tries to put the kibosh on beat officers
Crime rates may have fallen in Albany over the last five years,
but the reputation of the Albany Police Department has remained
basically the same—abysmal. Following the latest in a long
series of public disappointments—former Albany Police Chief
Tuffey resigned amid a slew of controversies in 2009—his successor
Steve Krokoff has embarked on a mission to repair the considerable
rift between APD and the community it serves. Hailed a “shining
progressive” by active members of the community, Krokoff announced
last January that the policing philosophy of the department
was shifting to a more community-based model.
Thrilled, community members jumped at the chance to engage
with the police in their neighborhoods. Committees were formed,
recommendations were made, plans were approved and things
seemed to be moving quickly. In less than a year, the police
have already begun to exhibit more of a presence within their
communities and taken specific steps to increase multicultural
Then the Albany Police Officers Union stepped in.
The president of the Albany Police Officers Union and the
New York State Law Enforcement Officer’s Union, Christian
Mesley, has filed labor grievances, followed by an injunction,
to prevent the community-policing effort from going any further
until certain issues have been resolved, primarily the question
of flexible hours for police officers serving in that unit.
Because of the nature of the new unit, APD decided that its
officers would be subject to occasional scheduling changes,
something that is currently allowed only in two other units
and that Mesley says should not be allowed at all. “We notified
the city at a labor management meeting on Nov. 3 that we felt
that they didn’t have the right to impose flexible hours and
pick the days off of the officers that were bidding the unit.”
Public opposition to the unions’ legal maneuvering has been
considerable. Twelve concerned citizens spoke out on Monday
night during the public-hearing portion of the Common Council
meeting—comparing the former department philosophy with the
Gestapo, lauding the progress that has already been made and
pleading with the Council to take steps to ensure that the
process continues uninterrupted. “What a great way to destroy
the trust that has been established between the APD and the
community,” said Vera Michelson, an active member of the community
who has been engaging the police department for years. “The
chief tells us, sorry guys, we have to wait to see how this
arbitrator’s going to rule before we establish the CUE. And
when will that be? Six months?”
Michelson told Metroland, “We’ve come so far; we are
so close. People have not seen this kind of hope before and
they do now and that’s because there’s a lot of work that’s
been done—by the chief, by officers and by the community.”
She also mentioned that the officers who were bidding to become
a part of the new unit were aware of the required flex-time
before they placed their bids and should not have a problem
Mesley countered that the 37 officers who bid for the community-policing
positions had been assured that the union was going to fight
flexible hours and expressed surprise at the community response
on Monday night. Mesley denied a request for copies of the
grievances, saying that it would be “in poor taste.” When
questioned as to his reasons for opposing flexible hours,
he said that was “best left for arbitration.” He also declined
to comment on allegations that his actions are politically
motivated. (He has been quoted as saying that his real purpose
in filing the injunctions is to gain votes, as the APOU is
losing members to a new organization.)
understand that some of his concerns may be valid,” said Jamel
Muhammad, one of 19 members on the Albany Community Police
Advisory Committee, “But I don’t see why we couldn’t have
worked them out during the process. Is there really a need
to hold everything up?” Muhammad, who was tapped for the committee
by his councilman, Dominick Calsolaro, is a resident of Ward
2 and has lived in Albany all his life. He sees a very real
need for effective community policing efforts.
remember coming up in the ’70s and ’80s,” Muhammad told Metroland
this week, “All the police officers who would walk around—they
knew the families, they knew the children, they knew everybody.
Locking people up wasn’t the order of the day, especially
if it was a younger person. They were more interested in finding
out who the parents were and talking with them in order to
help them and improve the situation of the child before they
went down the wrong roads.”
Muhammed, who has experience on both sides of the law, believes
that it not only takes a village to raise a child, but that
“it also takes a village to keep the village safe.”
the big guy vs. the small guy as Congress battles over food
This fall, the battle to pass the Food Safety Modernization
Act in the Senate has pitted local farmers against big agriculture.
The public needs protections from food-borne pathogens that
lead to illness and 5,000 deaths per year, according to the
Center for Disease Control. Yet working out how to regulate
the food industry has been tricky.
Few question the need for change in food safety, although
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) claimed the food industry was self-regulating,
and proposed a substitute bill, which was praised by Glenn
Beck. Food writing giants Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser
dismissed Coburn’s claims and urged the passage of Senate
bill S.510 on The New York Times Opinion page
Nov. 28. Countless groups echoed the effort, working behind
the scenes in Washington and rallying Americans to call their
The Senate passed S.510 last Tuesday with clear bipartisan
support—73 to 25—but the fight isn’t over. Within days, the
House, which had approved its own version of the bill over
a year earlier and needed to approve the bill before it went
to the president, objected to the Senate version on legal
grounds: S.510 contains funding directives, and only the House
can initiate such items.
Given the changes to Congress that will happen in January,
the setback is causing tension. New laws have not been applied
to the Food and Drug Administration in 70 years. The FDA was
founded in 1906 to handle issues of food purity and labeling
as the food supply became industrialized.
nature of food production has changed dramatically,” said
Kendra Howard-Smith, from University at Albany’s History Department.
“The scope of the job the FDA has today is much broader than
what is was at the turn of the 20th century, just in terms
of trying to account for much larger scale, much more food
and much more complex food in terms of its contents.”
Food anxieties at the time focused on things like tainted
milk and snake oil remedies. Our current anxieties focus on
chemical additives, and bacterial trails in the food chain.
think it’s absolutely a step in the right direction,” said
Smith-Howard of the bill’s public-health implications. “There
have been cases in which industry, even when their food has
been contaminated, has refused to cooperate with recalls which
is troubling and potentially hazardous to the health of other
Recent outbreaks include widespread salmonella in eggs from
a mega-distributor who had chicken cities populated with 125,000
ill-tended hens. A peanut producer found evidence of salmonella
in 2009, and kept testing until the tests didn’t show salmonella.
The need for change is clear.
However, when the House version passed last summer, there
were few protections for small-scale farmers, who should not,
advocates argue, be subject to the same kind of oversight
as the industrial food chain. To demonstrate why, Steve Gilman,
Policy Coordinator for NOFA, the Northeast Organic Farming
Association, explained the 2006 spinach salmonella outbreak.
spinach that came from one field from one farm got comingled
with baby spinach from other farms,” said Gilman. “One little
outbreak affected people in 27 states and six people died.
There’s an example of the industrialized food system being
far more risky than the small-scale sector. We wanted to make
sure that the risk got reflected in the rules, and the protections
that we managed to get included in S.510 kept small-scale
farmers from being included in the definition of a facility.”
The “we” Gilman includes is a task force from the Northeast
Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, NOFA affiliates, and efforts
of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, among
other activists, such as FarmAssist Productions in Columbia
The insulation is not sought to exempt these farmers from
scrutiny, but to eliminate paperwork demands required to work
with the FDA. The farms in question are regulated by state
agencies. The Tester amendment within S.510 defines small-scale
farms as those with sales under $500,000 and distribution
range under 275 miles. Text in the bill also assures education
to make farmers aware of the points where pathogens can enter
There are larger-scale farms that may not fall under the umbrella
dollar wise, such as Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook, whose CSA
has 1,000 shareholders, and distributes from Albany to Manhattan.
While this range fits the regulations, Jean-Paul Courtens
is not sure how the farm’s operations will be affected.
amendment would have made more sense to exclude any farm that
direct markets its produce from farm to table. Future regulations
will greatly impact our operation, and we will have two choices:
downsize or build a million-dollar packing-house,” said Courtens.
What will happen with S.510 is unclear. Speculation is that
the House will look at the bill this week. Word is that the
nation’s produce industry organizations—United Fresh Produce
Association and the Produce Marketing Association—are working
to get the key Tester amendment dropped.
local food system is biting into their bottom line,” said
Gilman of the large produce groups. “So we’re really making
an impact. And they’re trying to kill this bill so that small-scale
farmers won’t be protected.”
says it’s time to bulldoze City Hall
has fallen upon Trojans and their City Council members over
the bids that are being held for the demolition of One Monument
Square on Dec. 14 and the concerns that have been raised over
the future of the vacant City Hall. Mayor Harry Tutunjian
said it’s time to demolish.
goal is to offer a shovel-ready site with no building on it,”
Tutunjian said. “Ideally I would like to have the process
be seamless: As the plans for the building are taking place,
the demolition is taking place so there is not a lapse in
time on the movement of the site.” Tutunjian said that he
would like to see construction right away while there is still
interest in the site.
according to Tutunjian, is to seek bids for proposals from
developers. “We went for requests for quotations and requests
for proposals to get someone to come forward with an idea
and say, ‘This is what I want to do with this site.’”
Councilman Gary Galuski said he thinks Tutunjian might be
“putting the cart in front of the horse,” by not having some
proof of potential development before One Monument Square
comes down. “We just want a plan for the site,” Galuski said,
adding that he doesn’t like the idea of not having council
chambers in City Hall’s Verizon building location.
said that the city could buy the Verizon building when the
lease is up. “There is a meeting space in there that will
hold 80 people, but they refuse to use it. We could easily
put on an addition that would accommodate a chamber, but we
would have to own the building and up to this point they’re
a hundred percent against trying to own that building.” He
added that he is in support of the purchase of the Verizon
building because it makes economic sense.
as “putting the cart before the horse,” Tutunjian rebutted,
“What if we don’t demolish it? Then what’s the plan? Is it
the same plan we used for Proctor’s Theater, which is empty
30 years later, and left to rot? The city didn’t take care
of it back then. Who’s going to take care of this building
Deputy Mayor and real estate associate James Conroy has continued
to champion the restoration of One Monument Square since before
his run for Mayor in 2007. Conroy said that he thought putting
One Monument Square out to bid for demolition supplies a “missing
part of the puzzle,” by answering “what is it really
going to cost to knock that building down? Awarding the bid,”
Conroy said, “is a different story.” He said the City Council
does not want any further removal or demolition to the building
without their specific approval. He said that he believes
this should have been done back before the first move took
place. “And for that, the City Council has themselves to blame.”
understand how people can push so hard,” Conroy said, “to
knock down a building that was built for the purpose of being
a city hall, in a location important for a city hall to be,
with out having a firm plan and budget for an alternative.”
said that he is more than willing to accept any plans presented
by the City Council. The problem is, he said, is that there
are no plans. But there haven’t been any real plans for the
site from the start and it seems as though there has been
a lot of talk about what is going to become of the site and
Tutunjian finds that to be a point of contention, along with
the other residents of Troy. He said that until the City Council
approaches him with plans on how to finance the restoration
on the building and tell him, with a mandate, that they want
to move back to Monument Square, his plan will move forward.
now there is mold growing out of the carpets,” Tutunjian said.
“There are puddles of water everywhere. There’s actual, physical
mold growing out of the carpets in City Hall. So to say let’s
not tear it down, and wait. Wait for what? We have a plan,
we spent money on a consultant to design what can go there,
let’s do it. Let’s move forward with it. The time for planning
is over. Let’s start doing. I’ve said that for seven years
now, and we started doing.”
is coming to CDTA bus service in Albany, and the transporatation
authority wants your input
By this time next year, the public transportation system in
Albany County may look very different. The bus route you depend
on may be served by more frequent buses, or it may be replaced
with another route altogether.
The Capital District Transportation Authority is in the process
of a comprehensive route restructuring in Albany, CDTA senior
transportation planner Ross Farrell explained to members of
the community group W.I.T.H. (Woman in the Hood) in a public
meeting this past Saturday (Dec. 4) at the Howe Branch of
the Albany Public Library. The goal is to come up with a plan
that better serves CDTA’s customers, he said, while remaining
This meeting is one of many CDTA has held, and will hold,
with community groups to get public input on the process.
The meetings will continue through January 2011; a draft plan
will be put together in February and March, with the implementation
of the comprehensive changes over summer 2011.
haven’t even designed the actual plan yet,” Ross told transit
activist and South End resident Eizzie Rivers and the other
members of W.I.T.H.
Rivers was instrumental in the effort to collect over 1300
signatures on a petition to increase service to South End
residents along the Morton Avenue corridor; today, Morton
is served in both directions by the No. 9 bus, which runs
infrequently and only on weekdays.
If the purpose of these meetings is to clarify what the public
wants, then this gathering was a success: CDTA, Ross said,
was under the impression that people were most interested
in using a Morton Avenue bus to get to and from Albany Medical
Center. Rivers, and the residents, made it clear that a connection
to the No. 7 bus, which takes people to the Walmart in Glenmont,
was even more important.
A few days earlier, Ross and CDTA made a presentation at City
Hall to the Albany Common Council.
gave us a very brief version of what they present at the community
meetings,” 10th Ward Common Council member Leah Golby said.
Golby, a transit advocate and frequent CDTA rider, is very
interested in the process. “They told us what the most popular
requests [for service] were,” Golby said. “These included
more service on the No. 18 bus, which serves Delaware Avenue,”
she recalled, and support for a Morton Avenue bus.
This week, CDTA will be directly surveying riders on buses
serving the South End as the process moves forward.
For a complete schedule of remaining public meetings and plan
updates, visit cdta.org/albanyservice.
loose ends this week-