it is: The Albany YMCA, its sign and the trees marked
YMCA considers cutting down its trees; critics say “not so
YMCA at 274 Washington Ave. is looking at a proposal to cut
down the five tall maple trees directly in front of the building
in order to create a more transparent and safer environment.
is a lot of foliage, and it is dark around the area,” said
Orville Abrahams, executive director of the Y. “Cutting down
the trees and replacing them with smaller trees creates a
more open and overall safer appearance,” especially at night.
But Bill Cook of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment
argued that the trees are too important to just cut down.
“Mature trees are not as susceptible to vandalism and cutting
down as saplings may be,” he said, and these tress “are required
in urban areas for an overwhelming public need of temperature
While Abrahams said he and the Y realize the environmental
and moral value of the trees, another issue is promotion of
the facility. “The trees are very big,” he said, “and cover
the YMCA sign from street traffic. We are looking at increasing
visibility.” Cook said that a more cost-effective solution
would be relocating the Y’s sign.
Regarding the foliage problem, Cook said, “It is ridiculous.
Raking does not rise to the level of a compelling reason for
cutting down the trees. People should stop putting their personal
self interest above everyone else. Other than Washington Park,
trees are few and far between.” Cook added that mature trees
are significantly important to urban areas like Albany.
According to the Colorado Tree Coalition, “A single mature
tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs. per year
and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support
two human beings.” Trees also mediate the climate by providing
shade in the summer.
The trees in question are in an area that provides cooling
for specific community rooms, Cook said, therefore, “making
a direct impact and lowering the Y’s cooling costs for the
summer. Why would you want to raise your cooling costs in
all saw what happened with Lark Street a few years back,”
said Cook, referring to the felling of many large trees on
Lark Street that were obstructing street lights and blocking
buildings. That course of action was not very popular with
many Center Square residents. Should the Y’s proposal be accepted,
there is likely to be significant community objection. As
the Times Union reported on June 25, protest has already
begun within the Y members themselves.
The Y has not made its decision about the trees’ fate, yet.
On July 11, a members’ forum will be held to discuss current
issues; the tree-cutting proposal will be one of the items
on the agenda.
in His Pants
Limbaugh has gotten himself in trouble with the
law yet again. This time, the 55-year-old radio
personality was detained at the Palm Beach airport
after customs officers found a bottle of Viagra
in his pants pocket. The right-wing pundit was
returning from a vacation in the Dominican Republic
when authorities discovered that the bottle of
perfomance-enhancing drugs did not have Limbaugh’s
name on it. Limbaugh’s attorney said that the
prescription was made out to someone else to avoid
an embarrassing situation.
of the more than 60 people marching in protest
of the Guantanamo Bay detainment center were arrested
Monday in New York City. Stories of torture and
abuse surround the notorious prison. The protesters
gathered in front of the United Nations building
and marched behind a rolling cage to the United
States Mission to the United Nations in an effort
to bring attention to the more than 400 men still
held at the U.S. prison facility. Three of the
arrested protesters identified themselves to authorities
using the names of the prisoners who committed
suicide earlier this month.
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged this
week to block the next scheduled congressional
pay raise until the national minimum wage is increased
for the first time in nearly a decade. It is not
clear how Reid will block the pay raise, but Reid
says he has 40 Democrats in the Senate who back
him. Democrats want the minimum wage that has
remained at $5.15 since 1997 to increase in increments
of 70 cents until it reaches $7.25 in 2009. Republicans
have blocked numerous attempts to increase the
Should Be Upset?
week The New York Times reported
yet again on how the Bush administration is using
anti-terror measures to sift through the information
of private American citizens. The Times
told of a program that allows counterterrorism
officials to examine financial records “involving
thousands of citizens.” The Bush administration’s
response was to go on the attack, claiming that
the Times had revealed sensitive information
in the war on terror. Rep. Peter King has said
that he will write Attorney General Gonzales and
ask him to “begin an investigation and prosecution
of The New York Times—the reporters, the
editors and the publisher.”
fear civil liberties will lose out in state’s fight to curb
advocates say recent state recommendations to combat gang-related
crime not only will be ineffective but also will threaten
30, the New York State Commission of Investigation released
a report titled “Combating Gang Activity in New York: Suppression,
Intervention, Prevention.” In that report, the commission
offered eight recommendations for the governor and Legislature
in hopes of lessening the perceived gang problem statewide.
is nothing to be happy about in this report,” said Alice Green,
executive director of the Center for Law and Justice. “We
try and make people fearful of a whole bunch of things and
then we come up with recommendations that will cut back on
people’s civil rights and civil liberties and make it sound
like it’s OK.”
has drawn criticism for its push to enhance penalties for
gang- related crime and its promotion of policing tacitics
that may violate a person’s right to privacy: the use of roving
wiretaps and the creation of a statewide gang database.
two methods, we believe, would be ineffective and intrusive
into the privacy rights of innocent people,” said Melanie
Trimble, director of the Capital Region chapter of the New
York Civil Liberties Union.
gang database is not a new thing. Seven years ago, the Northeast
Gang Information System, which includes fives states—Connecticut,
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York—was created
to provide police with information on gangs. The database
the commission has recommended would be more expansive and
comprehensive. With the creation of the database, the commission
hopes that a gang member who commits a crime in one part of
the state could be connected to crimes committed in other
parts of the state.
recommends caution when using such a database. “There is ample
evidence showing that collecting and storing these large databases
are almost always fraught with inaccuracies,” she said, “and
lead to people being wrapped up in data-mining operations.”
Critics fear that although the commission recommends the state
create criteria for admitting and expunging information, nothing
is set in stone, which leaves open the possibility of innocent
names being admitted and ex-gang members never being removed.
whole collection of data is very scary,” Green said. “It places
an increased limitation on exercised civil liberties.”
of innocent people’s phone lines is also a concern, as the
report suggests the use of roving wiretaps, allowing telephone
calls of targeted individuals to be intercepted by law enforcement
regardless of the telephone being used. This, Lerner said,
will help combat the use of disposable phones by gang members.
“A gang member may buy a dozen portable phones,” he said.
“They use them for a few hours then discard them.”
the proposal would “focus on a specific person instead of
a specific phone,” it still leaves room for officials to violate
privacy rights, Trimble argued. “The problem with roving wiretaps,”
she said, “is that then at any point your line could be monitored
by police agents even though you may not have had any knowledge
that a gang member had used your telephone.”
advocates believe that these recommendations intrude on the
rights of innocent people. “They talk about suppressing, but
not enough about prevention.” Green said. “I think we need
to be putting more of our resources and energy into trying
to prevent criminal behavior.”
also argued that the report’s recommendation to enhance penalties
for gang-related offenses fails to solve the more critical
social issues. “Enhancing penalties means you’re simply going
to have more mandatory sentencing and longer prison sentences,
which don’t really address the underlying problems if you
do have gang activity,” she said. “It’s a distraction from
focusing on the real causes—systemic poverty and racism—so
we want to blame somebody again and we want to blame people
we consider to be ‘gangs.’ ”
still remains: What exactly is a gang? Even the report acknowledges
that the term “gang” needs to be defined in the penal law.
Green feels that the way the commission wants to define the
term “gang” is a violation of the First Amendment.
they are having communities define what gangs are, that’s
a problem for me because it is basically equating gangs with
violence and criminality,” Green said. “I think there is an
association issue here that is important, I think a person
has the right to associate with whoever they want to.”
the Winners Are . . . Us!
writers shine in Association of Alternative Newsweeklies annual
The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies announced the
winners of the 11th AltWeekly Awards recently in Little Rock,
Ark., at the annual AAN conference. Metroland writers
Miriam Axel-Lute, Rick Marshall and John Brodeur were among
those honored for papers with a circulation of less than 50,000.
Brodeur took second place in the category of Music Criticism
for his pieces “Spring Forward,” “Worth the Wait,” and “All
the Right Moves.” Marshall took second place, as well, in
News Story—Short Form for “Size Matters,” “Hold the Spice,”
and “Finished in an Unfinished Sort of Way.” And Axel-Lute
took first place for Column Writing with “Crimes of Passion,”
“Many Shades of Bi,” and “The Price of Fear.” Her writings
will be included in the book Best AltWeekly Writing and
The AltWeekly Awards were begun in 1996 to honor exceptional
writing from AAN’s member papers, of which there are now 128.
This year’s contest received a record 1,554 entries.
ninjas the country over have joined forces to bring stunt
jumpers and jumping lovers together for a yearly event celebrating
the art of the jump. Actually, a bunch of jumpers met up on
the discussion forum of pogo Web site Xpogo.com and decided
to get together and show off their skills. Two years ago,
Dan Brown (no, not the author) held the first Pogopalooza
in Lincoln, Neb. The next year, jumpers rocked it in Chicago.
And this year, local jumper Nick McClintock brought the Xpogo
gang together at the Wholly Cow Ice Cream & BBQ in Schodack.
Think this pogo thing is a fad? Xpogo member Betrayal puts
it in verse: “i love this sport/it will always remain in my
soul/not as a sport/but as an art/Don’t diss the stick.”
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.
week a bill that would have taken 13 acres of
the Pine Bush Preserve [“The Garbage Burden,”
April 27] and added them to the Rapp Road Landfill
was killed by one of its sponsors, Assemblyman
John McEneny. The bill would have required the
city to replace the excised acres with 30 more
at a later date. McEneny has said he wants an
environmental review to take place before the
land is removed. The Pine Bush Preserve Commission
voted last Thursday 9-1 to allow test wells to
be dug on the land. . . . The Fair Share Health
Care Act [“Who Will Pay,” Newsfront, June
1] that would have forced large employers to pay
$3 an hour for each non-insured employee did not
pass the state legislature. A bill called the
Fair Share Disclosure Bill was passed by the House
and Senate instead. This bill will require the
state’s largest employers to disclose the number
of their employees who are on state-funded healthcare.
It also requires the disclosure of the cost incurred
to the state by having these workers uninsured
by their employers. . . . The Albany convention
center [“Convention Wisdom,” March 2] project
will get $274.5 million from the state thanks
to legislation passed last week. The funds will
be used to pay off convention-center bonds to
build the hotel if it is needed. Otherwise, the
money will be used for city operations.