Gateway Plaza gets the wrong sculpture (updated)

GPsculpture30Jul22f

. . LADY  LIBERTY WAS EVICTED-EXILED FOR THIS?!

UPDATE (Aug. 1, 2022): Jim Salengo of DSIC wrote me this morning that: “This is a piece by David Siders (formerly of Experience & Creative Design). He is heading up our landscaping program this summer and has been doing a lot of work in Gateway Plaza. His team recently cleaned up and weeded the bench circle at the northwest corner of the park, so he just placed this piece there temporarily to give a little bit of visual interest. He previously had it in front of our outdoor program shop on Front Street, but it kind of got lost there.”

I’m glad to hear the sculpture is only temporary. [But see follow-up in the next paragraph] I told Jim my relief, and stated the sculpture could not hold a candle [or torch] to the impact and symbolism of Lady Liberty at that location. [See original posting below for explanation.] Maybe the Siders piece can go to the site being planned at the location of the old Nicholaus Building, as part of a revolving series of sculpture, after a refurbished Lady Liberty Replica returns home to Liberty Park at Gateway Plaza.

GP-Paperclip4wTree follow-up (October 4, 2022): It is no surprise, but the sculpture “temporarily” placed on the circular sculpture base that is at the center of the raised, “urban” Circular Plaza is still there, more than two months after I first saw it. The Big Bent Paperclip has offered “a little bit of visual interest” during the prime months to visit a park in the summer, and (along with. many other commuters and visitors) while over 75,000 people came to see the Van Gogh immersion experience just down the block at the Armory Studio. I continue to believe that The Lady would better greet, attract, and inspire visitors and passersby than this Paperclip can.

ORIGINAL POST

Four years after Gateway Plaza (a/k/a Liberty Park) was opened to the public, it finally has a sculpture on its Focal Point Planter in the raised “urban” Circular Plaza that is near the corner of State St. and Washington Ave. (across from SCCC). [see image above, and those below, taken July 30, 2022] The new sculpture, whose creator I do not yet did not originally know (it is David Siders), is almost exactly where Schenectady’s Lady Liberty Statue stood from 1950 to 2017, until her purportedly “temporary” removal for safekeeping while Liberty Park was redesigned as part of a new Gateway Plaza.

Here’s the new sculpture seen from various perspectives. (Click on a tile for a larger version.)

  • I’ve been wondering over the past few years what happened to the $20,000 allocated for the Planter Sculpture in the Gateway Plaza Plan’s budget. I hope this little item does not represent that $20K.

LLSilhouetteTimelessThe sculpture base is the spot where many Schenectadians hoped The Lady would be returned from her exile by Mayor Gary McCarthy and Mary Moore Wallinger. [See our posting “Lady Liberty is Timeless” which brings together many of the issues and events relating to the City’s decision to exile Lady Liberty from Her home at Liberty/Gateway Park, rather than returning the statute to Liberty Park, as stated and depicted in the fully-vetted and approved 2013 Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan.]

  • PutHerBack4x6eThe image to the right is a plea we made to McCarthy and Wallinger a few years ago, urging them to Bring Back the Lady and cure the missing spirit of Liberty Park. The central sculpture base was and is the preferred re-location spot, where it is visible to traffic and has ample space and seating for Plaza visitors. Ms. Wallinger had already installed the Rainbow Pride exhibit at the place the Implementation Plan had shown for the return.

I am, of course a bit biased on this topic, but it is clear to me that the choice of this insignificant sculpture further disrespects Lady Liberty, its history, and the wishes of the public, along with basic principles of good government, planning and transparency.  Wallinger told us while presenting the Implementation Plan in 2013 that the sculpture chosen for the Plaza would tell a story about Schenectady’s past, present and future. I’m waiting to hear just what “story” or message this new sculpture is meant to convey at the “gateway” to Schenectady. And, just how it will gain the affection and ability to inspire that Lady Liberty already possesses.

From every angle, I believe Lady Liberty makes a more compelling image and symbol of both our past and future, especially with the Rainbow Pride arches, a product of the liberty and Enlightenment values represented by the Statue, just a few yards away.

GPsculptureLogoHere are a few images of Lady Liberty in Her park in September 2016, before park reconstruction caused Her removal. The Replica of Liberty has grace and gravitas the new sculpture (see its logo-signature to the right) is unlikely to ever achieve.

LadyInParkF8x10f . . LadyLibertyParkCollageF

As we’ve argued before, Lady Liberty’s replica best fulfills the stated intention of the Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan to celebrate the past, present and future of Schenectady.

Mayor McCarthy made us wait a couple years, marked first with silence and then silly excuses, before he revealed the current scandalous choice of Erie Blvd. and Union Street for the Exile Location of Lady Liberty, in August 2019. Three years later, the location continues to have no signage denoting the meaning and local history of the Replica, and no plaque telling of its donation by our local Boy Scouts of America and their hopes, as well as no landscaping or floral decorations, as it stands among utility and light poles, without lighting, only a few feet from Smart City surveillance devices.

My guess is that there are few Schenectady residents or visitors who will feel that the long wait for the new sculpture at Gateway Plaza was worth it.

. . share this post with this shorter URL: https://tinyurl.com/wrongsculpture . .

REMINDER: On November 8, 2021, the Schenectady City Council passed a resolution recommending that our Lady Liberty replica be returned to Liberty Park. Rather than taking this graceful way out and returning the statue to Her home, the Mayor has stubbornly stayed silent and overseen installation of the new sculpture.

Look what we found in the Gateway Plaza Plan, Mr. Koldin!

At the November 1, 2021 Schenectady City Council Committees Meeting, Council Members were about to vote on a Resolution to return Lady Liberty to Liberty/Gateway Park. The Mayor left the room, but his City Corporation Counsel Andrew Koldin told Council members that he had looked, and did a search within the  Comprehensive Plan for Gateway Plaza, and could find no place where there is any mention of the Liberty Statue Replica being returned to Gateway Plaza after construction was completed. He added that he found nothing saying to return or not return, relocate or not relocate the replica.

Well, that must have been a very quick search by Mr. Koldin. We did a closer search several years ago, and have been saying at this website, in Letters to the Editor, and statements at Council meetings, that the Plan approved by the Council and signed by the Mayor in 2013 provided that the Liberty Statue was to be returned to Gateway-Liberty Plaza after construction, and therefore we wanted Her returned “as promised”. Here is the easy-to-find proof.

GPRenderLLdetail . . [L] detail from Plan rendering showing Lady Liberty “relocated” within the Plaza along State Street.

MASTER PLAN of the GATEWAY PLAZA PROJECT: Shown on the COVER of the Final Comprehensive Plan for Gateway Plaza, and within the Plan Document: Item #6 in the Legend says “Relocation of Liberty Replica” and shows its designated relocation spot in the Plaza along State Street.

DETAIL FROM MASTER PLAN

. . Above, in a detail of the Master Plan design, I have labelled in blue the spot for the proposed relocation of the Liberty Statue, per #6 in the Master Plan.

Explanation Given to Advisory Committee in “Kick Off” Session says – The Statue of Liberty . . . may be moved, but should be incorporated into the project.”

EXPLANATION GIVEN IN PUBLIC SESSION re LADY LIBERTY being placed near State Street.  

REFINED OPTIONS A  & B, GIVEN TO STEERING/ADVISORY COMMITTEE, EACH SHOWING “RELOCATED STATUE OF LIBERTY” along State St. on the Master Plan plat.

LINE ITEM IN PLAN BUDGET SHOWING $20,000 to RELOCATE THE STATUE OF LIBERTY in the PLAZA

Why did Andrew Koldin feel he needed to deny there being a directive in the Final Gateway Plaza Plan to return Lady Liberty? My best guess is so he and the Mayor could argue that not returning the Lady to Her Home did not violate the Plan the Council and Mayor had approved in 2013.

Respecting Lady Liberty (with updates)

    • FOLLOW-UP (August 28, 2022): Three years ago today, Mayor Gary McCarthy announced that Lady Liberty had been relocated to the SE corner of Union St. and Erie Boulevard, where the Statue still stands, with no marker or signage identifying it or its source. And, ten months ago, on November 8, 2021, the Schenectady Council passed a resolution recommending that our Lady Liberty replica be returned to Liberty Park. If you had hoped the Mayor would take advantage of that opportunity to do the right thing, after cleaning and refurbishing the statue, you’ve joined the masses of Schenectady residents frustrated with Gary McCarthy. What next? How would you finish Lady Liberty’s phone call to our Mayor?
      • As the designated maker of legislation and policy in Schenectady, the Council should have explicitly directed the return of Lady Libery to Liberty Plaza, with a deadline.
    • LL-jumpforjoyUpdate (November 5, 2021): This is the Best Lady Liberty News In Years [if accepted by the Mayor].  The Resolution mentioned in the next paragraph, recommending that the Mayor return our Lady Liberty Replica to Liberty-Gateway Plaza has been placed on the Agenda of the Nov. 8, 2021 City Council Meeting. update (Nov. 8. 2021) Today’s Gazette article underscores the obvious: This controversy is not over until Mayor McCarthy decides Gateway-Liberty Park is the appropriate place for Lady Liberty. The Council has given him a graceful solution, let’s hope he takes the opportunity.
      • (November 1, 2021): This evening, all five sitting members of the Schenectady City Council stated support for the return of Lady Liberty to Her Home at Liberty/Gateway Plaza. Their vote at a Council Committees Meeting calls for the drafting of a Resolution supporting the return. If drafted, the item should be on the Council Meeting next week, November 8, 2021. Mayor McCarthy left the room before the item was reached on the Agenda. His cooperation would be much appreciated.

. . Help end this disgrace. Demand respect for Lady Liberty

respectLL-Jan2021

. . BRING LADY LIBERTY HOME FROM EXILE


  • Update (Oct. 30, 2021): THANK YOU to all who attended the demonstration, and attracted so many horn beeps. [photo by Peter R. Barber, for Daily Gazette, A9, Oct. 29, 2021). Our efforts surely helped to get the Statue of Liberty placed on the City Council Committees Agenda for Monday, Nov, 2, 2021; Item #9. You can observe the meeting, at 5:30 PM, City Hall Room 110. Please contact City Council Members to ask that they act to put Lady Liberty back at Her Home, Liberty Park. Contact you favorite Council members, and/or reach the whole Council by emailing City Clerk Samanta Mykoo, at SMykoo@schenectadyny.gov.
  • RALLY on October 28, 2021, at 4 PM, at the statue’s Location in Exile (Union St. at Erie Blvd.). The Demonstration starts at 3 PM, and through the rush hour, allies of Liberty will be demonstrating at that corner, with signs and sighs.
  • Click the thumbnail on the right for the Rally Flyer and please share it.
  • CONTACT Mayor McCarthy and City Council Members to demand that Lady Liberty, our History, and Honest Government be respected.
  • Share this posting with this short URL: tinyurl.com/RespectLL

LadyLibertyParkCollageF. .  Left: scenes of Lady Liberty in Liberty Park (Sept. 2016) .. .

For 67 years, our Schenectady community honored and respected the Lady Liberty replica that graced the Park named for the statue, Liberty Park. In August 2017, the Statue was removed from Liberty Park for its protection while the Park was being expanded into a new Gateway Plaza. We all thought the Lady would be kept safe and returned to Her Home (fully refurbished) when Plaza construction was complete. That is what the public wanted and the Mayor and City Council promised when they approved the Comprehensive Plan for Gateway Plaza in April 2013.

RespectSignE
Instead, backroom decisions were made, by Mayor Gary R. McCarthy, with no input from the Council or public, to exile Lady Liberty from Her Park. When the public clamored for the return of Lady Liberty from storage in a City warehouse, City Council did nothing and the Mayor stalled for more than a year, before dumping the Replica unrepaired at a most inappropriate location: The northeast corner of Union Street and Erie Boulevard, amidst eyesores, and with no signage, landscaping, foot-traffic, or lighting.

LLexile-garagesale . . WE MUST FINALLY END THIS SHAMEFUL DISRESPECT FOR LADY LIBERTY, PUBLIC OPINION, and OUR PLANNING PROCESS .

This goal should be easy to accomplish. The best location for Lady Liberty is available right now, almost exactly where She stood for 67 years, at the new and unfilled central sculpture base at Liberty/Gateway Plaza (image to right). It has visibility, seating, space for visitors, lighting, and more. The choice fulfills the promise made by City Council and the Mayor in 2013. And, it overlooks a modern symbol of the civil liberties Lady Liberty has inspired, the Rainbow Pride monumnent. Images below are from January 2021:

respectBetterSpot4LL . . respectLL-BetterSpot1

This website has a lot of information about this very avoidable controversy (see the Gateway-Liberty Park category), but the important issues can be grasped by checking out the links provided below this paragraph . This photo-editorial was presented to Council and Mayor in March 2018 (click on it for a larger version):

gplady3

BTW: Mary Wallinger, the chief designer of Gateway Plaza and drafter of the Plan, changed her public position about returning Lady Liberty to Liberty Park, and placed the Rainbow Pride public art project at the location designated in the Plaza Plan for the Liberty replica. Happily, as stated above, there is an even better location still available close to the original installation. It more closely reflects public comment during the Plaza planning process.

HELPFUL LINKS: Here are links to various topics of interest. Each posting contains more links to relevant material.

  • A full history of this controversy/travesty, with photos, documents, important links: tinyurl.com/TimelessLiberty
  • the Stepchild treatment of Lady Liberty for two years now at the Location in Exile: tinyurl.com/StepchildLiberty
  • CIVIC PRIDE should compel City Hall to give Lady Liberty the respect due Her as a symbol of liberty, welcome and opportunity, and an important part of Schenectady’s history. See the posting “Will Civic Pride save Schenectady’s Liberty Replica” for several important points, including how much better the other New York State BSA replicas are being treated — with, for example, Utica and and tiny Leroy totally refurbishing their Replicas the same year Schenectady’s Mayor put ours in storage with no intention to treat Her with respect. [click on image at the right to see the Upstate Sisters of our Lady Liberty.}

See “Letters for the Lady” for a compilation of letters to the editor and editorial pieces about the City’s treatment of Lady Liberty.

Come back for updates related to the Rally and our Lady Liberty Respect campaign.

LL-Gaz-JaniceLance24Oct2021(October 24, 2021): The Sunday Gazette has an article about our campaign to return Lady Liberty to Her Home. See “Schenectady group wants Lady Liberty off Erie. Blvd., back to former park location” (Brian Lee, A1; photo at right).

(October 25, 2021): Our thanks go to NewsChannel10 reporter Collan Smith (on left) for highlighting our campaign in their Sunday night news program. See “Schenectady group wants lady liberty statue moved ‘out of exile‘ (October 24, 2021).

(October 26, 2021): Today’s Gazette mentions our Bring Her Home campaign at the end of an article that focused on City Council passing the Annual Budget at its meeting last night.

In another matter, a procession of residents asked McCarthy to return a replica of the Statue of Liberty to its former long-time location in Liberty Park, now known as Gateway Plaza.
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The statue, which arrived in Schenectady in 1950 by way of a Boy Scouts fundraising effort, was moved to the corner of Erie Boulevard and Union Street in 2019 after a redesign of the park began in 2017.
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Chris Morris, director of the advocacy group Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change, likened Lady Liberty to a “special tenant” and McCarthy to  “landlord” who had uprooted her to just below train tracks on “one of the busiest and inappropriate street corners” in the city.
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“What an absolute disservice and disrespect to such a well-loved member of our community seeking peace and tranquility,” Morris said.
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Unfortunately, the report ended with this sentence:

McCarthy has said that the statue had been neglected and was often urinated on at its former location.

By repeating the Urination Excuse (twice in three days), the Gazette enables the Mayor’s habit of giving nonsense replies to questions about his actions. One reason Liberty Park was reconstructed was because its overgrowth of vegetation allowed homeless people to spend time there sleeping and drinking and doing drugs. Opening up the Park makes it much harder for such activity to continue. The Mayor did not violate the Comprehensive Plan he signed in 2013 because of prior urination. And, he certainly did not choose the disrespectful Location in Exile because of prior urination.
David Giacalone’s presentation from the floor at the Oct. 25 Council Meeting was titled “Civic Pride and Lady Liberty” (click for the pdf file).

GALLERY for THE LADY: This space will present a growing collection of images of Lady Liberty advocates from our Schenectady Community:

 . .

. . above: Vince Riggi [L} and James Wilson [R] . .

 . .   

. . above: [L] Delanne Stageman; [R] Keith Dayer on left and Susannah Hand

. .  also at the Sunday Green Market on Jay Street:

 . .  

PLEASE, BRING LADY LIBERTY HOME, to wit, HERE:

our stepchild Statue of Liberty

   Why did Gateway Plaza project administrator, and Planning Commission Chair, Mary Moore Wallinger [image from Gazette at left] decide to treat our Lady Liberty replica like the proverbial redheaded stepchild — disrespected and neglected? And, why did Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy decide to be Wallinger’s stubborn enabler, authorizing the continued shabby treatment of the Statue in exile at Erie Blvd. and Union Street? We’ve been asking such questions since March of 2018 (see, e.g., “Bring Lady Liberty Home“), when it became clear that Wallinger and McCarthy did not plan to fulfill the promise made in the approved Final Gateway Plaza Implementation Plan, that Lady Liberty would be returned to her home of 67 years at Liberty-Gateway Park after its construction was completed.

  • BTW: Ms. Wallinger authored the Implementation Plan and presented it in 2013 in a Resolution unanimously approved by the City Council, noting that the full planning process had included three public sessions. No notice was given to the Council nor the public when the secret decision was made by Wallinger, McCarthy (and, apparently, Metroplex Chair Ray Gillen) to send the Statue elsewhere.

. .Lady Liberty replica still seen in exile (Jan. 19, 2021), alongside a huge, unsightly utility pole, etc., and with scarred and marred retaining wall in the background.

. . despite a far better spot available at the Gateway Plaza central sculpture base . .

Admirably-persistent letter writer Lance R. Jackson, of Glenville, appeared again yesterday in the Gazette in a Letter to the Editor headlined “Restore statue to rightful location in Gateway Park” (June 11, 2021). Octogenarian Jackson wrote:

The mayor and City Council owe us a clear and concise explanation as to why they are not restoring our Lady to Gateway Park or telling us that they are honoring our request and providing a reasonable restoration timeline.

It seems pretty clear that we are not going to get the requested explanation from Lady Liberty’s City Hall “step-parents”, nor the related question of how much discretion the Mayor or project administrator has to change a fully-planned and approved project when there is no safety or financial emergency that might justify a change in a significant feature of the plan.

A Stepchild Statue?  In August 2019, our Liberty replica was deposited in a most unsuitable location, without being cleaned or repaired while held by the City for safekeeping for two years, and was returned without its original plaque or other marker designating its meaning and its donation by local Boy Scouts in 1950.  The superior treatment given by over one hundred municipalities to the remaining Boy Scouts of America replicas of Lady Liberty is depicted in my posting “Will civic pride save Schenectady’s Liberty replica?” (Feb. 11, 2020). How bad is this location? Here’s what the Gazette Editorial Board said two days after the installation at Union and Erie (“Lady Liberty’s new home: Try again:“):

Mayor Gary McCarthy — without input from the public or the collective City Council — appears to have unilaterally decided to dump it on one of the city’s most cluttered street corners — uncleaned and unimproved — where it’s difficult to see clearly from either side of the five-lane road, against a thick, ugly metal power pole and utility boxes, and in the shadow of an unsightly train bridge at the end of a parking lot.

Here are three additional indications of the continued shabby, “unwanted-stepchild” treatment of Lady Liberty at Her location in exile [click on a photo for a larger image]:

. .

First, The Tardy Repair. A snowplow damaged the mason block retainer wall at the base of Lady Liberty on December 23 or 24, 2020. (images above) To the left is a December 30 photo of the initial “fix” by City workers: An unsafe and unsightly piling of the loose masonry alongside the sidewalk of what Mayor McCarthy called “an extremely high-visibility intersection”. It then took the City another eighteen weeks to finish what was in reality a very minor masonry project. See images immediately below. (In the meantime, the safety cones were frequently scattered and the author of this posting occasionally brought them back to the spot to give the public at least a little warning of the hazard.)

. .

  • NOTE: The tardy “quickie” repair apparently only happened when it did because a City crew was just across Union Street, tidying up after a period-style light pole was taken down by a vehicle out of control. Given the speed and recklessness of many drivers at this intersection, the wipe out could have just as easily happened to Lady Liberty, who is situated merely a few yards from the roadway.

 

Second, the Big Ugly Utility Pole. Lady Liberty does not deserve to stand cheek-to-jowl next to a  “thick, ugly metal power pole” (complete with a “smart” surveillance camera) — especially, when the pole makes the statue virtually invisible to vehicles coming weston Union Street. That opinion was strengthened significantly eleven months ago, when I noticed that similar ugly power poles at State St. and Erie, just two blocks away, had been replaced with far more stately black, decorative poles:

Moreover, in case you think State and Erie got special treatment as Downtown’s prime intersection, take a look at what is standing at Liberty Street and Erie Boulevard, one short block from, and within sight of, Lady Liberty:

 . . SE corner . .

And, royally adorning Burger King on the NW corner of Liberty and State Streets:

 . .

  • You might have noticed the pretty flowers at the base of the Burger King lamppost. That notion brings me to my third stepchild issue.

Third, Weeds not Flowers. While crossing Erie Boulevard this week, going from Lady Liberty to the SE corner, with a parking lot and Stockade Welcome Column, I brightened up to see a lovely flower bed:

. . even nicer two days later . . 

flowerbed-UnioniAtErie12Jun2021

The sight of the lovely flower bed, made me turn around to see if I had missed a similar display at Lady Liberty. From across the street, I could not see any blooms. So, I crossed back to check out the flora around the Statue. This is what I found:

 . .

Yep, weeds on the Erie Blvd. side (R) and weeds on the Union Street side of the Lady. 

On this lovely June Saturday afternoon, I’m going to close this posting, feeling confident that my “step-child statue” argument will make at least a few people at City Hall embarrassed, maybe even enough to finally do something about the integrity of our planning process, and the importance of public sentiment, in the cause of the enlightened spirit of Lady Liberty. Her Schenectady replica belongs in the corner where it stood for 67 years, where it would now overlook the Pride Memorial, another symbol of equality and welcome for all. 

update: The Lady’s daylilies (June 25, 2021). This past week, I saw that Lady Liberty’s perennial visitors (which were actually on the site in greater abundance prior to the arrival of the Statue; e.g., 2017 Google Street View), orange daylilies, have started to brighten Her location in exile, and I twice took photos. Orange daylilies have always been a favorite of mine, but the array at Erie Boulevard and Union Street could not distract me from all the other ugly elements at the site. 

. . LLdaylilies

LadyStepchild-daylilies

Daylilies are, of course, not lilies, and some call them “outhouse lilies” and “roadside lilies.” Given the City’s treatment of our Liberty Replica, it is probably a good thing that a flower that takes minimal (some say virtually no) maintenance or additional expense has established itself on the site. Much of the site is still without a flowerbed like the one across the street. The only excuse that I can think of for this shabby situation is that the Mayor is finally going to send Lady Liberty home  [as again advocated by “Mr. Schenectady Vets” Jim Wilson, in a Gazette LTE, 27Jun2021], and so did not want to expend additional funds at the ugly corner. However, I’m not holding my breath.

preLLexile2017followup (une 30, 2021): My suspicious mind got me wondering whether the daylilies (along with the hydrangeas along the RR wall) were on the site before Lady Liberty ended up at the corner of Erie Blvd. and Union St.  Thanks to the Google Street-view timeline, I was able to answer the question. Yes, there were effusive stands of dayliliies at the site, with hydrangeas, too, before the arrival of Lady Liberty. Some of the Google street views seem to show more daylilies than have survived there. The image at the right is from 2017. (There were also four, not two, healthy evergreen trees between Lady Liberty’s location and the parking lot.) So, we can thank Mother Nature, and not the Mayor or his co-conspirators for the bit of beauty growing naturally near our Lady Liberty replica. 

UNLIGHTED LADY

As we pointed out in a posting in March 2020, Lady Liberty in Exile has no lighting of any sort to illuminate Her, while the empty sculpture base at Gateway-Liberty Park is well-lighted from dusk to dawn everyday:

Similarly, Edison and Steinmetz get the treatment of a respected monument, well-lit at its corner of S. Liberty St. and Erie Boulevard, four blocks south of the Lady Liberty in Exile (and, with benches for visitors):

EdisonSteinmetzLighted28Sep2021

This disparate treatment is ironic, given that the sculptor of the original Statue of Liberty called it “Liberty Enlightens the World.”

update (August 24, 2021): Two years after being dumped at its new location, the Replica of Lady LIberty sits in an overgrowth of weeds that symbolize neglect and disrespect of City Hall and especially Mayor McCarthy.

StepChildLiberty-2yrs

Will civic pride save schenectady’s Liberty replica?

. . Her Sisters are All Treated Better

. . share this post with this short URL: https://tinyurl.com/LibertySisters

respectLL-Jan2021

The photo at the top of this post was taken on January 19, 2021. The scene remains the same three weeks later, as I prepare this posting. It’s been about a year and a half since Mayor Gary McCarthy, prompted by  Planning Commission Chair Mary Moore Wallinger, exiled Schenectady’s BSA Liberty replica from Her home of 67 years to this dismal site, rather than returning The Lady to Gateway-Liberty Plaza, as promised. The site still has no marker nor plaque identifying the statue or its source. I walk or drive by almost daily, and have never seen another human being visiting the Statue, except for a man sleeping on the retainer wall once. It took nagging by me to get the City to do something about the damage done to that wall by a snow plow just before Christmas. As you can see, the “something” was to gather and pile up the blocks that had been knocked onto the sidewalk, and place three safety cones. 

Rather than merely assume that no other city or town treats its BSA Statue of Liberty replica so shabbily 70 years after they were erected, I searched online for images of the 100+ extant statues. I discovered two compilations of BSA Liberty Replica images, and found (1) photos of 117 of the replicas at http://passbagger.org/statue-of-liberty.htm [many thanks to all the participants who visited on their motorcycles and gathered the images]; and (2) an archived page of Replica thumbnail shots compiled by BSA Troop 101 of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The original post by Troop 101 linked each thumbnail to a full photo, but only the thumbnails remain in the archive. The top of that webpage can be seen in the image to the right of this paragraph; and immediately below is a screen-shot of the bottom of that page, from web.archive.org. 

In my opinion as a citizen and prolific photographer of public places, every single BSA Liberty Replica in the nation stands on a far more appropriate and attractive spot. You can draw your own conclusions by browsing through the PassBagger collection., which offers fuller images of each site. Rather than being accused of cherry-picking the best examples from around the country, I have decided to present here images of every one of the Liberty Replica statues in New York State that were placed as part of the 1950 Boy Scouts of America 40th Anniversary project, “Strengthen the Arm of Liberty”. 

BSA Liberty Replicas stand in six Upstate communities. In alphabetical order: LeRoy, Niagara Falls, Olean, Oleonta, Schenectady, and Utica. Schenectady’s Lady Liberty was placed in storage in 2017, to be left for two years without being cleaned or repaired prior to being unceremoniously exiled to its current location. In contrast, at about that time, two of the communities, LeRoy and Utica, raised the funds and donated services to have their Liberty Statues and bases totally refurbished.

  • Click on a mosaic square below to see a full version of the image; scroll over the image to see its location.

It’s difficult to read what the Village of LeRoy (pop. under 8,000) did to honor and save its replica of Lady Liberty without being embarrassed for Schenectady and its Mayor. Click on the thumbnail at the head of this paragraph, or the following link, to read “Leroy to be Recognized” (LeRoy Pennysaver, October 22, 2017, by Lynne Belluscio, Director of The LeRoy Historical Society.) Led by their Historical Society, the people, companies and organizations of LeRoy contributed over $15,000 and many services to “save” their Lady Liberty. See also, The Batavian (March 7, 2016); and Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (July 2, 2016). 

 . .

. . above: [R] LeRoy Liberty replica, pre-rehab; [L] refurbished statue in LeRoy House,, awaiting rededication at its creekside home.

Here are other views of Upstate NY BSA Liberty Replicas:

. . in Oneonta:

  . . in Olean (in front of new wing of Senior Center)

. . Utica’s Replica being refurbished

Schenectady’s Lady in Exile at Union St. & Erie Boulevard:

 . .

 . .

Will Civic Pride (or Shame) Help Lady Liberty? Schenectady’s City Council approved the Comprehensive Gateway Plaza Plan in 2013, which included the return of our Liberty Replica to the newly configured Plaza once construction was complete. Mayor McCarthy signed the resolution adopting that Plan. Mary Wallinger was the primary author of The Plan, with its call for the return of Lady Liberty, which was designated an Official Document of the City of Schenectady. Neither McCarthy nor Wallinger ever explained to Council or the public why the Liberty Replica was sent away. To date, despite the popularity of the Liberty Park location, City Council has not had the courage to demand that Mayor McCarthy obey the resolution they passed and the Mayor signed in 2013, and return Lady Liberty to Gateway Plaza, which incorporates the statue’s original home, Liberty Park.

. . still available 

Not only did the Comprehensive Plan include a $20,000 line item to pay for the return of Lady Liberty. It also placed a still-empty central sculpture base at virtually the same spot where Lady Liberty stood until August 2017. Last year, Mayor McCarthy did not even respond to two messages from a neighborhood leader offering to move the Replica to this sculpture base at no cost to the City. The photo immediately above and the one below this paragraph depict that ready-for-the-Lady sculpture base, with its seating and space for visitors.

. . 

Unlike the Lady’s Location in Exile, the Plaza’s sculpture base is fully lighted at night. Here’s what they looked like just after sunset on March 20, 2020 (Liberty on the left, the Plaza on the right):

Over the past few years, arguments based on honest government and transparency, respect for public opinion, local history, and the values Lady Liberty embodies, and even basic aesthetics in our so-called Renaissance (and Smart) City, have all failed to move Mayor Gary McCarthy to return Schenectady’s Lady Liberty replica to its Home Park. I’m hoping that this presentation comparing the fate of Schenectady’s Lady Liberty with the respect Her Sister receive in other upstate communities, will hit the mark and let Civic Pride inspire a change of heart on the part of Mayor McCarthy, and change of location for Lady Liberty.

our curb-less curb extensions

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John Coluccio & curb

Intro: It’s been a month since I wrote Schenectady Signal Control Superintendent John Coluccio, asking whether the new Stockade “bump-outs” will protect pedestrians despite having no curbs. A week later, I again wrote Mr. Coluccio, cc’ing City Commissioner of Services Paul LaFond and Stockade Association leaders, among others, asking if there are any Rules of the Road concerning whether or when vehicles may drive over or park on such bump-outs. Because I have received no reply from the City, and no substantive response from the Stockade Association, I’ve had to do my own research and draw my own conclusions. Below are my findings.

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ORIGINAL POSTING [updates at bottom of page]

With NO CURBS or SIGNS to PREVENT PARKING on the bump-outs, the Stockade versions are significantly less likely to provide the hoped-for improvement in visibility of and by pedestrians, and may give a false sense of safety (especially to children). Although the bricks are prettier than asphalt, without curbs around the bump-outs, they are still part of the roadway for use by vehicles.

WITHOUT CURBS, Union Street is not actually narrowed in the Stockade, and vehicles (including bicycles) are likely to drive over them, especially when a larger vehicle is making a turn into a street where another vehicle is stopped.

  • hazardsignThe safety goal of having a shorter crosswalk to traverse with the bump-out is compromised when a pedestrian or wheelchair occupant is waiting for traffic on a curbless bump-out, as curbs offer an element of safety to those waiting to cross, and also require vehicles to make a wider turn. To the extent that a real curb-extension prevents parking close to the crosswalk or intersection, they allow drivers to see waiting pedestrians. That benefit is lost if vehicles are parked on a curbless bump-out. Curbs let all know that the “bump-out” is part of the sidewalk, not part of the roadway.

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  • CURB-EXTENSIONS are Traffic Calming Devices that attempt to slow down traffic and increase visibility by narrowing the roadway, shortening the crossing distance for pedestrians, and preventing vehicles from limiting sight-lines by parking too close to the intersection. By definition, Curb-Extensions, and their “bump-out” subset at intersections, extend the curbline and sidewalk, using curbs (or other “vertical elements”, such as bollards, or  planters), to delineate an extension of the sidewalk and corresponding narrowing of the roadway and thus to guide traffic and protect pedestrians.
  • Bump-outs at other Schenectady locations all have curbs — with, of course, handicap access ramps. See, for example at Upper Union St and Dean Street, and along the Proctor’s Block, and the block of S. Church Street between State and Liberty.
  • As shown in the collage immediately below, the only illustration of a bump-out in the Stockade Streetscape Plan shows a prominent curb. Furthermore, the City’s experiment last year, at an intersection near City Hall, with analogous curbless painted pedestrian safety zones (which were a lot less expensive), added temporary bollards to help make the space safer (see Gazette article, Sept. 22, 2019).

    • When a comment was left online complaining about hitting a bump-out with a tire when turning onto Jefferson St. near Morrette’s, the response does not reassure the commenter that there will be no curbs to hit, but instead notes that getting used to the new arrangement will make the intersection safer for pedestrians.
  • The Stockade Streetscape Plan itself has virtually no discussion of bump-outs, only statements that they are important for safety and desired by Stockade Residents. There is a Traffic Calming Map showing proposed locations. In the Plan Appendices, however, responses to resident comments concerning bump-outs, are instructive although eerily repetitive. [Screenshots of the three relevant pages can be found at the bottom of this posting.]
    • The Glossary (Appendix A), gives this definition: “Bump-out. A visual and physical narrowing of the roadway where the sidewalk is extended to shorten the crossing width for pedestrians. Also known as curb extension or bulb-out.” Of course, without a vertical element such as curbing, there is no physical narrowing.
    • In addition, Appendix F states that “bump-outs, if designed properly, will be one of the most effective means of providing pedestrian safety.” (emphasis added). Furthermore, the Streetscape Plan asserts often that “The City will not approve a bump-out that cannot be designed for both safety and function.”
    • TEST STUDY? When a resident at a public meeting on the Streetscape suggested that a “test study be done,” the Plan commenter replied (at 86), “This may happen prior to permanent installation of bump-outs, similar to the “test” at the Liberty and Jay Street intersection.” There was no such test study, but merely a complete installation of all proposed “bump-outs”.
  • New York State and Federal design guidelines for curb extensions make clear that they do not mix well with storm drains, and must be located with them in mind. Nonetheless, most of the Stockade bump-outs incorporate existing storms drains. Since the City and Stockade Association have not revealed their design strategy to us, the most likely conclusion is that there are no curbs because curbs would block water from reaching the storm drains and working around them is just too expensive.
  • The failure to design the Stockade bump-outs around the existing storm drains, or to slightly relocate the existing storm drains to accommodate the bump-outs, is especially surprising, given the fact that the blocks in question underwent so much excavation, refilling, and resurfacing over the past year.
  • At p. 85 of Appendix F, the Stockade Streetscape Plan correctly notes:
“The proposed design concepts and considerations have generally accounted for the needs of all users, but the details must be confirmed through the design and engineering process”
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  • That statement raises the question: Was SA in the Design Loop? Did the City ever inform the Stockade Association Board about the problem of storm drainage and the use of curbs, or visa-versa? At the very least, the subject should have been addressed earlier this year when City Council approved the Stockade Streetscape Plan and basically incorporated it into the City Zoning Code.
  • When did SA leaders know we were getting curbless bump-outs that were in effect not bump-outs or curb-extensions at all, and were less likely to achieve their safety or traffic calming goals? If SA was surprised when the first one went in without curbs, why did they not ask for the process to immediately stop? The SA president lives on that stretch of Union Street.

CONCLUSIONS

These are Not Curb-Extensions. The Stockade does not have bump-outs/curb-extensions at its Union Street intersections. It has very expensive brick designs installed at those corners, with no comparable expectation of driver compliance with the goal of less speed when going through the intersection or making turns, nor of parking further back from the intersections and crosswalks than has become traditional in the neighborhood, to enhance pedestrian safety through “daylighting“.

COSTS. Even without hand-laid brick, bump-outs are not cheap. The Federal Highway Administration pedestrian safety guide states that: “Curb extensions cost from $2,000 to $20,000 per corner, depending on design and site conditions. Drainage is usually the most significant determinant of costs. If the curb extension area is large and special pavement and street furnishings and planting are included, costs would also be higher.”

Were curbs abandoned by City designers due to the extra cost of working around water drainage problems? If so, were responsible officials and neighborhood representatives told that safety goals were being greatly compromised? [see Follow-Up immediately below]

Wallin-ChangeOrderRequest FOLLOW-UP (October 12, 2022): It wasn’t until last month that I discovered that the City Engineer, Chris Wallin, asked the City Council in April 2020 for a $200,000 Change Order specifically to add the Union Streeet Stockade bumpouts to a prior contract for repaving Union Street.  [click on the image to the right to see Mr. Wallin’s presentation to the Council asking for the Change Order.] Mr. Wallin told the Council that the change would implement as much as possible of the Stockade Streetscape Plan within the prior pavng contract. Without explanation, Mr. Wallin said that “flush pedestrian refuge areas” would be installed, that would have a “narrowing effect” on the road “corridor”. Mr. Wallin did not explain that:

  • the Stockade Streetscape Plan contemplated only real bumpouts, that is, actual curb extensions with curbs, with no mention or depiction of the CIty putting in bricks that are flush with the road; thus, the Change Order would not implement the Stockade Streetscape Plan recommendation for curb-extensions to achieve traffic calming. Instead, it sabotages the goal of enhancing pedestrian safety, at a price of $200,000.
  • that a pavement design installed with no vertical element delineating it from the roadway, cannot be considered to be a “pedestrain refuge,” where pedestrians can stand off the roadway while crossing the street. Flush bricks are merely part of the roadway.

No Rules of the Road. No wonder neither the City nor SA Board has given us Rules of the Road for curbless bump-outs. “Curbless bump-outs” is an oxymoron. They are non-existent creatures unknown to motor vehicle departments and roadway design teams. Therefore, to salvage at least a bit of the original neighborhood safety goals, signage and education are needed explaining that the bump-outs may not be parked on or driven over.

IMHO:

Very Expensive and Hard to Maintain. The inlaid brick designs are: 1] Not historically correct in a neighborhood that had cobblestones, not brick, streets; 2] Too similar to bricks used nearby for crosswalks (i.e., entering the Stockade at Erie Blvd. and at State and So. Ferry St.) that are meant to be driven over, and have been shown to quickly loose their aesthetic appeal; 3] Known to be difficult and expensive to maintain, especially under winter conditions, and thus given up by other cities.

BAD DEAL for the STOCKADE: For the past few years, Stockade Association leaders have been pulling their punches or acting like cheerleaders when dealing with City Hall. Some observers have felt their goal in not rocking the boat was to achieve acceptance and payment for the Streetscape Plan, especially the bump-outs and other traffic calming measures. If that was their goal, too much was given away in Association effectiveness and self-esteem given the bumpy results.

There must be a lot of lessons to be learned here. And, there should be accountability for the poor results.

=======

follow-up (August 19, 2020): No one at City Hall nor on the Stockade Association Board has yet replied to my questions about the rationale and efficacy of curbless bumpouts. I took the two photos in this collage on August 15, 2020, and added some editorial comments.

CurbsNeeded

IMG_1881 additional follow-up (September 9, 2020): The City has erected “No Standing Here to Corner” signs to compensate in part for the lack of curbs. As I have pointed out, such signs are a lot less expensive and a lot more effective for improving sightlines that are curbless extensions. Of course, drivers are still parking on the “bump-outs”. See https://tinyurl.com/HereToCorner

hazardsignSAD FOLLOW-UP NOTE (October 3, 2021): I had hoped the Stockade curblessness was an embarrassing error (caused by poor scheduling and an unwillingess to redo handicap access ramps) that would never be repeated. Sadly, neither my cogent arguments below nor commonsense prevailed. The City has finalized a state-funded downtown pedestrian safety plan that continues so-called bump-outs on a dozen corners that are totally without vertical elements like curbs or bollards to set them off from the roadway. See “Troublesome pedestrian safety plan was finalized in July“.

=======

PUBLIC COMMENTS and REPLIES re BUMBPOUTS: from Stockade Streetscape Plan, Appendix F, Final Public Workshop – April 22, 2019 Meeting Comments & Online Comments:

Conclusions from the June 1st Pump Station Briefing

 . . Below is the Email message sent by David Giacalone to the Historic Stockade Yahoo Listserv on June 23, 2020. It continues the tale told in our prior posting “was the Pump Station another Rendering Ruse” (May 7, 2020). .

GrandOldTree-img_3835
. . view of Grand Old Tree and Old Pump Station (June 2017)
Dear Stockade Community:
You may recall that there was a “Briefing” about the new North Ferry Street Pump Station for the members of our City Council, at their June 1, 2020 Committees meeting, which was held by teleconference. CHA chief engineer Mike Miller and City Director of General Services Paul Lafond made the presentation, and Council Member Marion Porterfield led the questioning. 
The Gazette and Time Union have not reported on the event, nor has it been summarized by the Stockade Association.You can see the Meeting for yourselves at the Open Stage Media Video On Demand page, at https://tinyurl.com/NFSPSbriefing. The Briefing lasts about 50 minutes and is the first matter taken up at the Meeting.
CONCLUSIONS and COMMENTS. After watching the Briefing live on June 1st and listening again at a better pace for note-taking last week, I wrote up a set of Conclusions with Comments, which I sent by email Sunday to City Council members and the press. For those who are interested in the full treatment, I am attaching an 11-page pdf file of that email, which includes many relevant quotes and images, along with additional points and comments. Below is an Outline of the Conclusions
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The Briefing was requested and is best viewed with the following key points in mind
  • The Council’s June 2017 Clarifying Resolution (Res. 2017-179; attached below) clearly statesany overflow into Riverside Park will be minimized to no wider than 30 feet, including needed landscaping and buffering for a new pump station.” And that no construction will be approved “it the design requires taking a portion of parkland extending more than 30 ft. to the west of the current pumping station fence into Riverside Park.”
  • All prior renderings of the Project shown to the public and Council: (1) Depicted the New Station situated so as to allow the façade of the Old Pump House to be seen from the West Lawn of the Park and other locations west of the New Station, and (2) Show the preservation of the healthy century-old silver maple tree after the construction process. For example:
 
The Conclusions, in my opinion, call for further action by City Council, to assert its primacy in setting policy and budgets. The Council and members of the Stockade community (with or without Stockade Association support) should continue to press this matter. For example, by insisting
 
(1) CHA provide a new full rendering depicting the current proposed location of the new station, new fence, and nearby trees
(2) Any Construction be paused that would prevent “bumping” back the New Pump Station, farther from the River, so that we and future generations will be able to view the picturesque historic façade of the Old Pump House from west of the new pump station.
(3) A new site plan be presented to the Council and Stockade community that allows the Old Pump House, as in the October 2017 Plan, to be seen from west of the New Pump Station
 
Another issue that needs consideration is whether 25 years of working with the City has made CHA’s relationship too cozy with City officials. Ignoring Council resolutions and offering less-than-useful-and-frank “briefings” should not be tolerated in a contractor making millions of dollars.
 
OUTLINE of CONCLUSIONS (with comments)
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1] MILLER & LAFOND CLEARLY SHOW THAT EVEN THE ABOVE GROUND PORTION of the MAY 2019 PLAN VIOLATES COUNCIL Res. 2017-179 and continues to be inconsistent with it —viz., in words and images, it is clear that part of the New Pump Station Lot encroaches 34 feet into the Park.
  • ABOVE GROUND. At 30:30 to 31:40] Miller admits the encroachment of the design made after consulting with the contractors is “roughly 34 feet on the north side, 21 ft on the back side”.
    • Miller explains [at about 38:00] that “The only specific guidance we had was not moving the fence line more than 30 ft. into the park”. That raises the question as to why he, Lafond and Mayor McCarthy (and later the Stockade Association Board) nonetheless endorsed a plan with a section of the fencing 34 ft to the west of the old fencing.
  • Also, BELOW GROUND: [31:50] there is encroachment of “roughly 50 feet” past the original fence.
    • Although Miller told Karen Z-W that the dimensions of the underground portion have not changed, he did not clarify that the underground portion is at least 15’ farther into the Park than with the October 2017 Plan, in which the underground portion already butted right up to the 30’ mark.
2] NO NOTICE OF THE SIGNIFICANT CHANGES WAS GIVEN TO THE COUNCIL OR NEIGHBORHOOD, although the changes in the October 2017 plan were made as early as 2018, and despite constant communication with City Hall and with Stockade Association leaders. Mr. Miller notes that he spoke with the Mayor and Mr. Lafond about the changes. (The City officials apparently did not insist thereafter on Notice to the Council under the June 2017 Clarifying Resolution.)
 
3] THEIR ARGUMENT that the MAY 2019 PLAN IS CONSISTENT with the RESOLUTION DOES NOT HOLD WATERThey Say:
 
  • We did not move the new building farther than the 30 ft agreement
    • But: The Clarifying Resolution does not contain the word “building” and explicitly states that the overflow shall be minimized to no wider than 30 feet, including needed landscaping and buffering for a new pump station.” 
  • The overflow was roughly 28 foot average on that structure.
    • But: Average Encroachment is not a concept found in or suggested by Res. 2017-179, and adopting that standard suggests Miller & Lafond knew they could not meet the “no wider than 30 feet” requirement.
  • The Agreement and Guidance only concerned above-ground, green space
    • ButThere is no distinction in the Resolution between above and below ground encroachment, nor mention of green space, or use by the public. 
 
NOTE BENE: There may be valid reasons why the facility needed to be moved to the west and north. But, the failure of the Pump Station managers to notify the Council and public of the changes prior to implementing the May 2019 Plan, deprived us all of the chance to test those reasons and seek alternatives that would preserve the elements of the October 2017 Plan that protected Park aesthetics, while fulfilling the CIty’s engineering goals. There was plenty of time to achieve that balance before our current spring construction season.
 
4] NO ACKNOWLEDGEMENT IS GIVEN THAT THE VIEW OF THE OLD PUMP STATION IS BLOCKED FROM THE WEST UNDER THE NEW PLAN, a significant change from the 2017 Plan. 
 
  • An Obstructed View of an Historic Resource is considered an adverse impact which must be removed or mitigated under our Environmental Review law.
  • Miller makes the (flippant) observation that you can see more of the Old Pump House than when the two Stations were closer together (yes, if you stand, or float by, directly in front of the increased space between the Old and New Stations).
  • The New Rendering is Irrelevant to the issues raised. 
    • Miller was asked for a new rendering analogous to the set of Oct. 2017 renderings (example above), which showed the positioning of the two pump stations, and location of the new fence, along with preservation of the Grand Old Maple Tree. 
The unhelpful New Rendering, seen below, only shows the New Pump Station in its latest form, giving us the presumed answer to the unasked question of whether the outer design (appearance) had changed. No one said it had changed in any significant way.

5] THE FATE of the CENTURY-OLD SILVER MAPLE TREE WAS KNOWN in EARLY 2018 and NEVER REVEALED to the public in the two years before it was chopped down.

 
6] THE STOCKADE ASSOCIATION BOARD’s EXONERATION of CHA & CITY SHOULD BE GIVEN LITTLE WEIGHT. As we expected, Mr. Miller points to the Board’s May 8th Letter as supporting his claim of consistency with the Clarifying Resolution. [34:56] The Letter, which was sent without consulting the Members or the wider community, repeats Miller’s argument that the Clarifying Resolution only refers to overflow into the Park by a building. But, the Board’s claim that the Resolution contains the phrase “building overflow” is simply wrong (and Ms. Unger has never responded to my May 8th email giving many additional reasons why the new plan is inconsistent).
 
7] OUR “VERY ENGAGED COMMUNITY” & COUNCIL APPEAR TO BE THE REASON FOR SILENCE ABOUT THE SECRET MAY 2019 PLAN, which was proposed by subcontractors two years ago. 
 
  • It surely was very important to the project managers that the Clarifying Resolution states:
RESOLVED, without a full public hearing on such design, the City Council shall approve no contract for the construction of a new pump station, and no construction shall be approved if the design requires taking a portion of parkland extending more than 30 ft. to the west of the current pumping station fence into Riverside Park.

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Thank you, Stockade Community and Riverside Park Protectors, for taking the time to consider the facts and factors surrounding the New Pump Station, especially the changes made after the October 2017 plan was approved. For a full account of the issues raised by the Secret May 2019 Plan, including images and links to materials, see  https://tinyurl.com/RenderingRuse
David Giacalone
P.S. If you would like more information or have a comment, please let some or all of the following folks know:
 

. . share this posting with this short URL: https://tinyurl.com/PSBriefing

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Summary of Pump Station Briefing. (pdf file; email to City Council from David Giacalone, June 21, 2020)

 
 
 
 

 

was the Pump Station another Rendering Ruse?

above & below: RENDERINGS of new North Ferry St. Pump Station at Schenectady’s Riverside Park,  submitted to the public October 2017.  (The grand, hundred-year-old tree marked with a white asterisk by the editor, is preserved in the renderings. Also, the façade of the Old Pump House is visible from the West Lawn.)

ACTUAL

View from the East, December 20, 2021: The façade of the New Pump House has been moved much closer to the River, blocking the formerly expansive view of the West Lawn from east of the Old Pump House.

View from West, Dec. 17, 2021:  New Pump Station constructed farther to the north and west than originally depicted. obstructing view of Old Pump House and taking up (“alienating”) more of the West Lawn.

– June 2017

– April 2020

pumpstation11apr2020.jpg  . .

. . above: Grand Old Tree [L] April 11, 2020; [R] April 22, 2020 . .

– July 28, 2020

DSCF9084

. . above: the reinforcement and framing for the underground portion of the New Pump Station make it obvious that the new building will stand significantly north of the Old Pump House, blocking the view of it from the west portion of the Park and when approaching from the west on the Mohawk River . .  

. . and see the followup (June 23, 2020): “Conclusions from the June 1st Pump Station Briefing” . .

. . share this post with this shorter URL: https://tinyurl.com/RenderingRuse

GrandOldTree13June2017

INTRODUCTION: The grand old tree that graced the West Lawn of Riverside Park for over a century was chopped down last week on Earth Day 2020, April 22. (Marked with a white asterisk in the two renderings above; 2017 photo on the right.) It was still healthy, with a diameter of 60 inches. Many Stockade residents and Riverside Park lovers where surprised, shocked, saddened. We were sure that significant tree would be preserved in the multi-million dollar pump station project being staged currently at the Park. We did know that a few “lesser” trees along the pump station’s original fence did need to come down to fit a new pump station on the lot of the old pump house. As would be expected, those lesser trees do not appear in the 2017 renderings, which are meant to show what a site will look like after the proposed construction is completed.

PumpStaMay2019Plan . . “surprise” May 2019 Plan .  We sought explanations. In an email on April 27, 2020, to Stockade Association President Suzanne Unger, we were given “answers” by the CHA Project Engineer for the New North Ferry Street Pump Station project, Mike Miller. Mr Miller answered questions from Stockade resident Emmanuel Maillet, whose backyard borders on that part of the Park. Miller wrote that the conclusion the Grand Old Tree needed to be removed was made at the time the City asked the engineers to put the new pump station on the old lot, rather than their proposal to put it on the Park’s beautiful West Lawn. Miller added that its removal was included in the “final plans” they developed in May 2019 (click on image at head of this paragraph):

[Q] When did it first become clear that the [huge old tree in Riverside Park] had to go?  [A] Removal of the tree was first determined to be necessary when the City was requested to build the new facility adjacent to the existing pump house.  Provisions for removal of the tree were included in final plans that were developed for the Project, dated 5/14/19.

But the City’s request to move the needed pump station was made months before the above renderings showing the Grand Tree were presented in October 2017 to the City and the public. Those renderings did not reflect the actual (and apparently anticipated) fate of the beloved tree, but the public was not told and did not know that.

  • Mike Miller noted in a phone call with Emmanuel Maillet that the project architect put the tree in the renderings. We’ve heard nothing from the architect on this issue.

More to the point, no one in the Stockade community, including the Board of the Stockade Association, had ever heard of a 3rd/Final Pump Station Plan. [As of May 15, 2020, you will still not find it on the Association’s Pump Station Documents Page.] The May 2019 plat shows the Pump Station moved perhaps 20 feet to the north and west of the October 2017 version, thus purportedly necessitating the removal of the Grand Old Tree and completely blocking view of the Old Pump House from the west. The “secret” May 2019 plan, which we never knew about, did indeed indicate the Tree’s removal (as I have noted in red on the image to the right of this paragraph, which compares the May 2019 plan to the last public plan in October 2017; click on the collage for a larger version).

  • CONSTANT COMMUNICATION. When asked recently about the apparent failure of those responsible for the Pump Station Project to notify residents of the Stockade or its Association, both Mayor Gary McCarthy and Director of Operations Paul Lafond have mentioned that there has been constant communication with the Stockade Association officials over the past year. This is a true but misleading statement. It is telling, on the other hand, that Paul Lafond and Gary McCarthy both attended the 2019 Stockade Association Annual Meeting, which took place on May 16, 2019, just two days after the date of the May 2019 “final plan.” Nonetheless, according to Carol DeLaMater, who was SA president at the time, “There was no update from city on changes to site plan presented to HUD by GOSR on city’s behalf for CDBG-DR funding”. Of course, notice of important changes should be made before, not after (and certainly not a year after) promulgating a final plan revising a public Plan approved by the City Council and supported by the public.

PS-TreeRemovalsPlanGOT The Tree Removals Plan submitted by the City for the initial Environmental Assessment in Nov. 2018 (at 62), showed five trees being removed, but did not include the Grand Old Tree as one of them (click on the annotated thumbnail image to the left). In the May 9, 2019 revised Environmental Report (at 31), the removal of five trees was again indicated on the submission (with no blue ink to show a change), but the large tree that had already been removed to the east of the Old Pump House was no longer on the plat. Thus, the “five trees” for removal now included the Grand Old Tree, but the text was not changed to show it was actually a 6th tree that would be removed for this Project. See the annotated screenshot immediately below.

GOSR-5trees1

 

Blocked View of the Old Pump House Façade

OldPumpFromWest

. . the secret May 2019 plan would block views of the Old Pump House façade from the west, by placing the front face of the New Station closer to the River than the Old Pump House . .

  • PS-SetbackVAnother very important change in the May 2019 Plan is the moving of the new station to the north (closer to the River) so that it significantly blocks the view of the picturesque and beloved Old Pump House from the west. (The image to the right shows the last public renderings from October 2017, with the new station set back to keep the façade of the Old Pump House and a west-facing arched window in view from the west.) In an environmental impact assessment, obstructing the view of a Historic Resource or District is deemed an adverse impact that must be removed or mitigated. [see NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Visual Impact Assessment Policy (2000)] We were never told about, and so were not able to contest, what would be an irreversible loss if the May 2019 Plan is followed.
  • The State Historic Preservation Office [SHPO] okayed the October 2017 location and footprint of the project, based on the then-existing “site plan”, drawings and renderings for the project. However, it appears that SHPO never considered the new location of the Pump Station for the final GOSR Environmental Assessment (May 9, 2019) of the North Ferry St. Pump Station, which included no new renderings or sketches, but has a cover image that continues to show the new station set back south of the façade of the Old Pump House.

But, who knew such a plan existed?

The following statement from the April 2020 Stockade Spy (at 2) presents comments of Mike Miller to the Stockade Association and does not mention a May 2019 Final Plan:

According to Mike Miller from CHA Inc, the proposed design for the pump station (e.g., building footprint or elevation) has not changed since it was presented for public input in fall of 2017. The layout for the pump station requires that the average encroachment into the park (along the west parcel line) be less than 30 -feet, per the parkland alienation legislative language. Based on the survey for the existing pump station parcel, the current layout results in an average encroachment beyond the pump station lot of just under 28-feet. The north fence line along the river will be relocated closer to the pump station, resulting in more accessible park land which can be utilized by the public. This results in negligible loss of lands for public use within Riverside Park.

After seeing the May 14, 2019 “final” Plan sent by Mr. Miller to SA President Suzanne Unger,  I have to conclude that his statement to the Spy for the April edition seems to be crafted to be reassuring and to deter probing questions, but in doing so was highly misleading. Mr. Miller’s standard that the “average encroachment into the park be less than 30 feet,” misstates the City Council’s clarifying resolution, which clearly states that “any overflow into Riverside Park will be minimized to no wider than 30 feet, including needed landscaping and buffering for a new pump station.” It goes on the resolve that: 

without a full public hearing on such design, the City Council shall approve no contract for the construction of a new pump station, and no construction shall be approved if the design requires taking a portion of parkland extending more than 30 ft. to the west of the current pumping station fence into Riverside Park.
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Mr. Miller may be correct that the footprint and elevation, and outward design, of the Pump Station had not changed in the 2019 Plan. (Actually, the facility appears to be larger in the 2019 Plan, as the Old Pump House is the same size in each drawing.) But, the location has been shifted north and west, resulting in an encroachment of more than 30’ into the Park and condemning the Grand Old Tree. His assertion that “average encroachment beyond the pump station lot [is] just under 28-feet,” is surely strong evidence that the encroachment is more than the allowed 30 feet in some places.  Yet, we were never given the chance, and apparently neither was the City Council, to question that Plan and suggest alternatives.
.

Riggi: Hold your feet to the fire.

  • Note (May 7, 2020): I’ve been trying to find out whether the May 14, 2019 plat (also shown in the plan-comparison collage above) was ever brought to the attention of City Council, which passed a special Clarifying Resolution in June 2017, Res. 2017-179, requiring a public hearing before approving any plan for the Pump Station protruding into the Park more than 30 feet from the original fence.  See “what the Parkland Alienation Resolutions mean” (June 13, 2017), at our sister website “Suns along the Mohawk”.  update: (May 19, 2020): City Council member Marion Porterfield, after receiving email from Emmanuel Maillet and David Giacalone asking whether the Council had ever seen the May 2019 Plan, put the issue on the Council Agenda for its May 18, 2020 Committees Meeting. The Mayor assured her she would get a reply within a few days from the relevant City officials. We await her findings.
    • update (May 28, 2020): City Council now plans to have a Pump Station Briefing by relevant officials at its June 1, 2020 Committees Meeting, which will be held “remotely” by teleconference. Click for the AgendaJoin by Phone: 1-415-655-0001; WebEx Access Code: 161 708 6723; Meeting Password: E7HjBk9HSu2
  • Former Council Member Vince Riggi wanted no portion of the Park alienated for the Pump Station, and voted No on the Alienation Resolution. Vince did, however, vote Yes on the Clarifying Parkland Preservation Resolution, warning his colleagues that he would “hold their feet to the fire” to assure the Mayor and Council enforced the Clarifying Resolution’s 30′ maximum intrusion into the Park. When I asked Vince Riggi on May 4 if he recalls ever having the May 2019 Plan submitted to City Council, he wrote right back:
“I do not and I’m sure that is something I would not forget.
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  • In addition, bolstering our expectation that the tree would be preserved, a plat of the project site submitted to the City in July 2017 showed the Grand Old Tree outside of the portion of parkland the City wanted to alienate to accommodate the new pump station. Click on the annotated detail to the right.
  • Moreover, the Old Tree stood well outside the 30-foot distance from the original fence that City Council requested not be exceeded without a public hearing on any further impingement into the Park. Measurements taken by myself and a neighbor in 2017 are seen in the photo immediately below. [At the bottom of our prior posting, you can read City Council’s June 12, 2017 Resolution, Res. 2017-179, with its stated intent to preserve Riverside Park parkland.]

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YES, ANOTHER RENDERING RUSE. Taking all of the above into consideration, and receiving no contrary claims from proponents of the new pump station, it is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that the City Council, Stockade, and general public are the victims of a Rendering Ruse. “What’s that?”, you ask. This is my definition:

Rendering Ruse: The use of architectural renderings or engineering drawings that are submitted during a planning process, to gain favor for a project, that show important elements (whether treasured, beloved, historic, popular, etc.), and the viewshed or visibility of such elements, being preserved in the finalized project, that are nonetheless gone when the project is completed.

The compromise leading to the June 12, 2017 Clarifying Resolution was praised by the pleasantly surprised Gazette Editorial Board (June 16, 2017). The editorial nonetheless cautions:

“opponents will still need to maintain the pressure to ensure the city keeps its pledges, including speaking out at the promised public hearing on any new design proposal.”

Clearly, we were not sufficiently vigilant, and were too trusting of a City Hall that has in no way earned that trust when it come to preservation in the face of “progress.”

. . click the collage thumbnails below to see more of the Grand Old Tree and its fate . .

. .

smallquestionmark (update: May 15, 2020): WHAT’s the STOCKADE ASSOCIATION DOING about this? The members of the Stockade Association [“SA”] are rarely asked their opinion on any topic. Instead, the SA Board normally acts on its own, without a significant attempt to ascertain what its members and others in the Stockade neighborhood and community would like to see done.*/ My subjective opinion, admittedly seen from the outside, is that the primary objective of the Association’s Board and Officers most often seems to be not upsetting City Hall, which has frequently been referred to as “Our Partner in Progress” by the Spy, SA’s official newsletter.

*/ Thus, e.g., Board members waited months before being embarrassed into notifying the neighborhood and fighting placement of a Pump Station on the West Lawn, which would have greatly harmed the Park; it was almost too late, but the SA and community acted with one, effective voice once finally roused (proving that strong advocacy can indeed work). In prior years, without first canvassing its members,  (1) the then-sitting Board told City Hall that there was no opposition to a 300-foot dock at Riverside Park (although, once allowed to voice their opinion, the neighborhood voted two to one against a dock); (2) Refused to even put the Casino application on the SA meeting agenda (although the Stockade election district had voted less than a year before against having any commercial casinos upstate). Indeed, before there even was a Casino Application from Schenectady, the sitting SA President (an appointee and supporter of Schenectady’s Mayor) told the Gazette a casino would be a very good thing and she could see no negatives for the Stockade; (3) Welcomed giant boulders at the end of each street along the Park; And, (4) were the only neighborhood association to support John Polimeni’s disastrous Sidewalk Assessment District Plan.

Here, the Board did not first engage the community in a conversation when faced with some serious questions from a number of residents about how the Grand Old Tree could be removed despite the renderings displayed in the last public plan, and why the Board failed to know about the May 2019 Plan, despite dozens of communications between the project leaders and SA officers. Instead, it composed and sent a Letter to the Mayor and City Council, dated May 8, 2020, which was sent by email to SA members but not to the far larger Listserve of Stockade residents and supporters, where the questions about the Earth Day tree removal and the secret surprise Plan had been raised. The Letter from the Board to City Hall:

  • BdLetterCovercalled the communications problems “a snag”
  • assured Mayor and Council they did not think there was any “bait-n-switch” despite the claims of some residents
  • pointed out that the public could have viewed the “plan” at City Hall [despite not knowing about it];
  • concluded that the overflow of more than 30 ft. into Riverside Park was consistent with the Council’s Clarifying Resolution, because it was underground, not above ground [rebutted in this email from David Giacalone]; and
  • noted that not telling the Association about the changes until last month was “a missed opportunity”: “If we had been told a year ago, we could have prepared residents for this change, pointed out to them that trees would be lost and given them some time to process the information.”

Of course, significant changes to an approved plan should be made public to give City Council, nearby residents, and other interested persons the opportunity to review them, raise concerns, and offer alternatives, and not so their “representatives” on the Board can prepare them emotionally for the negative effects. The “opportunity missed” by the Pumping Station engineers and proponents was the chance to respond a year ago to questions about the changes, and if facts and reasoning supported the changes, to thereby quell dissent.

  • 125NFerryMay2020update (May 30, 2020): Justifications given by a contractor for a significant change need to be evaluated and tested. For example, earlier this week, CHA engineer Miller told Emmanuel Maillet that the new pump station had to be located further north and west than in the October 2017 Plan, because the contractor could not get permission to stage construction along a strip of land belonging to the first house to the south of the lot., 125 No. Ferry Street. The owner of that house wrote a letter to the Gazette Editor, published on July 6, 2017,  strongly opposed to the new location on the old pump station lot.  Her unwillingness to cooperate should have been known long before May 2019. A number of observers believe that there were other options readily available at the site for staging that portion of the construction. Such options could have been considered, along with any added cost in dollars and time, in an attempt to mitigate the adverse impact of the May 2019 change in location. If the Council acts quickly, and finds insufficient justification for the changes in the May 2019 plan, it may not be too late to revert to the approved October 2017 Plan.

The proprietor of this website wrote an email to Stockade Association President Suzanne Unger on the day their Letter to City Hall was written, May 8th, only having seen it because an SA member immediately forwarded the Letter to the Stockade Yahoo Listserve.  It has been a full week (Friday, evening, May 15, 2020), and SA President Unger has not responded in any way to my email and questions. (update: still no reply as of June 8, 2020) As the person who wrote the first draft of the Clarifying Resolution, and for many other reasons, I believe the May 2019 Plan violated that Resolution. I won’t go through my points again here, but urge you to read my email to Suzy Unger, if interested.

  • Click to see the SA Board’s May 6, 2020 Resolution explaining their conclusions, and authorizing the May 8 Letter to City Hall.  “Whereas” clauses in the Board Resolution twice use the phrase “building overflow”, saying its use in the Council’s Clarifying Resolution, Res. 2017-179, supports the conclusion that the 30-foot restriction on encroachment only applies to above-ground buildings. The word “building” does not appear in that final version of the Council Resolution, and was not in my first draft of that Clarifying Resolution. Of course, the underground part of the new Pump Station will also be a “building.” SA President Suzanne Unger has not replied to my inquiry as to the source of the phrase “building overflow.” At the bottom of our posting “What the Parkland Alienation Resolutions Mean” (June 13, 2017), you will see the official version of Res. 2017-179 from the City Code website, at 46-47; on May 13, 2020, City Clerk Samanta Mykoo confirmed that the version on the City website is correct).

Pulling off a Rendering Ruse is clearly easier to do when the neighborhood association chartered to “preserve, promote and improve” the district and neighborhood (and represent it to local government) treats the City rather than the neighborhood as its Partner.

OTHER RENDERING RUSES?  One factor favoring the Ruse conclusion here is that it seems to be part of a series of “rendering ruses” (misleading renderings) and similar bait-in-switch episodes in the recent history of Schenectady planning, development, and preservation. Were they intentionally deceptive or inadvertently (negligently) misleading? You’ll have to draw your own conclusions.

But, first, what is a rendering and what do I mean by a ruse?

Architectural rendering, architectural illustration, or architectural visualization is the art of creating two-dimensional images or animations showing the attributes of a proposed architectural design. (Wikipedia)

“Architectural rendering allows an architect to create two-dimensional animations or images with the main goal of showcasing all attributes that should be included in the final design.” (EasyRender.com)

A rendering can be used to communicate a project’s design to the end user. “Buy in” from users, whether employees, customers, or members of the general public, is frequently an important component of a successful project. Renderings can be shown to users during the design process to solicit their feedback, or at the end of the design process to educate users on how a new space will look or function. (SOA-Inc.com)

ruse: n. “a wily subterfuge” (Merriam-Webster)

Putting something the public (and City Council) wants preserved into a submitted rendering can avoid controversy that would be expected by the developer or City if the element were depicted as removed or destroyed in the construction of a project. Such a controversy might force project proponents to admit the loss of the treasured object, jeopardizing its approval, or delay the project for negotiations that might result in more expenses or much bitterness.

Here are some of the candidates for the Rendering Ruse category that have been documented at this website.

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