BY KATE SECKINGER
NISKAYUNA — Peter Luizzi, the contractor behind the plan to build a $30 million upscale residential development on the Williams Auto Scrap Yard site, said the project is right on schedule.
But now the project, called Rivers Ledge of Niskayuna, may grow by another seven acres.
Luizzi, who owns Luizzi Brothers Contracting, said the Niskayuna Town Board and Planning Board granted the company permission to move forward with a planned unit development approval earlier this month.
The current fleet of junk cars notwithstanding, the site is in an attractive location on a hill overlooking the river near the Rexford Bridge, bordering the Mohawk-Hudson Hike/Bike Trail and the town of Niskayuna’s Aqueduct Park.
When the project was first announced in early January, the 200-plus luxury apartment project was slated for the space currently occupied by the 21-acre scrap yard, with half being used for the housing and the other half turned into green space to feature a clubhouse, pool, tennis and basketball courts, a putting green and more.
As of January, the scrap yard was assessed at $395,000.
Since then, the company is anticipating acquiring seven more acres than originally planned along Aqueduct Road.
“This has only come about in the past two weeks,” Luizzi said Feb. 4. “Our initial concept didn’t include this. The project will now be closer to 27 acres or 28.”
The contractor said more than five acres of the extra land is connected to scrap yard owner Joe Williams, but 2.49 acres are owned by Schenectady County.
At the County Legislature meeting Feb. 1, the sale of the county-owned property was discussed.
Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said the county obtained the 2.49-acre site through a tax foreclosure. The site has been assessed for $26,000, and a price of $100,000 for the land was negotiated with Luizzi.
“We worked to obtain best value for the county, and together we were able to negotiate a payment to the county of $100,000 for the site,” Gillen wrote in a statement Feb. 3. “This puts the property back on the tax rolls and it supports the exciting plan to redevelop the Williams Auto Parts site.”
Luizzi said the extra space will be used for a second access point.
Several of the 200-plus apartments will be reserved for residents age 55 and older, Luizzi told the Gazette last month.
On Feb. 2, he said the senior housing will likely be constructed within the seven extra acres of space.
“That extra property sits on one side of the bike trail, and then the Williams Scrap Yard piece is on the other side of the trail,” Luizzi explained. “The bike trail splits the two pieces of property, one side which will have the senior apartments, and the other which will have the rest of the units open for anyone.”
The Williams Auto Scrap Yard has been there for more than 50 years, and Luizzi said his contracting company has been having tests done on the site to make sure the soil, water and environment are clean and suitable for the apartment complex.
“I’ve worked hard to keep the place clean,” Williams told the Gazette last month.
“He has,” Luizzi confirmed Feb. 2. “There are two ponds on that property, and according to Joe Williams, he had yearly inspections of them, and they never found anything wrong.”
Luizzi Brothers Contracting hired Evergreen Testing and Environmental Services, based in Watervliet, to perform an environmental assessment of the site in the fall.
The first report included 32 test pit excavations, where soil and rock samples were taken from each. Groundwater samples were taken from two.
The report said there is evidence of residual contamination present in the site’s soils and groundwater, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation received a spill report as a result of the site assessment.
Reportable levels of heavy metals and petroleum product were found in the first report completed in the fall, according to the DEC.
“To my understanding, the lead and petroleum found in the environment of the site was borderline over the allowable limits set by the DEC,” Luizzi said. “We had more comprehensive testing to examine the impact to the property.”
Luizzi said Evergreen just finished conducting a second, more thorough assessment in late January, and while he had yet to see the full report, the company told him conditions at the site were not found to be any worse than in the previous report.
“From what they’re telling me, everything is still OK,” Luizzi said. “To my knowledge, they didn’t come across any additional problems.”
Evergreen recommended that during development, any impacted soil be properly disposed of in accordance with regulations set by the DEC, according to Evergreen’s report released the first week of December.
“We’re assuming any impacted soil won’t be difficult to remove, but I will know more and confirm it when I receive this second report,” Luizzi said. “We want a clean site and will have a clean site.
“We are working to make sure we have everything we need and everything is how it’s supposed to be.”