Kids on the Block
neighborhood: Ben Larsen poses with his wife, Jamie,
and their children, Jude and Willa.
Photo: Chris Shields
to renovate an old building for a new use riles some Troy
Troy Property Group bought 155 10th St., tucked in a quiet
side street of a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute neighborhood,
the company intended to renovate the building, do structural
repair and update its interior. The goal was to turn the single-family
unit into an eight-bedroom “mini-dorm,” housing eight unrelated
RPI students. This proposal has since been shot down by the
city for a few reasons, mostly focused on the definition of
a “single-family” dwelling.
Property Group, which owns 23 properties in the area, took
its proposal before the Zoning Board of Appeals on May 17,
after receiving a negative recommendation from the Planning
Board. At the meeting, six residents of the Hillside neighborhood
spoke. These neighbors were angered by the idea of high-density
student housing in the middle of single-family and owner-occupied
houses, and claimed that the building would no longer be a
single-family unit, but a boarding house.
the speakers was Ben Larsen. Larsen, his wife and two young
children live in a house adjacent to 155 10th St.
bad for the neighborhood,” Larsen said of the proposal. “It
fundamentally changes the character of the neighborhood for
the worse. This is an owner-occupied neighborhood. We are
a young family. There are a lot of families around us. One
of the reasons I bought in this neighborhood is all of the
families, and the high quality of life.”
is a density issue,” added Eric Daillie, an activist and resident
of the Hillside neighborhood. “We have a huge traffic problem
on the Hillside, already. Accidents every week.”
that the residence was to be rented by college kids, he asked:
“You mean they don’t party?!”
some of the concerns,” said Jamie Bray, acquisitions manager
for Troy Property Group, “but I don’t think the [Zoning Board’s]
decision was fair. There is not a law limiting how many bedrooms
can be in a single-family unit, and our proposal falls within
the legal definition of a single-family unit in Troy zoning
she pointed out, specifies that a family doesn’t have to be
related. A “family” according to the code just has to share
a common bond.
bond] could be as minimal as that they are all RPI students,
or that they are on the hockey team,” she said. “I feel that
the decision was made based more on political concerns than
legal concerns. One of the things that I was told is that
our plan ‘just seems to bother everybody.’ ”
she has heard the fears that the neighborhood will turn into
a “student ghetto,” she doesn’t buy it. There just aren’t
enough students to overrun the neighborhood, for one thing.
And another, she claimed, her company is a good steward of
a local office,” she said. ”We have a 20-plus staff right
now. There are a lot of properties in Troy that aren’t being
maintained . . . so I don’t understand why they wouldn’t want
us to own the house next door, spending a lot of money fixing
it up and keeping it nice.”
said that the company hasn’t decided what the next step will
be with 155 now, although she doesn’t consider the board’s
decision to be legal.
Association has been working for years to attract home buyers
who will stay and fix up their homes and invest in the community,
Daillie said. But in the last two years, there have been investors
like Troy Property Group from New York City, from Boston,
from California moving in and buying up properties.
a form letter that he said that he was sent from the company
offering him anywhere from $60,000 and $160,000 for his house,
sight unseen. He claimed that the same letter was sent to
dozens of his neighbors.
years ago, nobody wanted to move here, because it was so bad,
so much drugs and so forth,” Daillie said. “Over the years,
we pushed the city to crack down on code violations and drugs.
We have been trying to attract new home buyers. And then these
people come and say they are going to buy us out, anyway.
There needs to be a balance. But there is no way to stop this
company from buying.”
of the Hawks
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wants Americans
to that know if he wins the presidency in ’08,
he will take the toughest approach to terrorism—Bill
of Rights be damned. During a recent debate between
Republican presidential hopefuls, Romney called
for doubling the size of the Guantanamo prison
facility. “I want them in Guantanamo where they
don’t get the access to lawyers they get when
they’re on our soil,” declared Romney. Not to
be outdone, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani
and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) both suggested
that certain forms of torture, including waterboarding,
would be tolerated under their watch.
Don’t Need No Education
Rican President Oscar Arias announced Monday (May
24) that the country will no longer send its police
officers to train at the notorious Western Hemisphere
Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known
as School of the Americas. After meeting with
School of the Americas Watch activists, Arias
decided to officially join the leaders of Venezuela,
Argentina and Uruguay in resistance to the controversial
school often dubbed the “School of Assassins.”
The Georgia-based combat-training school once
was referred to by former Panama President Jorge
Illueca as the “biggest base for destabilization
in Latin America.”
you Lara Croft/Angelina Jolie enthusiasts out
there, consider yourselves warned. David Williams
of Manchester, England, was jailed last week after
nervous neighbors called the police, claiming
there was a gunman lurking in his front window.
The “gunman” turned out to be a life-size model
of video-game character Lara Croft. Williams was
still taken to jail, anyway, and held for more
than 13 hours. He was charged with a “suspected
firearms offence” and is now out on bail and speaking
to lawyers about wrongful arrest.
made its Albany premiere Monday (May 21) at the
Campus Mobil station on Western Avenue. The station
will offer customers a combination fuel made of
85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Ethanol,
a corn-based fuel, also will be available to the
public at a station in Warrensburg.
violence causes uproar in Albany’s streets and in the Common
16, 17, 18, 19,” recited Leonard Morgenbesser at the Albany
Common Council meeting on Monday. Those numbers are the ages
of the latest victims of gun violence in the city of Albany.
Teens who were likely those same ages, who were visiting the
Common Council as part of Students in Government Night, sat
positioned around the council members listening as speakers
including former mayoral candidate Archie Goodbee; Allison
Banks, the mother of a victim of gun violence; and anti-gun-violence
activist Morgenbesser lent their support to two proposals
put forward by Common Councilman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward
The first proposal, which would see the Common Council establish
a gun-violence task force, has languished in the Public Safety
Committee for months, during which only one meeting was held
on the issue. The second proposal Calsolaro put forth would
require the Albany Police Department to provide the Common
Council with gun-
violence statistics. Calsolaro has been asking for gun-violence
statistics from the APD for years. He said that recently he
had been told that he would receive the statistics by April
1, but since then he has come to believe, due to comments
made to the media by Albany Police Chief James Tuffey, that
the statistics have been completed but are being withheld
A recent quote by Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings in the Times
Union seems to confirm Calsolaro’s fears. “We know what
the statistics are,” the mayor said. “It is a problem the
chief has been discussing with his command staff. It’s got
to be a comprehensive proposal. Just talking about statistics
doesn’t solve any problems.”
said that the numbers are important and belong to the citizens
of Albany. “They have the numbers, which is good, but we should
have the numbers, the council should have the numbers, the
public should have the numbers,” he said. “It is public information.”
Calsolaro said he would put in a Freedom of Information request
if his bill did not quickly yield results.
Jennings also told the Times Union that “Dominic
could create a task force within his own ward, talk to kids,
let them know. I’d rather us break this down into a meaningful
discussion, not just a task force for a task force’s sake.”
Calsolaro took exception to Jennings’ comments.
legislation isn’t just saying something about the First Ward,”
he said. “The gun violence isn’t in one ward—it’s spreading.
The gun-violence issue isn’t just one part of the city. The
problem exists to the north, the south and now west. That
doesn’t leave a whole lot left.” Calsolaro noted that the
point of his task force would be to bring together voices
from across the city to work on issues and effect change in
both the government and in the community.
Jennings recently was lambasted by the media and public due
to his own gun-
violence proposal, which would have created a system by which
all gun sales in the city would be reported to the police
Calsolaro said that Albany has become synonymous with fear
because of gun violence and what appears to be a lack of action.
He said that he is embarrassed by the stigma friends and coworkers
attribute to Albany, the offhand comments made about the level
of crime in the city. Calsolaro is disturbed that his constituents
are afraid to walk to their cars after dark and that the once-bright
windows of some residents of his ward are now dark after nightfall
because the people fear they will attract attention and have
moved their televisions out of the living rooms to the back
of their residences.
Notwithstanding Jennings’ opposition to his task force and
statistics-reporting bill, Calsolaro said he recently was
reminded by a retired member of the APD that the greatest
threat facing his efforts on gun violence may actually reside
inside the communities he is trying to help.
told me it could be dangerous for someone to be on the task
force if someone in the neighborhood knew about it,” Calsolaro
said. “They could get their car smashed or attacked or something.
What does that tell you? That because someone was on a Common
Council task force they could be threatened? What does that
tell you about the safety of our neighborhoods?”
loose ends this week-