yet another chapter in the ongoing battle between Bill McLaughlin
and the Center Square Association, a lawsuit has entered the
picture. Just as McLaughlin was about to start renovating
his building, located at 57 Dove St. in Albany, his project
was placed on hold.
The association has filed suit against the Albany Zoning Board
of Appeals in hopes of overturning its February decision to
give McLaughlin a variance to turn the top three floors of
his building, which currently houses only a Laundromat on
the ground floor, into three apartments.
However, current zoning laws for the neighborhood call for
one- and two-family row houses only, which is what the association
wants to see upheld.
are trying to preserve the character and integrity of the
neighborhood,” said Alice Oldfather, president of the Center
Square Association. “The more you turn buildings into rental
units, the further you move away from that.”
She said that the association would like to see more homeowners
rather than renters; allowing the zoning rules to be overturned,
she says, sets a bad precedent.
But McLaughlin disagrees.
am trying to improve their neighborhoods by taking a boarded-up
building and putting it back into shape and doing a historic
job,” said McLaughlin. “But they [the association] would rather
it remained boarded up.”
Part of McLaughlin’s appeal to the board was that the project
was not economically viable unless
he could convert the building into three units. He claimed
economic hardship as the grounds for his variance.
am restoring it historically to what it once was,” said McLaughlin.
“I’ve gone out and hired the best firms in the Capital District,
and probably in the state of New York, to do this. We even
brought in the state preservation people and now we have to
stop because of this.”
But the neighborhood association isn’t buying his plea. Oldfather
said that when McLaughlin bought the building, he knew what
the zoning laws were. He shouldn’t have taken on the property,
she contends, if he couldn’t have afforded to make the restoration
within the guidelines of the zoning laws.
says that economic hardship cannot be self-created,” said
Oldfather. “What this will say is that anyone can buy a building
that they can’t afford with the plans of overriding the current
But McLaughlin said that the zoning board looks at each application
on a one-on-one basis.
restore things at a historically higher level than other people
do, and you can look at any of my properties and see that,”
and Justice For All
Legal Aid Society of New York State held an open house last
Wednesday (April 17) to show off its new, more accessible
office space at 55 Colvin Ave. in Albany.
For years the group was located at 155 Columbia St., just
next to the Albany County family courthouse building. But
according to Lillian Moy, executive director of Legal Aid,
the organization thought it necessary to provide a more convenient
location for its clients.
increasing numbers of poor, abused and disabled people turn
to us as their only source of legal assistance, we need to
ensure that they can access our services,” said Moy. “Our
new offices are accessible to people with mobility impairments,
and [are] located on several bus lines.”
Legal Aid is the oldest legal-services provider in the
United States. The agency offers civil legal aid in urgent,
noncriminal situations to low-income people.
Moy said that its services prevent greater social problems
that result when the legal needs of the poor are not met,
such as homelessness, poverty, and life-threatening abuse.
For example, she said, one client, an 86-year-old woman, received
an eviction notice from her landlord. The woman had no place
to go and very little money to pay for moving expenses. Legal
Aid was able to negotiate with the landlord and buy her more
time in her apartment.
extra time helped her find a new place to live, without her
ending up in the streets,” said Moy. “It would have been very
difficult for her to do that, had she
However, for years now the agency has been facing another
problem: a lack of funding.
Aid doesn’t have enough money to provide service to all of
those who are in need,” said Linda London, spokeswoman for
the agency. “Just about four out of five people are eligible
for our services. But at this point, we can only help one
out of every five.”
The Albany office handles 5,807 cases a year. It has 16 attorneys
employed full-time, and 235 private attorneys who take on
pro bono cases.
Moy said that even if every private attorney in the state
agreed to take one pro bono case a year, it still wouldn’t
be enough to meet the needs of low-income people.
Ironically, this year’s theme for Law Day, May 1—the day designated
by Congress to celebrate guaranteed rights under the law—is
the celebration of freedom and equal justice for all.
issue is really what legal aid tries to address all year long,”
marched up State Street in Albany on Friday night (April 19)
in a candlelight vigil to protest the United States’ continued
bombing on the island of Vieques. The U.S. Navy has been using
Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico, as a training
facility for over 60 years, despite continuous outrage by
inhabitants. Many Vieques natives blame the bombings for an
alarming increase in cancer and respiratory problems, and
the harm done to the island’s tropical forests and beaches.
The demonstrators marched to the downtown campus of the University
at Albany on Western Avenue for a send-off rally for those
heading to Washington, D.C., for a national protest to call
for an end to war and racism around the world. More than 150
people were loading buses headed for the nation’s capital
as the protesters advocated for peace around the world, noting
in particular Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Vieques.