to vote: Liberty Election System’s DRE voting machine.
Building Is Falling!
the committee to explore a possible Troy City Hall sale busies
itself with the details, Mayor Tutunjian—and his favored developer—turn
up the heat
Troy’s City Hall Committee got treated to a tag team of high-pressure
salesmanship this past week, said Councilman Ken Zalewski
(D-District 5). The newly formed committee, made up of City
Council appointees and members of the administration, was
taking a tour of the Verizon building on 6th Avenue in downtown
Troy—the building at the crux of the proposed sale of City
Hall to Judge Development—when Judge principal Sam Judge told
them that a potential client had expressed interest in leasing
the Verizon building from his company.
In the proposed deal with Judge, Troy would sell City Hall
to the developer and move its government offices into the
Verizon building, which Judge owns, in a lease-to-own arrangement.
Now, with Verizon announcing that it plans to vacate operations
from the building sometime near the end of June, and the city’s
commitment to the deal hanging in limbo, Judge said that he
was starting to feel pressure to secure a tenant. Otherwise,
his company will begin to lose money.
Mayor Harry Tutunjian has also chimed in, telling the committee
that he “wanted to lay all his cards out on the table,” continued
Zalewski. The mayor said that he plans to submit legislation
in April that will call on the council to reach a decision
on the Judge proposal. When a committee member countered that
it has until June 5 to make its final recommendation, Tutunjian
simply said that it couldn’t wait. If Judge walks, Troy will
lose its best opportunity.
There is just too much work left to be done, the councilman
and chair of the Planning Committee said, before any recommendation
could be made in good faith. There needs to be a thorough
assessment of City Hall and its structural integrity; lay
opinions and superficial examinations aren’t enough, he said.
There needs to be an examination of the costs involved in
moving operations into the Verizon building. And, critically,
the city needs to finalize a “request for proposal.”
RFPs are the starting point for any project being put out
to bid. It describes the project’s parameters and what a potential
developer must submit in a proper bid, including financial
disclosures, their plans for the site, and, in this case,
how they would accommodate the city’s government offices,
and so on.
those parameters have to be laid out clearly in the RFP, and
have to be addressed by potential developers,” Zalewski said.
“The issue again is, Judge Development has never responded
to an RFP because an RFP was never generated. No developer
other than Judge has had a chance at working on this project.”
Tutunjian has said in the past that much of the work to secure
the Judge proposal was done behind the scenes, exhausting
all relevant avenues to explore potential offers. The Judge
proposal was, the mayor has said, the best possible deal.
argument is, ‘Why would we even hesitate when we have the
perfect deal?’ Well,” Zalewski argued, “we are hesitating
because I have heard from so many other people that this is
not the perfect deal. And how do I know who is right unless
we put it out to bid?” Further, Zalewski isn’t even sure if
it is legal to sell a public building without going through
the bidding process. That is something that still needs to
be asked of the state attorney general and the office of state
As for Tutunjian’s legislation, Zalewski said, he sees little
chance that the Democratic-controlled council would pass it.
“I am assuming that the council will say, ‘We voted to form
this committee, and the committee hasn’t supplied its recommendation
yet, so no.’ But if Judge walks away, the mayor will be able
to use that, saying that the city lost the deal because of
is playing politics with this,” Zalewski said.
The mayor’s office did not comment by deadline.
Last month, Tutunjian posed for a photo in the Times Union,
holding a chunk of concrete that he said fell from the parking
structure attached to City Hall. In the article, he stated
ominously, “I don’t want to be the mayor who explains to someone
why their loved one was killed or injured by falling concrete.”
According to that article and subsequent reporting by the
TU, the building has crumbled into a state of disrepair,
the only option being to man the wrecking ball. This is a
view that committee member Patrick Quinn doesn’t share. He
calls much of this hype surrounding City Hall and the proposed
Judge deal “misinformation.”
to the time that I was asked to be on the committee, I have
heard these rumors,” Quinn said, about the decrepit state
of City Hall. “But many of them are untrue. Outside of the
parking garage, it is holding up quite well, thank you. The
roof has held up well, it just hasn’t been well maintained.”
The leaking water and crumbling concrete is confined mostly
to the parking garage, according to both Quinn and Zalewski.
question of whether it needs to be torn down is a serious
issue,” said Quinn, the former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
dean of architecture. “A developer would have to think very
profoundly before demolishing such a structure. It is well-built.
It wouldn’t come down very easily. To my professional eye,
it is extremely stable.”
is no question that there are structural deficiencies,” Zalewski
said, “especially on the exterior, and most specifically on
the parking area. But the question is: What is the minimum
that can be done to make it safe?”
There are many questions, Quinn and Zalewski said, and not
nearly enough answers. And while the administration operates
under the presumption that one answer satisfies all—that the
Judge deal is the best and only deal—how is the committee
or the Troy City Council suppose to know?
No one has put forth a detailed estimate of what it will cost
to transform the building at 1776 6th Ave. from the cubicle-filled
and dreary office building of a private corporation to what
members of the committee believe ought to be an open, inviting
building of the public’s business. The Verizon building is
almost the antithesis of a city hall, Quinn said, pointing
out that currently, the entrance lobby of the Verizon building
is not used; employees use the back entrance, which is just
a small, single door.
The question of how to transform this building dogs the proposal,
and more importantly, Quinn stressed, the question of cost
has not been satisfactorily answered. With just the cursory
examination he was afforded Saturday, Quinn is certain that
any number, including the $400,000 number that has been bandied
about by the administration, is an arbitrary and meaningless
estimation. No one at this point has done the due diligence
to know how much it will cost to prepare the Verizon building
for the city’s offices.
Quinn said that he could just as easily claim that it would
cost $2 million, and be no more out of line than the administration.
are so many issues to be examined,” Zalewski said. There is
the question of retrofitting an elevator into the building,
to make it compatible with the regulations of the Americans
With Disabilities Act. There will need to be a council chamber.
Further, there is no plan detailing what will need to happen
to move the city government, or even how much money that will
have been told that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,”
Zalewski said. There are companies that undertake large-scale
moves such as the one that would be required, and the costs
can reach $200,000 to $300,000.
is not a simple swap,” he said. “The administration has had
months to put together a proposal that is detailed, and it
hasn’t. The administration should have done far more homework.
This committee can’t do all the work the administration should
have done. We don’t have the resources to do that. But we
have to do our job within the constraints we have been presented
with. But it all takes time.”
As far as the pressure coming from Judge, Zalewski said that
he wasn’t sure how the committee, or city council, will react.
he is a business person, he has got to do what is best for
his business. And I respect that. And we have got to do what
is best for the city. And this deal on the surface sounds
good, but we don’t have enough details, the administration
hasn’t done its homework on this, and we have to flesh out
some of these issues. And if Judge walks away, we will just
continue down the road of selling City Hall.” The project
still has to go out to bid, anyway, he said. “Cause even if
it doesn’t have to legally, it makes sense from an economic
perspective. This is a very valuable piece of property.”
talk shows were torn asunder this week by the
question, “Who made Huckabee a viable candidate?”
Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
all tangled during tapings of their shows to settle
a feud started when O”Brien claimed that he had
made Huckabee a legitimate candidate by showing
clips of Chuck Norris in Walker Texas Ranger.
Colbert insisted that he had given Huckabee the
“Colbert bump,” and Stewart insisted that he created
both O’Brien and Colbert by giving them their
television breaks. Huckabee later appeared by
satellite and declared it was the American people
who had in fact made him viable.
York Sen. Hillary Clinton handily won the big
Super Tuesday states—New York, New Jersey and
California—but due to the proportional nature
of the Democrats’ delegates, members of Sen. Barack
Obama’s camp and a number of pundits are speculating
that he will walk away with a lead of between
13 and 20 delegates. Meanwhile, Clinton has asked
for more debates against the Illinois senator,
and rumors have it that the cash-strapped Clinton
campaign is going to have to dig into the Clintons’
personal fortune to finance the rest of the primary
run. Obama is said to have a fairly full campaign
Hate the Party, Hate the McCain
talk-show hosts across the country have rolled
up their sleeves and gotten to work in their mission
to stop Arizona Sen. John McCain from winning
his party’s nomination. Rush Limbaugh and other
hosts say McCain is far too liberal and have rabidly
attacked the candidate. Former Sen. Bob Dole wrote
Limbaugh a letter this week asserting that McCain
is a Republican Party standard bearer, but conservatives
have attacked Dole for writing the letter. Limbaugh
said that McCain’s camp is “resorting to the same
kind of politics as Hillary Clinton.” Pundits
say that with Huckabee winning in Southern states,
McCain may have a real problem connecting with
conservatives during the general election.
loose ends this week-