Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Skid row

Location, location, location! These stylish town houses are located near all of the Spa City’s amenities. You’re just blocks away from a state-of-the-art YMCA, grocery store and retail center and just a short walk from the Saratoga Performing Arts Center!

These units are priced to sell! Attractive incentives for first-home buyers are aimed at getting you out of that dingy old apartment and into these luxurious homes.

Overhead power transmission lines offer easy utility connections, and drainage from the nearby asphalt jungle will create scenic nature ponds plus all the fauna associated with them. Allow the soothing hum of the nearby HVAC systems lull you to sleep in this beauty, or just take a deep breath of the carbon monoxide fumes wafting over from idling tractor-trailer trucks. Don’t worry! It’s in line with federal guidelines!

These are low-maintenance properties. Years of oil contamination from the former Delaware and Hudson rail yard will ensure no weeds grow on your perfect lawn. Are you an art lover? Just step out your back door to see all the wonderful street art masterfully painted by anonymous artisans late at night.

So what are you waiting for? Are you worried about taxes? ‘Cause these pads come with a price guarantee that you’re property assessment will never increase! This is a once-in-a-lifetime offer!

“This will be an improvement,” property owner Bill McNeary told the Planning Board, trying his hardest not to smile while counting the digits on the proposed sale price of his 7-acre lot. “It’s not going to be a ghetto. It’ll be nice housing for young people.”

And hopefully the city’s Planning Board push it where it belongs: In the trash dumpsters behind the Ballston Avenue Price Chopper. You can’t blame Developer Gary Olsen for trying. After all, a good number of city residents have spent years harping for so-called affordable housing. Some even fault the issue for giving rise to one of the most vapid mayoral administrations in modern city history.

But the planned urban development Olsen designed for this slender swath of industrial-zoned property between Railroad Run and the Ballston Avenue shopping plaza is almost destined to be a disaster; more so than the derelict-laden scrubland that exists today. Olsen’s company will build these shoe-horned structures and then walk away as they turn into the newest incarnation of what locals refer to as ‘the Terrace.’

Certainly, every city needs affordable housing. Pricing residences within the economic grasp of young professionals can help recharge the demographics of an increasingly homogeneous municipality such as Saratoga Springs, where most of the working class can only rent. However, Olsen’s plan is ill conceived even if one ignores the fact that the stock of so-called affordable houses in the Spa City is higher than it has been in almost five years.

Moreover, the whole plan sounds like a boondoggle for anyone who would be in the market to buy one of the homes. Price controls will be placed on all 86 units jammed into this small property, meaning any buyer with half a brain won’t give them much consideration. Those that do face the very real possibility that they could one day be selling their property for significantly less than what they bought it.

This isn’t even taking into consideration the average lot size for each unit, which happens to be less than a tenth of an acre. Or the fact that the development will all but drain the equity from homes recently constructed along the recently-developed Empire Avenue and St. Joseph Street; properties that don’t have federally controlled values and were likely purchased with some sort of investment in mind.

The sum total of all these factors seems to indicate the project will be a quick moneymaker for the developer, a nightmare for those goaded into buying the homes and a long-term eyesore for the community. In other words, if it’s designed like a ghetto and priced like a ghetto, it’s hard to argue that it won’t eventually become a ghetto.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your quip about the Planning Board
trashing it behind the ballston Ave Price chopper is truly comical.

Dorian Gray

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So how come it's the downtown supermarket, and not the one near this project, that is known as "the ghetto Chopper"?

9:19 PM  
Blogger Faulkner said...

You can't beat a neighborhood that overlooks the scenic Price Chopper parking lot. And 86 lots, each one under a tenth of an acre? Wow, sign me up.

Zoos offer more spacious habitats.

3:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob, it's not a ghetto yet.

4:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Ghetto Chopper" Bob is an affectionate term. It urbanizes (for all of us urbanites) the walkable downtown experience for those who work and live close to its doors. It shares proximity to the Ghetto Stewart’s and Ghetto PO. In case you haven’t noticed, the last vestiges of what may have once been considered a ghetto (if that derogatory name could ever have been applied to any of our neighborhoods in Saratoga Springs), left several generations ago. The flophouses and the seasonal multifamily retreats could hardly pass for a rich textured ghetto experience. Go to the State Museum and view the mock up of a turn of the last century ghetto. Makes us all pine for the good old start up days in America. I can’t wait for the new mini Chopper to offer Ghetto subs.

Now this rear lot loading dock excuse for an "affordable" condo project is a joke perpetrated by those that would have us all believe that it is somehow “workforce” housing targeted for those who are presently shut out of the housing market. The only market that the potential owners of these absurdly sited cells are missing, is the foreclosure market. There are plenty of available housing options and nothing is more ridiculous than the notion that this scheme will make housing available for plaza employees.

5:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not just hand Stonequist apartments over to The Obama administration? Then his al-queda sleeper cell can blow it up and clear the land. Kills two birds with one stone; the city can use the land for better use and we don't have to worry about the terrorists blowing up a building that we give a crap about:-D

5:53 AM  
Blogger Ben Arnold said...


Can you get a picture of the proposed development up?

Also, don't you find it strange that Mayor Val isn't out in front of this issue? I thought she was an affordable housing advocate? Unless, perhaps, she's only an advocate when its politically expedient.

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Val's in love: that is where she put all of her energy right now.

But come election season, it's "You Go Girl!"

And won't the world be a better place?

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well SOMEBODY'S got to offer a voice of dissent. Forgive my high-voltage HVAC-echoing DieselSoot-sickened thinking here...


Well, there you go again.

NOT YOU, HO. I'm a bit puzzled by your intensity... but your passion only makes me more curious. I think Railroad Run may... it MAY be good for our community. Nobody's breaking ground tomorrow so I've got time to form an opinion. (<- insert witty insult/insight here!)

But from what I have PERSONALLY observed at EVERY Public forum for this project, you see and hear outrage from folks who are within spittin' distance of open grass just PERFECT for walkin' the pooch at poop time.

They warn of HORRIBLE health effects from the POWER LINE that runs over their OWN house.

Louder than ANYTHING, I hear neighbors who are sudden experts on electromagneticsm hydrodynamics, air quality, traffic safety, childhood development, economic modeling, and the space-time continuum.

Oddly enough- The SAME topics pop up with almost EVERY proposal to change the status quo. And yet these minds bristling with such expertise and community concern...they always seem to carpool to City Hall for ONE project and one project ONLY. And afterwards-- Their wisdom and passion goes home, never to improve the community again.

But like bad pennies, there's always another expert to be found when the next NIMBY smells something foul in the fine Spa City air.

Or maybe it's just the dogshit.

-Kyle York
Nosey Neighbor

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle says".. I hear neighbors who are sudden experts on electromagneticsm hydrodynamics, air quality, traffic safety, childhood development, economic modeling, and the space-time continuum."

You left out Saratoga Lake Water quality and just about every other topic you've commented on.

Of all people, you should know that there are many qualified professionals that provide their expertise for nothing when they realize that valuable information is often missing from the public discussion.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle Kyle Krockodile.

Of all people, you the often self proclaimed "expert" on everything from water quality to political science can't possibly be offended when others provide pro-bono professional expertise that would otherwise not be included in the public discussion. That some retreat to their worlds afterward, might have something to do with the fact that they have lives and cannot respond to every emergency or concern.

The minutes are filled with the expert testimonies of many Saratogians who just happen to live within a target area and feel inclined to participate. Instead of attacking or trying to minimize that input, why not address it.

Shame on you.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:23 & 1:10-

"The minutes are filled with expert testimonies of many Saratogians..."

Y'all need to get away from the keyboard and attend a few City Hall meetings to hear the self-proclaimed "experts." Fortunately the press coverage spares them the embarrassment of seeing their nonsense made public.

As far as my musings, I invite you to re-visit a local story have a good laugh at my foolish two cents worth [ ] and fling it back at me in 2010. Or not.

SO, which of you is the guy who said the Power Line was a "SERIOUS HEALTH RISK"... and he LIVED under the same line? And which of you said the proposed private street was a children's "DEATH TRAP?"

Yup. As you say, "there are many qualified professionals that provide their expertise for nothing when they realize that valuable information is often missing from the public discussion."

-Kyle York
So. A Shamed.

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The developer originally proposed a private road that is over 2,000 feet long with NO sidewalk and with a substandard width for 96 families.

In the middle of the winter (especially) that WOULD be a death trap, accident waiting to happen, and pretty pathetic attempt at creating a 'safe and walkable' community. Doesn't take much intelligence to figure that one out given the recent history of pedestrian/vehicle accidents in the city.

Of course the kids could walk in the road since this is only affordable housing, not your usual Saratoga Springs development.

After a year of complaining, there is finally a sidewalk shown in the plans. But of course the 'real' experts who engineered this joke still don't use the real property bounds so there really isn't room for everything thats been promised by the 'real' experts.

This is nothing but an attempt to get a substandard road approved through a PUD which should never be accepted by the City (and the tax payers). If the road is not accepted by the City, then the owners will have to pay to maintain it, insure it and plow it. REALLY affordable. Gary Olsen builds a cheap road and the future owners get to own it.

Thats called the socialization of costs and the privatization of profit.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle,Kyle,Krocodile: When does attending every meeting of the Council make one an expert on every issue? Having witnessed your amusing attention getting presentations, many others choose instead to understand the issues and provide written comments when required. No prancing and dancing with arms in the air for those concerns.

You understand, that this blog and others are read by many in the privacy of their keyboard stations and archived for later retrieval, much like the post you suggest we read of yours.

The condo model works in certain locations during certain financial climates. Home ownership the long-standing hedge on inflation does not always hold true. Having purchased a home at the height of the last bubble ironically during the last revaluation, the so-called full value has lost value over the last three years. The realtors would have you believe otherwise, that the values keep going up in spite of the fact that many unprofessionals know differently.

Today, we assume those initial established base values along with the annual equalization rate increases projecting one’s actual investment at nearly another 6% per year. That’s a tough call unless your last name is Madoff. Renting during this period may have been the wiser hedge, and we know after the last public production for a need for housing, just how many available units of all types are available.

This cheap loading dock project is not the American dream, simply another example of the American con.

4:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


City Hall is home to more than "the Council." The Planning Board is one you should critique as thoughtfully as today's treatise on housing.

Now THAT is better than screaming "DEATH TRAP!" And a DAZZLING usage of industry terminology! That said, I would respectfully disagree that the project is a typical "Condo Model."

Should your conclusion prove correct, the Free Market will recognize the con and the Developer goes bust. Evil Olsen dies a thousand deaths and you and the NIMBYs will be vindicated.

What could be better?

-Kyle York
Established. Base. Values.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know affordable housing.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a question for all you smart guys.
Do our police patrol private parklands and estates, public state parks, private colleges, public state raceways, mall parking lots and ... private condominium roadways? Or could the owners be required not only to remove their snow, but also have their own security? I'm not referring to 911 calls of distress, just the policing of non-municipal private property, roadways and lots?
Who knows?

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Splish, Splash ... Splish, Splash.

Figuratively speaking Krocodile, going to every meeting of all of the land boards, the City Council and those open to the public does not make you a better listener or necessarily more knowledgeable. You seem to think that public performance and less than pithy remarks establish you as the "word”. Indeed you have many observant opinions and some that have been clearly “above the rest”, but that doesn’t permit you to be profoundly obnoxious.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help Wanted:

Media Saboteurs

Now thru early November

Saratoga Springs, NY

Job Description: Spead baseless lies, rumors, innuendo and various other forms of personal attacks thru Letters to the Editor, blog postings, radio call-ins, mailings and word-of-mouth. In other words, do whatever it takes to destroy the good name and political viablility of identified opponents to our cause.

Report to: Propaganda Minister Shawn

Job Requirements: well-versed in the works of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove

Apply: ASAP

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say build in the Stonequist field like proposed before. This will piss off those nimby bastards for sure. Tuff shit to remega and the west side association. This city leadership needs to stand up to the neighborhoods that fight against progress. If they don't like it, move.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of the Bonacio condominium associations on Railroad Place "police" our parking lots, driveways, and access roads. We pay for and monitor our own security cameras. All of the non-city and non-patrolled areas are clearly marked by signage indicating "Private Property."

Still, non-owners ignore the signs in search of parking or shortcuts. In response to the transients' excessive speeds and general inattention, we installed speed bumps at our own expense. We also pay for the lighting, painting, and surface maintenance of these non-patrolled private areas.

That being said, we are well-served and well-protected by the routine Police patrols on Division, Washington, and Railroad Place.

I'll be happy to show you how we spend our money.

-Kyle York
59 Railroad Place

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Should your conclusion prove correct, the Free Market will recognize the con and the Developer goes bust. Evil Olsen dies a thousand deaths and you and the NIMBYs will be vindicated.

What could be better?"

Yeah, what could be better than a partially finished, bankrupt, abandoned housing project with a few residents stuck there paying exorbitant HOA fees with no long term funds to maintain it?

Perhaps this is exactly what everyone is attempting to prevent from happening because we can think of something better.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle York said...

"All of the Bonacio condominium associations on Railroad Place "police" our parking lots, driveways, and access roads. We pay for and monitor our own security cameras . . .

. . . we installed speed bumps at our own expense. We also pay for the lighting, painting, and surface maintenance of these non-patrolled private areas.

I'll be happy to show you how we spend our money."

So, whats your point? Big deal. We all know there is NO affordable housing at RR Place.

Yet RR PUD is SUPPOSED to be affordable and as such the partial owners of the beautifull four/six family units should not be burdened with expenses that are typically covered by the City taxes that we already have to pay.

In typical residential subdivisions (I am NOT talking about private malls, private gated communities, private clubs/parks, private colleges, or private anything else) the roads are built to City standards so that emergency vehicles and snow plows can still get through during and after a snow storm. Once the developer (supposedly) meets all the requirements then the City takes over the roads as City Streets.

The standards also dictate the quality of the construction so that the road does not heave and have to be repaved every year.

So, my point has always been if this is supposed to be affordable and a benefit to the community why should Gary Olsen be allowed to build a substandard road whereby the future owners have to cover insurance, maintainence, and plowing costs that any other residential neighborhood already gets covered with their City taxes once the City takes over the street from the developer.

The ONLY reason is to cram an obscene number of units onto the strip of land and to maximize profits.

Doesn't make sense to me, but then again I'm not a 'real' expert so perhaps we should all shut up and just let the big red rubber 'Affordable Housing' stamp give this whole mess a blanket approval so that we don't have to think about all the little details (there are ALOT of them) that get us called a NIMBY.

If Kyle feels that the future residents of this supposedly affordable housing project don't deserve sidewalks, don't deserve the same construction standards that everyone else gets, and thinks living next to a substation is not a problem, then thats his perogative. But its not mine.

On the EMF issue, what other neighborhood in Saratoga Springs would let National Grid build a substation and route overhead high voltage transmission lines next to their homes. It would take years of public hearings, lawsuits and studies. But not here, its just fine and dandy except for those darn NIMBY's complaining.

Afterall this should have gotton the 'Affordable Housing' rubber stamp in 2007.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The irony here is overwhelming.

Kyle's act was to hoot & holler about the health effects of river PCB's.

Now he turns a deaf ear to those that argue a mega power line could have similar health effects on people living under it.

Kyle: don;t you have keep you busy?

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:42 PM "What's your point?"-

See 7:46 AM.
"Who knows" asked.
"Kyle York" answered.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck those neighborhood NIMBY'S. I say we egg their houses. They are communists. Someone should take matters into their own hands. Let's rock the world that's rocks the body.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

To all,

The real issue has nothing to do with NIMBY. It's just a poor spot for development. And it's not because this is some wilderness paradise -although the city's indigent would probably disagree.

The fact is, this project seems too big and too unwieldy for the narrow strip of land its proposed. Four years ago, I might have looked the other way and said 'hey, the need for affordable housing makes it worth it.' But now, a buyer can easily grab a home for the $175,000 to $200,000 range, which in Saratoga Springs is about as cheap as it's going to get, and if I'm not mistaken, about the cost at which Olsen plans to sell the fixed-price units. Also, who would want these things, when they could buys something in the Crest for about the same price, with more land and with the prospect of building equity in their property?

Frankly, I take this project for face value, which is that it's a decent stab solving the conundrum of creating affordable housing that also offers the developer an incentive to build it. But it's a dollar short and day late. There's no need for a project like this in this economic environment, nor does there appear there will be a demand for it even five or 10 years down the road.

St. Elmos,

I tell you what: When any of those subjects are timely and relevant to anything other than your petty little two-line snipes, I'll invest some time in writing something about them. Until then, I'll make you this offer. You can write your OWN blog. And you can give it 'balls' too!

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In this matter, i prefer the Disney Corporation take the lead and develop their version/vision of RR place in the Orlando branch office. When we see what they come up with, we can decide whether to import it back or not.

Kyle cannot be expected to comment intellegently about electricity - he is clearly a water sign, and only his comments about that element are to be regarded at this time... i will be happy to attempt to adjust his medication so as to allow a wider range of topics wherein he will be actually lucid, yet as we know there is the risk that he will lose all brain functions totally and won't be able to deliver original ground-breaking thought on the topics of PCB's and related issues, and of course we would all need to take turns dressing him.

I will leave it to the majority to decide, being in a democratic mood for some reason.

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


As usual you are wrong. We do need affordable housing. If Olsen can't build those houses then someone else will. Though I think that is more suited for rentals and more spread out. There will be NIMBYS like now bitching but to bad. Stonequist in the same area will once again try to build housing that's affordable and will succeed. It's about the plan. The failed Omni Project was because of the people and their motives to advance their own agenda. Give it a couple of years but it will happen.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

St. Elmo's,

Jesus. Do you ever walk around the west side? We need rentals? Holey Christmas, mate. What box do you live in?

Listen carefully: If you think there ISN'T affordable housing in Saratoga Springs, you either haven't perused the online realty ads recently, or you're using a barometer for such domiciles that groups the Spa City's realty with markets like Albany, Schenectady and Troy.

So go ahead and say I'm wrong in my opinion of this project. Maybe I am. But I'd rather be wrong than flat-out ignorant, a term which seems to characterize your general sentiment.

11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


There is not much affordable housing in town. The west side have apartment rentals,yes, but to do they meet housing quality standards? HQS inspections need to be done on many of the units and when they are fail to meet requirements. The Public Safety Dept. is now in the process of conducting such inspections. Look out because many of these complexes will fail. Many of these landlords don't give a crap about upgrading their housing stock and will continue to raise rents. They have not and will not make agreements to fix up units and freeze rents to accommodate housing advocates. You would be shocked to know how many properties are zoned for only one or two units but have 3,4 and even 5 units in these buildings. You would be also surprised that Bob Israel and Tom Roohan possess many properties that I am talking about.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

someone please turn York's mic off

6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Besides the problems with the old RR line in that area, you have the Espey yards on the other side which have been a dumping ground for a plethora of cocktails for almost 50 years. Once again, Billy boy is going to tell Saratoga what is good for it. Low income housing?? What about the financially troubled housing for seniors on Denton Rd? Kick the geezers out and gets some govt. money and make them low cost. Oops, can't do that, Billy's got property nearby.

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Billy has some landlock issues he may want to deal off for Low income housing.

7:22 PM  

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