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Strange Fellows

Troy Democrats split on sale of parking garage

by Chet Hardin on February 11, 2010

Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian is staying out of this one, at least publicly, but he can now boast of having a funny, incidental ally. At the January meeting City Council, the nine-member body voted against a proposal to sell the Uncle Sam Parking Garage to Troy developer, David Bryce. Since that vote, a heated battle inside the Troy Democratic caucus has flared.

As it stands, councilmen Bill Dunne and John Brown are aligned with the Republicans, including the mayor, in their support to sell the garage, while their fellow Democrats, Council President Clem Campana and members Mike LoPorto, Kevin McGrath and Gary Galuski stand in opposition.

Dunne is quick to point out that he is not siding with the mayor: “I am siding with the right decision.”

The sale has been negotiated at a $2.15 million asking price, and the councilmen who are opposed, said Campana, argue that the sale price is too low, pointing out that the garage brings in around $250,000 in revenue a year.

Ken Zalewski, who leans toward keeping the garage but is deliberating, said, “I think that $2.15 just undervalues that garage.”

Dunne said that he supports selling the garage because the city could use $2 million of the revenue for the match needed to collect on a $4 million state grant that Joe Bruno left the city as a parting gift. This $6 million would be used for the renovation of the river front property underneath the old City Hall.

“In this instance, the only buyer is David Bryce,” Dunne said. “If we don’t sell the garage, where is the $2 million coming from?” Some have suggested that the city can bond for the money, but Dunne argued that that would just lead to a tax increase, which is something the Democrats shouldn’t support.

Dunne also said that, if Bryce buys the garage, he has said that he would add a deck so that he could rent out the spaces to the tenants he wants to bring in to the Quackenbush building.

“It would be a catalyst for about $10 million in development downtown,” Dunne claimed. “There are a lot of positives in this thing, and the only person that this garage is really valuable to is David Bryce.”

Plus, the opposition argues that the city ought to stop selling its assets. Some Democrats are leery after the debacle surrounding Tutunjian’s City Hall dealings. Dunne said that he understands why his fellow Democrats are gun-shy on selling another city-owed property

“The problem is that you have a group of people who unfortunately are now cowed into not wanting to make wrong decisions,” Dunne said, “as opposed to making right decisions. In the end, this is the right thing to do to get the waterfront redevelopment going.”