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Dear Postmaster General: Dominick Calsolaro, Shawn Morris, Louise McNeilly, and Diane Metz rally for the Delaware Station Post Office.

Photo: Josh Potter

Going Postal

Delaware Avenue area residents rally to save their local post office

On Tuesday morning, residents and community leaders gathered outside the Delaware Station Post Office to show their support for a service they say is essential to their urban neighborhood. The rally, organized by the Delaware Area Neighborhood Association, was in response to an announcement last week that the United States Postal Service will be closing or consolidating the services of nearly 700 offices nationwide, after the agency lost $7 billion this fiscal year. Seven Capital Region offices were placed on a “study” list for possible closure, all of which, like the Delaware office, are in walkable urban neighborhoods.

“City neighborhoods, where people live and do business, are probably the most essential part of a healthy city,” said Albany Common Council President Shawn Morris. “That’s why it’s so important to keep a community link like the post office open.”

The criteria by which the USPS is selecting offices for study has not been released, but this hasn’t prevented DANA from launching a petition and postcard campaign to pressure the U.S. Postmaster General not to terminate their neighborhood office. Additionally, members of the Common Council plan to meet with Congresman Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam) and to introduce a resolution calling on the federal government to keep the office open.

If the office were to close, residents argued, the requisite travel to outlying branches would pose serious difficulties for some members of the community.

“In the South End, a lot of people don’t have cars. Half of them don’t have computers,” said Councilman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1). “They need the services. They need to be able to get there.” Elanor Laing, who is 80 and does not drive, said that the post office is “a vital part of the whole avenue for senior citizens.” Others fear the effect the loss of accessible PO boxes would have on those who rely on them, such as home-based business owners and homeless people.

Battling the din of construction, some peopled feared the proposed closure’s broader implications. “As I speak,” said resident Laura Wells, “federal stimulus dollars are going to the reconstruction of this very avenue. By closing this station, services will be depleted. This could lead to a corresponding depletion in demand to move into this neighborhood.” If the federal government continues to fund the improvement of the street but doesn’t support its services, Diane Metz said she fears that Delaware Avenue will become little more than a “thoroughfare for people in the suburbs to get to work.”

—Josh Potter

jpotter@metroland.net


What a Week

 




The Signs Are Positive

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings unveils new All-America City signs to an appreciative media

With the Democratic primaries less than five weeks away, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings gathered representatives of the media on Broadway, at the city’s border with Menands, to unveil one of the 10 shiny new All-America City signs. These signs will be placed at the “gateways to Albany,” said Jennings spokesman Robert VanAmburgh, along the city’s major thoroughfares to alert travelers that they are about to enter an award-winning city.

The award, announced in June, has become the focus of the administration’s branding campaign for the city. The unveiling of the street signs follows the mayor’s official press conference announcing the city’s win and is only one of many events planned in what VanAmburgh called a yearlong celebration of the award.

In September, the city will host the All-America City Jazz Festival.

Albany competed against 300 other cities for the title, awarded by the National Civic League. The last time Albany won the award was back in 1991. This was the first time since that win that the city has entered the competition, and critics of the mayor have dismissed the award, and the celebration surrounding it, as a campaign ploy.

“I’m not stopping running this city just because I am running for mayor,” Jennings said. “I have been doing this for over 15 years, and this is a positive thing that people need, to reinforce something positive.”

The press conference was an upbeat affair. As the city now prepares to grapple with the revelations contained in the state comptroller’s audit of the ghost-tickets swindle, and with Sunday’s murder on Western Avenue, it appeared the media were hopeful for a positive story.

“This has been a good week for Albany,” a reporter began. Albany was named by a real-estate Web site as one of the top 10 cities in which to buy a home, and with this unveiling, she said, there’s been “a lot of positive news for the city.”

“I am appreciative of you guys being here,” the mayor said. “I know you are always inundated with the negative, but it is always good to get out the positive. I feel good about this community. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be the leader of it.”

—Chet Hardin


The Wrong Impact

Albany Common Council candidate calls for changes in policing policy to fight a perceived rise in city crime

“I have yet to see an IMPACT neighborhood come off the sick list,” said Terry O’Neill. In response to recent violent crime in and around Albany’s Center Square, O’Neill questions the effectiveness of Albany Police Department’s controversial reliance on Operation IMPACT. “It’s not the best way to deal with a small city like Albany.”

O’Neill, Republican candidate for Albany Common Council in the 6th Ward, is a regular critic of Albany politics, and an expert in criminal policy, with more than 30 years’ experience. Albany’s city administration points to statistics that claim crime citywide is falling. However, among many residents of Center Square, where O’Neill lives, there is an impression that crime is actually on the rise. And O’Neill Points to Operation IMPACT.

He said that the program does little to reduce crime and can even push criminal activity out of the targeted neighborhood into adjacent, historically low-crime neighborhoods. Further, he said, it does little on the way to long-term crime abatement.

Operation IMPACT stands for Integrated Municipal Police Anti-Crime Teams. Modeled after New York City’s CompStat system developed by William Bratton, Operation IMPACT uses computer software to map crime and quality-of-life data. It is a statewide program designed to target high-crime zones outside of New York City.

In 2006, Albany Police Chief James Tuffey got rid of traditional beat cops and closed police stations on Henry Johnson Boulevard and Washington Avenue, relying instead on the highly mobile police response units emphasized by IMPACT. This removed accountability to the communities they police from individual officers, claimed O’Neill. Now, if you have a complaint or an issue, instead of talking to an officer familiar with your neighborhood, he said, “You’re dealing with someone several tiers up.”

“You don’t talk to people; you respond to dots on the chief’s crime map,” said O’Neill about the Operation IMPACT model. “That’s where the cops go, and it doesn’t matter which cop, whichever one is handy.” As a result, O’Neill claimed, the program ignores the conditions that give rise to crime.

In Albany, three high-crime centers have been designated: Arbor Hill, South End and West Hill. The IMPACT zones, not coincidentally, are also those neighborhoods that are most economically distressed and with the most abandoned buildings, O’Neill observed.

In a city the size of Albany, a neighborhood with a low incidence of crime can easily be reached from one of the designated IMPACT zones by bike or on foot. O’Neill cited the recent robbery at gunpoint of two young women near Madison Avenue and Willett Street. Two of the offenders were caught after being sighted near the University at Albany campus, riding bikes away from the crime scene.

On the local political blog Democracy In Albany, O’Neill criticized IMPACT: “CompStat has proliferated like kudzu in police agencies across the land supplanting, in its relentless progress, the earlier movement toward a community policing philosophy. Think of Wal-Mart relentlessly driving out locally-owned businesses, replacing them with something big, bland, corporate and generic.”

O’Neill said that he would like to see a system put in place that is responsive to community members, that takes interest in what problems community members are having and creates solutions with the police. “[Permanent officers] are encouraged to create relationships with the local merchants’ association, the clergy, the people that run nonprofits and clubs,” said O’Neill. “You end up having a genuine relationship with the people in the community.”

—Matthew Connolly


Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-



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