in the field: Troy High School football remains, while
many student activities do not. Photo: Chris Shields
Right Here in River City
students pay the price while parents mobilize to fill gaps
in the citys sad school budget
she went to Troy High, Sue Steele was in the school’s first
musical and was president of the library club. She went on
to get her master’s in Library Science. Now Steele is passing
the hat to allow her kids the same opportunities.
The Troy School District is in quite a pickle. Even after
a 25-percent tax hike, students are taking the hit for the
district’s seemingly endless fiscal nightmare. In addition
to cutting teachers and administrators and forcing closure
of the Alternative Learning Center for students with disabilities,
this year’s budget leaves barely any extracurricular activities.
of us could really believe that’s how they’d reduce the budget,”
said Steele, secretary of the Troy Booster Club, a new parent
group organized to raise the estimated $100,000 needed to
reinstate student activities. At minimum, a club needs $574
to pay its faculty advisor.
More than 25 sports and various clubs were eliminated. The
only ones left in the budget are the student council, yearbook,
newspaper, national honors society, and some varsity sports.
The cut list is long: No musicals, no marching or pep bands,
no language clubs, no drama club. Likewise, no varsity hockey,
lacrosse or swimming, and no freshman basketball.
Football, however, actually gained coaches, which Steele found
“pretty lopsided.” Some argue that because football and basketball
tend to help bring in money, they should remain, but others
point out that football also costs more.
in an urban school, it’s important to have healthy after-school
programs,” Steele said. Many students fear that the lack of
activities will make them less competitive in the eyes of
college- admissions officers.
The cuts also reach below high school. A program for inter-city
competition at the middle-school level was entirely cut, though
$7,500 was then put toward a scaled-back intramural program.
Parents didn’t find out about the cuts until midsummer, once
the budget was finalized, giving them little time to raise
money before September. Still, they are determined. The booster
club is busy organizing collections and fund-raising events,
like a concert last week spotlighting—and benefiting—the High
School Jazz Ensemble. “We raised over $4,000,” Steele said.
“It was nice to be able to say they started as the former
high school jazz ensemble, and by the end they were the high
school jazz ensemble again.”
An anonymous donor has offered $3,000 for the school musical,
but only if the booster club can raise the remaining $8,000.
Profits from events this fall will likely go to that, since
the preparation needed for a musical makes it particularly
The boosters hope to hold a Broadway revue in October and
a classical concert in November, dates and locations not yet
confirmed. It’s “quite a daunting task,” Steele said. “We’re
parents trying to fit in full-time fund-raising, in between
our jobs and being parents and all of the other things we
Sports parents are getting active as well. Last year, the
varsity lacrosse team had to practice in the parking lot;
this year the team doesn’t have a budget at all. So Jim McClenaghan,
whose son is on the team, is organizing a golf tournament
for Oct. 11 to try to raise enough funds to reinstate the
team. “It’s really frustrating to me that for that little
bit of the $65 million budget, they took so much away from
these kids,” McClenaghan said.
The lacrosse team is fortunate, however, as it is a spring
sport and has more time to raise its money. Some teams, like
hockey, may not make a November deadline for winter sport
a district that’s given my kids a fine education to date.
I have got a senior and a sophomore at Troy High,” said McClenaghan.
“But then I’ve also got a 2-and-a-half-year-old, and I’m going
to have to think long and hard about if I’m going to want
to keep her in the Troy schools at this point. I’ve been a
proponent of Troy’s schools my whole life. I sell real estate
for a living—it’s important to me that the Troy school district
survive. They’re my livelihood.”
golf tournament to benefit the Troy High varsity lacrosse
team will take place on Saturday, Oct. 11, at the Frear Park
Golf Course. The cost is $80 per person and includes three
meals, all fees and carts. Prizes will be awarded. Anyone
interested in participating, sponsoring a hole or donating
prizes should call Jim McClenaghan at 279-1900 or 271-8626.
Donations to the Troy Booster Club can be made to the Troy
Educational Pride Foundation, 44 14th St., Troy, NY, 12180.
Donors should write Booster Club and whatever activity they
wish to sponsor in the memo line.
Rapidly growing suburb Clifton Park may put subdivisions
and malls on holdfor a bit
Park is the fastest-growing town in Saratoga County. But if
the town passes a building moratorium
it’s considering, large-scale development might come to a
grinding halt for at least one year in the western part of
Clifton Park has hired Clough, Harbor & Associates to
perform a generic environmental impact survey of nearly 18,000
acres to help examine the possible environmental impact of
development and present a reasonable approach to growth.
have to look at development as a whole for that part of town,
rather than at each specific project,” said Clifton Park planning
director Jason Kemper.
Town Supervisor Philip Barrett finds it sensible to look at
the area now, before the pressure to develop becomes too intense
in the western reaches of Clifton Park. (The eastern side
of Clifton Park is more densely developed, including numerous
residential subdivisions and several large shopping malls
clustered around the intersection of Route 146 and I-87.)
If the moratorium is approved, it only would prevent developments
over four lots and commercial spaces larger than 5,000 square
feet. It will affect some 2,000 parcels located roughly west
of Vischer Ferry Road, Route 146A and Hatlee Road.
just common sense and good government to take a pause and
get all of the information necessary before moving forward
with development in the western part of town,” said David
Miller, Audubon New York’s executive director and cochair
of Clifton Park’s open-space committee. “Let’s see what type
of impact it will be cumulatively, over time, so the best
decisions can be made.” Clifton Park could decide as early
as October to halt building.
For Miller, Clifton Park’s situation is important because
“it’s typical of what’s happening in some upstate rural suburban
communities that are trying to hold on to their agricultural
heritage and their natural resource space, at the same time
they’re facing the onslaught of sprawl and rapid development
in these areas.” The appropriate way to balance those concerns,
he said, is “not to say no to development, it’s to make sure
the natural heritage of the town remains and development is
put in the proper places so that your quality of life remains.”
At a public hearing Monday (Sept. 15), some citizens, like
Miller, were optimistic that the moratorium would allow the
town time to do better planning and organize its priorities
for land use. Citizens expressed concern about overdevelopment,
traffic problems and crowded schools that they felt would
worsen with increased, rapid growth.
But others worried about stalling developments that are in
the town’s building-review process or in planning stages,
and said a moratorium could cause some projects to lose funding
or potential tenants due to delays. Some also worried about
possible rezoning of their property that could hinder future
development possibilities or cause job losses during the moratorium.
However, the town has not determined whether a moratorium
is necessary, and does not know what the environmental study
Halfmoon, Galway, Ballston, and Saratoga have used similar
building moratoriums to keep responsible planning up to speed
with the pace of building.
The environmental survey likely will incorporate the town’s
new open-space plan and some of its recommendations into its
considerations for land-use options. The town offers tax breaks
and incentives for those opting to keep their land undeveloped.
“Any open space is completely voluntary,” Barrett reminded
the audience at the hearing. “I think it makes your land more
In the early 1960s, Clifton Park had a mere 4,000 residents;
today, the town’s population is 33,000.
town’s] motivation is natural heritage and quality of life,”
said Miller. “If the western part of town has a build-out
like the eastern part of town, we’re in a disaster zone. We
have to figure out a way that whatever development happens
in the future is done at a pace that the town can absorb.
It’s like when you pour too much water into a cup, it’s going
to flow over the top.”
for the people: Meghan Keegan in the Green Partys
in-house library. Photo: John Whipple
to the Greenroots
The Green Party is alive and kickingand
knocking soon on a door near you
know what to do about bees?” The kid next door—maybe 11 years
old—was holding his ear, in pain. Meghan Keegan was on her
porch. “Baking soda and water, honey,” she offered. “And then
a little ice.”
It might not seem like a campaigning moment. But for Keegan,
who’s running for the Albany County Legislature in the 8th
district on the Green Party line, it was a perfect example
of what the Greens should be doing. “Until people within the
Green party are willing to spend the time on the local level
and [build trust],” the Greens will never win on the state
or national level, she said.
Keegan is definitely focusing local. In June, she and 11 other
people—from undergraduates to parents in their mid-30s—moved
into in two adjoining houses on West Street as an experiment
in group living that focuses on sustainability and building
community. The Albany County Green Party, of which Keegan
is cochair, has an office there. But Keegan also sees the
house as a resource for the neighborhood. Residents participate
in the neighborhood watch, pick up trash along the street,
and have pooled their books, intending to create a neighborhood
The “Green House” is also becoming the go-to place for people
with a range of problems. “[The residents] have been politically
active for so long,” says the 24-year-old Keegan, “that we’ve
become like everyone’s lawyers,” connecting neighborhood people
with resources from the American Civil Liberties Union to
city code enforcement.
Keegan is hoping that by meeting everyone in her neighborhood,
she can spread the word that the Green Party platform is not
as radically left as people imagine. “We don’t want people
to live in teepees,” she jokes. But then she gets serious,
ticking off a comprehensive agenda focused on the working
people of Albany. A living wage requirement of $10 per hour
for any company doing business with or getting subsidies from
the city, decent salaries for child-care workers, tenants’
rights and affordable homeownership make the list.
So do bread-and-butter issues like potholes and schools. “If
we’re going to pay taxes, we should expect streets without
potholes, sidewalks that are safe for our kids to walk on,
drinking water that is not going to cause you to have cancer
50 years from now,” said Keegan. “These are simple things
to expect for giving over one third of your income to the
And with the county struggling financially, how are these
things going to be funded? First, Keegan points out, many
of her proposals would actually save the county money over
the long term. Getting more people on public transportation,
for example, could reduce the subsidies that go to the CDTA,
not to mention the costs of building new parking garages.
Living wages would reduce the burden on social services. “There’s
better ways to spend our money,” she insisted.
Keegan also wants the state to pony up its share to the county.
State statutes direct 8 percent of state revenue to local
governments, but since at least 1990 the state has been cutting
back on that amount to balance its own budget. “Now [the counties]
only get two percent,” said Keegan. “That’s a huge chunk of
But though Keegan seems comfortable discussing arcane funding
formulas, it doesn’t take very long for her Green Party roots
to show through again. If elected, Keegan’s first two priorities
would be to pass resolutions calling for noncompliance with
the Patriot Act and repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws, which
mandate minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. She
acknowledges that on the county level, both would be symbolic
gestures, but makes an impassioned case for raising people’s
awareness of both.
Even with all the local groundwork—Keegan got on the ballot
with three times as many signatures as she needed—running
as a Green in post-Nader days is difficult. “A lot of people
blame us for Bush, which is hard,” said Sally Cass, Keegan’s
Peter Lavenia, the other county cochair, said most of the
resistance comes from “activist Democrats” who “still have
the illusion that the Democratic Party can be reformed.” It
is harder to level the spoiler charge in Albany though, since
Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to 1. The Albany County
Greens have 900 registered members and many more “sympathizers,”
said Lavenia. It’s run by four “core” activists, and is very
closely associated with the University at Albany’s SUNY Campus
Greens, who provide most of the volunteer labor.
But for all the Greens’ withering criticism of the Democratic
Party, Nancy Wiley, the 8th district’s Democratic incumbent,
comes in for relatively little criticism. “I don’t know that
much about her,” admitted Keegan. “She’s been very active
working for the mentally ill. Her heart is in the right place.
I didn’t move to this district to oust her [specifically],
but I want to bring some [additional] issues to light.”
one on this block has heard of Nancy Wiley,” added Cass, whereas,
“[Meghan’s] going around the neighborhood a lot.” Wiley did
not return calls for comment.
For Keegan, winning would take registering a lot of transient
students to vote and convincing disillusioned minorities that
voting is worthwhile. “A lot of African-American people I
talk to in the city . . . say what’s the point of voting .
. . if you’re just going to trample us anyway?” Keegan said.
“They don’t have a voice here. I would very much like to be
Keegan believes she can win, and she’s ready—even though it
would mean “a huge life change,” including dropping one of
her two jobs. “I don’t want to be a politician for the rest
of my life,” she insisted. “I’m only doing this because I
really do care what happens to this city.”
by Side on Sept. 11
Imam Abdul Rauf Campos-Marquetti and Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
were joined by the Capital Regions Nipponzan Myohoji
Buddhist Order in New York City on Sept. 11 for a peace
walk between Congregation Bnai Jeshrun on the
Upper West Side and Masjid Malcolm Shabazz in Harlem.
Gottlieb and Campos-Marquetti began PeaceWalks between
their respective congregations in Albuquerque to support
fellowship among Muslims and Jews and a peaceful solution
to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Following Thursdays
walk, they joined September 11th Families for Peaceful
Tomorrows in a memorial vigil at the World Trade Center
site. The Grafton Buddhists are walking back from New
York City to the Grafton Peace Pagoda, and will arrive
on Sept. 26.
Deep in the Big Sludgy
The EPA and GE get going on dredging plans, treatment
sites, and community input
is being made in charting
a course for dredging a 40-mile stretch of the PCB-contaminated
upper Hudson River, a federal Superfund site. As General Electric
works on the project design and siting treatment plants, community
members are preparing to keep a close eye on the proceedings
through a new community involvement process.
This week, GE and the EPA announced the seven candidate sites
for constructing temporary dewatering facilities to treat
removed sediment during the dredging. Washington, Saratoga
and Rensselaer Counties each have two proposed sites, and
one is in Albany County. The sites need to be very accessible
for barges as well as rail cars, while keeping close to the
heaviest dredging locations.
Dewatering is a “very simple process,” according to the EPA’s
Leo Rosales, of the Fort Edward field office. When material
is brought on land, the water is squeezed out, the wastewater
is treated, and the dried sediment is put on rail cars to
be shipped off-site. The disposal sites probably will consist
of landfills outside of the Hudson Valley, said Rosales.
not crazy about hosting any of the dewatering facilities in
Saratoga County,” said Paul Lilac, town supervisor for Stillwater,
though he understands the proximity concerns. “We’re going
to be the most negatively impacted communities during and
throughout this project. To burden us with a dewatering facility,
I think, is unfair.”
The EPA is holding forums next Tuesday and Wednesday (Sept.
23 and 24) in Fort Edward and Troy for public input, which
it will take into consideration prior to selecting the final
two or three sites sometime in January.
Because GE is the “responsible party” for the PCB-related
pollution, it has agreed to conduct the sediment sampling
as well as design the cleanup project, which Rosales says
is a big deal because it locks the company in to work until
GE is currently collecting sediment samples “to pinpoint the
exact locations for the dredging,” including how wide and
how deep it is necessary to go to best remove the pollutants,
The cleanup design includes every detail of how the dredging
will be done, from the exact spots that need dredging, to
how many machines are on the river at once, to how many hours
a day or how many days a week dredging will occur.
And though it may seem unusual, according to Laura Haight
of the New York Public Interest Research Group, it is “not
uncommon under the federal Superfund law for the ‘responsible
party’ to design the plan. It still has to meet EPA approval.”
But she also believes that there are many aspects of the process
that are clearly skewed in favor of the polluter, such as
early confidential negotiations between GE and the EPA about
cleanup plans, which she said were “business as usual.” NYPIRG
subsequently sued and won a decision that the meetings between
GE and EPA were not exempt from Freedom of Information Law.
The process has seemed more transparent recently.
constantly overseeing the design. . . . Every report they
come up with they have to clear it through the EPA,” said
Rosales. “We have control over everything that happens out
there. It really is the EPA overseeing this process.”
Due to public requests for increased local input, plans were
recently solidified for a community advisory group. The EPA
identified and invited groups with key interests in the project,
including local governments, agencies and community organizations.
After more public pressure, the EPA increased the number of
representatives in the advisory group from 17 to 25. A small
community group already has been meeting more informally,
but the first official advisory group meeting will likely
be held in December.
don’t know if there’s any site in the nation that has this
level of community involvement,” said Haight. This is “far
more extensive than in your typical [community involvement
plan], because it’s such a high-profile site.”
not a decision-making group as such, but we certainly hope
to have enough input where we would be in fact decision makers,
based on the advice that we give the EPA,” said Lilac, who
is part of the unofficial group and likely will be on the
official group. “I really believe that we’re allowed to voice
our opinions without being looked at like we have two heads.
The next agreement that the EPA and GE have to reach is who
will actually do the dredging and how it will be paid for,
which is expected to be worked out by 2005.
People interested in more information about the siting forums
should call the EPA field office at (800) 866-6490 or go to