By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Wondering how the landscape of Niskayuna might change in 2015? Town Supervisor Joe Landry recently shared his road map for the rest of the year in an interview with Your Niskayuna.
Some questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Q: In 2014, we saw this great new Comprehensive Plan get adopted. How is that affecting the way that we’re looking at 2015? How often does it actually get dusted off and consulted?
A: In fact, it’s just printed. We just printed a nice copy that we’re going to mail out to all the members of our Comprehensive Plan committee, and other people. The Comprehensive Plan is a document, I want to say like a living document. It’s always there, it’s out there, and it’s mostly for the development that goes on in town. The Planning Board members, the Zoning Board members will look at it as things progress in town, as things happen, and there’s projects, development happening, they’ll look at the Comprehensive Plan and say, ‘Was this in the Comprehensive Plan?’ And if it was, then it sort of goes along with what we’re trying to do.
There are specific projects like the Aqueduct Park down there by the Rexford Bridge. We paid a consultant to come up with a plan down there. We’re going to look at that, try to find funding mechanisms for that. The thing that’s going to delay that a little bit is you have the Rexford Bridge that’s happening, so there’s going to be a lot of construction down there, a lot of roadwork. You’re going to have a roundabout, you’re going to have parking, you’re going to have a whole mishmash of new roadways, new traffic patterns going in, etc., so we’re going to let that happen. We don’t want to get in their way, so [Aqueduct park updates] should happen over the next couple of years.
Q: One of the issue areas mentioned in the Comprehensive Plan is public transportation. In town, we talk about the streets and stop signs and bikes and pedestrians, but we don’t really talk about people who don’t have cars. Is there anything in the works to help people out who need to take the bus?
A: The one thing that, if it were up to me and if I were in charge of the CDTA … is a bus route that would be going down Balltown Road. There’s no bus that goes down Balltown Road. That would be a big improvement. I keep talking to them and it’s all funding for the CDTA; they don’t have the funding for that. But that’s the request I’ve made many a time.
We’re doing very well in Niskayuna. And what I mean by that is businesses are coming here — you have Mansion Square, you have Mohawk Commons. A lot of people didn’t like Barnes and Noble going out. However, we’re filling it with three other stores, so you’re going to have three other retail outlets in there that are going to employ people. [They’ll] probably employ more people than the Barnes and Noble did because you know, you have three retailers instead of one retailer. A lot of those people don’t have cars and they’ve got to get to work. Fortunately, they can take the bus up and down State Street. However, if you come in a little bit and you’re at the Radio Shack and the Raymour and Flanigan area, that’s a long walk from State Street. And the more you come, if you come to Hannaford or you come to that plaza, there’s no bus service there. You don’t have anything going up Consaul Road or going down Balltown. So I keep advocating. Someday I’ll be successful. Every good idea has its time.
Q: It was tough news to hear that the battery plant in downtown Schenectady is downsizing. I know that’s not right here in town, but GE has such a large presence in Niskayuna. Are you concerned about that at all?
A: From the news articles I’ve heard, they are downsizing but they’re moving people within the GE downtown. So whoever was working on that, they’re just moving around within the city of Schenectady. Also, I’m sure there are people at the [research] center that have something to do with the batteries. I don’t know; we haven’t heard any impact over here at the GE Research. Right now, we haven’t heard of any impact as far as employees.
Q: Are there any other big development projects coming to Niskayuna this year?
A: There are all kinds of projects going on. Over on Hillside Avenue, there’s an apartment complex going in over there. It’s called Iroquois Village. It has to get a DEC approval and that’s almost finalized, and as soon as they can get that, you’ll see that in the spring. That’s one of the bigger projects.
Galesi just purchased Niskayuna Technology Park on Hillside Avenue and we have three projects going in there. Two of them have submitted plans to us where we’re talking new buildings being built, 30, 40,000 square feet of buildings going in, new industry going in. And there’s a third on its way. Galesi is a very aggressive developer, so who knows what’s going to go in there. Those are two projects that are probably going to go in this spring.
Q: Do you have any predictions regarding property values in Niskayuna, with the new casino on its way?
A: We think we’re going to see a lot of activity in Niskayuna. I don’t know about [property values] going up. We benefit from a casino in that a lot of people like living in Niskayuna, so we will see people looking for housing in Niskayuna, wanting to live here. And who knows what the ancillary activities are going to be with the casino.
Q: What’s your top priority this year, or what needs the most work in 2015?
A: I don’t have a top priority. There’s a lot of things going on. We have a lot of projects. You have the obvious ones; we have the highway department that is going to be doing a lot of road improvements. We always do so many miles of resurfacing and hopefully at least, it’s very expensive to reconstruct. Water and sewer, we have about a quarter million dollars of bonded money that we’re going to replace piping with. We’re a town that, theoretically, should be doing a mile of pipe every year.
Another thing you’ll see is we’re revamping the lighting at the tennis courts. Right now, and this is not efficient, in the summertime at the tennis courts, the lights are on at night. Whether people are using them or not, they’re on. That’s the way it was set up, years ago, when electricity was cheap. So what we’re doing is we’re going in and setting up a system where you actually have to go in and hit a button and then they’re timed. The lights are going to be off, but if you come in and you whack a button they’ll be on for a half an hour or 45 minutes, and you can play until it gets dark again and then hit the button again.
One thing we do around town, we have all these things like pump stations and other electronic devices and motors and everything in town that we try to tie them electronically to computers. So somebody like [town civil engineer] Matt Yetto can be at home and get an email or a text, and he can go on a computer and see what the issues are at a pump station or wastewater treatment plant or a water plant or other things like that. And if we could automate everything, you could even reset pumps from somewhere else. So we’re trying to finalize all of that.
The other thing we always try to do is, we have some vacancies on various committees. We’re always looking for volunteers, and we always have ongoing needs to work with people to put on.