to require window guards for apartments inhabited by small
children meets resistance in the Albany Common Council
It was a fairly common-sense issue for Albany Common Councilman
Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1): Children in Albany have been
falling out of apartment windows, and something should be
done to prevent that from happening. The councilman was surprised,
however, when his proposed legislation, which would require
property owners to install window guards in second-story apartments
and higher where children 10 or younger reside, was met with
opposition from Albany Fire Chief Robert Forezzi and fellow
Common Council members during a meeting of the council’s Law
Committee last week.
Forezzi, and other opponents of Calsolaro’s bill, brought
up concerns about fire safety, concerns about enforcing the
law, liability issues for the city, and costs that would be
incurred by landlords required to install the guards.
Councilman Corey Ellis (Ward 3) said he felt the arguments
against Calsolaro’s proposed law lacked substance. “The reasons
for people not supporting it were not valid,” said Ellis.
“Some who opposed it brought up the issue of firefighter safety.
So, I asked the chief for the number of firefighters he knows
who have been injured by not being able to get out of a building
because of window guards. They are designed so kids can’t
open them, not adults. And he didn’t have an answer. They
need to give me a reason we can’t do it, especially because
Boston and New York City are able to do it. So why can’t we
do it here?”
Calsolaro modeled his legislation after a law that exists
in New York City and a volunteer program in Boston called
“Kid’s Can’t Fly,” which promotes the use of window guards.
New York City implemented their program in 1976. New York
City’s Health Department Web site describes the program as
a resounding success: “In 1976 there were 217 window falls
reported. Only three years later, after the program was created,
there were only 80 reported falls. During calendar year 2002
there were three preventable falls reported to the Window
Falls Prevention Program.”
Councilman Michael O’Brien (Ward 12) said he admires Calsolaro’s
motives, but describes his ordinance as “overkill.” “We already
have an ordinance, which is an anti-burglary ordinance, that
can be adapted for Dominick’s purposes. It states that every
rental unit on the first floor should have window pegs so
the window won’t open more than 6 inches. We could modify
the existing ordinance so that in rental units all floors
will have window pegs installed.” O’Brien notes the peg solution
would be a cheaper alternative to guards, but would put more
responsibility on the tenant.
Calsolaro said he is aware that there are issues with his
bill, but that no piece of legislation is ever perfect, and
he feels it is important to get the legislation on the books.
The councilman added that he may try to go forward with an
alternative ordinance requiring window pins.
Calsolaro acknowledged that the issue of enforcement is complicated
and would likely work simply on an honor system; after being
accepted as tenants, renters would inform landlords that they
have a child age 10 or under and would like window guards
However, Calsolaro found a number of arguments against the
bill to be absurd. “The fire chief’s arguments were kind of
foolish,” said Calsolaro, “He brought up liability issues:
‘What if we check a window guard and found it OK, and then
someone got hurt and we later found out the guard is damaged?
Now the city is liable.’
That is nonsense, insisted Calsolaro. “It is the same with
anything they inspect; the city is not sued if a smoke detector
they inspect does not work five months after they inspect
O’Brien said that Forezzi is looking into window-guard programs
in Boston and New York. He also said that a new piece of equipment,
purchased by the fire department to allow firemen to rappel
out of high-story windows when trapped in a burning building,
might be disrupted by window guards.
According to Calsolaro, the chief argued that adding window
guards to their inspection list would take up more valuable
time during inspections. However, Calsolero said he doubts
that checking on window guards would add significant extra
time once an inspection is underway.
Calsolaro said he found the argument about the cost of window
guards being prohibitive to landlords to be a weak one—especially,
he said, because of a proposal brought up later in the meeting
to fine property owners $100 for each day that graffiti remains
on their property.
That graffiti-tax proposal was supported by some of the same
council members who attacked Calsolaro’s window guard ordinance.
a criminal act that they didn’t do,” said Calsolaro of graffiti.
The city actually has a full-time graffiti removal team, and
the graffiti ordinance is designed to address graffiti in
a position that is too difficult or costly for the city graffiti
removal team to reach.
know it looks awful, but it is not the property owner’s fault,
and $100 per day is a lot of money,” said Calsolaro. “In fact,
$100 would pay for two window guards.” Forrezzi did not return
calls for comment.
Government in Your G-String?
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has estimated that
his state will face a $20 million budget shortfall
this year, and Assemblyman Charles Calderon has
a proposal to make the state some quick tax revenue:
Tax porn. His legislation would introduce a 25-percent
tax on strip clubs, adult videos, Internet sales,
public movie showings, and production of adult
films. Calderon said the tax also would decrease
the other societal ills he claims are caused by
porn—like STDs, drug abuse and crime. Matt Gray,
a lobbyist for the porn industry, told Reuters
that the tax on the porn industry could cost the
state’s economy up to $3.5 billion. “It’s actually
cheaper to fly everyone to Budapest to do their
shoots there and to fly them back,” said Gray.
So Far Away
Bush administration denied a report by the Jerusalem
Post, which quoted anonymous sources as saying
that the Bush administration plans to conduct
military action against Iran before the end of
Bush’s term. The article said a “senior member”
of Bush’s entourage mentioned the plans in a meeting
last week. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino
responded, “As the president has said, no president
of the United States should ever take options
off the table, but our preference and our actions
for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful
diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that
House of Representatives passed a bill that would
allow the Justice Department to sue OPEC oil-producing
members for controlling oil production and manipulating
prices. The bill passed by an overwhelming 324-84
vote—a margin large enough to override a presidential
veto. (President Bush has made it clear he will
veto the bill.) The bill, however symbolically,
attempts to place oil producers like Iran, Venezuela,
and Saudi Arabia under the same antitrust laws
that govern American businesses. The bill also
creates a task force under the Justice Department
to investigate gasoline pricing and energy-market
manipulation. Reuters quoted a White House official
as saying the bill “would likely spur retaliatory
action against American interests in those countries
and lead to a reduction in oil available to U.S.
Albany Common Council approves bond issue to fund proposed
will bet you $1,000 this is the last expansion there,” said
Albany Common Councilman Michael O’Brien (Ward 12), regarding
the recently approved $7 million bond issue approved by the
Common Council this week to expand the city’s Rapp Road landfill
for the fifth time. “There is no more place to go,” continued
O’Brien, “and we and the state have enough time to come up
with an economically viable alternative.”
Three other council members, Barbara Smith (Ward 4), Dominick
Calsolaro (Ward 1) and Corey Ellis (Ward 3), were not willing
to take that chance, and voted against the bond issue.
As Ellis pointed out, the last time an expansion of the landfill
was before the council, the city had promised the fourth expansion
would be the last.
Opposition to the bill by the three council members led to
debate on the floor of the council. Calsolaro insisted that
the city has already seen its debt payments nearly double
in the last three years from $9 million to $16 million, and
that the city has not taken his recommendation and put together
an honest estimate of what it costs to run the landfill.
Calsolaro said that while city officials cite the landfill
as generating $13 million in revenue for the city each year,
he thinks that the cost to operate the landfill, the legal
fees surrounding it, and the cost of purchasing an alternative
landfill site in Coeymans may significantly eat into what
the city truly earns. Calsolaro referred to the bond issue
as “a sad state for Albany taxpayers.”
O’Brien said he respected the three council members’ opposition
to the bond issue, but thought it to be mostly symbolic. “Their
opposition forces us all to think, and justify why we are
taking what you might even call a desperate step that is not
the best long-term solution, but right now a necessary solution.”
O’Brien insisted that the state and federal government need
to catch up with policies that reflect environmental priorities.
O’Brien said that, under the administration of former Gov.
George Pataki, the DEC Web site emphasized landfills as a
solution to regional waste problems, but that things changed
under the Spitzer administration. “The Web site now preaches
recycling,” he said, “but that ain’t gonna happen until the
government starts assisting localities to mandate a lot of
policy changes, and to enable regional solid-waste processing.
That’s going to be the answer. We aren’t there yet and, by
sheer force of necessity, we are forced to go with the second
best solution, a fifth landfill expansion.”
The council unanimously approved a $1.7 million plan to restore
part of the Pine Bush Preserve. But as O’Brien pointed out,
“It ain’t gonna happen unless there is an expansion.”
Monday evening, former New York State Assemblyman Paul Tonko
finally announced that he is indeed a candidate in the race
to fill the 21st district congressional seat that will be
vacated by Congressman Michael McNulty at the end of the year.
Tonko has long been viewed as a favorite by pundits, but his
late official entry into the race has given other Democratic
candidates, like Phil Steck and Tracey Brooks, the chance
to gain a foothold with endorsements and fund-raising.
loose ends this week-