School on the Hill
Hill residents say there are alternatives to the proposed
construction of student housing in their neighborhood
Last Thursday, more than 100 residents of the Eagle Hill neighborhood
bordering the University at Albany uptown campus gathered
at a public hearing to voice their concerns over the proposed
construction of student housing for 500 college students.
Although university President George Phillips and Albany Mayor
Jerry Jennings left minutes into the meeting, the residents
spent the next hour and a half expressing their concerns to
John Giarrusso, the university’s vice president of physical
felt that we fairly represented ourselves to the University,”
said Steven Sokal of 36 Tudor Street and a seven-year resident
of Eagle Hill.
In addition to concerns over the environmental, financial
and quality-of-life impact of the proposed construction, the
residents also take issue with what they feel is a lack of
honest communication between the university and the residents
of Eagle Hill.
The proposed project would be constructed on the southeast
end of the campus and would include two five-story dormitory
buildings in addition to a 250-space parking lot. The construction
would take place on a 13-acre piece of land that remains the
only natural untouched environment on the uptown campus.
the plus side, the university will be allowed to take steps
to enhance their position as a world-leading educational institution,”
Sokal said. “There will be, for the duration of the project,
some activity on Wall Street issuing bonds in order to fund
the project, and there’ll be some construction jobs as the
project is being done, but that’s about it for positives.”
Sokal and his neighbors are concerned with the quality-of-life
issues that 500 additional college students will bring to
the residential neighborhood, as well as the environmental
impact regarding flooding in the area.
have been a number of underground streams that have been paved
over in the immediate neighborhood,” Sokal said. “It’s a preexisting
condition. On our property itself, we do have water lying
on the back of the property, and the reason for that is the
university’s property is about 15 feet higher in elevation
than us, so it drains into our backyard. The university, in
examining the water issue, took a look at their own property
but they failed to acknowledge that if you start paving over
13 acres of land, which they probably will do in putting down
250 parking spaces, the water will have to go somewhere.”
In addition, Sokal expressed concern over the increased cost
to the city with the construction of the student housing.
dormitories are going to be located in the city, so the fire
and police departments will have to respond to emergency situations,”
Sokal said. “The city will have to deal with the downstream
storm-water sewage from the proposed project, and it seems
as though the university has said that there will be absolutely
no increase in their PILOT payments to the city nor will there
be any taxes coming to the city for all the additional costs
inflicted on the city.”
According to Sokal, the city may also lose tax revenue were
the assessed property values of the homes in Eagle Hill to
drop due to the proposed project.
In November 2008, S/L/A/M Architects P.C. prepared a “Feasibility
Study and Options Analysis for New Student Housing,” in which
they identified the three potential sites for new student-housing
construction. While the southeast corner was designated as
the ideal site, two other locations—Dutch Quad West and State
Quad East—were classified as optimal sites.
There may also be a private alternative to new construction
of student housing.
have heard from an attorney representing an owner of a very
large building in the city of Albany,” Sokal said. “He said
that he heard about our situation, and that he had a building
space to offer that would be a very good alternative to the
university constructing.” According to Sokal, the space would
have twice the capacity, is currently available, has previously
been used as dormitory space, and would be available for a
fraction of the cost. He said that he does not know where
this building is located, and that the attorney would not
name his client. Sokal declined to name the attorney, saying
that he did not want to jeopardize what he considers to be
the best way out for the neighborhood and the university.
Communication between the residents and the university had
been limited prior to the public hearing last Thursday. Thirteenth
Ward Common Councilman Dan Herring sent a letter to the university
president on behalf of the Eagle Hill neighborhood outlining
concerns over the proposed project. Phillips responded with
a letter saying that the university does intend to communicate
with the residents of Eagle Hill, but that “at this point
into the project, we are still evaluating site conditions
and have not yet hired the architects to start the design
draft generic environmental impact statement is due out at
the end of October,” Sokal said, “and at that time the university
would state their position concerning the proposed construction.
It’s critical that any action that does occur takes place
before that report is issued.”
A call to John Giarrusso was directed to Media Relations,
who did not return a call as of press time.
a series of unsolved muggings, residents in Troy form a new
Di Cianno was hanging out in front of his downtown office
on State Street in Troy, talking with three of his coworkers
shortly after midnight two weeks ago when the four were mugged
at gunpoint by two young men. The assailants stole wallets
and telephones and pistol whipped two of their victims, but
no one was seriously hurt.
Di Cianno opened his office to more than two dozen downtown
residents as they came together to meet with TPD Officer William
Wade for an introductory meeting about forming a neighborhood
had four armed robberies in two weeks,” a woman from Little
Italy began the meeting. “What is going on?”
sidestepped answering this question directly, instead pointing
out that this was only the first in what could be a long-term
series of monthly meetings. The basics for community interactions
with the police were covered. Many of the people at the meeting
said that in their years as Troy residents they had never
experienced this level of violence.
lived downtown almost 20 years, and there are always isolated
incidents,” said Councilman Bill Dunne (D-District 4). “But
I don’t ever recall a gun ever being involved. And for four
young, healthy guys to get attacked, there is a frightening
arrogance to that.”
Chupka, a resident of Liberty Street for the past seven years,
called the recent spate of muggings “unusual.”
recent mugging occurred on Liberty Street. A man was on the
sidewalk, feigning illness. He and another man attacked their
victim when he stopped to help.
is a different kind of crime. It’s provocative,” Chupka said,
pointing out that the attack occurred during the day. “I am
more careful when I walk down the street; I look around a
lot more. We never did that. We didn’t have that fear.”
to Troy Police Chief Nick Kaiser, “This is not a huge trend.
Of course, one incident is more than we want and it is more
than downtown might have experienced in the past, but this
is just a few individuals responsible for this series. And
this series is not as extensive as you would think from the
sound of things.”
are predators who watch for people who are easy targets,”
he continued, “so until we make an arrest in this, I would
hope that people would take precautions, walk with other people,
walk in lighted areas.”
interested in taking part in this new neighborhood group can
visit the next Troy Neighborhood Association Council meeting
on Wednesday (Sept. 30) from 5:30 to 7 PM at the Sanctuary
for Independent Media.
of a 2007 Metroland cover story charged in brutal slaying
teenagers were charged Monday in the slaying of University
at Albany student Richard Bailey, almost a year after the
incident took place. Bailey was shot in the head during a
robbery attempt while walking along Albany’s South Lake Avenue
on Oct. 20, 2008. Bailey, who hailed from Wantagh, Long Island,
was returning home after watching Monday Night Football. He
had wanted to become a New York City police officer.
Devon Callicutt of Rensselaer is accused of shooting Bailey
and has been charged with first degree murder. Seventeen-year-old
King Modest of Albany and 18-year-old Ricardo Caldwell of
Schenectady have been charged with murder in the second degree
and attempted robbery. All three pleaded not guilty. Bailey’s
murder heightened concerns about gun violence and shook the
relatively quiet Pine Hills neighborhood.
2007, Metroland was invited by Albany Common Councilman
Corey Ellis to meet with young men in the West Hill neighborhood
to discuss an effort they were undertaking to spotlight the
needs of kids and young adults in the neighborhood in an effort
to reduce street violence and gang involvement.
those young men was Modest. Metroland’s first meeting
with Modest and his friends took place on the corner of Second
and Quail streets. Ellis was there as well. Modest was in
the process of interviewing local kids about what would improve
their lives and get them off the streets after school.
immediately made an impression. He was bright, knowledgeable
and charismatic, but only moments after the conversation with
Modest began, a brawl broke out just a few feet away. Modest
and his friends were drawn toward it, despite being in the
middle of a conversation with a reporter and despite Ellis’
presence. Ellis did his best to restrain the teens, but they
were compelled toward the chaos.
calmed down after one teen was beaten over the head with a
chair and left twitching on the sidewalk. The police eventually
arrived, and Modest returned to Ellis’ side. Modest insisted
that despite the incident, he wanted “positive” things reported.
He was interested in making sure that readers understood what
his and other teens’ lives were like. Much had been made in
the media about after-school violence, and Modest felt teens
were not getting their say.
returned multiple times to the corner in Arbor Hill. Sometimes
Modest was there. One day he spent time interviewing kids
for his project, but was quickly distracted. Later he took
Metroland on a tour of local hangouts. He warned that
people in the neighborhood regularly got jumped for things
as simple as sneakers and jewelry.
the print date neared, Modest became harder to find. Ellis
worried about him and searched for him at his regular hangouts.
At the time, Ellis openly worried that Modest could not separate
himself from friends who were headed down the wrong path.
He said Modest knew what he needed to do to escape a life
on the streets, but wanted to make sure he brought his friends
with him. Ellis said Modest was constantly asking him to get
his friends and relatives jobs to help them out.
said it has been about a year and a half since he last saw
Modest, but that he had spoken to his aunt during that time.
She assured Ellis that Modest was doing well in school. Ellis
declined to comment further, noting that the case was ongoing.
But Ellis did say he was not going to stop mentoring young
people. “If there are young men and women that need mentoring,
I will be there,” said Ellis. “I’m not going to stop.”
in the House
case you didn’t hear, President Barack Obama stopped in the
Capital Region on Monday to visit Hudson Valley Community
College. Before a crowded room of guests, media and the state’s
political elite, the president stumped in support of his administration’s
$100 billion investment in education and technology research.
HVCC has received $2 million in funds from the Federal Recovery
Act to expand the college’s training in green and energy-efficient
loose ends this week-