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March 2, 2012

 

Residents raise voices on SUNY project

SUNY official says student life center concerns will be addressed in project review

By MATTHEW NOJIRI
Staff Reporter
mnojiri@cortlandstandardnews.net

Pearl Street resident Lenore Schwager says she has big concerns about SUNY Cortland’s proposed $56 million student life center that she said would virtually be in her backyard.
“I live on Pearl Street,” Schwager said during a meeting Thursday at the college. “It impacts me personally … How many nights of sleep are we going to lose because of all of the noise?”
Schwager and nine others spoke during a meeting that gave residents a chance to say what they want to see included in the upcoming environmental review of the controversial project.
The environmental review will ultimately determine whether the college can go ahead with its plan to build a student life center on the former Carl “Chugger” Davis Field.
The speakers listed many of the same concerns that have plagued the project over the last few years. Neighbors living near the student center worry about added noise and traffic. Others wonder if the project could damage the sole-source aquifer near the site.
City resident Sharon Stevans wondered during the meeting if the residents’ concerns will be ignored.
“I feel very pessimistic because much of this feels like a done deal,” Stevans said.
Officials from the SUNY Construction Fund and a third-party consulting agency took notes from the meeting and said the residents’ points would be included in the environmental review.
The Construction Fund has hired EDR Companies, a third-party consultant, to oversee the environmental review process.
Patrick Heaton, a project manager from the company, said the student life center will undergo a strict environmental review that will evaluate all potential negative impacts.
“We’re very early in the SEQR process,” he said.
All but one of the speakers at the meeting spoke against the project.
Aldermen John Bennett (D-4th Ward) and Katy Silliman (D-2nd Ward) have criticized the student life center and said Thursday that the new building will hurt the neighborhoods closest to it.
Bennett said the project would damage the “neighborhood character and quality of life” for city residents. The two-story building will be between 40 and 50 feet tall at its highest point.
“The building will tower over the homes on Pearl Street,” Bennett said. “You will not see the sky or sun.”
The city’s Environmental Advisory Committee gave the SUNY Construction Fund a list of 163 “potentially adverse impacts” it would like see studied in the environmental review. Those issues range from impact on land, water, drainage, air, plants animals and habitats, as well as noise, transportation, public safety and other neighborhood concerns.
Last week, the city dropped its bid to be lead agency, leaving the SUNY Construction Fund to take that role.
The city agreed to drop its bid in exchange for a guarantee the city would be involved in the review and that a third-party firm conducted the impact statement for the project.
Heaton and Chris Marcella, design director for the construction fund, said those concerns will be addressed. Marcella said many of the points raised at the meeting have come up previously.
Marcella said the environmental review process will guarantee that all concerns will be addressed.
The 148,000-square-foot facility will include basketball courts, a swimming pool, a climbing wall, golf simulators, an indoor track, racquetball courts and other features.
Residents have until mid-March to submit feedback about what they want to see included in the environmental review.
They can write letters to the Construction Fund at 353 Broadway, Albany, NY 12246 or via email to Peggy.McSorley@suny.edu.

 

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