Spa official eyes Saratogian spaces: Albany NY Times-Union, 8/10/07

By Dennis Yusko

The city [of Saratoga Springs NY] could take property belonging to The Saratogian newspaper by eminent domain to satisfy its need for more downtown parking, a city official has suggested.

"Maybe we bring it to the table, certainly as a last resort," Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue said Friday.

He initially raised the possibility of pursuing eminent domain proceedings for the Lake Avenue property's 75 or so parking spaces at Tuesday's City Council meeting. Any eminent domain action would have to be approved by the five-member council.

McTygue claimed The Saratogian's owners reneged 20 years ago on a deal with the city that would have allowed public parking after business hours in its parking lot, which the paper had purchased in the early-1980s.

City officials have not found written proof of that deal, but the agreement was included in news reports of the time, Accounts Commissioner John Franck said.

McTygue went on to say even when the paper doesn't use the entire lot, it tows cars of non-employees, McTygue said. "It's frustrating for us," he said. ``They completely ignored the city."

Anthony 'Skip' Scirocco, a Republican who is challenging McTygue in November for Public Works commissioner, blasted the eminent domain idea as a "land grab" being orchestrated by McTygue because the public works commissioner is upset over coverage he has received.

The Saratogian Publisher Frank McGivern was out of the office and not available for comment Friday, his assistant said.

The 1.05-acre property and 7,474-square-foot brick building are assessed at $1.6 million, or $2 million at full market value, according to the city's Web site. It's located steps away from City Hall and the present police station.

City officials have been debating for months whether to build a new public safety building and more parking downtown, both of which are expensive proposals.

Last month, McTygue and Franck sent a letter to McGivern, saying the city was interested in acquiring the property at 20 Lake St. for government offices and public parking. McGivern did not respond to the inquiry, Franck said. The paper is owned by the Journal Register Co.

In their letter, Franck and McTygue requested a meeting to discuss terms to purchase, lease or lease with an option to buy the building and parking lot. The paper no longer prints its product on-site, which has opened up additional spots that are going unused, Franck said.

Albany NY Times-Union: http://timesunion.com