policing from afar: Christian DAlessandro (left)
receiving his promotion to commander in January 2000.
Got Him Off the Streets
has one of Albanys best neighborhood cops been relegated
to desk duty?
People cant find enough praise for Cmdr. Christian DAlessandro
and his work on the crime-addled streets of Albanys
Arbor Hill, West Hill and South End neighborhoods. The good
words cease, however, when conversation turns to the recent
shuffling within the Albany Police Department that took DAlessandro
off the streets and relegated him to a desk.
Oct. 3, Cmdr. Steve Stella retired from the Albany Police
Department to take a position as the head of security at the
College of St. Rose. Stellas responsibilities, which
included administering the daily police activity in the eastern
and western portions of the city, were given to DAlessandro,
who was already in charge of northern and southern Albany.
DAlessandro is now responsible for scheduling shifts,
monitoring overtime and supervising all police officers throughout
his reassignment, city residents say DAlessandro has
been absent from a number of community functions and neighborhood
group meetings at which he had been a regular. They are concerned
that the commanders new responsibilities have saddled
him with too much office work and taken away his ability to
work the streets.
was a bad move, said Marilyn Hammond, South End block
captain with Albany Operation Weed and Seed. He was
right there in the community. He was at the block parties.
Whatever it was, he was there. . . . I dont know what
the reasoning was behind all this, but were really going
to miss him.
asked to comment for this story, DAlessandro referred
all inquiries to an Albany Police Department spokesman, Detective
was unaware that his role had diminished [in the neighborhoods],
his ability to interact with them in those groups is restricted
because of his responsibilities right now, and that is only
because of the retirement.
much of the commanders time in his former capacity was
consumed with tent of Arbor Hill, called DAlessandro
a delight to work with, and said he was the first
police officer in her neighborhood that she trusted.
found him to be a very compassionate personnot an adjective
I regularly pull out of a hat to describe those working in
law enforcement. That has not been my experience [as an African-American],
Black, a member of the Ten Broeck Triangle Preservation League
and longtime community activist, agreed with Smith, saying
that DAlessandro brought a fresh approach to law enforcement
in Arbor Hill. He was the one out on the street talking
to the drug dealers, talking to the gang members, Black
said. He was the one that set the tone for real change
in Arbor Hill. Im just very distraught by this.
Black said DAlessandro was more than a police presence
on the streetshe made himself a member of the community.
Black recalled the commanders role in organizing a celebration
for the 100th anniversary of V.J. Franze and Sons Market at
51-53 N. Swan St. DAlessandro set up a basketball game
between the police department and neighborhood residents,
and helped prepare the soul-food barbecue. The commanders
presence in the community was the kind of police work that
was making way for change, Black said.
bottom line for most of this is building a relationship so
the residents will have the trust to call the police and tell
them whats going on, Black said. I cant
tell you how many people call me and tell me things because
they wont call the police. Commander DAlessandro
was changing all that.
over DAlessandros reassignment isnt limited
to northern Albany. Betsy Mercogliano, a resident of 6 Wilbur
St. in the South End who worked with DAlessandro on
a number of issues in her community, testified before Albanys
Common Council on Oct. 6 and expressed her concerns with the
commanders removal from street duties.
is in rough, rough shape in terms of Arbor Hill and the South
End . . . and what Chris was doing was really, really important,
could not say whether DAlessandros community-oriented
policing would continue or not, but did say that the police
department is not looking to eliminate or neglect any of its
community-policing programs. Right now there are other
community police officers there that are assigned to the work
Chris was doing, Miller said. We dont expect
anything to lapse because of the other officers there.
may say [that community policing] is still going on,
Mercogliano said, but when you pull the guts out of
it, there aint much left.
Back: Tyler Arms Veterans Home is suing for the return
of its zoning permit.
But Not Out
Housing Coalition sues the city for revoking veterans-home
There are eight different charges against the city of Albany
in the lawsuit filed by the Albany Housing Coalition last
Thursday (Oct. 9) in State Supreme Court. The lawsuit seeks
an annulment of the Sept. 10 decision by the Zoning Board
of Appeals that revoked the coalitions special-use permit
to operate the Tyler Arms home for disabled elderly veterans
at 688 Madison Ave. Public Safety Commissioner John Nielsen
requested the revocation because the coalition had temporarily
housed clients of a drug rehab program in the house, which
violated its zoning. [Newsfront, Sept. 18]
lawsuit charges that the city failed to articulate any
relationship between the alleged complaint of the Commissioner
. . . and the Petitioners permitted use of the Premises,
and details several procedural missteps by the zoning board,
such as allowing the commissioners hearing to supersede
a request they had already submitted to expand their allowed
uses and delays in filing its decisions. But the most important
part of the lawsuit, say coalition board and staff, is the
with alcohol and drug dependency are considered disabled for
the purposes of national fair-housing laws, and it is illegal
to discriminate against them or attempt to keep housing for
them out of a neighborhood merely on the basis of their handicap.
The coalitions lawsuit charges that the decision to
revoke their permit was motivated by an animus towards
persons suffering from alcoholism and drug abuse. Executive
director David Stacey has alleged that the restriction in
the original zoning permit allowing the coalition to house
only veterans may also have been questionable under fair-housing
law, though that issue is not covered in the lawsuit.
coalition has won a short-term temporary restraining order
enabling it to delay moving out the homes 35 residents.
The organization had been given 30 days from the Sept. 10
decision to vacate the property. Coalition members are hoping
that the restraining order can be extended to give them sufficient
time to place all the residents in case they do not win their
case. Stacey said he believes it is common for a judge to
extend a stay until the Department of Housing and Urban Developments
fair-housing review is complete.
far the Tyler Arms residents are sticking it out. Workers
from the Department of Mental Health came to interview the
residents during September, said Stacey, and the first
person they talked to said . . . this is his home and he wasnt
leaving. Right now were hoping they dont have
to leave, but the clocks ticking.
The coalition is raising money to cover the costs of the lawsuit,
and they feel that they have a strong case. In fact, Stacey
said the Buffalo office of HUD, which enforces fair-housing
law, called him before he could contact them, because the
office was concerned about the citys decision.
city has until Oct. 22 to respond to the lawsuit; the coalition
will then have until Oct. 24 to file its own response. The
timeline after that will depend on whether the judge decides
to hold a hearing or makes a decision based on the paperwork.
review panels say the state Regents exams are seriously flawed
The exam system is open for all to inspect, said New
York Commissioner of Education Richard Mills at a public hearing
in New York City last month. Earlier in the year, an independent
group of evaluators took advantage of that openness to examine
the Regents exams, and they didnt like what they found.
the current system, last revised in 1998, students must pass
five Regents exams to graduate high school, something no other
state requires. Some contend this is a partial cause of New
York states low graduation rate, the sixth worst in
the country. We have a system where if you fail a single
test, that means you will not graduate from high school. Thats
really high stakes, said Ann Cook, a New York City educator
and cofounder of Time Out From Testing.
the summer, TOFT and the Center for Inquiry organized five
panels of educators, journalists, college-admissions officers,
and state legislative staff to review four of the Regents
subject exams. The panels assessed the exams on many fronts,
including accuracy of content, scoring procedures, and quality
of student response. Panelists also took portions of the tests.
result? The panels were appalled. Their findings slammed the
exams for being mal-aligned with the states professed
standards, historically inaccurate, and poor measures of college
panel that looked at the global- and American-history exam,
for example, characterized the multiple-choice section as
a combination of the trivial, the self-evident, and
the inaccurate and said the document-based questions
showed a supreme level of vapidity. The report
on global history and geography said the exam used paltry
documents and asked questions demanding a simplistic
response. We can attest that its not a high-flying
standard; its not even a true standard, the review
of the English language arts test reported; it also offered
biting advice to students and teachers, including, Do
not attempt to write an original essay. . . . You can feel
smart for having wasted no time reflecting on the literature
holding students in the state of New York hostage to a completely
ill-conceived, mismanaged and misguided system of assessment,
TOFTs reports come on the heels of a critical report
from a state-appointed committee on the Regents Math A exam.
The math test has come under fire since June, when Commissioner
Mills expunged the results of the test because about two-thirds
of the states students failed it. The state education
department said it will keep its lowered passing standard
of 55 percent as an option for schools needing to dramatically
improve their graduation rates, but will raise it to 65 in
two years. But critics of the Regents exams say that lowering
the standard does not treat the problems with the test.
pointed out that the states important quest for standards
has had some unintended consequences. Most of the kids
who are doing poorly on these tests are . . . kids who go
to schools in the poorest communities, she said, and
in the big cities those are minority kids. These schools
are desperate to raise their graduation rates, and devote
the most time, energy, and teaching to test-oriented
activities. Cook said this dumbs down the curriculum and deprives
students of an enriched experience, ironically
contributing to higher dropout rates and lower scores. Last
year, 49 percent of African-American students in Albany did
not pass the English-language arts exam, compared to 20 percent
of white students.
the public hearing in September, Commissioner Mills emphasized
that the Regents have been very flexible and lenient
regarding the exam, allowing multiple retakes and translations,
and creating alternative exams.
also insisted that the Regents exam process is not about
teaching to the test. It is about improving schools
focus on leadership, instruction, curriculum, extra help,
and fundamentals of reading, mathematics, writing and other
strategies that parents expect for their children. . . . With
the tests, we identified schools farthest from the standard
and have compelled those schools to improve or close.
Many agree with the commissioner that testing increases accountability
and therefore educational quality. But others complain that
the tests only measure test-taking ability. To Cook, the
idea that this is to raise standards, whatever that means,
is laughable. She said test scores are malleable if
kids learn test-taking strategies, which can push some students
over the passing mark without proving that theyve learned
so focused on these testing things, that weve lost sight
of what the whole purpose of the skill is, said Cook.
Thats where were failing.
like Time Out From Testing claim assessments based on in-depth
projects in core subject areas are more accurate measures
of learning and college preparedness. Proposals from a state-appointed
Council on Curriculum and Assessment to institute that kind
of assessment were accepted by New York in the mid-90s
under the previous commissioner of education.
hopes that her groups new reports will prompt the Regents
and Legislature to take up the issue again and craft
an accountability system that is pro-child, not pro-test.
Mix : Schenectady Scuffling
Peter Guidarelli (L); Democrat Brian Stratton (R).
candidates Brian Stratton and Peter Guidarelli both believe
Schenectady needs a change and emphasize their bipartisan
work. However, their major themes and supporters line up neatly
along traditional party lines.
a Republican endorsed by the Conservative and Independence
parties, is emphasizing his business experience. Stratton,
a Democrat endorsed by the Working Families Party, is emphasizing
his experience and a commitment to restoring good government.
eight years the incumbent administration has stumbled from
dishonor to discredit to disgrace, said Stratton in
his March announcement of his candidacy. He wants to get the
citys house in order as a first step to attracting more
private business and jobs. To do this, Stratton envisions
a public-private blue ribbon panel of financial experts
to advise the city, and a management audit by the municipal
support division of the state comptrollers office. We
need to find out what is being spent, why its being
spent, what were getting for it, he said, so the
city can stop the misdirecting of our resources.
counters that his experience growing his familys small
business is what the city needs, not a career politician.
The city is nothing more than a compilation of many
small businesses, he said. Each department is
a small businessparks, public works, finance. . . .
My strategy is you break down each department into assets
and liabilities. Stratton, Guidarelli said, has
played an influential role on 11 of the last 12 budgets in
the city. . . . He claims its been years of disgrace,
yet he fails to acknowledge that he was part of it.
Stratton served on the city council from 1991 to 2000, when
he won a seat in the county legislature.
chuckles at the career-politician charge. Hes
been in office almost as long as I have, he said. He
has 10 years, I have 12. I hardly call that being an outsider.
Guidarelli served a partial term on the city council from
1993-94 and then went on to the county legislature, becoming
the chair in 2002. As for running the government like a business,
Stratton is skeptical. That was a claim made by the
incumbent mayor, he said. If we truly ran the
city like a business we wouldnt be providing services,
because wed be driven by a need to make a profit. Wed
have to lay off half our employees, stop collecting garbage
and go to a volunteer fire department.
does, however, focus on working people and jobs. He has not
only endorsements, but very active support, from the Capital
District Area Labor Federation and many individual unions,
including GEs Local 301, which hasnt endorsed
a mayoral candidate since the early 1960s. Brians
not only done whats expected of a legislator in terms
of lobbying for pro-worker and pro-job legislation,
explained Kathleen Scales of the Labor Federation, but
Brian also is there for us supporting us in contract fights
and on the picket lines.
really been there for working people, agrees Keri Kresler,
lead organizer for the Working Families party in the Capital
Region. Its really not very common for [labor
to throw] so much support behind a local candidate.
is still reeling from its eighth homicide this year, so its
no surprise that public safety rises to the top of the list
of issues. Guidarelli has proposed consolidating the city
and county lockup to free up six more officers for street
patrols, and thinks private businesses in downtown should
be hiring off-duty police and private security officers. He
has criticized Stratton for inaction during his tenure as
chair of the Public Safety Committee from 1997 to 2000. Kathleen
Lisson, a Republican committee member from the Stockade, said
the fact that the Police Benevolent Association is supporting
Guidarelli is enough to convince her that he is the better
counters that he is proud of his record, on which
his opponent is misinformed. He said that during
his tenure on the Public Safety Committee, funding increased
43 percent, he led the investigations of corruption in the
police department, and brought in state troopers (who were
warmly welcomed) to support local police after
a rash of drug-related gun violence. He also recently formed
a task force on violence and schools. Stratton is a vocal
proponent of putting all police resources toward street patrols,
rather than things like seat-belt checks. Im not
a police professional, said Stratton. Im
just using common sense, and common sense tells you where
you should be during a high crime period.
Mix : The Lines, They Are a-Changin
A Democrat in other parties clothes: Cathy Collington,
candidate for Troy City Council in District 4.
Democrats are facing off in the general election for Troys
Fourth District City Council seat.
Collington, a lifelong Democrat and former city clerk, has
crossed party lines to run on the Republican, Working Families,
Conservative and Independence party lines. Her opponent, Bill
Dunne, is the endorsed Democratic candidate.
said she was interested in running and felt that the time
was right, but the Democratic committee people had already
picked Bill Dunne as their candidate, without interviewing
her. It wasnt any knockdown, drag out, or anything
exciting, she said.
The Republican Party learned of Collingtons interest
in running, approached her, and in the end offered her their
Her values, her enterprise, her energy, her accomplishments
are identical to what were trying to promote,
said Jack Casey, chairman of the Rensselaer County Republican
Committee, touting her governmental experience and her involvement
in a wide range of groups including Citizen Action of New
York and the NAACP. Casey said Collingtons party registration
will be switched after the election.
Collington said its not she who has changed but the
people and the political climate. She said she shares some
of the same concerns about the citys needs with Troys
issues are the same no matter which party youre in,
Collington said. Im not a rubber-stamp personthey
all know that.
Collington, the current city council does not reflect
the diverse population of the city, and she believes
African-Americans need to take responsibility for ourselves.
party jump is still somewhat unusual, as are her mix of endorsementsWorking
Families, especially, is much more often aligned with Democratic
candidates. But according to Keri Kresler, lead organizer
for the Working Families Party, you dont see a
really strong ideology in Rensselaer County. People
switch or run on different lines all of the time.
have to be mindful of who youre voting for. . . and
that persons values, and if theyre in line with
whats needed, said Collington, whose campaign
slogan is People Not Politics.
cross-endorsements in Troy echo the strong interest in relatively
small lines in many local elections this year. Democrats in
Stillwater and Saratoga Springs, for example, fought tight
primaries over Conservative Party endorsements last month.
[Trail Mix, Sept. 25]
candidates seek these extra lines because they feel that close
elections mean they have to get votes from every possible
interested group. The race between Cathy Collington and Bill
Dunne is no exception. Collington said the result wont
be about whos the better candidate, but about getting
the voters out.
of April 2003, there were 7,545 registered Democrats and 4,974
Republicans in Troy. The Working Families Party accounted
for 374 registered voters, and the Conservative Party had
contrast, there are almost 8,000 voters in Troy who are not
registered with a party. Rensselaer County is one of only
two counties in the state where there are more people registered
without a party than in the two major parties, said Kresler,
so those minor party lines really make a huge difference.
upstate, there are a lot more people looking for an alternative
to pulling that Democrat or Republican lever, said Kresler.
The extra lines give people an option of voting for
a candidate, and then sending a message . . . as to why you
actually voted that way.