promise of a state handout seemed to seal the future of Troy’s
City Hall, but the state budget gap has thrown that into question
week we met with Con gressman Paul Tonko to discuss a number
of different options we may have under the stimulus package.
We have decided that we will apply for funding a new City
Hall on this site,” Mayor Harry Tutunjian told the Troy City
Council, reading from his sixth State of the City. “As we
prepare to move our offices to the former Verizon building
on Sixth Avenue, we will also begin the process of creating
a mixed-use development here that transcends urban redevelopment,
reinvents public space uses, and opens up our waterfront.”
This was news to the assembled councilmen, said council President
Clem Campana, but nothing to get very excited about. “I’ll
believe it when I see it,” he said. The mayor’s pledge was
just the latest installment in the messy political saga surrounding
Troy’s much-maligned, and slowly crumbling City Hall.
What the mayor didn’t mention in his speech was that on Feb.
3, the state Senate and Assembly agreed to a Deficit Reduction
Plan, cutting back state aid to municipalities, including
Troy, to address the $1.6 billion budget gap facing New Yorkers.
Tutunjian’s dream of this transcendent City Hall rests heavily
on the promise of state money made by former Majority Leader
Last year, as part of Bruno’s farewell tour of the Capital
Region, the now-indicted legislator announced millions of
dollars in state aid to municipalities and organizations,
with Troy the big winner, having been promised $6 million
to “revitalize” its downtown riverfront. The Deficit Reduction
Plan stripped $1 million of this money from the Senate line:
Half of the money was earmarked to move the rock salt pile
sitting just north of the canal, and half was from the $4.7
million earmarked for the City Hall project.
Troy’s director of Public Information, Jeff Buell, said that
the city has not received official notice that the money has
been stricken from the budget, and that he couldn’t comment
The reduction plan is currently at the Division of Budget
The current political battle to raze the brutalist structure
began during the election cycle of 2007, and for many observers,
was the key issue that swayed voters and swept a Democratic
majority into the council. Tutunjian, who was also facing
a reelection that November, announced that his administration
had brokered a deal to sell the riverfront property to Judge
Development Corp., with the agreement that the city would
then move into office space owned by the developer for up
to five years.
The Democrats painted the deal as a bald political move and
campaign stunt. The sale of the property wasn’t put out to
bid, complained Councilman Bill Dunne (District 4), raising
a series of questions: Was razing City Hall the best approach?
Was there an independent estimate for the cost of repairing
the ill-kept building instead? Was there an estimate to move
the City Hall offices to the Judge building? Was there an
independent estimate of the value of the riverfront property?
Was there more than just a vague proposal for the building
that Judge would build in its place?
Council President Clem Campana told Metroland that
these questions were central to the concerns he encountered
when campaigning in the weeks building up to the election.
The administration battled the Democrats throughout the following
spring over the proposed Judge deal, until the former senator
from Brunswick stepped in to offer what seemed like the perfect
settlement to the stalemate: money.
Even Dunne, the mayor’s most vocal critic, stated then: “We
can’t say no to $6 million.”
But the next month, Bruno was gone and Gov. David Paterson
was warning New Yorkers to brace themselves for economic collapse.
concern is, is this just a paper cut?” Dunne asked about the
possible loss of $1 million in state aid, “or is this a bleed-out?
Is this just the beginning of more cuts? I am not sure how
long it is going to take until we know, but if it keeps moving
in this direction then it will become a problem.”
have a sinking feeling about this,” he added.
Dunne and Campana cast the only dissenting votes when the
council agreed to authorize the mayor to negotiate the contract
that would move the city’s offices into the former Verizon
building. He said that he has no idea about the terms of that
contract or, even now, if the city can risk moving. Now, he
said, he worries that the city might have to back out of that
the money is not there,” he said, “we cannot move City Hall.”
Dollars Stayed Home
announced in Buy Local Holiday Pledge campaign
is pleased to announce the prize-winners from the Buy Local
Holiday Pledge campaign that the newspaper launched, in conjunction
with Capital District Local First, during the recent holiday
shopping season. The campaign encouraged Metroland
readers, as well as shoppers who saw the Buy Local Pledge
cards in area stores, to spend at least $100 of their holiday
budgets on local, independent businesses. Those who filled
out pledge cards detailing their purchases became eligible
for a drawing for gift certificates provided by a number of
local businesses. We are pleased to report that the response
overall was very enthusiastic, and that we received many dozens
of pledge cards in our office.
The grand-prize winner, who will receive a $100 gift certificate
from the Jay Street Business Association, is Lisa Seemann
of Niskayuna. The additional winners, each of whom will receive
a $25 gift certificate donated by one of 13 local, independent
businesses, are: Trisha Churchill, Paul Cronin, Cindy Fascia,
Frederick Pfeiffer, Melanie Pores, Scott Reul, Colleen Ryan
and Pamela Strassberg of Albany; Joan Harrington of Loudonville;
Anne Dillenbeck of Rexford; Sara Bach of Schenectady; Paula
Carosella of Scotia; and Drea Leanza of Troy. The prizes are
being mailed out this week.
Among the retailers selected by pledge shoppers, the Open
Door Bookstore in Schenectady took highest honors, having
been cited on 12 different pledge cards. Next were the Book
House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Honest Weight Food Co-op, and Two
Spruce Pottery (8 citations each); Elissa Halloran Designs,
and the Good Leaf Tea Company (6); Market Block Books (5);
Lodge’s, Peaceful Inspirations, and Romeo’s Gifts (4); and
the Chocolate Gecko, the Little Book House, and Spirits of
The pledge campaign was conceived and promoted based on the
fact that money spent on locally owned businesses recirculates
throughout the region at a much higher rate than money spent
on chain retailers. An example we cited is that if all of
Metroland’s 150,000-plus readers were to shift $100
each in their spending from chain to local businesses, the
net positive impact on the local economy could be as high
as $5 million.
Look for both Metroland and Capital District Local
First to announce more initiatives to support the local, independent
economy in the coming year.
Common Councilman Willard Timmons (Ward 5), center, didn’t
originally support his fellow council members’ push to investigate
the “ghost tickets” scandal. He said that he figured it wasn’t
that big of a deal. What brought him out for the press conference
Monday, though, was Brendon Lyons’ recent article in the Times
Union, he said, which reported on a list of 270 VIPs—many
of them private citizens—who were exempt from parking fines.
“That kicked it up a notch,” Timmons said. But he fell short
of joining his fellow council members in front of Albany City
Hall in their call for the use of subpoena power. Instead,
he said that he would like to see the state comptroller’s
office lead on the investigation, and leave the subpoenas
for further discussion.
Councilman Corey Ellis (Ward 3), right, called for the press
conference to continue his efforts to persuade the rest of
the council to vote to exercise subpoena power, and he was
joined Monday in that crusade by council members Barbara Smith
(Ward 4), left, and Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1), background.
Councilwoman Carolyn McLaughlin (Ward 2), Ellis said, supports
his call for subpoena power, but was unable to attend.
loose ends this week-