The site of a future Rite Aid in Troy.
Aids for Everyone!
Hoosick Street in Troy, history makes way for another pharmacy
Getting the go-ahead from Troy’s Planning Board, the national
pharmacy chain Rite Aid will begin with its plans to demolish
five houses on Hoosick Street to build a new store only a
hop, skip and a cough away from its current location. This
includes the razing of one of the street’s oldest farmhouses
and rumored stop on the Underground Railroad.
is a small room between the first and second floors,” Historic
Action Network president Russell Ziemba said of the former
frat house at the corner Hoosick and Burdett Avenue. “You
enter this close-sized room through a hatch in the bedroom.
The room is big enough for a person to sit or lay down in,
and there is a stairway in the wall that leads from there
directly to the basement.”
Legend has it that runaway slaves could crawl through a tunnel
that led from the farmhouse basement to Hoosick Street.
Although the rumors seem convincing, he has no definitive
Ziemba and a dozen other Troy residents have been fighting
against the Rite Aid proposal since last summer, he said.
They started an online petition that drew nearly 400 signatures.
Those houses, he said, would be perfect for professional offices—dentists,
lawyers, accountants—anyone who would benefit from the traffic.
A row of houses around the corner was successfully transformed
from homes to businesses.
how you do it,” he said, you don’t demolish the buildings,
you find new uses.
Hoosick Street has been a topic of heated discussion for years.
One of the busiest streets in the Capital Region, it is increasingly
becoming less of a residential stretch and more geared toward
business. That is why members of the public came together
with lawmakers four years ago, designing the Hoosick Street
Overlay Zone to take up the challenges of the street’s challenging
to redevelop it. How to make it urban,” Ziemba said. “How
to reconfigure the existing businesses that are there.” The
overlay zone was an effort to curb just such developments.
“We anticipated this. We’ve seen this kind of thing before.”
In order to allow the build, he pointed out, the Planning
Board had to give the developer four variances: a large set-back,
twice as many parking spots as allowed by zoning, building
height, and multiple use.
Beyond the simple fact the proposed building, he said, is
ugly, with fake windows and vinyl siding, the final design
also fails to provide doors on either the Hoosick Street side
or the Burdett Avenue side. With a drive-though lane encircling
the store, pedestrians will be forced walk through the parking-lot
traffic just to get in the building.
the Hells Angels wanted to have no front door,” Ziemba began,
“or if someone else wanted to sell drugs out of their back
door, they wouldn’t let it happen.”
do I begin?” asked Councilman Bill Dunne (D-District 4). “There
is no master plan for the city of Troy, we don’t have an experienced
planner in the position of planning director. It is apparent
the Planning Board is ignoring that overlay. I am not sure
what we can do. We really don’t have any more authority in
this area then they do. If we wanted to, we could issue a
moratorium, but that isn’t something we want to do.”
It would take a citizen filing a suit against the city, he
said, to stop the build. He doesn’t want to see that happen,
is obviously a problem,” Dunne said. “We need to have a master
plan and respect our city’s history and architecture.”
Hoosick Street, he predicted, will turn into a nightmare.
No one is going to want to live in the neighborhoods bordering
it. That will just hasten the exodus.
get a lot of emails about what are you going to do about it,”
Dunne said. “We passed the overlay. We aren’t an enforcement
body. If the people are ignoring the law, that’s the administration’s
job. It is just unfortunate that the planning board will ignore
laws passed by the council.”
are befuddled by how to approach this.”
Rite Aid also has plans to build a new store on Route 4 in
North Greenbush, across from Hudson Valley Community College,
tearing down the Country Grove, a home from the late 1700s,
to compete with rival Walgreen’s.
Reports From Cuba
49 years in power, Cuban President Fidel Castro
is through, and his brother, Raúl, the current
minister of defense, is set to take the reigns.
Cuba has been racked for decades by low wages
and high unemployment, yet Cubans seemed to acknowledge
the resignation with little emotional reaction.
President Bush promised to “help the people of
Cuba realize the blessings of liberty.” He is
asking the international world to assist the country
in stabilizing a democracy, something that Raúl
has hinted he is open to. Although Raúl is seen
as more pragmatic than his older brother, he is
also reputedly just as dedicated to the Revolution;
members of the Cuban Democratic Directorate expect
little to change.
Ribs OK, 2006 Receipts Not
an attempt to cut air pollution, New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation officials
are pondering a ban on barrel-burning. Their reasoning
comes from statistics that say the burns release
“17 times more dioxin and 40 times more ash than
permitted incinerators.” Although there are minor
exceptions, like small campfires, if the ban is
enacted, the generalized burnings of household
waste would stop. Some disagreement has arisen
from rural lawmakers. They argue that the burning
is minimal and counterbalances the growing landfills.
tell me words don’t matter,” Sen. Barack Obama
(D-Ill.) told a crowd of Wisconsin Democrats over
the weekend. The Clinton campaign was listening,
apparently, because it later suggested that parts
of that stump speech were plagiarized from a very
similar speech given by Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick.
Although Obama admitted that he lifted key phrases
from Patrick, he argued that it was done innocently.
The two men are friends, he said, who discuss
politics and their careers. Plus, they share the
same campaign manager. Last November, Obama even
joked about the openness with which he and Patrick
share rhetoric: “But you know in the end, don’t
vote your fears. I’m stealing this line from my
buddy Deval Patrick who stole a whole bunch of
lines from me when he ran for the governorship.”
Be My Valentine: Advocates ask Assemblyman
Ron Canestrari (D-Cohoes) to save education funding.
My Valentine—Bring the Cash
advocates demand promised funding from the state
Last Thursday, a number of local assemblymen got a Valentine’s
Day card that had a more sobering message than “XOXO.” The
message delivered by parents, children and members of the
Alliance for Quality Education was, “Don’t break our hearts—Keep
the promise.” Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposed budget has a $350-million
cut in legally promised foundation aid to state schools. Foundation
aid is the primary funding source used by schools to pay for
teachers’ salaries and teaching materials.
In 2007, Gov. Spitzer and the Legislature, prompted by a lawsuit
by the AQE, made a financial commitment to provide schools
with 5.5 billion dollars distributed, based on need, in four
installments by 2010.
Last year, Spitzer said the aid would grow by $1.25 billion
in 2008; however this year’s budget calls for an increase
of only $900 million. Kathleen Campbell, a local representative
of the AQE, said that the biggest problem with the aid cuts
is that they will greatly affect the school districts whose
students most need the funding.
According to a report by the AQE, “Districts outside New York
City, with 60 percent of their students living in poverty,
have 15 percent of all students in the state, but face 20
percent of the cuts, while districts with only four percent
of their students living in poverty have 17 percent of all
students in the state, but face only six percent of the cuts.
Similarly districts averaging a 21 percent black student enrollment
have 24 percent of all students and face 26 percent of the
cuts, while districts with between one-half of one percent
and 3.4 percent black student enrollment have 40 percent of
the students in the state and face only 21 percent of the
Campbell said that although Albany does not face drastic cuts,
Schenectady schools may be monumentally affected.
are facing a $4.7 million cut in Schenectady,” said Campbell.
“Schenectady was able to make a number of improvements for
high-need students with the money last year.”
Campbell noted that the funding increase allowed Schenectady
to improve programs and hire staff.
improvements are now in jeopardy because of the cut,” said
Campbell. “It is that cut-and-dry. That is what happens when
we get $350 million out of our entire budget.”
Billy Easton, the executive director of the AQE, said that
he feels it is the tendency of the Senate Republican majority
to concentrate on funding rich, high-performing schools in
Long Island while ignoring districts with lower scores and
more minorities. Easton said that he is unsure whether the
traditionally supportive Assembly majority or the generally
frustrating Senate majority will win out on this issue.
Assembly has historically been very supportive of this kind
of funding increase,” said Easton. “The Senate majority has
many members that, as a group, stood in the way, in particular,
because there is an obsession about making sure they are taking
care of Long Island school districts, and not the needy Long
Island districts. There are about eight Republican senators
who function as a bloc in the Legislature demanding more money
for Long Island. The foundation formula is fair to everyone,
but they want more equity on Long Island. They want more money
for districts that have already got 90 percent graduated and
going to college.”
The AQE said that they hope legislators will consider the
gravity of their funding cuts before they settle on this year’s
loose ends this week-