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Walk This Way

The seventh annual AIDSWalk, sponsored by the Community AIDS Partnership of the Capital Region, will occur at 2 PM this Sunday (Sept. 21) in Albany’s Washington Park.

AIDSWalk 2003 stretches just under 5 kilometers (around 3 miles) and winds through Washington Park and surrounding areas of Albany. Last year’s event raised more than $225,000 for HIV/AIDS organizations, and attracted more than 2,000 participants, making it the largest AIDS fund-raising event ever to take place in the region.

“We’ve been really fortunate to get college- and high-school-age people participating,” said Linda Glassman, CAPCR coordinator. “Nearly half of the new cases [of HIV] are people under the age of 25.”

Along with a multitude of corporate sponsors providing services—including entertainment, food and drink—for the event, the National AIDS Fund will contribute one dollar for every two dollars raised by AIDSWalk 2003 walkers. The walkers are raising money through pledges from friends and colleagues. Those teams and individuals that raise the most money for the event will also receive awards.

“Because of the heavy corporate sponsorship, every single penny that’s raised gets directed to the organizations that need it,” explained Glassman. “All of the money that’s raised stays local, with the exception of Community Hospice, which provides services to a hospice in Africa.”

According to the New York State Department of Health, more than 3,475 residents of northeastern New York have been diagnosed with AIDS, and the number of those infected with HIV (the virus believed by many to cause AIDS) is thought to be much higher. While local agencies providing HIV/AIDS-related services are in high demand, the funds necessary to support these agencies are in short supply.

During the event, panels from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt will be displayed, and a chalk-drawn quilt will be created on the pavement of the Washington Park Lakehouse.

This year, confidential and anonymous HIV-testing will also be provided at the site of the event, free of charge.

Individuals who have not yet registered for AIDSWalk 2003, but wish to participate in the event, can attend an onsite registration Sunday at 1 PM.

—Rick Marshall

DEC Inaction Is for the Birds

The lights on the Dunn Memorial Bridge, which connects Albany and Rensselaer, have been burning through the day, almost continuously, since 1999, and still burned as of last Monday.

Initially, the lights were on during the day because they were on the same power supply as a webcam installed underneath the bridge to view Peregrine falcons in their nesting box. Although the falcons are in the nest only from about February to June, the 40 or so bridge lights still burned brightly throughout the day during the remainder of the year, serving no visible purpose. After many requests by concerned citizens to the Department of Environmental Conservation and Niagara Mohawk last year, the lights went on a dusk-to-dawn schedule until another set of eggs were hatched in the falcons’ box. Now the falcons are again gone for the year, and again the lights remain on.

Niagara Mohawk also had been looking into installing a solar panel to power the webcam, but so far nothing has come of that.

With the help of his local-news Web site, David Baker, former editor of the now-extinct Rensselaer Beacon, brought the issue to the public’s attention. “If that kind of waste is so visible, then what wastes are we not seeing?” asked Baker.

After reporting the waste on his Web site, Baker faxed his concerns to the DEC. Rick Georgeson, DEC’s regional public affairs director, contacted officials at the Department of Transportation to get the lights off during the day, but so far to no avail.

So the lamps stay on, a glowing example of the red tape one must cut through to turn off a simple light switch.

—Christen Deming

Vets Moving Out

At a packed hearing on Sept. 10, the Albany Zoning Board of Appeals revoked the special use permit of the Tyler Arms veterans home (688 Madison Ave., Albany), run by the Albany Housing Coalition. The coalition was given 30 days to move the residents out.

The city requested the revocation because the coalition temporarily allowed a drug treatment program, Project Lift, to use one of its three buildings. The program has since moved out. Much of the testimony from neighbors, however, involved complaints that predated Project Lift’s arrival. Several neighbors gave detailed accounts of problems with noise, drunkeness, and public urination. They expressed frustration at what they said was a lack of responsiveness from the coalition in dealing with these problems. “This place is out of control,” said resident Mike Kelly.

Bill Pettit, president of the Washington Park Neighborhood Association, testified in favor of the revocation. He said the neighborhood had been “improving” over the past several years, and urged the board to “take into consideration the direction the neighborhood has been headed, and allow us to continue.”

David Stacey, executive director of the Albany Housing Coalition, testified that there had been some problems “in the beginning” when the Veterans Administration was “dumping” people on the house who needed more care than it could provide. He said the coalition had recently changed property managers, become more careful about whom it accepted, tightened rules, and addressed the concerns raised.

Stacey also said afterward that many of the complaints from neighborhood residents who are not right next door could not be traced to the residents of Tyler Arms. “Every time they see a homeless person, they’re going to say it’s one of ours,” he said.

People testifying against the revocation pointed out that Tyler Arms was the only home of its kind, and asked where the veterans would go. “If they’re not living there, they’ll have those problems elsewhere,” said Donna DeMaria, director of the Homeless Action Committee.

The outcome seemed all but predecided, however. Despite the wide- ranging testimony, a motion to revoke the special use permit was made, seconded, and approved unanimously without any discussion.

The coalition has the buildings on the market, and had already told its realtor to say the zoning didn’t come with the building. Nonetheless, the decision “probably will put [prospective buyers] off a little,” said Stacey.

A spokesperson for the department of public safety said the city is working to help the veterans relocate, but Stacey says he hasn’t seen any help so far. “There is no relocation [assistance]—where are they going to put them?” he asked.

—Miriam Axel-Lute

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