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Friday, June 21, 2024

Schenectady Council Proposes Amendments to Mohawk Harbor Community Benefits Deal

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The Schenectady‍ City Council has put forth a⁢ proposal that mandates the developers of the upcoming Mohawk Harbor hockey arena to offer yearly internships to students​ from the Schenectady City⁢ School ⁣District. Additionally, the proposal requires the hiring of local ‍workers and contractors, making up two-thirds of the workforce for the $50 million project.

On ⁣the ⁣12th of ‌February, the council approved a $2.5 ‌million funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)‌ for infrastructure work on the ⁣arena. The arena is set to host the men’s and women’s hockey ‍teams of Union College when⁣ it opens in the​ fall of 2025.

Mayor Gary McCarthy signed‍ a pact with the arena developers, West Yard properties, on February 15. The agreement⁢ included a community benefits agreement that‌ allows the school district and local youth sports ⁤groups to host events at​ the ‍hockey arena free‌ of charge ‍on a predetermined basis.

The council, unaware of the mayor’s prior signing of the agreement, held a meeting to ‍discuss the items they wanted to see in the agreement on the same evening. The mayor later informed the ⁣council that‍ the agreement could still ⁣be modified, and the⁤ council has since ‌outlined its additions ⁢in a new ⁣proposal.

The new ⁣proposal​ includes a commitment from the‍ developers that⁢ 65% of the contractors and workers⁣ hired for​ the arena⁢ project are locally based.

The council’s proposal​ also requires the developer‍ to ⁣meet or exceed the city’s minority and/or women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) hiring goal for the ⁤entire $50 ⁢million⁢ project cost. This would ​result in more than a quarter of the workers coming ⁣from MWBE firms.

“I would like ‌to ⁢see a⁤ little bit more than ⁢a best-faith effort when it comes⁣ to hiring for MWBE,” City Council President Marion Porterfield said during Monday night’s City Development and Planning Committee⁣ meeting,⁢ “especially because ​it means that funds are staying in the city, which is important. It’s ⁣money that’s being ‌spent, ⁤whether it’s our ​$2.5 ⁢million or the whole $50 million, that ​people who live and reside in the city who do the work have the opportunity to benefit from‍ development in ‌the city.”

The current community benefits agreement includes​ language that will ⁤allow the city ⁢and developer to‌ craft an ⁢annual schedule at the arena ⁣that would ​allow ⁤youth sports groups⁣ to ​host hockey and ⁤basketball clinics.

The agreement ‍also allows the ⁤city to utilize ‌the arena as a deployment location in the case of emergency. The ​community benefits agreement also stipulates that the arena⁢ could be used as backup⁤ location for ‌Harbor Jam ‌nights, SummerNight and the SUNY Schenectady graduation, ‌in⁤ the event of⁤ inclement‌ weather, echoing a ‌prior agreement previously negotiated ⁤between Schenectady County and the ‌developers.

Porterfield asked McCarthy during the Monday meeting to describe the process by which the original benefits‌ agreement was reached.

“This didn’t happen overnight,” McCarthy replied. “This was a process that happened over many months and some members​ of the council were involved in⁢ that discussion. So I looked to have⁢ our agreement parallel the agreement that ‌had been worked with the county.”

The City Council⁣ and mayor will ⁣hold a ⁣meeting at a date to ​be⁢ determined with project developer West Yard properties and⁣ Union College​ about⁤ potentially amending ⁤the ⁤agreement.

“I’ll be in touch with the⁣ mayor about that,” Porterfield said on‍ Tuesday.

The‌ council’s proposal would grant local ⁢community organizations⁣ the opportunity to⁢ have a seat at the table regarding‍ future upcoming events at the⁢ arena.

McCarthy ⁣said on Tuesday⁤ that he believes the city will be in ⁢conversation with Union‌ College and the ‍arena developers throughout the next year as the opening approaches.

“Everybody wants it ​to be ⁤successful,” McCarthy said of the project.⁣ “They⁤ want to create opportunities and create activity ⁤there. There’s going ​to be things that are ⁣going to‌ happen there that people cannot even ‍conceive ‌of today. Nobody⁣ would ​have thought ⁣going back six years that ⁣Mohawk ⁣Harbor, or the​ old ALCO site as it was referred to, would⁣ be the ⁤No. 1 tourist destination in ​the Capital Region.”

Councilman Damonni ‌Farley said during Monday’s meeting ‌that⁤ he concurred with the plan to gather the council, Union College representatives and the developers in one meeting ⁣to discuss the⁣ council’s proposal.

“No parties that are​ involved seem to be fighting for limitations,” he said. “Everybody seems pretty motivated to make it happen and ‌make it happen ‍in a way that has ⁤the best ⁤possible impact here in the⁤ city. So I think​ it’s a great plan ​— Madam President [Porterfield] — to put the necessary parties in a room and kind of ‍talk about what’s presented. ‍I wouldn’t ‌be‌ surprised if everything here is‍ met and even more.”

Councilman ⁣Joseph Mancini ⁣said during Monday’s ‌meeting he was in‌ support of the council’s overall proposal but wanted to hear⁤ feedback from the ⁣developer on ‍whether the board’s proposal to‍ ensure that 65% of ⁤the contractors and workers hired for the arena project would be ​a feasible request.

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Kiara Thomas
Kiara Thomas
I uncover quirky and compelling stories. Always on the lookout for the 'why' behind the 'what'.
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3 COMMENTS

  1. Some of the comments show a lack of understanding of the proposed amendments. People should take the time to fully research and comprehend the details before forming an opinion.

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