glitch or meant to obfuscate ...

For to Range Club

Ft. Orange demolition arguments in Appeals Court

TODAY - Monday, February 8th at 3 PM.

According to attorney George Carpinello, the Court has granted a request for oral argument on the matter of the Fort Orange Club's request to demolish property on 118-120 Washington Avenue to expand their parking lot. The hearing will be held at the Justice Building on State Street (the modern building at the end of the Empire State Plaza, almost directly across from the Capitol) Appellate Division, 7th Floor, Courtroom 3 at 3:00 p.m. on February 8th.

The hearing will be held in open court so anyone can attend but, obviously, the only people who will be speaking will be the attorneys for the parties.

If you have questions or need more information, call Susan Holland, executive director at Historic Albany Foundation, 465-0876 extension 11.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A lot of hostility in the blogosphere ...

Check out some of the 56 comments on the Times Union website in response to the approval of the Fort Orange Club's application to demolish the historic buildings at 118-120 Washington Avenue.

There are some really ill-informed bullies out there.

Club, city board sued

Historic group seeks to save two Washington Avenue buildings from demolition

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
First published: Saturday, January 23, 2010

ALBANY -- The two Washington Avenue buildings are humble -- but they're at the center of a fight between the city's most prestigious club and its leading historic preservation group.

That fight was extended Friday, when Historic Albany Foundation filed suit against the private Fort Orange Club and the city's planning board, claiming a demolition permit issued for the buildings is in violation of a new city ordinance.

The planning board issued that permit Thursday -- apparently agreeing with the Fort Orange Club's contention that the structures at 118 and 120 Washington Ave. have neither historical nor architectural value.

But Historic Albany says the city ordinance requires that more than historic value be weighed allowing a demolition.

The group says the demolition ordinance, passed in November, mandates that the board consider whether the buildings can be rehabilitated or if razing them would be an improvement for the surrounding neighborhood, among other requirements.

"All of the factors weigh in favor of denial of the demolition permit," Historic Albany says in the filing with state Supreme Court in Albany.

Conditions attached to the demolition permit likely would have prevented the immediate razing of the structures. Fort Orange, for example, can't proceed until it secures a parking lot permit, and it also must have site plan and Historic Resources Commission approval for the proposed design of its lot.

Nevertheless, Historic Albany on Friday asked the court for -- and received -- a temporary restraining order preventing the buildings' demolition.

"We didn't want to take any chances," said Historic Albany attorney George Carpinello said. "We wanted an order in place."

Fort Orange attorney Robert Sweeney could not be reached for comment. The club previously has suggested its plan should not be covered by the requirements of the demolition ordinance, because it sought to raze the buildings before the city enacted the law.

Fort Orange wants to demolish the buildings to replace parking lost to an athletic club it's building elsewhere on its property near the Center Square neighborhood. The club says the landscaping and fencing it plans will be more attractive than the existing buildings.
"The overall effect, we think, will be an enhancement to lower Washington Avenue," Larry Wilson, an architect hired by Fort Orange, told the planning board.

Some observers will likely wonder what the fuss is about. The buildings are hardly the grand structures usually at the heart of preservation battles.

But Historic Albany does not agree that the buildings have no historic value, noting that they date to the 1830s. The argument, however, did not sway the planning board on Thursday.
Said Raymond Joyce, the board's chairman: "Being old does not, in and of itself, mean historic."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fort Orange Club receives demolition approval

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Staff writer
Last updated: 11:52 a.m., Thursday, January 21, 2010

ALBANY -- The Fort Orange Club this morning won the right to demolish two Washington Avenue buildings that have been at the center of a long historic preservation fight.
The club, which wants to demolish the 19th-century buildings at 118-120 Washington Ave. for parking, argued that the buildings have little historic and architectural value. And the majority of Planning Board members apparently agreed with that assessment.

"I don't believe there's any charm about these two structures," Raymond Joyce, the board's chairman, said this morning. "Being old does not, in and of itself, mean historic."

Robert Sweeney, attorney for the club, said after the meeting that he did not know when the buildings, which are empty, would be demolished. The leader of the Historic Albany Foundation, which led the campaign to save the structures, said the group is still hopeful the buildings could be saved.

"We're weighing our options," said Susan Holland, executive director of the nonprofit. (But) I'm very disappointed in the verdict. Very."

During this morning's meeting, representatives from the Fort Orange Club said the landscaping they have planned along Washington Avenue would be an improvement over the existing buildings and stressed that the prestigious private club needs the parking room because of its recent construction.

"This project is not about demolishing a building for a parking lot," said Larry Wilson, an architect hired by Fort Orange. "It's about replacing the parking lot that is being lost."

After backing away from the demolition plan in 2008 following public backlash, the Fort Orange Club renewed its effort to raze the buildings last November, when it asked state supreme court to compel the city to grant a permit for demolition. The court refused to do so.

The city's Common Council in November passed an ordinance requiring the property owners seeking to raze buildings get planning board approval, leading to the Fort Orange Club's appearance before the board today.

The demolition permit for the Washington Avenue building comes with conditions: Fort Orange can't raze the Washington Avenue buildings into it secures a parking lot permit and has site plan and Historic Resources Commission approval for its proposed design.

See a rendering of the Fort Orange Club's plans and comment on the planning board's decision at Real estate: Places & Spaces

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Group Makes Another Pitch to Save Buildings

But Fort Orange Club steadfast about need for demolition

Section: Capital Region, Page: D1

Date: Thursday, December 31, 2009

ALBANY -- Architects for Historic Albany Foundation offered three plans Wednesday to solve the Fort Orange Club's parking shortage without demolishing two 19th century buildings a block from the Capitol.

The proposals were presented as preservationists and neighbors called on the Planning Board to withhold its blessing to the proposal to raze the buildings next to the Washington Avenue clubhouse.

But representatives of the 129-year-old private institution, which for generations has had ties to Albany's political and social elite, renewed their contention that the buildings have no special historic or architectural value and that rehabilitating them now that they've been prepared for demolition would be prohibitively expensive.At issue was a part of the planned $4.75 million expansion of the club's athletic facilities, which calls for the demolition of 118-120 Washington Ave. to add a handful of parking spaces and reconfigure driveway access to improve safety.

Club President Herb Shultz told the five-member board that Fort Orange needs to adapt to remain competitive, citing parking problems that have also contributed to the decline of the Washington Avenue YMCA, now facing closure.

The club's application marked the first time the Planning Board has been asked to consider a demolition permit -- with many to come in the wake of a new ordinance designed to boost public airing of demolition requests, which were previously reviewed by the building department largely without public input.

The Fort Orange Club's request represents not just the first but a special case. The ordinance was passed Nov. 16, 10 days after the club asked the building department for the permit.

Anticipating the new law, however, the building department referred the application to the Planning Board, prompting the club to sue -- a lawsuit later dismissed by a state judge who ruled the club acted too soon.

Opponents of the demolition have accused the club of trying to squeeze its application in under the old law. The club counters that its plans have been known since 2008 and that its most recent effort to seek a demolition permit were known in City Hall for weeks before the application was filed, even before the new ordinance was introduced. The council, they contend, acted rashly and illegally to avert the demolition.

Central to the debate of the future of the buildings is their historic value. The club contends the two structures, dating to the 1820s or 1830s, have been changed so much over the years that they maintain little to none of their architectural and historic significance.

Preservationists say any analysis of the buildings' value that focuses primarily on the structures alone, and not their part of the streetscape close to the Capitol, is flawed.

"We're not talking about Penn Station here," said Martin Daley, a city resident and planner by training, "but we are talking to about a building that contributes to this city in that it exists."

John Mesick, an architect for the club, pointed out that the buildings sit at the end of a row of continuous buildings, not in the middle of it. Their removal, therefore, would be less glaring and would better showcase the historic clubhouse at 110 Washington Ave., Mesick said.

The "greater good of the city would be served" by allowing the club to expand its lot and build a "historically appropriate" brick and wrought-steel fence with landscaping to shield the lot from the street, Mesick said.Douglas Bucher, a principal with John G. Waite Associates, the firm that prepared the alternative site plans for Historic Albany, criticized that logic.

"If we take down the building at the end of the a block, and we continue to do that, then we don't have a block," Bucher said.

George Carpinello, an attorney and past president of Historic Albany, said the reason the two buildings are at the end of the block is because the club razed 116 Washington Ave. in the 1980s, claiming it would address parking needs.

"We don't solve the parking problem downtown by demolishing downtown," Carpinello said.

But club attorney Bob Sweeney said all standards required by the council ordinance have been met.

Planning Board Chairman Raymond Joyce Jr. said a decision will come at a future date.

Fort Orange Plan Going to Board

Planners to hear club's request for permit to demolish two buildings


Date: Wednesday, December 30, 2009

ALBANY -- The Fort Orange Club's quest to demolish two Washington Avenue buildings -- delayed last month by a state judge and a new city ordinance -- will go before the Planning Board this morning.

The meeting marks the first time the board will consider a demolition permit request -- now required under the new ordinance, passed by the Common Council Nov. 16, that significantly increases public airing of the requests.

The club's application to raze two 19th-century buildings at 118-120 Washington Ave., adjacent to its clubhouse, was made 10 days before the measure was approved, when the building department still had the sole authority to issue the permits.

But the department, anticipating the council's action and in light of public protest over the proposal in 2008, referred the Fort Orange Club's application to the Planning Board anyway, prompting the club to sue.

A state Supreme Court judge later dismissed that suit on the grounds that the club didn't yet have cause to mount a legal challenge because the city had merely referred its request to the Planning Board, not denied it.

The club has reserved its right to appeal that decision but has not filed a challenge to the judge's order.

"We'll wait to see what the decision is from the city," said Sal Ferlazzo, an attorney representing the 129-year-old club, which argues the buildings have no historic value and which hopes to use the space for additional parking as it expands its athletic facilities. "If certain action occurred, there'd be no reason to perfect the appeal."

Preservationists have opposed the club's demolition plan since it was first publicly proposed in 2008, contending the buildings are part of lower Washington Avenue's historic streetscape and that their loss would further diminish the urban feel of the stretch just a block from the state Capitol.

The Historic Albany Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the preservation of the city's historic buildings, asked Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi to issue a temporary restraining order against the demolitions -- a point that became moot when he refused to grant the club's demand that the city issue a permit.

Last summer, amid public outcry, the club temporarily shelved the demolition plans but renewed them this fall as the new ordinance loomed on the council's agenda.

In the weeks since, Historic Albany has been in discussions with the club to reach a solution that will satisfy both sides, said Executive Director Susan Holland.

"We're trying to work out keeping the building with just as many (parking) spots, so we've been out there measuring and drawing," Holland said.

While the Fort Orange demolition application is the first to reach the Planning Board, at least two others have been referred by the building department, said Director Nick DiLello.

One of the other applications came from the Brighter Choice Foundation, which is in the process of building a new charter middle school between Elk and Sherman streets, DiLello said.

The new ordinance, proposed by 6th Ward Councilman Richard Conti, requires demolition permit requests for buildings not located in historic districts, or not in imminent danger of collapse, to be reviewed by the Planning Board -- and for the applicant to submit detailed plans about what it hopes to do with the property next. Requests to demolish buildings in historic districts already receive greater scrutiny.

The Planning Board meets at 9 a.m. in City Hall.

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