for his close-up: Albany Common Councilman John Rosenzweig
at the announcement of Albany’s public access TV deal.
announces that it has (finally) struck a deal for public access
The city of Albany has an nounc ed plans for a public access
cable television system (including educational and government
channels) more than 30 years after neighboring cities such
as Schenectady and Bethlehem implemented similar public services.
Monday, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings and Common Councilman
John Rosenzweig (Ward 8) announced a new franchise agreement
between the city and Time Warner Cable. Along with all the
formal verbiage covering legal and geographical considerations,
this new, 10-year contract contains a section titled Public,
Educational and Government Access Channels and Service.
Under the terms of this part of the new agreement, Time Warner
will provide funding for equipment to be provided at five
locations for training, programming and broadcasting purposes.
The cost to Time Warner will not be more than $217,000 until
2013, at which point Albany may request up to $217,000 more
for repairs and additional equipment. A board of directors
that will oversee the allocation of funds has yet to be announced,
but is expected to consist of council members as well as representatives
from the community, the College of St. Rose, the New School
of Radio and Television and Albany Public Library.
The College of St. Rose and the New School of Radio and Television
will be receiving funding for additional equipment as well
as providing space and already existing equipment for educational
use. Representatives from both schools have pledged to provide
training, and they are expected to be the main producers of
the government and educational programs. This situation, said
Rosenzweig, is optimal because it benefits the students and
because it should result in a “more refined product.” St.
Rose has also dedicated 10 dates during the upcoming year
during which the general public will be able to access their
new Communications Center and learn to work with state-of-the-art
equipment, according to Rosenzweig.
The third location, a studio to be built at the main branch
of the Albany Public Library, will be the main access point
for the public. The library has agreed to supply the space,
but not the personnel, for a new studio to be used primarily
for the public access channel. The location was chosen due
to its central location and bus-route accessibility. The new
studio will include an actual interview set with lighting
kit, camera equipment, a prompter, a widescreen television
and an editing system.
Albany High School will receive computers and monitors, as
well as recording and editing equipment for educational purposes.
Students will be able to take classes and work on programming
in conjunction with the New School and St. Rose. Camera and
sound equipment will also be provided for Albany City Hall
to record and broadcast public government meetings.
One drawback to the new PEG system is that those who do not
subscribe to Time Warner Cable will most likely not be able
to access the public and educational channels. Rosenzweig
has said that they hope to be able to convert government programs
to a supportable format on the city’s Web site and to make
them available there. It is unlikely that they will do so
with the educational or public access programming.
The idea to bring public access television to Albany is not
a new one. A committee formed more than seven years ago, then
fizzled before action was taken, even amid myriad requests
from the community. “We’re 20 years behind the times,” said
Councilman Dom inick Calsolaro (Ward 1), who was a member
of the original committee. “We borrowed equipment from Bethlehem
for years,” he said, adding that the grassroots effort, Albany
Community Television, has been filming the Common Council
and school board meetings more recently. (You can find Albany
Community Television online at albanycommunitytelevision.com.)
In 2006, after taking office, Rosenzweig requested that the
merits of a public access system be reconsidered and Common
Council President Pro Tem Richard Conti (Ward 6) agreed, naming
him chairman of the ad hoc committee. According to Rosenzweig,
the first step was to reach out to the public for input. He
said that, after meeting with community members, neighborhood
organizations and educational institutions, “The desire and
the need for it had been clearly demonstrated.” The next step,
then, was to figure out how to implement it.
It is not unusual for cable companies to buy franchises from
the cities in which they do business, the franchise fee essentially
paying for the use of the land on which they install poles,
cables and any other public necessities required to supply
a vast majority of the population with a service. Albany is
currently receiving 5 percent of Time Warner’s gross income,
according to Rosenzweig. It makes good fiscal sense for Albany
then, he said, to make use of that already-existing, mutually
beneficial relationship when undertaking such a potentially
The proposed contract will go before the Common Council for
approval in early February and must be approved by the Public
Service Commission before it will be implemented. If all goes
according to plan, Rosenzweig said that he hopes to have the
system up and running by the time school starts next September.
and researchers worry New York state budget crunch will derail
progress on spinal cord injuries
Last week, victims and researchers of spinal cord injuries
in New York state faced the prospect that more than 10 years
of discoveries toward a cure may have been futile. According
to Gov. David Paterson’s budget proposal, the Spinal Cord
Injury Research Fund is being “phased out,” along with many
other public heath programs, in an attempt to reclaim $14.5
The fund was created in 1998 with the advocacy of Albany resident
and former State Trooper Paul Richter, who was shot in the
leg, arm, and neck while on duty in 1973. The near-fatal shot
to the neck—though leaving him paralyzed for six months—motivated
Richter to fight for a cure.
Although his injury forced him to retire at the age of 36,
Richter still believes he is lucky to have regained the ability
to walk with a cane. As chapter coordinator of the New York
Spinal Cord Society, he became active helping others with
spinal cord injuries, eventually organizing a grassroots campaign
to get legislation passed in New York that specifically funds
a Spinal Cord Injury Research Board. Funding is administered
through the New York State Health Department and provided
by a small surcharge on moving violations, since the majority
of SCIs are caused by motor vehicle accidents. This can add
up to about $8.5 million annually.
injuries are just so devastating,” said Richter, who proudly
displays a photograph of himself and late actor and activist
Christopher Reeve watching Gov. George Pataki as he signs
the Paul Richter bill into law on July 14, 1998. “And this
bill was a wonderful thing.”
New York’s SCIRB was the first of its kind in the country.
After its creation, other states followed suit. The extensive
research funded by this program is intended to benefit patients
of various nervous system disorders.
sparked a very intensive and focused research effort on the
problem of damaged spinal neurons,” said legal consultant
and friend of Richter’s, Terry O’Neill. “And everything that
we learned from focusing on that single problem has all kinds
of implications for brain injury, multiple sclerosis, all
kinds of diseases and injuries to the nervous system.”
Since it has been introduced into law, the fund has given
over $54 million to various research programs in the state,
and many discoveries have been made “that will eventually
lead to a cure,” said Richter. “After so many years, it’s
really obscene that they’re even considering terminating this
program,” he said. “It’s disgraceful.”
The SCIRB currently has 49 ongoing projects that it hopes
to be able to complete. “To terminate it now would be so awful,”
said Dr. Sally Temple, scientific director of the New York
Neural Stem Cell Institute in Rensselaer. “There are so many
of us with promising lines of research that would just be
left without completion.” Temple works for an independent
non-profit institute focused on nervous system therapies using
stem cells. They have been funded for about eight years and
have had “really exciting results,” according to Temple, including
approving a drug for multiple sclerosis, as a result of studying
stem cells in the spinal cord. Temple was awarded the MacArthur
“genius” award in 2008 for her work with stem cells, showing
great potential for future discoveries.
Upon receiving the notice of termination from the New York
State Health Commission, Richter and his supporters are ready
to fight for their cause.
are launching an effort to get together all the people that
helped us put this program together in the first place,” said
O’Neill. “Our intent was a long-term investment in something
that was going to pay off handsomely in terms of helping people
with injuries and developing this cutting-edge high-tech industry
here in New York.”
Those who hope for the continuation of this program claim
that it should not significantly affect the budget, since
it is generated by the surcharges on traffic fines. Furthermore,
the community believes that this program would benefit the
economy with the creation of jobs for researchers and scientists,
as well as reducing the cost of assisting those with spinal
are thousands of people living in the state with spinal cord
injuries, and the cost to society to maintain those people
through social-service medical help is enormous,” said Richter.
“So if we could solve that problem, it would actually save
taxpayers money in the long run.”
There are cuts made in every other sector of the budget. “There
are a lot of worthy programs,” said Jessica Bassett, spokesperson
for the budget division. “But the unfortunate reality of closing
a $7.4 billion deficit is that we’re not able to fund these
programs.” Bassett said the amount that was appropriated for
the spinal cord injury fund will return to the general fund
Richter and his supporters plan to voice their opinion in
a public hearing in front of the finance committee.
termination could really set back spinal cord injury research
significantly, said Richter. “In the last 10 years, we’ve
created a wonderful foundation we hope to build on for future
Temple, who recognizes Richter as “a great hero,” hopes to
continue in this effort for the sake of everyone belonging
to the spinal-cord-injury community.
all just devastated,” she said.
loose ends this week-