up a facade: Madison Place buildings shortly after the
Aug. 21 fire.
of the two less-damaged buildings in last year’s Albany’s
Madison Place fire prepare to move back in, as other questions
all goes as planned tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 20), Pat Green
and her husband, Michael Schwartz, will be back in their home
at 6 Madison Place, almost five months after a suspected arson
fire gutted two buildings on the historic block in Albany’s
Mansion Neighborhood and heavily damaged two others.
will be lights on this weekend, I hope—if we have hot water,”
said Green, who has acted as the general contractor on the
reconstruction of their home. The couple, who had bought the
house 14 months before the fire, have been staying at an apartment
in the Mansion Neighborhood.
The fire reduced numbers 4 and 5 Madison Place to shells.
Most of the damage at numbers 6 and 3 was from smoke and water,
not flames. Much of Green and Schwartz’s home at number 6
is still uninhabitable, and the couple could not let their
two tenants move back. Still, Green said that she and her
husband never questioned their decision to reclaim their home.
in shock and you don’t know how to deal with it,” Green said.
“Some people retreat and say, ‘I can’t do anything.’ And some
people pick up the pieces, and that’s what it’s been.”
Dick and Maura Moneymaker, owners and residents of number
3 since 1971, also plan to return.
hoping to get back in by April 1,” Dick Moneymaker said. “We’re
hoping to put the house back together, and it’s a long road.”
A number of individuals and agencies have helped along the
way, Moneymaker said. He cited the willingness of the city—and
specifically Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings—to preserve the
facades of numbers 4 and 5. (Several residents credit Mansion
Neighborhood resident Colin McKnight for prevailing upon the
mayor to intercede and prevent the demolition of the facades.)
The Mansion Neighborhood Association raised nearly $8,000
for the 11 people left homeless by the fire.
someone who was as new to the neighborhood as I was, I thought,
‘This is the kind of neighborhood I want to live in,’ ” recalled
Dorian Solot, who moved to the Mansion Neighborhood two years
ago and helped in the fund-raising and collection of clothing
and furnishings for the fire victims.
The Moneymakers used the donation they received to buy essentials.
The Historic Albany Foundation provided them with a free architectural
consultant, who helped the couple prioritize the phases of
Only the facades and fragments of the sidewalls and floors
remain at numbers 4 and 5, and both shells have been closed
off for the winter, said Russ Reeves, the Troy city engineer
who has acted as a consulting structural engineer to the city
of Albany on Madison Place.
David Wilson, the owner of number 5, hopes to sell the remains
of the building. The facade and some of the floors survived,
and Wilson said he has been told that the building can be
reconstructed. The owners of the four condominiums in number
4 could not be reached, but Reeves said he has been in contact
with some of them, and that the shell of that building also
is likely to be sold for reconstruction.
Although the prevailing mood in the neighborhood is one of
optimism about the block being rebuilt, concerns linger. A
number of residents remain convinced that the water pressure
failed in some of the hydrants during the all-out effort to
fight the blaze, despite the adamant insistence by Albany
fire officials that all hydrants were later tested and found
to be working properly.
have very, very good eyewitnesses that the firefighters were
yelling, ‘Pressure! Pressure!’ and there was a dribble,” said
Holly Katz, who chairs the Mansion Neighborhood Association’s
board of directors. “That does worry us if we have another
Albany Common Council member Dominick Calsolaro, whose 1st
Ward includes Madison Place, said he asked the fire department
about the water-pressure complaints and got verbal assurances
that the hydrants worked properly. He acknowledged that questions
you’ve got a multiple-alarm fire and you’ve got five to six
hydrants going, the pressure does go down,” Calsolaro said.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to find out for sure what
the problem was.”
Building owners also learned the hard way that, yes, they
are responsible for paying their property and school taxes
on homes that either no longer exist, or have been uninhabitable
for nearly six months. Keith McDonald, Albany commissioner
of assessment and taxation, said that state law requires a
tax bill to go out for any property that is on the tax rolls
as of March 1. The protest period for assessments runs from
May 1 through the fourth Tuesday of May, and the tax roll
becomes final on July 1. The Madison Place fire occurred Aug.
assessment role becomes final as of July 1 and nothing we
can do changes that,” McDonald said.
Nationally, the statistics for solving arson cases suggest
that this may be a long investigation. Of the 10 major crimes
tracked by the U.S. Department of Justice in its annual Uniform
Crime Statistics report, arson ranked 7th for the percent
of total cases cleared by arrest, at 16.7 percent, according
to the 2003 report, which contains the most complete figures
available. (Murder and non-negligent manslaughter have the
highest “clearance” percentage, at 62.4 percent.)
still an open case; leads are being followed,” said Deputy
Chief Robert Forezzi Sr. of the Albany Fire Department. “I
can’t discuss any of it.”
Last week Maryland became the first state to require
Wal-Mart to spend more on health care for employees.
The bill, requiring any business that employs
more than 10,000 to spend at least 8 percent of
its payroll on employee health care, survived
a veto by Maryland Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich.
Wal-Mart is the only company in the state that
falls under the requirement. Critics say the law
illegally singles out a single company and will
lead to a loss of jobs. Wal-Mart representatives
have said they may partially pull out of the state.
Morals and Business Sense
The African division of Barclays Bank didn’t need
a legislature to tell it the value of heath care.
Faced with low morale and high turnover, absenteeism,
and emergency health costs due to a high number
of HIV-positive staff, the bank has instituted
confidential HIV testing and free drug therapy
for HIV-positive employees and up to three members
of their family. The bank attributes its rising
profits on the continent to this decision.
Citing a need for a national movement that focuses
on civil rights as well as antiwar activism, several
newly formed chapters of the seminal ’60s group
Students for a Democratic Society have decided
to come together for a national conference this
summer (the first since 1969) and relaunch a nationwide
movement. Saying they’ve learned from the problems
SDS’ first incarnation had with lack of connection
to seasoned activists, the new SDS has sought
out, who else, former SDS members to help it along
Drop That Camera!
Indian documentary filmmaker Rakesh Sharma has
filed a lawsuit against the city of New York claiming
that he was improperly detained by the NYPD while
he was filming a documentary in May 2005. His
lawsuit also claims that New York’s film-permit
system is unconstitutional. Sharma alleges he
applied for a filming permit, which he was denied
without being given any reason. “In a democracy,
people have the right to document activity in
public places without being arrested,” said Donna
Lieberman, director of the New York Civil Liberties
the Dream Forward
Albany PAL Show Stoppers Team performed on Monday (Jan. 16)
at People Before Profits, the 8th Annual Martin Luther King
Jr. and Labor Celebration at Albany’s Thomas O’Brien Academy
of Science and Technology. The event also featured keynote
speaker Clayola Brown, national vice president of UNITE/HERE
and vice president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
Something bad happened there.”
—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion
of haunted houses.
Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting
Alice Green, in response to a question about how
Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate
in a debate.
County disabled people on Medicaid can rest
easier this week. According to a letter sent to
the nonprofit NYSARC by the state Department of
Health on Jan. 9, the notifications the county had
issued late last year saying it was prohibited to
put SSD benefits into a special needs trust [“Breaking
the Trust,” Jan. 5] violated federal policy. “Accordingly,
the department has contacted Albany County and instructed
it to follow federal policy,” reads the letter from
Gregor N. Macmillan, the director of DOH’s Bureau
of Medicaid Law. “We are advised that the County
will contact any individuals adversely affected
by their policy and will provide remediation.” Albany
County DSS Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin wouldn’t
say whether or not she had been contacted by the
state, but confirmed that the policy was officially
being withdrawn. “The department issued notices
indicating that the notice of change letter that
clients had received was being withdrawn and that
there would be no change in their Medicaid benefits,”
she said. Those notices, which were sent last week,
state that the matter is still “under review” and
therefore will not be acted upon. Indeed, the Supreme
Court has agreed to review the Tenth Circuit Court
ruling that Albany County was basing its policy
on. . . . Three of the six men charged in the death
of Matthew Carlo [“Hardcore Issues,” Jan. 12] have
had their charges dropped. One of the men, Bruce
St. Gellais, is leader of the area hardcore
crew FSU and is credited with founding the local
chapter. According to St. Gellais and fellow FSU
member Shane Williams, they have been made scapegoats
in the death, just as they say FSU has become a
scapegoat for violence in the hardcore scene in
general. They also note that onetime FSU member
and Hudson Duster bouncer Lionel Bliss, who has
pleaded guilty to negligent homicide charges in
the Carlo death, has had his membership in FSU revoked.
Williams and St. Gellais insist FSU is not involved
in illegal activities and instead functions as an
extended family and support system for members in
various parts of the country. Said St. Gellais,
“This is the fabric that binds us together.” . .
. New York may lose $220 million of federal funding
now that the Department of Justice has threatened
to sue the state for noncompliance with the 2002
Help America Vote Act, which requires states to
update their voting machines [“Speak Now
or Forever Question Your Vote,” Newsfront, Jan.
12]. In a letter issued to state officials last
week, DOJ assistant attorney general Wan J. Kim
wrote, “it is clear that New York is not close to
approaching full H.A.V.A. compliance and, in our
view, is further behind in that regard than any
other state in the country.” If the money is lost,
New York will still be required to update its voting
machines, but the cost of doing so will fall on
the state or, more likely, the individual counties.
. . . On Jan. 12, Gov. George Pataki named a new
chairman of the State Liquor Authority and
announced that he would dramatically increase funding
for the agency’s investigative body. Edward Kelly,
the former chairman of the SLA, departed amid reports
of weak enforcement and gross violations of industry
regulations by many wholesalers and manufacturers
[“What If I Throw in a Few Drinks?” Newsfront, Nov.
17]. The investigation of the industry initiated
last year by State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer
remains in progress.