Homeless for Money
Homeless Action Committee’s annual Sleep-A-Thon in the
Park, held last Friday night (Feb. 21) in downtown Albany’s
Townsend Park, was one of the most successful in the
event’s 10-year history. Between 150 and 200 people
spent the night sleeping in the park, raising money
to fund HAC’s single-room occupancy housing and outreach
van for the area’s homeless. Homeless Action offers
housing for up to 30 chronic alcoholics living on the
city’s streets, and its outreach program provides food,
clothing and blankets to approximately 300 people without
shelter each year. So far, last week’s event—attended
by church and youth groups, high school and college
students, elected officials and homeless people—has
raised $12,000, and pledges are still trickling in.
York’s State of Mind
York state residents are more skeptical than the rest of the
nation about the need to invade Iraq, according to a poll
released by the Siena Research Institute on Feb. 20.
The poll showed that New Yorkers distrust the Bush administration’s
policy more, place more significance on diplomacy, and are
more skeptical of Iraq’s supposed ties with terrorist organizations
than the rest of the nation.
Only 42 percent of New Yorkers thought the Bush administration
has a clear and well-thought-out policy on Iraq, and only
43 percent of New Yorkers think that the United States has
done all it can do to solve the crisis with Iraq diplomatically,
compared with 59 percent and 54 percent, respectively, nationwide.
Also, New Yorkers are not by majority in favor (49 percent)
of invading Iraq, while 63 percent of all Americans do favor
Alan Chartock, professor of communication at UAlbany, points
to the proximity of the United Nations debate as a reason
for the divide.
United Nations is of course in New York,” Chartock said. “[New
York is] more in tune to listening to what other countries
have to say. I think that New Yorkers are fascinated with
the fact that world opinion—as well as governments around
the world—seem fairly skeptical.”
The poll also demonstrated marked differences in opinion nationwide
according to political party affiliation; two-thirds of Republicans
are in favor of invading Iraq with ground troops, while just
under half of Democrats answered yes to the same question.
New Yorkers are predisposed to skepticism when it comes to
President Bush, Chartock said.
York is an overwhelmingly Democratic state,” Chartock said.
“New Yorkers didn’t vote for the president as a group. One
can only suspect that they view his actions with a little
bit more antipathy than those who did support the president
in the last election.”
Helen Desfosses, president of the Albany Common Council, agrees.
“It’s a function of history. It’s a function of the party
makeup. . . . We have two Democratic senators and we have
a progressive history, ” Desfosses said.
Because New Yorkers experienced the devastation of terrorism
firsthand, Chartock said, it changed the way they view war.
Yorkers understand that there is no such thing as an antiseptic
war,” he said. “People get hurt, people die, buildings collapse.”
resolution calling for a moratorium on all executions in New
York state passed the Albany Common Council unanimously Thursday,
Feb. 20, adding the city’s residents to the growing number
of voices that are calling for a second look at New York’s
Richard Conti (Ward 6), the resolution’s sponsor, sees this
as another step toward action. “One way to build grassroots
support for state action or federal action is to have local
communities express their support,” he said.
As reported in Metroland [Newsfront, Feb. 20], more
than 55 groups and organizations in the Capital Region are
supporting a moratorium on capital punishment in New York.
The goal is to examine the fairness and accuracy of a system
that is, according to some, seriously flawed.
done our part, in putting the Common Council’s support on
record and adding our voice to the many voices,” said Conti.
Once adopted, the resolution was handed off to the governor
and the state Legislature, said Conti. “The governor can,
by executive order, initiate a moratorium or the Legislature
can, on its own, adopt a law initiating a moratorium and then
establishing a process for review of capital-punishment law,
and what steps should be taken to ensure that it’s not biased
and not error-prone,” said Conti.
Gov. George E. Pataki signed the current death-penalty law
in New York in 1995, and as of August 2002, there were six
people on death row. The governor’s press office did not return
phone calls for this story.
seems like the strategy is . . . hoping the issue will go
away if they ignore it,” said David Kaczynski, executive director
of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, and a key proponent
of the resolution. “I think it’s not going to go away, particularly
as we get more and more people on death row and the problems
become more and more obvious, just as they have in other states.”
Maryland and Illinois have both adopted moratoriums on capital
punishment after evidence of bias and wrongful conviction
This evidence is changing the way the public views capital
punishment, Kaczynski said.
He added, “Politicians who support the death penalty have
said, ‘People demand the death penalty,’ but we’re seeing
a shift in public opinion.”
This support from the public is the most important factor
in bringing about any change, Conti said. “[The resolution
is] also a matter of public education about the issue. It’s
an old quote: ‘The leaders will follow when the people lead.’
previously reported in Metroland [Newsfront, Nov. 21,
2002], the Eckerd drugstore chain has been trying to demolish
two historic buildings in Lansingburgh to build an 11,000
square-foot drugstore since December 1999. Apparently, the
company has given up.
Earlier this month, members of the Historic Action Network
discovered that the Clearwater, Fla.-based chain had withdrawn
its proposal to raze an 89-year-old former Freihofer’s bakery
building and the 109-year-old structure that formerly housed
the Riverside social club.
Throughout the life of Eckerd’s proposal, which had been withdrawn
and resubmitted once before, community members kept pressure
on the chain to use the existing structures. But citing the
high costs of retrofitting the buildings, the company refused,
and eventually was taken to court to halt the buildings’ destruction.
Russell Ziemba, cofounder of Historic Action Network, was
pleased that the buildings wouldn’t be demolished and hopes
Eckerd’s plans to build the big box will remain shelved.
buildings have been fixtures in the community for years,”
said Ziemba. “So many people have such fond memories of smelling
the bread in the bakery and the horse-drawn wagons that operated
till the 1960s. People experience pain when fixtures of their
community are demolished; they feel a sense of loss and feel
like they are losing their community.”
But the fight to save the buildings, located on Second Avenue
in Lansingburgh at the foot of the 126th Street bridge, is
not done yet. The Freihofer’s company will vacate all operations
in the former bakery building in April, leaving both without
occupants—and up for sale.
their strategic location, we’re kind of worried that Freihofer’s
may want to demolish the buildings to make the site more appealing,”
But Ziemba said Historic Action has been trying to interest
a number of possible buyers who might be able to use the two
are two well-built structures with rare and interesting architecture,”
Ziemba said. “Over the years we’ve been trying to interest
people in these buildings, but having a pending proposal for
the site that would include demolition of both buildings,
it has been difficult.”