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The Rich Get Richer

Despite overall economic growth in the past 20 years, the gap between high and low-income families nationally is wider than ever. And New York state takes first place, with the widest gap between rich and poor in the nation.

According to a report titled Pulling Apart: A State by State Analysis of Income Trends, released on April 23 by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute, the richest 20 percent of families in New York state make 13 times the amount than the poorest 20 percent—a gap that has grown over the past 20 years.

The study compared information from the Census Bureau’s March Current Population Survey to determine state-specific figures. Researchers combined data from 1998, 1999 and 2000 to compare with data from the late 1970s, adjusted for inflation.

The report showed that the average income of the poorest families in New York state decreased by $790, from $13,430 annually to $12,640. Meanwhile, the average income of the richest families has increased by $108,110 from $158,430 to $266,530. Figures are in constant 1999 dollars.

“People from all walks of life, from laborers to corporate executives, contributed to a strong level of overall economic growth that dominated much of the 1980s and 1990s,” said Elizabeth McNichol, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and coauthor of the report. “It is a problem when everyone does not share in the resulting prosperity. The United States was built on the ideal that hard work should pay off. That individual who contributes to the nation’s economic growth should reap some of the benefits.”

In addition to New York, other states that share wide gaps between high- and low-income families are Louisiana, Texas, California, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Kentucky. Meanwhile, the only state in the nation where the gap has narrowed is Alaska. The states with the lowest ratios are Iowa, Wyoming, Minnesota, South Dakota, Utah and Indiana.

—N.G.


No Dogs Allowed?

A group of Albany dog owners have informally banded together under the banner of the “Dog Owner’s Association” to express interest in the city’s pending plan to open the first “Animal Park” sometime this year. According to the city of Albany’s Web site (www.albanyny.org), the city plans to construct a park where “dog owners will be able to take advantage of a safe, sanitary, well-lighted and hospitable location to let their dogs run off-leash.”

The dog park has been a long time coming for Albany; the city’s Common Council has often complained that the city’s leash laws, which state that dogs may be unleashed in city parks as long as they are under an owner’s control, are too lax. The council has considered everything from enforcing stricter leash laws, requiring dogs to be on leashes at all times, to banning dogs from public events to (finally) offering dog owners a specific place where their companions can roam free and unfettered.

While the Dog Owner’s Association supports the creation of the dog park, it has petitioned City Clerk Nancy Anderson (who is overseeing the dog park rules and guidelines) to let it know when and if any revisions to the city’s current leash laws may take place. So far, the association has nearly 50 signatures on its petition.

In the past, it has been suggested by the Common Council that if and when a dog park opens, the city should crack down on off-leash dogs—which means that many residents who currently run their dogs in parks near their homes (Washington Park, Lincoln Park, Ridgefield Park and the Hudson-Jay Park, for example) would have to trek their pets to whatever location the city selects for a dog park. And according to information posted on the city Web site, the location that has been selected is neither central nor convenient to any residential Albany neighborhood: “The park will be located at [the Department of General Services] on Erie Boulevard,” the announcement states.

There is no mention of whether a change to the city’s leash law is pending, but the site promises that the city plans to “establish a second park in the western part of the city” at some point in the future. Some dog owners feel that Washington Park would be an ideal location for another dog park, as it is already used by a significant number of dog owners year round who gather at a huge, open field which has been colloquially known for years as “the Dog Field” by dog people and non-dog people alike.

While the city has yet to announce that the Dog Field will be off limits to dogs any time in the near future, there is some concern among dog owners that they could be booted from their doggie recreation area of choice. An e-mail circulated in March by a worried owner assessed the situation by stating: “[Dog owners] most likely comprise the park’s largest group of participants year round—not just during those pleasant sun-filled months. Our voices should be counted. Our presence at various hours in the park acts as a deterrent to the many less-than- desirable activities that occur in and around the park, and we should be viewed as an asset, not a liability. So please let’s band together and address these issues collectively and ask the Common Council and City Clerk’s office to respect and appreciate our input to any possible legislation.”

—Erin Sullivan


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