Build, if It Suits
developer aims to allay concerns about code violations to
gain support for new townhouse project
By the end of the month, Schenectady developer Christopher
Maddalone should know whether he is approved to add five side-by-side
townhomes to the city’s real-estate market, which currently
offers buyers few housing options of this sort.
After a public hearing May 14, the city council will vote
whether to approve the zoning change that’s necessary for
Maddalone to move forward with construction at Lenox Road
and Salina Street. The site is currently zoned as single-family
residential and, accordingly, limited to three units.
think it’s a great project,” Maddalone said. “There are not
very many people who want to build in the city. I believe
this [townhome project] would be the first of its kind.”
The plan has been met with resistance, however, by both neighbors
and one city council member.
At the first public hearing about the matter, which was held
back in February by the city’s planning commission, a handful
of neighborhood residents spoke against the project, Maddalone
said. He called their concerns “typical” complaints that he
has encountered during other development projects as well.
The criticisms dealt primarily with the potential for increased
noise and traffic. Safety issues were also discussed because
of the property’s proximity to Steinmetz Park.
After that hearing, the planning commission recommended the
project move on to the city council for a decision regarding
the required zoning change. Since the project landed on the
council’s table, Democratic Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard
has spoken against the proposed zoning change on several occasions.
She criticized Maddalone, whose management company oversees
rentals throughout the city, for what she defined as an inability
to provide responsible upkeep at his current properties.
of them is across the street from me,” Blanchard said. “There’s
a car parked on the grass, which is a violation. It’s rutted
up the grass awfully.” She pointed to the improper storage
of trash cans, which are required to be stored at the rear
of a property, as another code violation.
if this man, who lives two blocks away from this property,
can’t even get his garbage cans in order and can’t keep people
from parking on the lawn, do I really trust that he can build
five townhouses properly?” Blanchard said.
Blanchard, who was elected to the council during 2005, ran
on a platform of strict code enforcement.
are a lot of property-management issues on these [Maddalone’s]
houses, and in general these houses do not make me proud to
be a Schenectadian,” she said. “I believe that if somebody
wants a zoning change, then I want some proof that they’ve
made my city better.”
Blanchard addressed her concerns to Maddalone when he met
with the council on April 16. She said even after that meeting
she has yet to see improvement.
Maddalone said the meeting was the first he’d heard of the
problems, but he agreed that his tenants should not park on
the lawn or improperly store their trash cans. He differentiated,
however, between his management company, at which such criticisms
may or may not be warranted, and his development company,
which is the entity involved in the proposed townhouse project.
At the April 16 meeting, Steve Strichman, city zoning officer,
reported that Maddalone’s properties are paid up in taxes.
At Mayor Brian Stratton’s suggestion, Maddalone also agreed
to allow code-enforcement officers to inspect his properties,
which he said are free from violations.
Other council members spoke supportively of the plan, including
Democratic Councilman Frank Maurizio. “I’m confident there’s
a market for this,” he said.
Each townhouse is planned as a three-bedroom unit that would
be marketed at around $170,000.
The vote on whether to approve the zoning change likely will
take place at the city council’s May 29 meeting.
don’t have that many townhouses,” Blanchard said. “I’m not
opposed to a project like this per se, but I think we need
quality housing in our city. I believe that a person needs
some sort of credentials to ask for a zoning change, and I’m
not sure that I’m seeing that in Maddalone Properties.”
people were shot in Albany this past Sunday. You
might have missed it, however, because it didn’t
make much of a splash in the area’s largest paper.
On Tuesday, the Times Union did bother
to mention the shootings in the article “Albany
Sees Decline in Firearm Violence.” However, in
the article, Albany Police Chief James Tuffey
relayed the happy news that one less person has
been shot this year than last year when comparing
the time frame of January 1 to March 31 of both
years. Thirteen people were shot during the time
period last year, 12 this year. The article ended
with this quote from Tuffey: “Sometimes numbers
don’t say everything.”
number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq during
the month of April hit triple digits—at least
104 confirmed—for the sixth time since the war
began. The news came as President George W. Bush
awaited Democrats’ war-spending bill, which contained
a timetable for withdrawing the troops from Iraq.
Democratic leaders held a ceremony Tuesday (May
1)—the four-year anniversary of the infamous “mission
accomplished” speech—before sending the bill to
Bush, who vetoed it.
Celebrate Without Castro
leader Fidel Castro remained notably absent at
the country’s May Day parade, despite anticipation
that he might use the celebration as an opportunity
for his first public reappearance since he fell
ill in July. It was only the third time Castro
has missed the annual celebration in Havana’s
Revolution Square since he took power in 1959.
Castro has, however, appeared in video and news
reports throughout his absence, including an article
published the evening before the festivities.
York’s Executive Mansion will soon undergo renovations
to make it the first green governor’s residence
in the country. Several changes are planned in
order to increase the mansion’s energy efficiency
and environmental friendliness, now that we have
a governor who seems like he might reside within
(well, part-time, anyway). Solar panels will be
added this summer, designed to meet around 40
percent of the home’s electrical needs, reports
the Times Union. Other environmentally
friendly changes include replacing an old washing
machine and installing energy-efficient light
a Long Way
Yorkers rally in Albany in support of LGBT rights
absolute purpose is to get constituents to be able to tell
legislators their story—the story of why these issues are
important to them,” said Ross Levi, director of public policy
for the Empire State Pride Agenda.
More than 1,000 people, many who came in buses from around
the state, hit the capital Tuesday (May 1) for Equality and
Justice Day, a day organized by the Empire State Pride Agenda
to rally in support of issues of importance to the gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender community. The event included remarks
from legislative officials, a rally, and private visits with
Levi enumerated the specific causes participants were voicing
support for. He said they gathered to tell their respective
legislators “why they want the right to marry the person they
love, why they think New York should have a gender expression
nondiscrimination act, why schools need to be safe, and hopefully,
tell their real stories about things they’ve experienced.”
These specific issues dominated the event. Legislation introduced
by Gov. Eliot Spitzer to legalize same-sex marriage was praised
by virtually every one of the more than a dozen people who
addressed the large crowd in the convention center of Empire
Also speaking was Sean Maloney, the governor’s deputy secretary,
who told the crowd he was going to say something no deputy
secretary had ever said: “My boyfriend is here today.”
One of the main focuses of the day was on the Dignity for
All Students Act, which aims to prohibit harassment in schools.
The bill recently passed the Assembly, and is sponsored in
the state Senate by Sen. Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan). Duane,
the first openly gay member of the Senate, said that school
harassment is something he has heard about from constituents.
is a dramatically increased number of stories about children
and teenagers who are bullied in school,” he said in a phone
interview with Metroland. “Dignity for All Students
would go a very long way in heading off bullying where it
starts in schools.” The point of the bill is not to punish
an incident after it happens, he continued, but to prevent
the incident from happening in the first place.
At the rally in West Capitol Park, Duane asked how many in
the crowd had been taunted in school. A significant number
of attendees raised their hands, and Duane said that the legislation
was necessary so that “no child ever has to go through what
we went through.”
Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan), also openly gay,
sponsored the bill in the Assembly. He told the crowd Tuesday
that there was once a day when homophobic remarks would be
made on the Assembly floor when debating such a bill. The
fact that now the bill passed with only a handful of “no”
votes shows how far the cause has come.
Tuesday’s event featured more than 100 LGBT groups, as well
as labor unions and religious groups. Rev. Norman Kansfield,
a controversial figure in the Reformed Church in America,
addressed the rally on behalf of supportive members of the
Kansfield became active in fighting for gay rights when his
daughter, Ann, came out as a lesbian more than 10 years ago.
In 2004, Kansfield performed a marriage ceremony for Ann and
her partner in Massachusetts. Because of this, he said, he
was the first person in the church ever removed from his pastoral
denomination has been in the United States since 1628,” Kansfield
said, “and it’s the first time in all those years they deposed
a professor of theology.”
He said that tolerance within the religious community has
come a long way, but still has further to go. “The essence
of [Christianity] itself is for the hearing of all persons,
grace of all persons, and there’s no way we can discriminate
like this long-term when we take our religion seriously.”
say the frenzy to enact a death penalty for cop killers is
irrational and shortsighted
John Restivo’s e-mail address has the number 6,566 in it because
that is the number of days the former Wantagh, N.Y., resident
spent imprisoned, serving what was supposed to be a 30-plus-year
sentence for rape and murder. For those 6,566 days, Restivo
said, he screamed, “The cops framed me and a DNA test will
prove it.” As it turns out Restivo was right, and after spending
18 years imprisoned for a crime he says he did not commit,
a DNA test invalidated the evidence used to convict him. According
to Restivo and others involved in his case, his conviction
resulted from informants perjuring themselves and police planting
Restivo said the system broke down for him, and he knows he
is alive today because New York state did not have a death
penalty in place when he was convicted. Restivo is just one
of 200 people in the United States who have been exonerated
by DNA evidence since it has become admissible.
And yet, in the wake of the recent shootings of state troopers,
the call to reinstate a death penalty—at least in the instance
of the murder of a police officer—has become deafening. There
are now matching pieces of legislation pending in both the
Senate and the Assembly.
believe the majority of my district is against the death penalty,
and one of the reasons is DNA,” said Assemblyman Jack McEneny
(D-Albany). “We just had our 200th person freed. This particular
unfortunate spent 25 years convicted for a crime he didn’t
commit. We hit 200 nationwide, and we know there are others
out there who should be out.” McEneny said that in a system
where the highest officials can be wrong, can be corrupt,
there should always be the understanding that the system is
Along with McEneny’s general opposition to capital punishment,
he is particularly worried by recent arguments for the necessity
of a death penalty. Supporters of the death penalty for cop
killers, including state legislators and police representatives,
have repeated the mantra that if one trooper’s life is saved
because of the deterrent, the law is worth passing.
McEneny said that he fears that such legislation could actually
make officers less safe.
all desperate people care whether they live or die,” he said.
“How would you like to be the state trooper who is the negotiator
when we have just created a cornered rat? Imagine being that
negotiator, thinking, ‘Come on out so I can kill you. Do the
right thing so I can kill you.’ So now what happens if I’m
the suspect is, I gotta shoot my way out while I still can.”
McEneny said that in addition to making things more dangerous
for officers on duty, if the death penalty is to work as a
deterrent, a potential cop killer would have to take the penalty
into consideration before committing the act, but most crimes
are committed without thought of consequence.
Restivo said that during his 18 years in prison, he had a
chance to speak to a lot of guilty people. “I talked to a
lot of different dudes that belonged there. They earned it.
You ask them, ‘Don’t you have any sense? Didn’t you think
about what you were doing?’ And the thing is, they think they
are gonna get away with murder. When getting ready to commit
the ultimate crime they are not thinking rationally. The consequences
are the furthest thing from their mind.”
After being released from prison, Restivo moved to Florida
and tried to get on with his life. But after 18 years of being
unfairly imprisoned, Restivo has not been able to stop considering
what would have happened if things had been different, if
there had been a death penalty, if DNA evidence hadn’t been
made admissible. And that is why Restivo has stayed involved
in anti-death-penalty work.
can reinstate it,” said Restivo of the push in New York for
a death penalty, “but somewhere along the road there is going
to be a close case and there will be a big question mark there.”
loose ends this week-