Center for Every Neighborhood?
for a community center in North Central Troy win their first
victory, but it will be an uphill battle
On Dec. 28, 2009, the executive director of the Troy Family
YMCA, Patrick Ciraulo, sent a letter to members of the Troy
City Council urging them to not pass a resolution providing
initial funds for a proposed North Central Troy community
center. At first blush, the attempt by the well-respected
nonprofit to undercut the efforts of a fledging, like-minded
organization might have be surprising. But, as Ciraulo pointed
out, there isn’t much money to go around for nonprofits in
Troy, and new competition isn’t welcome.
short,” his letter concludes, “we feel the use of this money
would be better served by providing funds to an organization
that already has many high-quality programs and services in
the community before we consider adding another organization.”
Ciraulo added that the Y is looking into purchasing a 15-passenger
van to “help those in the North Central community participate
in the programs we offer.”
Republican Councilman Mark McGrath, who represents North Central,
had proposed the legislation that would direct $15,000 from
Troy’s Community Development Block Grant budget to fund a
study exploring the economic and practical feasibility of
the new center. He scoffed at the idea that dispatching a
van from the 21st Street Y down Hoosick Street into North
Central was a substitute for a neighborhood community center.
they’re saying is, ‘We’ll throw them a bone,’” McGrath complained.
“They feel that the money belongs to them, and it’s insulting.”
For the past year and a half, McGrath has worked with Catholic
Charities and a coalition of advocates with the North Central
Troy Community Development Committee to formulate the proposal
for a community center. The first step was to secure this
$15,000. Despite some concerns, the council passed the resolution
last Thursday 9 to 0.
As Council President Clem Campana put it, “How could you vote
The proposed community center would sit on a plot of city-owned
land between 7th and 8th avenues between Ingalls Avenue and
Middleburgh Street, according to the Rev. Cornelius Clark
of Holy Serenity Church of God in Christ in Troy, a member
of the development committee. The center would offer workforce
development and training in coordination with Hudson Valley’s
Community College’s Development Institute, as well as family
support services, a food pantry, literacy programs, elder-health
advocacy and youth-guidance and athletics programs.
had hoped to be where we are now with the feasibility study
last summer,” Clark said, as the process is taking a much
longer time than they had hoped. “We are looking at this from
the inside, and we are looking at the need of the people of
you look at North Central Troy, name something that there
is that services that community. You can’t, because there
is nothing relative to what there is in other neighborhoods
of Troy,” Clark said. “It is the most desperate area in the
city of Troy, and it has been that way for a long time. It
is the highest crime area in Troy. Statistics show that it
has the highest level of poverty in Troy.” North Central is
arguably the most underserved and desperate community in the
entire Capital Region.
Democratic Councilman Ken Zalewski said that although the
council funded the first step toward a community center, whether
he continues to support it will depend on how thorough the
feasibility study is.
Zalewski pointed to the extra competition for a limited pool
of funds that another nonprofit will cause. “There is a limited
amount of funds for all of these organizations,” he said.
“They are always barely able to stay open. You build another,
where is the money coming from?”
And sometimes these facilities find they can’t stay open.
This is exactly what happened to the South Troy Boys and Girls
Club, “the elephant in the room,” Zalewski said. “There was
an attempt made years ago, and it failed.”
Council President Clem Campana was a volunteer for 15 years
at the now-defunct club. He remembers it as an exciting and
worthwhile endeavor, but one that called for constant struggle.
“We fought every year to try and stay open, and eventually
we couldn’t,” Campana said. “It just got to the point that
the overhead and the insurance couldn’t be dealt with.” The
city spent millions of dollars on a new building for the club,
but the building sat vacant for years until the city finally
sold it to Russell Sage.
certainly recognize the need up there,” Campana said of North
Central. “But our primary concern is that it would thin out
an already anemic stream of Community Block Grant funding.”
they do a good job with the feasibility study, they have the
fiscal impacts laid out, how it will get its funds, how it
will differ from the South Troy Boys and Girls Club, then
I can support it,” Zalewski said. “If it doesn’t address all
of these, we will be kidding ourselves to think we are going
to be able to do this.”
As one insider in the Democratic Party, which controls the
council, said bluntly, “I don’t see how this is going to fly.
Show me the money.”
Madison Avenue Diet
Albany gears up for a renovation of Madison Avenue, some Pine
Hills residents want to see a commitment to bicycle safety
As cars continue to speed down Madison Avenue, one of Albany’s
most prominent thoroughfares for bicycle traffic, the Pine
Hills Neighborhood Association is duly in motion. Virginia
Hammer, secretary of PHNA, hopes to condense the street’s
traffic with her proposal of a “traffic calming” plan through
lane reduction. This is a process that would transform Madison
Avenue’s current four-lane structure into two traffic lanes
and a center left-turn lane, which would allow space for the
addition of bicycle lanes—a procedure that is understood to
have numerous safety benefits for drivers, bicyclists and
The proposed restriping of Madison Avenue from Swan Street
to Allen Street would provide a “safer route from uptown to
downtown,” according to Laurenz Worden, a PHNA and Albany
Bicycle Coalition member, “which is a critical part of any
Hammer’s activism is in response to a Transportation Improvement
Program proposal, submitted by the city of Albany in November,
which is primarily dedicated to the cosmetic and infrastructural
renovation of Madison Avenue: improving the condition of existing
pavement, sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic controls, intersections
and drainage—with no plan to reduce the lanes or introduce
bicycle amenities. If this project is approved by the Capital
District Transportation Committee and then implemented, its
lifespan would be about 20 years, which prompted advocates
to voice their concerns now.
PHNA and their supporters have been attempting to educate
the public about their traffic-calming plan and its safety
and effectiveness in reducing the traffic on Madison Avenue.
According to a U.S. Department of Transportation Study Report,
a road that has an average daily traffic of less than 20,000
cars is a valid candidate for lane reduction, or a “road diet”
as it’s often called. As stated in the city’s proposal, Madison
Avenue’s ADT is 14,500, which “makes it perfect,” according
to Hammer, “well under the 20,000 limit.”
density is low enough that it’s amenable to three lanes,”
said Worden. “Some studies show that while speed decreases,
it actually reduces travel time.”
The 2008 lane reduction of Manning Boulevard has “made a world
of difference,” said Duane Barker, member of the Manning Boulevard
Neighborhood Association. He was asked to join PHNA’s committee
for lane reduction on Madison due to his involvement with
the Manning Boulevard process.
Avenue is dangerous,” he said, “whether you’re a driver, pedestrian
In the last two years, Madison Avenue has been the site of
two fatal accidents in which pedestrians attempted to cross
the four-lane road. According to Barker, the traffic-calming
plan will enforce the speed limit, as well as allow more room
for pedestrians and bicyclists.
perplexing to all of us,” said Barker, “is that this type
of engineering design seems to be such a mystery here in Albany,
when you can find state studies where this works. It’s kind
of beyond us as to why that hasn’t caught on.” Lane- reduction
plans have been successful in cities such as Syracuse, Athens,
Ga., and Vancouver, Wash.
The CDTC is holding a meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 9:30
AM at 1 Park Place in Albany to start the discussion of whether
this project, along with 83 others, will be funded. The meeting
is open to the public.
Federal TIP funding is available for Albany’s reconstruction
proposal. City planners have told PHNA that it would be an
additional cost and effort to study the need for a lane reduction.
Albany’s Department of Development and Planning was not available
bottom line for all this is safety,” said Barker, “safety
for all the residents.”
loose ends this week-