With only one shot to make the request before having to wait until the fall — or even until 2013 — the Common Council Wednesday rushed its approval of a request to the state for city ownership of the former National Guard armory on Black River Boulevard.
The seven-member council supported the request to the state Legislature by a 5-0 vote, with Councilors John B. Mortise, R-2, and Ramona L. Smith, D-4, excused from the meeting.
The request had to be made at the meeting because the council does not meet again before the state Legislature is scheduled to end its regular session in a week. The Legislature could reconvene in the fall or not until next year, so delaying the request would mean a major delay in the acquisition, explained Councilor Frank R. Anderson, R-5.
"We do have questions," said Anderson, but the window to make the request doesn’t allow for time to ask those questions and get answers.
"Do we have enough revenue to support the building?" asked Councilor Louis J. DiMarco Jr., D-7, who represents the neighborhood where the former armory is located. There are, he said, costs such as utilities and future maintenance and repair. Could the city get paying tenants in there? he asked.
Mayor Joseph R. Fusco Jr.’s plan is to move two city operations into the former armory at 1106 Black River Blvd. He intends to close the North Madison Street field office of Parks and Recreation and the Electrical Department’s office in old City Hall on North James Street, and relocate them. He said the county has asked for storage space in the armory building.
The former armory will also be home to a "community center," Fusco called it, an open space for such things as trade shows.
The New York Guard closed the site just over a year ago. Located on the east side of the boulevard, opposite Franklyn’s Field, the building was constructed by the state on a 4.6-acre site that was the former Colonels baseball park. It is an L-shaped structure of brick exterior with limestone trim and steel sash. It has two stories in front and one story in the rear, and also has a basement. It is assessed for $1,444,500, though it is tax-exempt. If the city becomes the owner, it would remain tax-exempt.