If you were expecting Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings to slip in an announcement of whether of not he would run for reelection on Tuesday night (Jan. 29)—tough luck. At no point in his State of the City speech (titled “Commitment”) did the incumbent leader clearly confirm or deny a 2013 candidacy.
Like in any good address, Jennings pointed out his own accomplishments and made some promises for the future. He also name-dropped Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the poll-pleasing leader of New York state, at least five times during his 40-minute speech. At one point he went so far as to say he was “grateful” for Cuomo’s “great friendship.”
Jennings revealed to the crowd, which numbered around 200, that the historic Kiernan Plaza (575 Broadway), where they sat (or stood), was about to undergo a change to the tune of $25 million. When it was first constructed the structure was called Union Station. In Jenning’s future, it will be known as a “Smart Cities Center.” He said, “The concept of Smart Cities Technology is to use new and developing technologies to assist communities in solving challenges in areas such as public health, public safety, transportation and energy efficiency, to name but a few.” The plan would involve the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and the Capitalize Albany Corporation. Four million dollars of the funding would come from a Cuomo-provided grant.
He noted that he is not all that confident about the convention-center project. “While I believe it is unrealistic to believe that we can expect New York state to fund a nearly $300 million facility, I believe it is totally realistic to move forward in collaboration with the state and with Albany County, to improve existing facilities at the Times Union Center and at the Empire State Plaza, and to include the construction of a new ballroom and hotel that would connect into these facilities via the existing walkway,” he read from his speech, and then off-script he clarified, “but we’re going to enclose that and move it.”
The big “scoop” of the night, according to Jennings, was the announcement that Dr. Robert Jones, president of the University of Albany, would become the new co-chair of the Regional Economic Development Council. Jennings added, “[Jones has] been here less than a month and he’s had more work than he’s had in his life.”
“Our administration’s efforts have resulted in more than $12 billion of investment in the city,” Jennings reminded the room before he detailed the improvements that city had undergone. “We have spent tens of millions of dollars to reconstruct or repair major roadways and streets throughout the city. Many of these projects like State Street, Lark Street, North and South Pearl Streets, Delaware Avenue, Madison Avenue, New Scotland Avenue and Central Avenue, have been catalysts for the rebirth and redevelopment of residential and commercial properties along these major corridors.” He also touted the city’s Truancy Abatement program, the quality of its water, its youth programs, and the residents and public servants in Albany.
According to the mayor, areas in which to expect growth and improvement, that have already received funding or will receive funding, were: the waterfront, the Pine Bush preserve, downtown Albany, the Quail Street corridor and educational district, Albany Medical Center, and neighborhoods along Sheridan Avenue. Jennings also said that with funding and a tighter focus on code enforcement, the city was committed to addressing vacant buildings and neglectful property owners.
Two things need to happen for Jennings to accomplish these plans: money and reelection. In terms of finances, he said that Albany should be getting more help from the state. “If we received state aid commensurate with our peer cities, it is estimated we would receive an additional $40 million-plus annually.”
In terms of reelection, one would have to read between the lines to determine if he’s in or not. Towards the end of the night, he said, “All of these plans and more are within our reach in the months ahead, and I am committed to moving them forward.” But, at the beginning of the night, after Albany High School student Arielle V. King finished singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” he quipped, “And if I leave this job, I told her for the last eight years I want to be her agent.” Either way, it sounds like Jennings has a plan.