Bucks Stop Here?
heightens as the cost of Albany’s proposed convention center
Convention Center Authority announced last week that budget
estimates have reached $300 million for the ongoing convention-center
project, which includes two hotels, planned for downtown Albany.
While an earlier estimate by Albany Local Development Corporation
placed the price tag between $185 million and $200 million,
ACCA, which was created in January 2006, claims that the economic
effects of Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq have led
to the skyrocketing manufacturing costs.
point I made last week about the budget has stirred up the
attention of folks,” said ACCA Chairman George Leveille. “We
simply want to be honest that these things have occurred in
the market. It’s our responsibility as a state authority.”
stated that a 45-percent increase in construction costs has
led to the rise in budget since the original estimate for
the convention center was released in 2002.
Common Councilman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1) is concerned
that the convention center will be unable to be profitable,
and that this additional cost will only increase the chance
that the center will become a burden on the taxpayer. At the
monthly ACCA meeting on June 29, Calsolaro urged board members
to keep the budget at the original estimate of $185 million,
stating that the extra spending will lead to an increase in
sales tax, along with a possible additional food tax in restaurants.
suggested that the desired convention center could come from
the original budget estimate of $185 million simply by adding
onto the existing facility at the Empire State Plaza.
is simply an unworkable solution, countered state Assemblyman
Jack McEneny, who said that Empire State Plaza lacks the rooms,
loading docks for exhibits and banquet facilities needed.
funding for the convention center, according to ACCA, comes
from several sources. New York state is providing an initial
$75 million in the form of a grant. Albany County is dedicating
1 percent of the Hotel Occupancy Tax, averaging roughly $1
million annually, before construction is complete, and 3 percent
of HOT after construction is completed. The third form of
funding will come from the proceeds raised from the sale of
have to bond $200 million, between principal and interest,
if it’s a 30-year bond, it will probably cost somewhere between
$350 to $400 million to pay back,” Calsolaro cautioned in
a public comment to the ACCA board. “If Albany is going to
have to use state-aid monies to pay the convention-center/hotel
debt service, then there will have to be an increase in the
local real-property-tax rate to make up the difference. The
backs of the taxpayers in Albany should not have to carry
the load for a state authority’s debt service.”
according to ACCA CEO and executive director Duncan Stewart,
the bonds are guaranteed in accordance with the New York state
supplemental 19-A Public Lands Law. This law designates that
the state compensate the city of Albany for land taken off
the city’s property-tax roll—such as the Empire State Plaza—in
lieu of those lost tax revenues. The proposed convention center,
which will of course remove further property, would draw an
additional, incremental payment. This money would be used
as a backstop to ensure the bonds.
allows you to sell the bonds at an investment-grade level,”
Stewart said. “It is an assurance to the investor that this
is a good investment.”
claims Albany taxpayers will be unburdened by the convention
center, stating that revenue from the hotels, which will be
publicly owned and privately operated, will pay off the interest
payments necessitated by the bonds.
same time, ACCA does anticipate a gap in pricing once a formal
budget is set. If this occurs, McEneny is prepared to approach
the state to reassess the original amount of $75 million in
regard to seeking more funds for the current budget.
look at our statute, there is a very clear definition that
our role is to develop a study [for the convention-center
budget],” said Leveille. “That study will have it in the cost
estimates and alternative sources of financing that might
be able to close that gap.”
design is strictly conceptual at this point,” said McEneny.
“Ultimately, we’re not going to build anything that we can’t
afford. We’ll cut back on the design, delay some things or
find outside funding.”
step on the agenda for ACCA is to set a formal budget. To
do this, said Leveille, the authority needs to designate a
design team and construction manager to work alongside the
ACCA planning team. ACCA hopes to have the formal cost estimate
determined on by September.
past week, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling decided
that schools can no longer take race into account
when assigning children to public schools. Chief
Justice John G. Roberts stated in the majority
opinion that “the way to stop discrimination on
the basis of race is to stop discriminating on
the basis of race.” In his dissent, Justice Stephen
G. Breyer declared the majority vote irresponsible
and insisted that it will threaten the spirit
of Brown v. the Board of Education. “To
invalidate the plans under review is to threaten
the promise of Brown,” wrote Breyer. “This is
a decision that the Court and the Nation will
come to regret.”
President Dick Cheney insists he is not part of
the executive branch; he claims he is under the
jurisdiction of the legislative branch because
of his role as president of the Senate. Cheney’s
position stems from his desire to not have to
put classified and declassified documents on record
as bodies under the executive branch have to do.
Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois), chairman
of the House Democratic Caucus, moved to further
cement Cheney’s position as exclusively a member
of the Legislature by cutting the funding he gets
from the executive branch’s budget.
and Democrats took shots at the heads of their
opposing parties after the Times Union reported
their alleged use of state aircraft for fund-raising
and political purposes. Senate Majority Leader
Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick) has been accused of
using state aircraft to fly to fund-raisers in
Manhattan more than three times, while Gov. Eliot
Spitzer has been accused of using an aircraft
for one trip that the Times Union described
as “partly political.”
American and Iraqi officials say that civilian
deaths in Iraq have dropped 36 percent in June
to about 1,200 dead from May’s 1,900 count. Although
some attribute the decline to the increased presence
of American soldiers, others say that death counts
in Iraq are terribly inaccurate to begin with.
The New York Times pointed out Monday that
bodies in Iraq are sometimes lost in bombings,
taken by families or lost at the hospital before
they ever reach the morgue, making an accurate
with the safety of an abandoned building, an Albany man struggles
with the city to get it razed
Fifty-four Walter Street is silently, slowly rotting. Its
windows are bare sockets, bereft of glass. The basement yawns
open, inviting stray animals or any random passerby into its
moldy confines. Rose-colored brick walls slouch indifferently,
crumbling into pieces. Used firecrackers litter the lawn;
a languid gray cat disappears into the overgrown backyard.
can kick a brick out of this place, and I’m 150 pounds. It
is not a safe place, obviously,” said Anthony Cimino anxiously
as he demonstrated his brick-kicking feat.
Cimino lives across the street from 54 Walter in Albany’s
northern Arbor Hill neighborhood. The lot has been untended
since 1982 and sits in the middle of a residential street.
Many of the houses surrounding the building have been renovated
recently and have things like large white porches and new
yellow siding; the broken windows and general deterioration
of the abandoned house just don’t fit in.
Not only is the house an eyesore for the neighborhood, it’s
a danger to it as well, said Cimino, stressing that it is
exactly the type of place kids could goof off in and get hurt.
Cimino has lived on the street for three years and has spent
the last four months trying to get the house taken down.
Cimino has waged an unsuccessful campaign to get the building
removed, beginning with a number of phone calls to the Division
of Building and Codes within the Albany Department of Public
Safety. According to Cimino, he received no complete answers
from the Codes Division and eventually was directed to the
Albany Fire Department.
The fire department sent out a crew to investigate the structure
and found it to be “structurally sound.”
Cimino decided it was time to make a group effort. “No More
54!” is the title of a petition signed by each resident of
Walter Street, declaring that the building should be “torn
down, fixed up, or sold to someone who will revive it.”
whole block went wild when I brought the petition,” said Cimino.
The now two-month-old petition was distributed to the fire
department, mayor’s office and Division of Building and Codes.
Despite the 29 signatures, 54 Walter Street is still standing.
too damn long,” said Cimino. “This is the last one [dilapidated
building] on the block. It’s gotta go.”
Cimino said that he has put in calls to his Common Council
representative, Barbara Smith (Ward-4), and is also reaching
out to local neighborhood associations.
something happen,” urged Cimino. “This is for the birds.”
Cimino would like to see 54 Walter taken down and its property
turned into a garden, though realistically, he thinks it would
work best as a neighborhood parking lot. Whatever happens,
Cimino insisted, he just doesn’t want to have to look at it
when he glances out his living-room window.
a landlord,” he said. “Why should I have trouble getting tenants?”
The building, according to Cimino, is currently labeled as
a “partial collapse.” It is unclear what it will take to get
it removed, but Cimino is determined to find out.
Representatives for the Division of Building and Codes and
for the code division of the Albany Fire Department would
not comment. Smith, too, declined to comment for this article.
to sail down the Hudson provides a seemingly endless supply
It was Dallas Trombley’s third attempt.
After working for months, his sailboat, weighing roughly 2,000
pounds, was complete. Building it from sections of old dock,
Trombley had thought of everything: a screened-in cabin to
avoid the biting flies, a mast and sail to catch the strong
winds, rowing oars for the calm days when the tide was flowing
upstream, and a trolling motor in case of an emergency.
The plan was to set sail last Thursday (June 28), from the
shore of Corning Preserve in Albany in his homemade boat,
and navigate his way down the Hudson River to Brooklyn. He
figured the trip would take eight to 10 days, depending on
After a hellish 24 hours transporting the boat by himself
(begging two tows, surviving a massive lightning storm, and
at one point actually dragging the boat alongside a dike)
from New Baltimore where the vessel had been docked, Trombley
arrived just in time Thursday, anchoring the craft in the
river and canoeing to shore.
got to shore, climbed the big hill at Corning Preserve, jumped
over the fence,” he said. “People were coming up to me, giving
me free tickets for beer. They recognized me from the news.”
The local news media had already done their stories about
when we were ready to send off, everybody was like, ‘Speech!
Speech!’ So I gave some stupid speech. And we all ceremoniously
jumped the fence and made our way down to the boat,” he said,
recalling with a smirk that “We Built This City” by Starship
we canoed away,” he said. “And it was great.”
A few days later, Trombley and his crew would dismantle the
boat and burn it on the side of the Hudson.
first two trips, the biggest challenge was nature,” the University
at Albany graduate said. Last year, Trombley tried twice to
make his way down the Hudson. The first time, the craft sank.
The second time, the wind was blowing too hard, negating the
tide, which was his only means of propulsion.
time, I felt like we had an upper hand on Mother Nature,”
he said, “but I hadn’t been planning on human nature. There
must just be that many people in the world who enjoy schadenfreude,
you know, taking joy in the suffering of others.”
After launching from the Corning Preserve, Trombley and his
crew made it to the northeast tip of Bethlehem. They docked
at the mouth of the Normanskill, and set off to get supplies.
They planned to jump back onboard Saturday morning, catch
the ebbing tide, and figured they would make it to Coeymans
when we got there, there was no boat,” Trombley said. “Looking
around on the ground we found our lantern, walkie-talkie chargers,
one of the chairs burned in a fire.” Across the creek, their
canoe was sitting on the shore. Pulled out of the water and
So Trombley called the police.
main concern was this thing weighs 2,000 pounds,” he said.
“I was worried about someone knocking into it, not seeing
it at night and crashing into it and getting killed, or drifting
into somebody’s boat that they have anchored.”
An officer and detective arrived. They found some cigarette
butts and beer cans scattered among the crew’s burnt possessions.
The sheriff later found the boat upstream, banging against
piers in the Port of Albany.
The damage to the boat was severe. The looters had busted
off the doors, broken the sail and ripped off the trolling
motor. The oars were missing. All of Trombley’s possessions—batteries,
bags of clothes, cell phone—were gone.
was so destroyed that you couldn’t even steer it anymore,”
he said. “It would still float, but that was it.” So he and
his crew spent five hours Sunday dismantling the craft and
burning it in a bonfire on the shore.
The anchor now hangs on a wall in his apartment.
Why has Trombley built a craft three times to sail down the
the same reason I am going to try a fourth time,” he said.
“It’s a challenge.”
He already has plans for a new boat scribbled on a sheet of
feel like it is within my capacity to get from Albany to New
York,” he said. “But every time there is this unforeseen challenge.”
After thinking about it a bit, he continued: “There’s two
kinds of people. When you tell somebody a riddle, there’s
the person who says, ‘I don’t know. What’s the answer?’ And
then there are those other people who want to come up with
the answer on their own. I feel like I am more like the second
kind of person.”
PHOTO: Chris Shields
Troy Food Co-op, according to its board of directors, is still
a few months away from a planned opening in October. In the
meantime, volunteers are keeping themselves busy spreading
the word, looking for members, and cleaning out the former
Pioneer Market at 77-81 Congress St. This Friday (June 30),
the co-op hosted a flea market to sell off all of the clothes,
records, and other assorted knick-knacks in the backrooms
loose ends this week-