determined shop owner in downtown Troy has mounted a one-woman
campaign to start a Business Improvement District in the city
Young had just opened her River Street antiques shop when
she was paid a visit by one of Troy’s most notable business
titans, John Hedley. She was excited. “I’d heard so much about
him, and I was a new business owner. I mentioned to him my
interest in becoming involved in the business community.”
They talked about business improvement districts, and what
the chances were of establishing one in Troy. “It was just
synergistic. It worked so well. He had started to reenergize
the process of starting a BID through the TDC and asked me
if I wanted to be a part of it.”
The Troy Downtown Collaborative, a nonprofit collection of
business and property owners, started working on trying to
get a BID in 2000. The organization went through the entire
process. It went before the public, was overwhelmingly approved
by property owners in the district through the process of
negative referendum, “and, unfortunately, after being sent
to the state comptroller for approval,” Young said, “it was
denied.” The original committee didn’t correctly follow the
steps of notifying both business and residential tenets in
the district. “So it was kind of defeated on a technicality.
And, unfortunately, momentum had fallen away, and they let
In her short time in Troy, the Nassau native has become a
fixture in the Troy business community. If you visited the
Troy Chowder Fest or Rockin’ on the River events this summer,
it’s likely you bumped into her. If you went to Troy’s Pig
Out, she probably served you a beer. She is a tireless organizer
and volunteer for most of Troy’s recent community-driven outings—including
the very successful Troy Night Out, which she played a key
role in launching. Last year, Metroland recognized
the efforts of Young and her partners in organizing this monthly
celebration of Troy’s expanding offering of shops, restaurants,
bars, and art galleries. On the last Friday of every month,
people from all over the Capital Region venture to Troy’s
uniquely walkable downtown and plunk down their hard-earned
cash. Young has earned the respect of much of her business
community for her efforts to nurture the outing.
Since that synergistic meeting with Hedley, Young, who acts
as the part-time director of the TDC, essentially has led
the charge for the BID by herself. She has received help and
guidance from some of the most entrenched business and property
owners in Troy, and from members of City Hall. But this has
been a one-woman effort, and a labor of devotion, she says,
to the city she adopted and fell in love with.
was looking around for an apartment,” Young says about moving
back to the region. She had spent her early 20s traveling—New
York City, Tokyo, Washington, D.C.—and she was through with
the big cities. “I just decided to drive to Troy. Literally,
I just walked around, and called phone numbers listed on doors
that said they had apartments for rent. And I found the most
amazing apartments, like ridiculous apartments.”
She settled into Troy and then opened her antiques business,
first as a vendor with Bournebrook Antique Center on River
Street, where she thrived. After a year there, she decided
to branch out with the store she currently owns.
Troy was enjoying a bit of a boom when Young opened Living
Room Antiques nearly three years ago, a downtown renaissance
fueled by the real-estate speculation that seems so improbable
and shortsighted now, and populated by the migration of people
who wanted to abandon the suburban lifestyle and instead help
grow a promising urban setting. Now, things have changed.
The cycle of Troy’s perpetual resurgence, which the old-timers
will tell you has rolled through every decade since the heyday
of the Collar City, feels as though it might be heading back
downward into the reality of a credit crunch driven by a financial
collapse and a state budget that is buckling under its own
weight, with no real reprieve in sight.
Young is undeterred. She is simply boundless in her enthusiasm
when she describes the potential benefits of a BID for downtown:
organizing special events, initiating beautification projects,
giving the business community a unified voice. “Now is an
excellent time for a BID,” Young says, “to reenergize people
in the community, and the business community, and the rest
of the Capital Region around us.”
Some people aren’t convinced.
love Troy!” says Michael Lo Porto. “That’s why I am here.
Because I love Troy.” Owner of LoPorto’s restaurant on 4th
Street in downtown Troy, he is a quintessential Trojan, professing
his love for the city on a mildly busy Monday night, guiding
a spontaneous history through weathered picture after picture
of scenes that form the legend of this once-thriving Manhattan
getaway: Proctor’s Theater, the long-gone shops along River
and Fourth streets, the long lines and crowded sidewalks,
and paintings of the landmarks in Ironweed.
LoPorto is a political player embroiled in the Troy community
who rarely finds the delicate way to say what he is thinking.
A regular at the contentious City Council meetings, he ran
as a Democrat for an at-large seat in 2003, and lost. He is
a blunt, often churlish critic of the administration of Mayor
Harry Tutunjian—who just so happens to be his nephew by marriage.
Ask him about Tutunjian, and you are welcoming an assault
After months of a relatively calm and disorganized campaign
of opposition to the BID proposal, LoPorto has taken up the
charge. And he does have support. On a petition he has been
circulating, which clearly states that the undersigned do
not support a BID, he has gathered 75 names from business
owners and residents on Congress, Ferry, Broadway, 3rd and
4th streets: Chez Paul, Famous Lunch, the Ruck, Manory’s Restaurant,
Troy Light Co., Capital Cash, Counties of Ireland, Troy Quick
Shoe Repair, Styles Upon Styles, Holmes & Watson, P4,
Aquilonia Comics, Shalimar Restaurant, Hills Stationary, A.V.
Costa; these are all businesses represented on his petition.
“I haven’t even gone south of Fulton Street yet,” he says.
The most contentious elements of the BID—the sticking points
for many of its critics—are the 5-percent property tax increase
that would be levied against commercial property owners in
the BID district, and the permissive referendum that will
go before the proposed district to put the BID in place.
For Holmes and Watson’s Matt McKeown, the sticking point is
the permissive referendum. He fears that the large property
owners, many of whom support the BID, will be given a weighted
vote due to their individual property wealth, and will therefore
have more of a say.
Young appreciates the concerns, but says that they are due
simply to misinformation; McKeown’s concern, she says, is
A BID is voted into being by a permissive referendum. What
that means is that property owners in the proposed district
will have a certain period in which to vote on whether or
not they want the BID. There are two ways that the BID would
not be voted through: If 51 percent of the physical property
owners vote no, or if 51 percent of property owners by actual
value of their property vote it down, then it will fail.
is either or,” says Young, “not one or the other.”
McKeown’s fear, which is shared by many on LoPorto’s petition,
is that the largest owners of property in the district will
be able to pass the BID through the sheer size of their holdings.
But this is not a forgone conclusion, Young argues. In fact,
the nature of the vote makes it harder for the larger property
owners to railroad the smaller ones. If the opposition parties
are motivated, and they turn out to lodge their opposition
in strong enough numbers, then the BID will fail.
LoPorto says that he has thrown himself into his opposition
because he sees the BID as yet another effort by the large
property owners in the city to bilk their struggling, and
smaller, counterparts by using the force of law to gather
an unnecessary tax.
businesses are being bullied,” he exclaims, pointing to his
petition. “Would you want another tax on your house?”
LoPorto chafes at the idea of a 5-percent increase in his
property taxes. Further, he simply doesn’t believe that the
tax will remain at 5 percent.
fact that they are putting a 5 percent tax for three years?
That’s the biggest lie I’ve ever heard,” LoPorto exclaims.
“Once it is voted in, it never goes away. If it is bonded
for three years, what if they take a loan against it? How
long will that loan be? They can do it, and then the loan
is not satisfied. Some municipalities, they have it, and they
start at 5 percent, and that doesn’t sound like a lot of money,
but what if goes up?”
Young counters that the BID assessment can never go up. Unlike
most BIDs in the state, which do tend to start at 5 percent
and quickly rise to 20 percent, her BID proposal caps the
tax assessment at 5 percent. A cap, she stresses, that is
permanent. And if the business owners tire of the BID, or
suspect that it will be abused, the proposal includes a follow-up
vote in three years to decide whether or not to continue the
Those were ideas that came out of the public meetings, she
says, in an effort to comfort some of the fears of the business
owners, and they have been written into the official BID proposal
that will be going before the district voters, the City Council
if passed, and, eventually, the state comptroller for review
But LoPorto isn’t satisfied. He is convinced, and tells anyone
who wants to listen, that once the BID is put into place and
given the authority to collect taxes from property owners
in downtown, that there will be little leverage to stop it
from increasing that tax to whatever it wants, regardless
of Young’s assurances.
tactic is very clear. It’s the same tactic the Tutunjian administration
uses,” he accuses: Promise one thing, and then bully your
way into getting another. And as far as Young is concerned,
LoPorto says, she is nothing more than a crony for the Tutunjian
is Elizabeth Young?” he asks. “She owns a shop, yeah, yeah.
She is a beautiful girl and she speaks well, but who is Elizabeth
Young? I’ll tell you: She is Jeff Buell’s girlfriend.” (Buell
is the public information officer for the city of Troy, and
a Tutunjian appointee.) “If it wasn’t for Jeff Buell, this
never would have started. Is Jeff behind this? Absolutely.”
LoPorto sees the BID, put bluntly, as an opportunity to give
a politically connected friend of the Tutunjian administration—Young—the
job of executive director of the BID, a position that would
pay a yearly salary of $50,000.
BID will raise roughly $86,000 through its assessment,” he
says. Of that money, the director will be paid $50,000. LoPorto
wonders just what the BID will reasonably be able to do with
the $36,000 remaining. “Plus office expenses, and on and on,”
LoPorto says, “there will be nothing left. You won’t be able
to plant one daisy! The bottom line: It’s about a job.”
Young looks stunned by the accusation.
hurts my feelings,” Young says. “It does. And it is almost
hard to respond to, because I know the way that I feel, and
I would never, ever do that.” She has heard this accusation
before, but has ignored it as typical of the petty, hermetic
political environment in Troy. “I didn’t even know Jeff Buell
when I started working on this.”
started working on the BID because I believe in it as a tool
to revitalize downtown Troy and build on the momentum that
I can already see trying to take hold. I can tell you that
the process of hiring an executive director will be run by
the board of directors. They will put together a search, and
there will be an entire hiring process and that will have
nothing to do with me as the director of the Troy Downtown
Collaborative. Might I submit my resume to be considered for
that? I am not sure about that.”
Even her most ardent supporters are concerned that a conflict
of interest might be created if Young were to take the executive
Young seems to keep her cool pretty well,” says Ray Wall,
co-owner of Jose Malone’s Mexican Irish Restaurant on River
Street. A founding member of the Lark Street BID, Wall is
a true believer in the power of these districts, and wants
to see one in Troy. However, he recommends that the eventual
executive director should not be a member of the BID. “I think
it would certainly be inappropriate for her to be the executive
director. Not to put down any of her efforts, but there appears
to be a conflict of interest. It is one of the ways people
are undermining the BID, spreading the rumor that the salary
was set at $50,000 because she planned on taking the job.
And that is the sort of thing you don’t want spreading around.”
Young has a shop, she points out, that would prevent her from
having a full-time job. But, as a business owner in the district,
she says, she would likely run for a seat on the board of
directors. Positions on the board are open to any business
owner in the district, and voted on by the business owners.
Further, she points out, the BID would not be reliant entirely
on the money raised through the property-tax increase. As
a legal nonprofit, the BID would be able to go after multiple
revenue streams—donations, grants, event sponsorships—to achieve
For an example, she says, look to the TDC, a nonprofit organization
that provides BID-like services. It got a grant to buy a street
sweeper a few years ago. It receives donations for flower
baskets and trees, which TDC volunteers hang and plant. It
survives on grants, such as the grants it received from the
Troy Industrial Development Authority and from the former
Majority Leader Joe Bruno.
The TDC won a multiyear commitment from the Troy Redevelopment
Foundation, which is $50,000 a year for three years. This
is an example of the kinds of money that the BID would seek.
Plus, a BID can be more effective in securing grants, as it
legally represents a district of thousands of people.
She pauses, and reflects on the gossip and attacks.
people really say that?” she asks. “That I am doing this for
a job? That’s really frustrating to me. I work my butt off
for this city. I really do. I feel like that accusation is
a part of Troy’s political history. And I understand that
people could be skeptical, but I bet that those aren’t people
who don’t know me. Cause if you know me, you will know I do
this because I love Troy.”
hope that people can move past pettiness like that,” she says,
“political backstabbing and old family feuds. Because if the
BID doesn’t go through because of that pettiness, we will
just have ourselves to blame for that. ”
Sitting in her River Street antiques store, her door open
to a thin stream of browsers, Young is considering writing
a letter to the editor in response to an article in The
Record. It isn’t that she found anything particularly
inaccurate in the article, it is just that after years of
planning and preparing and community outreach, she is an expert
on the BID process and an adherent to the belief in a positive
impact on a community that a BID can have with a seemingly
inexhaustible amount of information to share on the subject.
use this word all the time: To me, it’s about sustainability,”
says Young. “Volunteer efforts are fantastic. We started Troy
Night Out on a volunteer effort. We have done so many things
on a volunteer effort. But the reality is that people move
Dana Rudolph, who for years ran a novelty artist-made gifts
and bead-supply shop on River Street, was the initiator and
driving force behind the River Street Festival. Now, Rudolph
has sold her shop and moved to Florida, and Young wonders
who will take over that festival. With Rudolph gone, will
there be a River Street Fest?
This is where the BID would step in.
need to have an organization in place that has sustainable
funding, and a board of directors, and is a legal entity,”
she says, “something that will continue when I am not here,
as long as that is what the community wants. Something that
isn’t reliant on just one person’s energy.”
The BID would manage current festivals as well trying to launch
others. A restaurant week, for example, has been talked about
in Troy for years, but no one has stepped forward to manage
when you have an organization with a plan, specifically written
out to get things done,” she says, then the members of the
BID, the volunteers from the business community who sit on
the board of directors, and the numerous volunteer committees,
“when you have an executive director, with a team of interns,
whose full-time job is to promote downtown Troy, that is when
you see sustainable growth.”
The proposed BID would be a structured organization of volunteers
working alongside the board of directors and executive director.
“I think that there are people in the community who want to
be involved, but don’t know how.”
She sees this as a struggle to draw business to Troy, and
to offer them an organization to help them organize, advertise,
think of this in these terms: Why did I want to open my antique
shop in an antiques district? I could have paid less rent
somewhere else. I am one thousand square feet of space with
one little door to let people in. When I associate myself
with a district, that can draw people in, because there are
10 different doors. It just is a good business decision. In
a downtown business district, we draw more people as a whole,
and when we collaborate, we develop an identity as a whole,
which I think does bring in more people. When we band together
we are stronger as a whole.”
Young will be mailing out executive summaries of the BID plan
as well as a notice of the public hearing scheduled for Dec.
19 at 7 PM at City Hall Council Chambers, to every business
tenant, residential tenant, and property owner within the
proposed district—thousands of people—and after which, property
owners will have 30 days to file their vote at the City Clerk’s
office. The BID proposal is online at troybid.org.