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City Hall Overhaul

by Cecelia Martinez on November 16, 2011

Democrats in Troy once again maintained majority control of the City Council, and also picked up the mayor’s office in this year’s elections, but politicians on both sides of the aisle are optimistic that the long-standing tradition of bickering and partisanship in the Collar City can come to an end. While the ratio of Democrats to Republicans on the Council remains the same at 7-2, there are plenty of new faces, many of whom—including Mayor-elect  Lou Rosamilia—campaigned on a platform of encouraging communication and cooperation in Troy.

“The party politics, I know that exists in Troy,” said Rosamilia, who is working with outgoing Mayor Harry Tutunjian to facilitate the transition. “The bickering I was most concerned with was between the executive level and the council level. That was preventing a lot of things from happening. I think we can resolve that.”

That’s a tall order in a city where council meetings regularly include shouting between elected officials and constituents, and politicians rarely miss an opportunity to take jabs at the other side. While five of the Council members are incumbents—including Republicans Mark McGrath and Dean Bodnar, as well as Democrats Kevin McGrath, Ken Zalewski and Gary Galuski—four new Democrats are joining the fold who have lesser ties to existing political battle lines, and Dems and the GOP alike have expressed a desire to work together.

“There’s people on both sides of the aisle I like, and people I don’t care for on both sides,” said Republican Mark McGrath, who maintained his seat in District 2. “I’m just going to keep doing the things I’ve been doing, and you try and do the best you possibly can to keep your streets clean and people safe. I do think that Lou is a good, stand-up guy, and I think he’s going to do his best to surround himself with similar people.”

Rosamilia said he will sit down with all the incoming council members Friday for a get-to-know-you dinner, and said he has already reached out to McGrath and has previously spoken with Bodnar about working together to move the city forward.

“The whole idea is to break down these barriers that existed before,” said Rosamilia. “I think most, if not every one of us, feel the exact same way. I know most of us feel that we can get more accomplished if we just work together and work to make things better for Troy.”

And there are many challenges that Troy will be facing once Rosamilia takes office Jan. 1, including the anticipated move of more than 600 state jobs out of the city and major projects like the redevelopment of 1 Monument Square, the Chasan/Proctors Building and the former Marshall Ray Building. There is also the issue of finding a permanent home for city government.

“From what I understand, Harry is still looking into purchasing the current city hall before the end of the year, so we aren’t under a tent,” said Rosamilia, who said that he would support a decision to purchase the Verizon Building at 1776 Sixth Avenue if it had the smallest economic impact. As for the other projects on the table, Rosamilia said he has already been in touch with Gov. Cuomo’s office about the removal of state workers, as well as developers of the ongoing city projects. A transition team will meet for the first time this week that will oversee the change in government.

For Republicans, McGrath said that, in addition to just doing their best to meet the needs of their constituents, party members will have to analyze how they operate campaigns in Troy, which for the past four years have heavily focused on alleged Democratic voter fraud. In District 3, Bodnar only barely edged out Democratic candidate Russell Ziemba after absentee ballots were counted Monday.

“This is the second election cycle in a row where Republicans were absolutely massacred in Troy,” said McGrath. “I don’t know all that much, but I do know that if something’s broken, you’d better fix it, and Republicans better start to take a close look, because the approach they’re taking, it’s not working.”

Rosamilia’s next move will also include determining what staff appointed by the previous administration will remain on after the new year, and whom he will appoint as deputy mayor. In an unorthodox move for the appointee position, Rosamilia said he will advertise the job and accept applications.

“I don’t know who’s out there,” he said. “I don’t want to miss out on someone that could be great for the city.”