Editor’s Note: The original online post of this article was incomplete. Below is the article as it appeared in our print edition, updated online as of Dec. 21.
By DANIELLE SANZONE
GLENMONT – Once fully approved, the Port of Albany’s Expansion Project has the potential to create approximately 1,670 new jobs and generate an annual potential impact to Albany County of approximately $295 million, based on the maximum build-out of the 80 acres of property into a 1.13 million-square-foot, two-story industrial facility.
Though still in the planning approval phase, the expansion site located off River Road has been shortlisted in the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) review for potential supply chain fulfillment assembly or manufacturing opportunity sites in New York State. This would mean that a project that would locate at the site would contribute toward offshore wind, a green or sustainable energy initiative that is currently swelling in New York and all along the Northeast United States, said Megan Daly, director of Economic Development and Procurement at the Port of Albany.
“The Port has been seeking to attract offshore wind supply chain companies that would help fulfill New York State’s offshore wind initiative,” she said. “The potential for jobs and investment grows substantially when a potential project is in the category of offshore wind versus general logistics or warehousing, and therefore is even more compelling to the Port of Albany that is a public authority with a part of its mission to contribute to the upstate New York economy.”
The expansion project is in the final stages with the town of Bethlehem’s Planning Board and going through the generic environmental impact statement state and local review.
Some public discussion on the project included concern about the disruption of potentially toxic ash buried on the Beacon Island site. Jim Carriero of Glenmont said that there was evidence at a Tennessee project that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had a hard time removing this type of burned coal waste. He also noted that the town’s water plant is downstream from the Port and suggested that the town guarantee free water from the city of Albany, if contamination occurs. Still, Carriero was pleased with the potential job creation and said that the nearby thruway was built to handle such industrial traffic. He emphasized, however, that the natural resources must also be protected.
The town of Bethlehem’s Planning Board chair, John Smolinsky, said that the generic plan as submitted did include ways to mitigate any issues with the ash on the site.
Traffic issues have also been discussed at town meetings as an item of concern. And Smolinsky said that the project would not be a drain on the school system but it could impact the local public safety departments.
According to documents filed with the town, the project is not anticipated to result in a significate increase in greenhouse gas emissions. However, in an effort to reduce the potential effects of the project, any future tenants will be encouraged to promote green vehicle purchases and not allow truck idling to prevent over exhaust. In addition, future tenants will be encouraged to use the following mitigation measures on-site: high-efficiency heating, a ventilation, and an air-conditioning (HVAC) systems; Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification; local building materials, if available; a recycling program; Insulation to minimize heat loss; and use of public transportation, including rail and river access.
Since a tenant has not yet been identified, four concepts have been proposed for the site including a 1.13 million square foot, two-story warehouse, a large single-story warehouse at 900,000 square feet, multiple warehouses for a total square footage of 810,000, and an offshore wind assembly facility at 160,000 square feet, said Smolinsky.
The Port of Albany first applied for the expansion in November of 2018. Smolinsky said that a public comment period is ongoing into January, following public comment this past fall, and the planning board will continue to discuss the expansion plan into February and March. If the generic plan is approved, another specific plan would eventually need to be filed once a tenant or tenants is found for the facility.