yanking my chain: Janice Revella.
Photo by Martin Benjamin..
resident fights City Hall’s attempt to put a bike path in
you ask developers and residents, both probably will tell
you that it comes down to much more than the city of Schenectady
merely building a little bike path through Janice Revella’s
City officials want to connect the East Front Street Pool
area near Union College’s boathouse, in the Stockade section
of Schenectady, with a paved trail that runs through nearby
Riverfront Park. The land the project requires is a little
more than 40 feet long and 20 feet wide. According to the
city’s report on the bike path, released last year, the path
eventually will connect to the 500-mile Canalway Trail that
runs across the state. For Schenectady officials, the ultimate
goal is to bring more visitors to the area and more money
into a cash-strapped city.
The problem is that the city’s land along the water borders
Revella’s property, and to make room for the path, developers
need an easement into her land, cutting across the full length
of her lawn. Revella is holding out, she said, because of
the years and money she has put into making her home what
it is today.
trying to say I’m trying to hold out for more money,” Revella
said. “I can’t put a dollar amount on this property. I love
it. I’ve spent so much time on it with my children and my
grandchildren. . . . It’s the one little corner of the world
that I found, and now it’s a big controversy.”
Revella said she has been at odds with the city over the land
since the late ’90s, when Schenectady Mayor Al Jurczynski
promised the path to Union College so their boathouse could
be accessed more easily.
In a letter written to Revella on Oct. 13 from Steve Strichman,
City of Schenectady zoning and empire zone officer, and James
Sherman, the city’s director of development, the city offered
to buy the property for $110,000 and sell the house back to
her afterward. Revella turned down the money, which is $30,000
more than the property’s fair market appraisal, and more than
the estimated $16,000 value of the waterfront land.
could really use the money,” she said, “but I’m not selling
According to City Councilman Mark Blanchfield, Revella is
not being totally honest. Her ex-husband, Paul Ambrozik, co-owns
the property and has expressed willingness to sell it, Blanchfield
said. He added that as far as he knows, Revella spends much
of her time in Hawaii each year, and is holding out for $20,000
more from the city.
it’s a hard bargain she wants to drive, she’s being successful,”
Under New York’s “eminent domain” law, a city can condemn
land and repossess it for public use, and Schenectady would
be required to compensate Revella only the $16,000 for the
land if it takes that route. However, city officials say they
want to avoid that.
we would prefer not to take this easement by eminent domain,
I ask you at this time to consider our final and best offer,”
Strichman wrote to Revella.
Mayor Jurczynski did not return calls for comment, but in
an article that appeared in the Daily Gazette on Oct.
14, he said, “You can’t do it with her holding out and being
what I consider, unreasonable. . . . She feels the city has
been difficult. To say that she’s been difficult is a mild
Revella also claimed that Strichman and Sherman refuse to
show her any plans for the path and offered conflicting deals.
For example, Sherman reneged on Strichman’s offer to sell
the house back to her.
city has shown no good will,” Revella said.
If the city takes the land against Revella’s will through
eminent domain, she will lose out even after receiving compensation
for it, according to Eli Taub, vice president of the Stockade
Association, which has not yet taken a formal stance on the
you take her piece of property and you say that you want to
give her $16,000, you still destroy the value of her property,”
Whatever Revella’s motivation, Schenectady is running out
of time. The city received a grant from the state to match
Schenectady’s funding on the project, which is only valid
The State Department of Transportation often repossesses land
or does work very close to private property to widen roads,
and towns often have to work through residents’ yards to set
up utilities. The practice is not infrequent, nor is the controversy
surrounding it. Locally, for example, many Clifton Park residents
were outraged two years ago when the town moved to build a
trail that required an easement along the sewer line on their
properties, a plan town officials said at the time that many
residents were warned of before they bought their homes.
While the practice may be common, it is also commonly abused,
according to Dana Berliner, a senior attorney for the Institute
for Justice, a Washington-based libertarian law firm that
represents private residents in many property disputes nationwide.
the overuse of eminent domain is an enormous problem,” Berliner
said. “New York is pretty active in using eminent domain.
. . . There have been around 13 or 14 actual or currently
threatened condemnations in New York in the last five years.”
Berliner said that cities often seize property only to turn
it over to another private owner who will be more profitable.
While no private owner will take over Revella’s property,
Revella said the city is cheating her for its own benefit.
better tell the Guyanese people moving to the city that any
time [the city] wants to condemn their land, they can, because
that’s what they’re doing to me,” Revella said.
charge that Albany County Democrats’ redistricting plan marginalizes
the suburbs and inner-city minorities‘
are carving up this county worse than my 4-year-old butchered
up his pumpkin on Halloween,” said John Graziano Jr., Albany
County Legislature’s Republican minority leader.
Graziano is referring to the Albany County Redistricting Commission’s
plan for redrawing the boundaries of the Albany County Legislature’s
39 districts. He charged that the proposed plan is designed
to keep city Democrats in control of the Albany County Legislature
at the expense of minority and suburban communities.
is city Democrats declaring war on the suburbs,” said Graziano.
“They have fragmented complete towns.”
Redistricting is done every 10 years to adjust for the population
changes that occur in an area. The effort is accomplished
using the U.S. census. The way a district is configured determines
how many representatives a given area will have. The proposed
plan extends several districts, now represented by Albany
Democrats, into nearby towns. For example, the district lines
in Albany will include parts of Bethlehem and Loudonville.
Graziano said that rather than extend the lines from the city
to the suburbs, thereby cutting into some Republican-controlled
areas, the plan should create more districts for suburbanites
and for minorities in the city.
Phillip Chonigman, the county’s redistricting consultant with
GeoPolitical Strategies, disagrees that the plan protects
Democrats’ position in the legislature.
are talking about how many seats? Thirty-nine?” said Chonigman.
“In which 28 are now Democrats. We don’t have to create all
kinds of bizarre strategies to maintain power.”
He added that the goal of redistricting is to balance the
population between the different districts so that each area
maintains close to the same number of voters. The new plan,
he said, which was revealed on Oct 28, is designed to preserve
the county’s three minority districts and protects incumbents
from running against each other for reelection next year.
The main reason, he adds, for moving the lines out of the
city, is due to the population decrease in Albany.
districts are likely to change when you redistrict an area,”
said Chonigman. “At least a little in order to conform to
the equal population requirements, so even those districts
that meet that mean number still might need to change because
a neighboring district is either too high or too low.”
But Graziano said that by looking at the way that the lines
are drawn, it’s obvious that it was done to ensure that seats
held by Democrats are preserved by giving them continued control.
it wasn’t strategic, you would have incumbents running against
incumbents,” said Graziano. “Why not create more districts
in the suburbs? Why cut into other districts and take power
away from Republicans and minorities?”
It is not just the suburbs that are losing out, according
to Graziano. Inner city minorities, he said, deserve another
district as well. Aaron Mair of Arbor Hill agrees with Graziano.
Mair said that according to the 2000 census, the African-American
population in the city of Albany grew by more than 6,000 even
as the total city population declined from 101,082 to 95,658
during the ’90s. This is proof, he said, that another district
should and could be created for minorities.
a hoax to tell folks that they have less political power even
though your population is actually growing,” said Mair. “What
they are really trying to do is maintain hegemony for their
party, and they are using us [minorities] to strip folks in
the suburbs of their power. As a result, we are losing out
on having a voice and having our say over who we elect to
Chonigman said that he has reviewed a counterproposal by Mair
that includes a fourth minority district, and is taking it
into consideration. However, he said, it doesn’t take into
account voting-age population in minority communities, and
it combines black and Hispanic populations, which you can’t
do unless a direct link is established between the two voting
groups. He added that the county could create districts that
include more minorities when drawing the lines, but it would
dilute the other three already existing districts.
numbers, when you refigure them to include those of voting
age, bring the minority population in this fourth district
down to 53 percent. That is barely enough to call it a majority,”
have to follow what the courts say, which is that it is based
on head counts, not voting age,” said Mair. “I consider that
nothing more than a discriminatory ruse to get around the
federally mandated requirements set down to protect voters’
Anne Pope, president of the Albany chapter of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said that
if there is an opportunity to create another minority district,
she would support that.
would create empowerment for our people because they could
elect a person of their choice,” she said.
Pope, who led the fight 10 years ago against the legislature’s
first redistricting plan, said that so far she has been impressed
with the way the county has gone about the process.
have held a number of public hearings and have made an effort
to including the public in the process this time around,”
But for Mair and Graziano, this is not enough. Both have said
that if this plan goes through, they will seek legal action
against the county.
More Balance of Power
Election Day, close races nationwide resulted in the Republican
Party maintaining its majority in the House of Representatives
and overturning Democratic control of the Senate, aligning
the politics of the legislative and executive branches of
the U.S. government.
Prior to Tuesday’s elections, the Senate was evenly split
with 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and two independents (Democrats
held a one-seat advantage until Paul Wellstone’s death a little
over a week ago, and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura’s subsequent
appointing of an independent to replace him in the lame-duck
session). While some races are still up in the air, Republicans
have won at least 50 seats, which, along with Vice President
Dick Cheney’s tie-breaking vote, overtakes the Democratic
majority. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) assumes the role of majority
leader from Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).
Republicans previously held a 223-208 majority in the House,
with one independent and three vacancies. While all 435 representatives
were up for reelection, not every seat was considered in jeopardy.
Republicans appear to have added at least four seats to their
lead with a few close races undecided as of Wednesday.
The shift in seats is numerically small, the GOP’s regaining
control of the Senate is significant with regard to how issues
will be addressed. Majority parties set the legislative agenda
and establish controlling members of various committees in
A possible war with Iraq, a Securities and Exchange Commission
badly in need of reform and a homeland security bill yet to
be shaped are a few of the issues to be affected by Election
Day’s tipping of the scales. The legislative changing of the
guards should also allow President George W. Bush to better
focus on installting a more conservative slate of Supreme
Court justices, advancing a plan to drill for oil in Alaska’s
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and furthering his generally
conservative and corporate-friendly agenda.
Gov. George Pataki’s victory on Nov. 5, ensuring his third
term as New York’s chief executive, came with little surprise
to those who watched the incumbent avoid any real confrontation
with his opponents and maintain a double-digit lead in polls
throughout the campaign.
Pataki, who also ran on the Conservative Party line, received
49 percent of the popular vote, 16 percentage points more
than Democrat H. Carl McCall, his closest challenger. McCall,
who according to many critics ran a less-than-compelling campaign,
received 33 percent of the vote, a curious total considering
Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly five to three in the
state of New York. Independence Party candidate and Rochester
billionaire B. Thomas Golisano received 14 percent in his
third unsuccessful bid for governor.
Threatening the vitality of the party throughout the state,
preliminary numbers show that Green Party gubernatorial candidate
Stanley Aronowitz received only 1 percent of the popular vote.
By failing to receive at least 50,000 votes, the Greens will
no longer maintain an official ballot line in New York state
Pataki’s victory fell in line with the general New York Election
Day theme of those in power maintaining power. State Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer (D) easily handled the challenge to
his post from Dora Irizarry, while Alan Hevesi (D) filled
the hole left by McCall in the state comptroller’s office,
defeating challenger John Faso.
Overall, the 2002 New York governors’ race was one of the
most expensive political campaigns in history, with candidates’
combined spending totaling more than $100 million.
House of Representatives 20th Congressional District, New
John Sweeney (R-C) 73%
Frank Stoppenbach (D) 24%
Margaret Lewis (G) 3%
U.S. House of Representatives 21st Congressional District,
Michael R. McNulty (C-D-I-WF) 75%
Charles B. Rosenstein (R) 25%
New York State Comptroller
Alan Hevesi (D-L-WF) 50%
John Faso (C-I-R) 47%
New York State Attorney General
Eliot Spitzer (D-L-I-WF) 66%
Dora Irizarry (C-R) 30%
New York State Senate 43rd District
Joseph Bruno (R-I-C) 71,911
New York State Senate 46th District
Neil Breslin (D-I-L-WF) 72%
Peter Belenchia (C-R) 28%
New York State Assembly 104th District
John McEneny (D-I-L-WF) 75%
Kerry Murphy (R) 21%
Josuha Lieberson (G) 2%
Joseph Sullivan (RTL) 2%
New York State Assembly 105th District
Paul Tonko (D-I-L-WF) 73%
John Amell (R-C) 27%
New York State Assembly 106th District
Ronald Canastrari (D-I) 77%
Edmond Day (R) 23%
York State Assembly 108th District
Pat Casale (R-C) 54%
Tracey Brooks (D-I) 46%
Thomas Breslin (C-D-I) 68%
Susan Tatro (R) 32%
Albany City Court Judge
Thomas Keefe (C-D-G-I-L-R-WF) 33%
William Carter (C-D-WF) 29%
Cheryl Coleman (D) 26%
Paul Stavis (C-I-L-RTL-R) 7%
Mark Fantauzzi (I-RTL-R) 6%
Albany City School District Board of Education
Susan M. Kushner 37%
Edward H. Brown Jr. 28%
Morris Cohen 22%
Tyler E. Trice 13%
Mitt Romney (R) 50%
Shannon O’Brien (D) 45%
Jill Stein (G) 3%
U.S. House of Representatives 1st District, Massachusetts
John Olver (D) 68%
Matthew Kinnaman (R) 32%