You Look Into This?
group asks the Citizen’s Police Review Board to investigate
the Albany Police Department
Monday (June 13) the Coalition for Accountable Police and
Government turned to the City of Albany Citizen’s Police Review
Board, asking them to review several incidents regarding the
Albany Police Department and determine whether or not there
has been wrongdoing. The coalition, formed early in 2004 in
response to the controversial suspension and subsequent dismissal
of former APD Cmdr. Christian D’Alessandro, has been working
toward finding a means for citizens to effectively pursue
their concerns about police accountability.
Among some of the topics the coalition raised with the board
were violations of privacy rights, lying by the police chief,
overtime abuse, details of the car chase that resulted in
the death of David Scaringe, and abuses of the Drug Seizure
and Forfeiture Fund [“Who’s Policing the Police?” May 5].
are concerned that this potential pattern of deception is
endemic to the administration and prevalent in the culture
of the APD,” said Bill Washburn, a member of the coalition.
“These are weighty issues when you put all of them together.
We needed to do that so they [the CPRB] could see the dots
and how they’re potentially connected. They may see that there
is one or more of these issues that they could pursue.”
law as established by the Common Council gives us authorization
to review complaints by citizens,” responded Barbara Gaige,
chair of the CPRB. “We do not have investigative power.” She
said, however, that the CPRB would discuss it more fully and
address the re quest at next month’s meeting.
The city’s ordinance states that the APD’s Professional Standards
Unit is responsible for the investigation of every complaint
filed. The CPRB can only review the investigations already
done, or request further investigation by the PSU. The coalition’s
faith in the unit is low.
have no confidence in any internal mechanisms, in terms of
investigation or holding themselves accountable,” said Washburn.
Yet, the coalition seemed hopeful that the board will take
their requests under full consideration. “I sensed from the
chair there was a sincere receipt of our concerns,” said Washburn.
“We’ll be back next month and see what they think is in their
purview and then we’ll go from there.”
The coalition be lieves the city needs an agency independent
from the APD that would hold the police department accountable.
“We may some day be looking at the possibility of a police
commission that does have more authority to pursue these kinds
of complaints,” said Washburn. “It does take resources to
pursue something like this.”
Microsoft’s new China-based MSN Spaces blog service
doesn’t allow use of the words “freedom,” “democracy,”
“demonstration,” “human rights,” and various other
“forbidden speech.” Yahoo! and Google have made
similar concessions. Microsoft says that it is
just following local laws. Is that kind of like
just following orders?
See No Evil, Broadcast No Evil
The so-called “Downing Street Memo”—minutes from
British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s July 23, 2002
meeting with the chief of British Foreign Intelligence,
eight months before the invasion of Iraq—had Europe
abuzz with the line: “Bush wanted to remove Saddam,
through military action, justified by the conjunction
of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and
facts were being fixed around the policy.” However,
it was more than a month before it got a mention
in the U.S. network news. Bush, questioned about
the memo for the first time over a month after
its release, denied its claims. Several new memos
pointing in the same direction have surfaced since
then, and are collected at www.rawstory.com.
Schenectady native Jessica Stein is walking from
her home in Brooklyn to the Clearwater Folk Festival
in Croton-on-Hudson this week, because she wants
to get there. Stein’s 50-mile walk will follow
the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail and will take four
to five days. It is without all the formalities
often associated with “walks”—sponsorships, free
T-shirts, a tear-jerker cause. Rather, Stein’s
walk is meant to draw attention to the oft neglected
act of walking itself: Stein hopes her walk will
get people thinking about alternative modes of
transportation and simpler living.
Freedom Fries, Freedom Toast, Freedom Flip
Walter Jones (R-N.C.), the man who campaigned
to have the French fries in the Congressional
cafeteria renamed freedom fries now wants to bring
the troops home. According to Jones, his change
of heart came in 2003, after a funeral for a U.S.
sergeant who had been killed in the line of duty.
“I just feel that the reason for going in for
weapons of mass destruction, the ability of the
Iraqis to make a nuclear weapon, that’s all been
proven that it was never there.”
you have burritos?”
white couple to the hostess of Thai Corner restaurant
in Amherst, Mass.
week, the Albany Rowing Center kindly invited Metroland
to participate in a community rowing event as part of the
Sports and Fitness Expo at the Albany Riverfront Park in the
Corning Preserve. Metroland heartily accepted the challenge
and assembled a team to represent the very acme of athleticism.
Our group of four was rounded out by four experienced rowers
provided by the ARC. Thus assisted, we faced off against other
local media outlets and a couple of colleges on Saturday (June
11)—in 90-degree heat.
Staff writer Rick Marshall, senior associate editor John Rodat,
administrative assistant Kristie Curtin and associate editor
Kathryn Lurie (pictured l-r) rowed to a narrow win in the
first 500-meter heat, with the help of our pros: Alanna Welspeak,
Brian Smart, Rachel Rieder, Deborah Chesser and Kate Helmer.
Then we watched as the Times Union rowed to victory
in their heat. Nothing like rivals facing off in the finals.
The day’s decisive match-up also included reigning champions,
the Albany YMCA. And in the final . . . Metroland beat
’em like rented mules. Seriously, we just housed ’em. It was
a victory for alternative media outlets everywhere. This one
was for the kids. Look for us next year when we return to
defend our title. In the meantime, interested folks can find
out more about the rowing center by visiting www.albanyrowingcenter.org.
bakery and wrecking ball: Russell Ziemba.
buildings on Troy’s riverfront, including the first Friehofer’s
bakery, face the wrecking ball for the third time in five
crossing the Hudson River from the village of Waterford to
the Lansingburgh section of Troy, the façade of the Freihofer
Bakery is difficult to overlook. The massive brick-and-stone
structure on the southern side of the road greets new arrivals
as they disembark Union Bridge, the first span built across
the Hudson and the connecting point between two of New York’s
oldest communities. A plaque on the Waterford side of the
bridge proclaims the small municipality New York’s oldest
incorporated village—a title once held by Lansingburgh, before
it became a part of the city of Troy—while a small sign posted
just past the eastern end of the bridge, outside the abandoned
bakery, declares the east-west passage part of the “Hudson
Mohawk Heritage Trail.”
Even among the most amateur of local historians, the region’s
historic importance—in terms of both the state’s growth and
that of the nation as a whole—is rarely the focus of disagreement.
What will be decided in the near future, however, is whether
the 92-year-old bakery and its neighbor, the 110-year-old
Riverside Club, helped the region earn that distinction.
For nearly five years, preservation groups have been fighting
a legal battle with the city of Troy and George Weston Bakeries,
the Canadian company that now owns the Freihofer name, over
the properties’ fates.
these buildings were in California, they’d be on the historic
registry—no doubt about it,” sighed Russell Ziemba, president
of the Historic Action Network, during a recent tour of the
buildings’ perimeter. But because so much of Troy is old,
even older than these buildings, they don’t stick out as they
would in California.
Running his hand along a section of bright-red bricks, Ziemba
gave the wall an affectionate pat, then a firm knock with
the side of his fist. “It’s built like a bunker,” he laughed.
“They don’t build like this anymore—not with these materials.”
buildings’ lives can be measured in centuries,” he added,
staring up at one of the exterior’s tall brick arches, “not
in 20- or 30-year cycles like their neighbors.” The sprawling
parking lots of Hannaford and Price Chopper supermarkets lie
to the north and south of the properties, respectively.
The histories of the club and bakery are marked by announcements
of both buildings’ innovation—both the Riverside Club’s indoor
bowling alleys and the bakery’s 70-foot-long “traveling bread
oven” were trumpeted as the first of their kind.
The dispute over the properties’ fates began in 2000, when
George Weston Bakeries announced plans to demolish both buildings
to make way for an Eckerd drugstore. At the time, the bakery
building was being used as a distribution center for Freihofer
goods. Its run as the state’s first—and oldest—Freihofer bakery
ended in 1987, more than 70 years after the Freihofer family
first discovered local women’s inability to find time to bake
their own bread between shifts at the local collar factories.
This discovery, according to the official Freihofer Web site,
“was the beginning of a 75-year commitment to the community.”
The city’s planning board gave its approval to the 2000 proposal,
but HAN filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming that the
environmental impacts of demolition—in this case, the effect
on the region’s historic resources—were understated in the
property owner’s plan. HAN won an injunction, but GWB submitted
a similar proposal two years later. The proposal was withdrawn
after the planning board requested a more thorough evaluation
of the plan’s potential environmental impacts.
GWB again announced plans to demolish the buildings this April
2004—this time without any details about post-removal use
for the property. After some back-and-forth, plans came for
a vote and was green-lighted on May 28 of this year. City
policy requires review for only those plans that include new
development, not applications for demolition.
HAN filed another lawsuit against the city and the properties’
owner, claiming that the city erred in approving the project
without a review. The preservationists’ group also requested
that the buildings be declared historic sites, but the city’s
planning board declined to do so.
Two days be fore the demolition was scheduled, Supreme Court
Judge James Canfield granted the buildings a reprieve. He
heard from each party’s attorneys two weeks ago, and set a
June 16 deadline for the preservationists’ lawyer, Stephen
Downs, to submit a response to the day’s arguments. Jonathan
Nye, the lawyer representing GWB, has until June 23 to respond
to Downs’ filings.
Throughout the proceedings, attorneys for the properties’
owner and the city have not only argued that the buildings
have no historic value, but that HAN has no legal standing
listened to the same far-fetched ideas over and over again,”
argued Nye at the June 2 hearing, adding that stories about
the aroma of baking bread, horse-drawn carriages and the club’s
unusual turret-style staircase and ballroom were “nostalgia,”
Nye and Troy Corporation Counsel David Mitchell moved to dismiss
the lawsuit because none of the petitioners’ homes lie within
view of the properties.
A description of the company’s history on the official Freihofer
Web site (frei hofers.gwbakeries.com) refers to the bakery
as “indeed a part of the Troy community.”
Nye and Mitchell also denied Downs’ claims that interested
buyers have been denied access to the properties. According
to Nye, all of the buyers HAN has directed toward the properties
have failed to make a commitment. Downs argued that grass-roots
arrangement of such an expensive commitment takes time, often
requiring several different groups to combine their resources.
(The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s rowing club is one
such group that’s expressed interest in the properties, according
to Ziemba.) He then indicated that a potential buyer was seated
directly behind him in the courtroom, and introduced her to
the properties’ real-estate agent after the proceedings.
Before leaving the courtroom, Canfield said the debate over
the buildings’ futures has gone on long enough.
maybe if we had this kind of interest in historic places in
the 1970s, Uncle Sam’s house would still be standing,” he
Leaning against a portion of the bakery’s curving brick façade,
Ziemba acknowledged that such a comment makes him optimistic.
However, the lawsuit is not only a matter of preserving the
two buildings, but also of the exposing flaws in the city’s
policy towards development, he added. As long as the city
makes it easier for property owners to get demolition permits
if they avoid mentioning future development, he reasoned,
the city stands to lose many of its historic resources.
And such resources aren’t always recognized in communities
as old as Lansingburgh and Troy until it’s too late, said
Ziemba—no matter how many people point them out.
In response to Nye’s assertion that nobody “with knowledge”
has supported HAN’s claims, Ziemba gestured to several editorials
written in local newspapers about the buildings’ plight in
recent years, each of them with headlines like “Save Troy’s
Past” and “Destruction Would Be Devastating.” An examination
of the building’s architectural significance written by the
Rev. Thomas Phelan, a former dean of architecture at RPI,
was one of the many pieces of evidence included in the group’s
petition to the planning board, said Ziemba.
Chain stores are not unwelcome in the area either, according
to Ziemba. Several years ago, HAN made a presentation to the
planning board that included a rendering of the bakery building
with a new occupant: Eckerd drugstore. Designed with preservation
of the building’s façade in mind, the sketch presented an
alternative to demolition and big-box construction, he said.
If more communities required such consideration from their
new arrivals, communities would stand a better chance of preserving
the very things that attract residents, he claimed.
put, communities that raise the standards will get a much
better product,” he reasoned.
Neither Mitchell nor Nye returned calls for comment.
of the most loaded statistics around—sex-offender recidivism
rates—is also one of the most commonly misstated
studies show that 40 percent [of sex offenders] find new victims
in their first year out of jail, the need for immediate action
is clear,” stated New York State Republican Chairman Stephen
Minarik in a recent press release.
cites a 2003 Department of Justice study that, he claims,
shows “40 percent of sex predators repeat their crimes within
one year of release from prison.”
results of the study, however, paint a far different picture
of recidivism rates.
9,691 male sex offenders released from prisons in 15 states
in 1994, 5.3 percent were rearrested for a new sex crime within
three years of release,” states the federal study cited in
Minarik’s statement. The study then goes on to indicate that
40 percent of those released sex offenders who reoffended
did so within a year. This makes the actual percentage of
sex offenders who reoffend within a year of their release
2 percent, not 40—a difference of more than 3,600 offenders
between Minarik’s claims and the actual results of the study.
placed to Minarik’s office for comment on this inaccuracy
was first placed on hold, then disconnected.
Minarik’s claims might be attributed to a careless toss of
what has become one of this election year’s most prominent
political footballs, the Republican chairman isn’t alone in
misrepresenting the facts about sex-offender recidivism. Despite
an abundance of studies indicating that the rates of reoffense
among sex offenders are far lower than those of other criminals,
both elected officials and members of the mainstream media
have consistently painted sex offenders as unusually likely
2005 editorial in Syracuse newspaper The Post-Standard
claimed “50 percent of [sex offenders] will commit another
sex crime.” A May 2005 editorial in The New York Post
stated, “everyone knows that violent perverts are particularly
resistant to ‘rehabilitation’—that their recidivist rates
are high,” while a recent episode of New York Week in Review
included Karen DeWitt of New York State Public Radio citing
sex offenders’ “high rate of recidivism” as one of the reasons
behind the recent flurry of sex-offender legislation.
journalists aren’t reporting, however, is what data these
assumptions are based upon. “The problem is that sex criminals
are quite prone to recidivism,” stated an April 28, 2005,
editorial in the Times Union. “There’s an avalanche
of studies that have concluded as such.”
the Times Union’s editorial failed to name any of the
studies they drew this conclusion from. In fact, recent studies
by the National Institute of Corrections (accessible on the
Internet at http://nicic.org/Library/019724) and the federal
government’s Center for Sex Offender Management (http://www.csom.
org/pubs/recidsexof.html) indicate that released sex offenders
are anywhere from 10- to 60-percent less likely to
reoffend (depending on the type of offense) than criminals
convicted of felonies and high-level misdemeanors.
sex offenders do not reoffend sexually, with first-time sexual
offenders and those sex offenders over 50 years old being
less likely to offend,” concludes the NIC report.
conducted on a state-by-state basis have yielded similar results,
with Arizona’s Department of Corrections reporting a 5.5 percent
rate of recidivism (for felony sex-crime convictions) among
sex offenders, and Ohio reporting a rate of 8 to 11 percent.
broken down by type of sex offense, NIC findings gauge the
rates of reoffense over a 5-year period of time to be 6 percent
for incest offenders, 14 percent for rapists and 9 to 23 percent
for child molesters. Many of the national and statewide studies
echo these findings.
Bureau of Justice statistics indicate that 68 percent of high-level
non-sex offenders—such as murderers, drug kingpins and those
arrested for violent assault or grand theft—are likely to
be rearrested for another serious crime within three years.
is one outlying study that might be providing the higher rates
some are quoting—an Illinois report showed that in 2000, 55
percent of sex offenders returned to prison within three years.
However, since the reasons for those prison returns included
non-sex offenses and technical probation violations such as
missing a meeting with a probation officer, the numbers are
the nature of the crimes, the rates of recidivism on sex offenses,
especially child molestation, are still too high. Perhaps
more troubling is the probability that these offenses are
underreported in the first place. Nonetheless, inaccurate
statistics help no one, especially if they spur legislators
to redirect scarce public funds away from promising areas
of sex-offender management (such as treatment, inter-agency
cooperation, or adding basic monitoring for the large number
of offenders who serve their full sentences and therefore
are not monitored at all) [“Beyond the Registry,” May 12]
and toward more flashy and expensive approaches like lifetime
registry or longer jail terms.
the media and public officials both staying “on message” with
exaggerated facts about recidivism, questions remain about
whether the public will ever be able to form an accurate assessment
of the threat posed by sex offenders—and therefore the best
way to protect communities from them.
in the footsteps of activists at UAlbany [“Don’t
Ask, Don’t Recruit,” Newsfront, March 10, 2005],
nearly 100 Averill Park High School students protested
the presence of military recruiters on
June 8, and pleaded with the school board to forbid
their presence on school grounds. Last month the
board changed its policy to no longer allow recruiters
to pass out phamphlets and other items in the
cafeteria, but they are still permitted to hand
out information in other areas of the school.
The students feel that banning the military would
be within the provisions of the No Child Left
Behind Act because they would be being treated
the same as college recruiters and employers—not
allowed in if they discriminate, in this case