landscape? As upstate New York sprawls, valuable vistas
are gobbled up.
Just Taking Up More Space
concludes that sprawl in upstate New York is far outpacing
the states slowly increasing population
Tear down all the trees and name the streets after them.”
Slogans like this one can be found on bumper stickers all
over the country, as people react to the growing problem of
sprawl, the movement of people outward from cities and the
ongoing development of open spaces in suburban and even rural
According to a recent report, Sprawl Without Growth: the
Upstate Paradox, upstate New York is experiencing serious
sprawl: The consumption of land has been much greater than
the population growth. The study was conducted by Cornell
University and the Brookings Institution, a centrist think
tank in Washington, D.C.
The report found that in 2000, about 1.8 million upstate residents
lived in cities, just over 900,000 lived in villages and almost
4.2 million lived in “towns” outside of villages. The report
also found that upstate cities, such as Buffalo, Rochester
and Syracuse, lost an average of 8.4 percent of their cumulative
population in the 1990s. Upstate towns gained 160,000 households.
Also, upstate cities lost 2,200 businesses from 1982 to 1997,
while noncity communities gained 2,800 businesses.
Albany proves no different than the rest of upstate New York.
According to the 2000 Census data, Albany has lost about 5,000
residents since 1990.
The report’s author, Cornell professor Rolf Pendall, cited
among the costs of sprawl “environmental degradation, pressure
for the development of rural lands and a loss of the village
life that historically was a large part of upstate’s character,”
according to an Oct. 19 story in the Times Union.
These patterns are troubling to many environmentalists in
the region. “What I personally don’t understand,” said Lynne
Jackson, a volunteer with Save the Pine Bush, “is this drive
to live in the middle of nowhere.”
[are] leaving cities [because of] factors beyond our control,”
said David Casciotti, director of planning for the city of
Albany, referring to economic problems faced all around the
country and especially in the Northeast. But Pendall cited
public-policy factors that have encouraged sprawl, including
higher property-tax rates in cities and excessive subsidies
to sprawl development.
Jackson has a different perspective on the city’s options.
“What is the problem with really looking at rebuilding our
inner cities?” she said. “From my window, I can see at least
three or four abandoned buildings.”
Since 1990, the number of new single family homes built in
the Saratoga County suburb of Clifton Park has quadrupled.
This statistic doesn’t even represent apartment complexes
and other multiple family buildings, or people moving into
are coming from all over, in state, out of state,” said Barbara
McHugh, director of community development in Clifton Park,
“It’s reflective of availability of work, commutability to
employment centers, a good school district and a variety of
The decreasing density of residents in cities can lead to
unexpected risks. According to a study released by Smart Growth
America on Aug. 28, people living in automobile-dependent
neighborhoods walk less, and therefore weigh more and suffer
more frequently from high blood pressure. Jackson added that
air pollution, from increased car traffic, is another health
concern in areas of sprawl.
There is no quick fix to sprawl. But the first step is recognizing
a problem exists. So environmental groups, such as Save the
Pine Bush, have been working to educate the population about
the problem, which can sometimes go unnoticed.
Town officials in Clifton Park are also trying to take a closer
look at the situation by placing a 12 to 18 month building
moratorium on the west side of the town. This will stop any
sort of expansion plans in that area while officials figure
out the best approach to future development.
The Brookings study suggests aggressive ecomonic development
in aging cities, including subsidies to businesses and investment
in infrastructure. The report also encouraged “the gradual
development of better state and local policies to reduce unneccessary
land consumption and sustain upstate’s cities, villages, hamlets
and suburban towns.”
Loyal, and Handy With a Rifle
the ranks of hunters decrease, New York tries to sell the
sport to Boy Scouts
are hunting less these days. Nationally, the number of hunters
declined by 7 percent between 1996 and 2001, according to
the Fish and Wildlife Service. New York state’s hunting licenses
have declined from 900,000 in 1990 to 700,000 currently. Nationwide,
hunters make up only 4.6 percent of the population.
The existence of this decline isn’t debated. But it means
very different things to different people. To the U.S. Sportsmen’s
Alliance, a private organization dedicated to advancing the
rights of hunters, fishermen and trappers, it’s a crisis (instigated
in part by “anti-hunters”) that threatens “time-honored traditions
that helped establish America at its roots.” To animal-rights
advocates, it’s a cause for celebration and part of a natural
evolution toward non-blood-sport enjoyment of wildlife. (They
point out that 31 percent of Americans now identify themselves
as “wildlife watchers.”)
And to state conservation agencies, the decline may be affecting
their bottom line. On average, hunting and fishing licenses
account for 42.9 percent of state wildlife funding, according
to a study from the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Sportsmen have
a vested interest in more game because they like to hunt,
but that happens only a few months a year, and everybody gets
to enjoy it the rest of the year, usually for free. . . .
We feel pretty proud of that,” said Doug Jeanneret, communications
director for the alliance.
Another 21.2 percent comes from federal redistribution of
special taxes on firearms—something that the sportsmen claim
is also primarily their dollars. Since handguns were included
in those taxes, however, others estimate that hunters’ taxes
make up only about 25 percent of this funding source.
In any case, as hunting declines, state conservation agencies
have found themselves forced to raise license fees and seek
out other forms of funding—like the sale of special license
So in an attempt to boost the anemic and aging numbers of
hunters, the Sportsmen’s Alliance, state agencies, and the
Boy Scouts have teamed up to offer the “Trailblazer Adventure
Program,” which the Capital Region’s Twin Rivers Boy Scout
Council offered at Thompson Lake State Park on Oct. 18. This
daylong program for scouts and their parents includes demonstrations
of trapping, shooting, fishing, and game calling. It also
includes hunting video games. Interested scouts can be matched
up with experienced mentors who will encourage them to continue
Price said they plan to include other youth groups as partners,
but started with the Boy Scouts because they were already
outdoors-focused. Trailblazer was launched in 2001 because
“we saw a need to build, get the new generation introduced,”
said Price, and the program has since has grown quickly. He
said they will reach 30,000 participants through 15 events
State agencies make no bones that they’re in it for the money.
“I am so convinced that this is a great hunter and fisherman
recruiting tool that we’ve already signed on for a repeat
performance this fall,” gushes David Waller, director of Georgia’s
Wildlife Resources Division, on the Trailblazer program Web
But the program has drawn some sharp criticism locally. “We
find it particularly repugnant that our own state agency is
working to dissolve children’s empathy,” said Dora Schomberg,
director of the New York state chapter of the Fund for Animals.
“They are trying very hard to transform sensitive boys into
children that would find it rewarding to destroy fellow creatures
through a process of denial of the real pain inflicted on
The Fund for Animals report Children in the Crosshairs
details reports from hunting organizations that acknowledge
that young adults tend to be uncomfortable with hunting unless
they were introduced to it at an early age.
But Schomberg is also concerned about the funding side of
it. Millions of dollars of taxpayer money from the general
fund and other special sources of fund-raising go into the
Bureau of Wildlife, she said, and yet it is run with a “hunting-club
mentality.” “Non-hunters get zero representation,” she charged,
saying that this leads to an overemphasis on maintaining the
population of game species, in some cases through boondoggles
like the money-losing pheasant-breeding program.
New York’s Bureau of Wildlife and the Twin Rivers Boy Scout
Council did not return repeated calls for comment.
Schomberg pointed out that the Boy Scouts’ second law is “be
kind,” and the Scout Handbook says a scout should not
“harm or kill anything without reason.”
leaders,” she said, “should encourage kindness towards the
defenseless and scrap the program.”
Albanys Community Police Council has been suspended,
fueling residents suspicions
this month, the Albany Police Department reassigned to administrative
duty a community- oriented police officer who’d built strong
ties with residents of some of the city’s worst neighborhoods
[“They Got Him Off the Streets,” Oct. 16]. Ever since, city
residents have assailed the department, questioning its commitment
to these neighborhoods and to its community-oriented policing
programs [“Cop Out?” Oct. 23].
don’t feel that we are abandoning our community policing initiative
by any means or abandoning the community,” Albany Police Chief
Robert Wolfgang told Metroland on Oct. 23. A week earlier
Detective James Miller told Metroland that the department
wasn’t looking to eliminate or neglect any of its community-policing
Meanwhile, Albany’s Community Police Council—made up of police
officials and representatives from neighborhood associations
and business groups—was to hold its regularly scheduled monthly
meeting. However, the 6-year-old council never met in October.
Nor did it meet in September. In fact, the CPC has been suspended
indefinitely, Wolfgang said.
This has fueled residents’ concerns about the department’s
commitment to community policing. “I just don’t understand
it,” said Helen Black, an Arbor Hill resident and CPC member.
“I’m puzzled as to why the police department would want to
stop the flow of good information.”
Conceived by the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations
in December 1994, the CPC was formally recognized by city
in 1996. The council provided a way for citizens to be better
informed of the police’s role in their neighborhoods, and
for police to receive direct feedback from the neighborhoods
the time that I was involved, I found it a very worthwhile
endeavor,” said Maria Parisella, who was involved in the CPC
since its inception, as a member of the Mansion Hill Neighborhood
Association. “It helped us to understand how all this really
worked. It was a great forum for introducing questions and
concerns from all involved. Everybody walked away with good
Parisella was forced to leave the council at the end of last
year due to family responsibilities, but she still praises
the link between the department and the neighborhood residents
provided by the council.
police department certainly needs an ongoing ear as to whether
this community policing is working . . . and the citizens
certainly need to understand their role, because it’s not
a passive role,” Parisella said. “I know it sounds kind of
Polyanna-ish, but we’re all in this together.”
But waning attendance and a lack of focus of late led to the
council’s indefinite suspension, Wolfgang said. Reviewing
minutes from recent council meetings, Wolfgang said the group
was spending a lot of time discussing ideas that either never
came to fruition or that had other avenues where they could’ve
not saying that they haven’t been doing anything—they do have
some accomplishments under their belts—but we’re looking into
whether or not it’s as effective as we’d hoped,” Wolfgang
Joe Cunin, who sat on the council as director of the Lark
Street BID, agreed.
think it may have been a little ill-defined in terms of its
goals and responsibilities,” Cunin said. “We had a mission
to participate somehow with the Albany Police Department’s
community policing program on a citywide basis, and . . .
I don’t think we a had a concrete way for doing that.”
Cunin said that council meetings were often filled with residents’
concerns specific to individual neighborhoods, and the discussions
didn’t always address police issues common to Albany. He questioned
whether the council was the proper avenue to address these
seemed like you could try to call the police and track some
of these complaints down that way,” Cunin said.
But Black contends that building from specific neighborhood
complaints, through bodies like the CPC, is a good way for
the department to focus its community-policing initiatives.
One concrete proposal Black thought the council should undertake
was the creation of a police outreach station in abandoned
apartments on Swan Street. The station could serve as a drop-in
center where neighborhood youth could play games or receive
help with their homework. It would be staffed by a police
officer, providing an environment for the police to build
relationships with neighborhood residents.
you know people by face and by name, you are going to build
trusting relationships with them, you are going to share information
with them,” Black said.
Black said she had the council’s support for the idea and
was hoping for its implementation as the group reconvened
Wolfgang wouldn’t say when the council might begin again.
“This is not something that has gone unaddressed,” Wolfgang
said. “We’ll be moving on this soon.”
Tilting at Democrats
Mitchell has gone through a lot of M&Ms.
Mitchell, a Republican from Latham, hopes the way to Albany
County voters’ hearts goes through the sweet tooth: The candidate
hands out bags of the bite-sized candies, with which he shares
initials, during his door-to-door campaigning as he attempts
to unseat two-time incumbent Albany County Executive Michael
Breslin. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but he needs something.
Election year 2003 in Albany County has been dominated by
a vote that appears not to be happening: A lawsuit-rich redistricting
fiasco appears to have suspended elections for 39 legislative
seats until next year. Although voters will still choose the
county’s executive, comptroller, family court judge and three
coroners on Nov. 4, these races have taken a backseat. Way
back. Nosebleed seats, really. Which is especially troubling,
Mitchell said, considering that his opponent has proposed
a 41.5-percent increase in the county’s tax levy over the
past two years. Mitchell can’t figure out why voters aren’t
clamoring for front-row seats in the debate over how to better
run the county’s operations.
is a real lack of accountability in this county,” Mitchell
said. “Someone has got to sweep the cobwebs out of the corners
of the Democratic machine that has remained in power in Albany
County for too long.”
Mitchell has plenty of ideas about how the county could better
run its operations—from purchasing and refurbishing the now-vacant
Eden Park Nursing Home rather than building a new county-run
nursing home in Heritage Park as proposed, to making better
use of technology within the county’s day-to-day operations.
In fact, it’s Mitchell’s job to think this way.
As the director for internal audit at the New York state Department
of State, Mitchell is a bureaucratic exterminator. It’s his
job to make sure operations run effectively, on time and on
budget. Although his function as the kill switch for departmental
waste and mismanagement may seem to make Mitchell an ideal
candidate for county executive, Tom Clingan, Albany County
clerk and Breslin’s de-facto campaign spokesman, said his
criticisms of the county’s operations are way off base.
Breslin has been forced to raise taxes the past two years,
Clingan said, due to ballooning Medicaid costs. Clingan also
noted that Breslin’s proposed tax increases have been the
first of his tenure as county executive. “The only thing I
can say is Mr. Mitchell is apparently not familiar with all
the tax cuts Mr. Breslin has put in before we got hit with
this latest crisis,” Clingan said.
Breslin’s record on taxes aside, Mitchell readily admits that
his is an uphill battle: the Republican candidate is running
for elective office in a county where his party is outnumbered
by Democrats 90,235 to 46,471—almost 2-to-1. But Mitchell
also notes that the county has 40,746 unregistered voters,
and 11,625 registered in minor parties—plenty of votes to
overcome the Democrats long-standing enrollment majority.
not as formidable as one might think,” Mitchell said. “The
biggest disservice to voters in this county is to perpetuate
this myth that the Democrats control this county.”
Mitchell has a stockpile of M&Ms and less than a week
to dispel the myth.
hopeful candidate: Republican Mark Mitchell.
Photo: John Whipple
For Me! I Agree With Him
Troy voters head to the polls on Election Day to choose a
new mayor, they’d be hard-pressed to find two candidates with
more in common.
Both Republican Harry Tutunjian and Democrat Frank LaPosta
are hoping to jump from Troy’s City Council to the mayor’s
office. Each has held at-large positions within the council,
has been politically aligned with the council’s Republican
majority (LaPosta, a registered Democrat, accepted a Republican
cross- endorsement during his reelection in 2001) and has
been fond of beating up on exiting Mayor Mark Pattison, a
Democrat. For the past two of his four years on the city council,
Tutunjian served as president, a position he won over LaPosta,
a council member for the past eight years.
But the onetime allies are now laying into each other. LaPosta
accuses his opponent of being inexperienced and basing too
many of his decisions on party affiliation. “I’m representing
the people, not the party. That’s the difference between Harry
and myself,” LaPosta said.
Tutunjian, on the other hand, paints his opponent as a political
opportunist. “The fact is that I’ve never changed my political
philosophy,” he said. Tutunjian says he may have spent less
time in city politics, but that doesn’t make him a lesser
candidate. “My partner may have more political experience
than myself, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing,” he
But according to Jeff Buell, who’s covered city politics in
Troy for almost three years with The Record, the candidates’
clamor should be chalked up to nothing more than preelection
forget that they’ve been [politically] together over the last
eight years, voting together on 98 percent of the legislation
out there,” Buell said. “They are so ideologically similar,
that there’s really not much to differentiate between them.”
The candidate’s platforms do little to dispel the belief that
one of these guys must be a clone: Both hope to increase
revenue by selling the city’s water, and list improving the
quality of the city’s municipal services as a number-one priority.
Choices? Well, upon closer inspection differences are revealed,
even if they are slight.
Tutunjian plans to answer perennial complaints from city residents
about municipal services, like snow and garbage removal, by
adding three new full-time employees to Troy’s Department
of Public Works. LaPosta dismisses the idea of hiring new
staff, saying it will only raise the city’s taxes. Instead
he is offering a five-point plan that includes more options
for residents to dispose of their trash themselves, and stricter
enforcement of civil code—an idea he shares with Tutunjian.
In his proposal to capitalize on Troy’s abundance of water,
Tutunjian believes the city should divert some of its excess
to booming, thirsty Saratoga County. Tutunjian says the city
won’t have to invest in any new infrastructure for his plan,
pointing to an existing pipeline that connects to the Town
LaPosta says Tutunjian’s idea is nothing new: The city already
engages in municipal water sales with surrounding communities.
LaPosta thinks the city should bottle its water for sale commercially,
under the name Naturally Troy. “This is a $7.1-billion-a-year
industry here in the U.S. and we should get in on that action,”
Both business owners (Tutunjian runs Naz’s Body Shop in Brunswick,
and his opponent co-operates a grocery store in Speigeltown),
the candidates have expressed the desire to make the city
more business-friendly. Tutunjian’s specific proposal is to
continue efforts currently being made in this vein, like the
city’s matching-fund contribution to downtown businesses making
storefront improvements. LaPosta probably agrees.
Another thing both candidates can agree on is that they are
inheriting a city in much better shape than the one Pattison
took over. Troy was in such a fiscal mess when Pattison took
office eight years ago that the city council was considering
selling City Hall. After a series of tax increases and loans
from Sen. Majority Leader (Uncle) Joe Bruno (R-Brunswick),
the books have run in the black for the past few years.
Pattison’s only reason for not continuing the work he’s accomplished
in the Collar City thus far is term-limit legislation adopted
last year that is forcing him out of office. He will be able
to run again in four years.