Wednesday, 30 October 2019 16:50

Proposal May Land City’s Long-Sought East Side Firehouse on Henning Road

 SARATOGA SPRINGS – Discussions have been held for several years regarding a third city firehouse/ EMS station – one which would better serve residents of the city’s east side. This week, a tentative agreement was announced, the result of which may see that long-sought goal come to fruition. 

On Oct. 29, the state Franchise Oversight Board reviewed a proposal to allow for the construction of a firehouse on the border of the Oklahoma racetrack. The Board voted “to authorize our permitting agency to engage the city and NYRA to best structure a land utilization that meets the needs of all properties.”

The proposal comes via a city request to use 2.36 acres in the northern portion of the Oklahoma Race Track along Henning Road, across from the Myers BOCES Educational facility. The city advised NYRA that it has the funding secured to promptly construct the facility should approval be granted.

In her Oct. 1, 2019 budget message, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan cited an East Side Fire & EMS station as one of the top city priorities moving forward.

 “When the 2020 Capital Budget was presented several weeks ago, a rough estimate of $6.6 million was allocated toward this project. As we still haven’t legally secured the parcel it is not financially prudent to include the full $6.6 million in the 2020 Comprehensive Budget and in turn pass the related debt costs on to City taxpayers. Still, an East Side Fire & EMS station is a priority, and the 2020 Comprehensive Capital Budget includes $600,000 toward the design of the facility,” Madigan said.

“In practice this means that as soon as the land is available the city can kick off the project. The design work will then provide a timeline and budget for the total project. Should land acquisition and design happen at a more rapid pace, the 2020 Capital Budget will be amended by the City Council so that funding and construction could begin as soon as feasible. Accordingly, the full project remains in the Capital Program. “

Mayor Meg Kelly said she is negotiating a land-use agreement for the parcel and that the potential station will serve “District 3,” including the eastern plateau.

The city currently has two fire stations - one on Lake Avenue just west of Broadway and near the center of the city, and on the other on the west side, near Saratoga Springs High School.

Residents, particularly some of whom live at or near the city’s eastern ridge have vocalized fears about longer response times to emergencies in their neighborhood from either of the two current locations, as opposed to having a third station close-by. 

Most recently, a pair of land transactions that proposed the city sell a parking lot adjacent to Broadway’s Collamer Building and subsequently purchase a Union Avenue parcel to build an East Side Fire/EMS station was declared a dead deal in 2013 after years of lengthy negotiations ended up mired in a lawsuit,  an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office,  and reportedly more than $50,000 in legal costs for the city.

Members of the Franchise Oversight Board reported Tuesday that given the city and racecourse’s similar interests, a fire/EMS station would “interlock nicely to address concerns of the state racing franchise,” and that NYRA “strongly advocates for its creation.”  

The potential location of the station along Henning Road was once used as a “speedway” trotting track - along with the adjacent road Fifth Avenue - and was thus named “Speedway Road” according to city directories in the mid-20th century. Its name was changed to Henning Road in 1958 and was named after Rudolph T. Henning, who reportedly had lived there.

The proposed station is anticipated to measure 10,000 to 15,000 square feet and support one ambulance and one fire apparatus. On-site professional staff will be present 24 hours per day.

“Additionally, the firehouse could be used as a command center and operations post for law enforcement during the Saratoga meet,” the Board advised, cautiously noting the mostly wood structures existing on Saratoga’s nearby backstretch, and citing historically destructive fires that occurred at Northfield Park in 1959, Garden State in 1977, and Arlington Park in 1985. 

According to the Board, any formal transfer of property interests to accommodate this proposed facility will be returned for full franchise oversight board consideration before finalization.

Read 1577 times