Troy real-estate developer David Bryce has filed a petition in state court against the Capital District Transportation Authority, seeking to annul findings that support the acquisition through eminent domain of property around the Uncle Sam Parking Garage for a long-awaited, consolidated transit center.
CDTA’s findings were approved by its board last month without knowledge of the full extent of the concerns raised by Bryce, his attorney, and an adjacent property owner at a public hearing in November, the lawsuit says. The taking is also unnecessary, Bryce claims, and a requisite environmental review for the project is outdated.
From June 2015 and continuing for more than two years, CDTA had sought to acquire a 40-year, $3,000 per month lease for garage-adjacent strips of land that extend in both directions from the corner of Fulton and Fourth streets, along with part of an alleyway on the facility’s north side. The Alt first reported in November that CDTA was exploring the possibility of using eminent domain.
The proposed project, which combines currently separate bus stops on River and Fourth streets, will feature indoor bathrooms and ticket booths, canopy seating, and a bus staging area in the alleyway. Bus-only, contraflow traffic lanes would encircle the garage. Nearly a dozen different bus routes would use the hub, serving nearly 4,000 customers daily, according to CDTA.
A spokesperson for CDTA did not immediately return a request for comment. “High levels of existing ridership, undersized passenger waiting spaces, lack of customer service and convenience facilities and inadequate space to load and stage buses indicate a clear need for an improved facility,” the authority’s findings state. The project won a $650,000 state grant in 2016.
The lawsuit was filed in the state Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department. If it fails, CDTA will file a separate petition to take title to the property.
“We are looking forward to a successful project with CDTA,” Bryce said in an email. A memo submitted by the property owner’s attorney for the record at the November public hearing more extensively outlines his concerns, which include:
¶ Cost: The project should cost only two-thirds of official projections (reportedly $4 million), Bryce says.
¶ Structural integrity: Part of CDTA’s plans “propose to use existing footings” of the garage, “which creates eccentric loading on the existing footings,” Bryce claims. This “introduces a potentially hazardous situation by pulling on the garage in a way it has not been after years of exposure to the elements.”
¶ Exiting traffic from the garage: The design moves the garage’s Fourth Street exit to the alleyway, which “will create a bottleneck in the garage during rush hour,” according to the memo.
The Alt also recently obtained a transcript of the public hearing, where, in addition to concerns expressed by Bryce and his attorney, Michael Cocca, owner of the Franklin Square Best Western, worried he was “getting kind of backdoor politicked.”
“I have concerns because they’re going to put buses under all my bedrooms,” Cocca said. “So, if I become a noisy hotel, people are going to go over to the new hotels which aren’t connected to this mess.” (The alleyway design does feature “a wall to buffer noise,” according to CDTA’s findings.)
Construction on the project would start this spring and be completed by the summer of 2019, a CDTA project consultant said at November’s public hearing.
Read Bryce’s petition below. A collection of documents related to this story can be viewed here.