Before the Dawn?
was an awakening experience. I’m a little bit beat up,” said
Albany Common Councilman Anton Konev (Ward 11) after being
knocked down and robbed while making the half-block walk from
a restaurant to his home on Sunday night.
According to Konev, two men pushed him down from behind and
stole his cell phone and ring. It wasn’t until he realized
that calls had been made on his cell phone that he decided
to file a complaint.
You see, Konev has been attacked in Albany before. It is becoming
a routine. During his time as a graduate student at the University
at Albany, Konev was held to the street by six men and beaten
up until they got bored because he wasn’t fighting back. That
event inspired Konev to start a student neighborhood watch
and demand more security from local campuses.
Police weren’t thrilled that Konev made such a fuss about
student safety a few days before the 2005 election. Jerry
Jennings faced neighborhood activist and Green Party candidate
Alice Green, and the incumbent mayor didn’t need any headaches.
Jennings won that election despite a surprisingly strong showing
Since then, we have seen more violence around campuses, former
police Chief James Tuffey’s dismantling of community policing,
the murder of University at Albany student Richard Bailey,
Tuffey’s resignation after he allegedly told officers that
Bailey was not just some “spook” who got killed, and Jennings’
reelection in 2009. Again Jennings’ opponent, this time Councilman
Corey Ellis, was able to rack up surprisingly high numbers
What does all of this have to do with Konev getting jumped?
It is just a sad reminder that Jennings has remained in charge,
appointing and firing police chief after police chief (six
chiefs have served while Jennings has been in office) as Albany’s
citizens continue to deal with increasing crime and urban
I live in Mr. Konev’s ward; he is my councilman. The street
I live on was an absolute wonderland when I was in high school.
I would buy vinyl at Music Shack, coats at Spector’s and hang
out with friends at a game store. That street would likely
now be considered one of the least safe areas in the 11th
ward, but I believe in the neighborhood, I always have. I
wonder if Mr. Jennings still believes in my stretch of Central
Avenue. I wonder if he spends much time there.
My girlfriend’s car has been broken into twice. We have had
the police knock on our door at 4 AM to tell us her car was
towed because her window was smashed with a rock by two junkies
looking for change. A few blocks from my apartment, in West
Hill, I spent time with King Modest and his friends while
Ellis tried to help them escape lives of violence. All they
wanted was an after-school spot with sandwiches and X-boxes.
Later Modest would plead guilty to his involvement in the
robbery and murder of Bailey.
Thinking about this makes me swell with hurt. I am consumed
with an overwhelming sadness about what has happened to the
street I once so admired, the city I once aspired to live
in. I am eaten up with indignation that those in charge seem
more concerned with helping their developer friends and building
convention centers than they do about keeping the city’s neighbhorhoods
safe and intact.
But Konev had a bit of good news. The officer who drove him
home from the station on Monday after he filed his report
worked for 13 years on a beat in Park South, and he is looking
forward to being back on a beat. Police Chief Steven Krokoff
is putting together a Neighborhood Engagement Unit that will
return community policing to Albany, allowing officers to
establish relationships in the community, and hopefully win
back the trust they lost under Tuffey.
There are obstacles in the way; civil service rules have to
be followed, jobs for each beat must be posted, so it will
take some time. I hope Jennings stays as far away from it
as possible. But Councilman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1) says
he has seen some results already. “There is a different feeling
out there. People realize the police have reached out, and
now the community needs to get involved. There is a lot of
trepidation and fear to get over, but we are getting there.”
I know I look forward to meeting the officer assigned to patrol
my neighborhood, and I expect the same can be said for most
of the people who live on my street. It gives me hope for
Albany that despite these trying financial times, a city budget
collapsing under years of mismanagement and taxes that are
expected to skyrocket, some good is still being done in the
city that I love.
King is the state government editor of the online publication
Gotham Gazette (gothamgazette.com).