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Record staffers bring you information on the comings and goings of New York's Collar City.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Troy Police to test gunfire detection system tonight

City residents are advised to not be alarmed by gunfire in the area of Seventh and Swift streets as the Troy Police Department will be testing its newly-acquired ShotSpotter system with live fire from 10 p.m. to midnight near the Department of Public Works.

The city acquired the $250,000 piece of technology, which is able to pinpoint the location of gunfire within five feet of where it was discharged and even distinguish between different calibers of weapons, back in November.

Police plan to use the system in various areas around the city in an effort to stop gun violence, quickly apprehend criminals, and defend the use of their firearms in court if someday necessary.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Things have been rather quiet in the city over the last week with the exception of the weekend snowstorms, so we would just like to take a moment to wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

2009 is just over a week away and we are sure there will be lots to talk about once the ball drops.

Enjoy your holidays.

- Troy Talk


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Council postpones BID hearing

More than 40 city residents and property owners showed up in the City Council chambers at City Hall Thursday night to speak about whether they were supporting or opposing a proposed downtown Business Improvement District in the city, only to have the meeting adjourned within minutes before they were allowed to speak.

Council President Clement Campana, D-At Large, adjourned the meeting after Paul Macari, an attorney for the Troy Downtown Collaborative, advised the council that questions still needed to be answered about whether residential property owners in the proposed district should be able to vote on its approval even though they would not be taxed.

If the public had been allowed to speak at the meeting, the 30-day period for commercial business owners to have the option to vote against the BID's establishment would have begun.

Macari hoped that the meeting could be rescheduled for the end of January once all of the BID's organizers had received answers to their questions from the state Comptroller.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

River Triangle issues in court again

The city filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the River Triangle Company on Nov. 24 demanding a judgment which would direct the company to comply with a "full and just independent accounting of all moneys received and disbursed" by the company over the last 20 years in relation to their ownership of the Dauchy and River Triangle buildings on River Street.

The lawsuit also called for the company to pay whatever sums appear to be owed to the city after the financial audit is completed.
Sections of the court document also noted that the company could owe up to $8.4 million to the city from a Urban Action Development Grant, a Section 108 loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and additional mortgage fees.

The document also specifically alleged that the RTC had not used its best efforts to lease space in the available buildings and denied leases for potential tenants in light of the fact that the city had agreed to pay loan payments to HUD if the company's cash flow was lower than their semi-annual payment amounts.

To date, the city has paid roughly $5 million for the majority of the RTC's payments through federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

Mark Simmons, a principal partner of the RTC, declined to comment on the matter because he said that had not yet seen the lawsuit and had no knowledge of its contents.

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Legislature will host annual holiday party Friday

The Rensselaer County Legislature will host its 13th annual Christmas party for children at the Vanderheyden Hall youth residential facility on Friday, Dec. 19 on the third floor of the County Office Building, located at 1600 Seventh Ave., at 2 p.m.

"The holidays are a time for family, and over the years, we have come to think of the kids at Vanderheyden as being part of the legislative family. This year, more than ever, we want to provide some holiday cheer and goodwill," said Legislative Chairman Neil Kelleher.

The party, which began in 1996, was started for children at the facility who were not able to return home for the holidays. Legislators donate their own money to purchase gifts for the children and a number of local businesses pledge their support as well.

Festivities will include a visit from Santa Claus, gifts for the children, food and refreshments, and a performance by the Lansingburgh Swing Choir.

"We have always gotten a great response to the Vanderheyden holiday party," said Legislator Laura Bauer. "The generosity shown to the Vanderheyden kids shows the spirit of Christmas is alive and well in Rensselaer County."

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County legislature reacts to state budget

Members of the Rensselaer County Legislature voice their concern Tuesday that the $121.1 billion 2009-2010 budget introduced by Gov. David Paterson included many tax increases and fees which could be harmful to county residents in light of the already troubled national economy.

"The proposed budget includes more than seven dozen tax or fee increases. Those hikes will only make the impacts of the downturn worse for our residents and businesses," said Neil Kelleher, chairman of the legislature.

"We know the state is dealing with huge fiscal problems, but tax increases and fee hikes are not the way to go. They will take more money out of the pockets of residents and businesses and that may make things worse," said Vice Chairman for Finance Richard Salisbury.

The legislators were also concerned that Paterson's budget did not give counties more power to reduce instances of Medicaid and welfare fraud when state mandated spending currently requires 90 cents out of every county tax dollar.

"The governor should use the budget to give counties more tools to fight abuse and fraud. Millions upon millions of dollars could potentially be recovered if obstacles were removed," said Thomas Walsh, Sr., vice chairman of the legislature.

Additionally, concerns were raised about the fact that the state budget includes 88 new or increased taxes and fees on everything from cable TV to sugary sodas.

"I can't recall a state budget that included so many tax increases for so many different things," said Legislator Martin Reid. "This budget will really hit New Yorkers hard because it would impact nearly every aspect of their lives."

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Power restoration continues, snow storm on the way

National Grid crews continued to work around the clock to turn power back on for the Capital District Tuesday and were estimated to have restored power to more than 190,000 customers already, according to Patrick Stella, a spokesman for the power company.

Stella said that crews would be moving into more remote areas Wednesday to try and restore power to individual rural customers as well, but did not have an exact date for when all customers should be back up and running.

Customers who are still without power are advised to contact National Grid at 1-800-932-0301 in order to alert them that problems exist in certain areas.

According to the National Weather Service, the Capital District will see accumulations of anywhere between two and four inches of snow tonight into tomorrow morning, leaving a potentially dangerous commute ahead.

The storm could also change over to slight accumulations of sleet in freezing rain by 8 a.m. tomorrow, meteorologists said, but was not expected to be anywhere near as bad as last weeks destructive ice storm.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter storm leaves a mess

The first winter storm of the season hit the city Thursday night and, if it weren't for all of the snow and ice all over everything, the damage it left behind almost appears to be what you would expect to see after a small tornado.

Mayor Harry Tutunjian declared a state of emergency early in the morning Friday and asked for motorists to stay off the road as much as possible.

While the roads remained moderately busy, motorists seemed to remain civil, often stopping on busy roads to allow drivers escape side streets even though most of the traffic lights in the city were dead with the power outage.

Trees are down through the entire city, on nearly every street.

In fact, so many trees collapsed under the weight of ice and snow throughout the morning that city Department of Public Works crews and Troy Police officers could hardly keep up with number of calls.

Some of them hit houses or crushed the roofs of cars, but most simply acted as a nuisance by blocking roads.

Due to the fact that nearly half of the city remains without power tonight, senior citizens and those seeking warm shelter can turn to a number of emergency shelters in the area.

The shelters in Rensselaer County include the following:

- The Tsatsawassa Fire House, 9 Fire House Lane in Nassau; starting at 3 p.m.

- The McDonough Sports Complex Field House, Hudson Valley Community College at 3 p.m.

- The former Verizon building and future home of the Troy City Hall, 1776 6th Ave. in Troy starting at 5 p.m.

Anyone with questions regarding shelters in Troy are urged to call 271-5139 or 271-5105.

Stay tuned to The Record's Web site throughout the weekend for further information on when power is expected to be restored and the aftermath of this storm.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Aretakis out for a year

In a decision issued Thursday, the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court suspended attorney John Aretakis from practicing law for one year after finding him guilty of professional misconduct.

Aretakis was charged with engaging in frivolous conduct by making false accusations against judges that were both prejudicial and malicious, false statements of law and fact, and engaging in conduct that adversely reflected on his fitness as an attorney.

In their decision, Appellate Division justices outlined various incidents from 2005 to 2007 where Aretakis had been sanctioned by multiple judges for his behavior in the court room.

The accounts of Aretakis’ conduct included being “sloppy and unprofessional,” alleging theories about the Catholic Church and federal government, and making baseless assertions in court only for the purpose of harassing defendants in a case.

Aretakis initially responded by saying the following:

"Bishop Hubbard has used all of his resources, influence, and power to try to muzzle me for the past six years due to my effective work in exposing sexual predators in ministry.

I call upon Governor Paterson to investigate this unfair and unprecedented punishment. I am one of only two attorneys in all of New York state who fights sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

I will continue to work in every capacity that I am allowed to in order to expose those who sexually abuse children and those individuals such as Bishop Hubbard who continue to cover up these crimes."

Aretakis is currently in the Bahamas for the weekend and plans to hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon at his home in North Greenbush to answer further questions.

The Catholic Church initially chose not to comment on his suspension, which will take effect in 20 days and will forbid him from practicing law in any form for one year, according to the decision.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

County legislature approves program grants

The Rensselaer County Legislature voted to provide funding to a number of community organizations which povided educational services at their Dec. 9 meeting.

Funding was provided to the following agencies:

Cooperative Extension - $459,116
Cooperative Extension rental - $46,924
Soil and Water - $165,500
Brunswick Library - $7,400
Cheney Library - $5,200
East Greenbush Library - $8,700
North Greenbush Library - $8,000
Rensselaer Library - $6,000
Troy Public Library - $73,100

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Campana: There will be no special meeting

City Council President Clement Campana, D-At Large, said tonight that he will not call any more special meetings this year.

The council would have had to call a special meeting prior to Dec. 15 to override a veto by Mayor Harry Tutunjian which knocked down an amendment they approved on Nov. 25 to move more than $500,000 from various budget lines into a contingency account in an attempt to save taxpayer money and provide fiscal oversight.

“There will be no special meeting called,” said Campana. “On be half of the citizens of the city, there needs to be oversight and we will meet in January to discuss how we’re going to provide it.”

Tutunjian and City Comptroller Deborah Witkowski previously stated that the council did not follow budget procedures when they introduced the amendment at the last minute and that the way they had moved funds would have led the budget to become unbalanced and unstructured.

More about that is available here.

After learning about Campana's decision, Tutunjian said he was pleased about the budget but concerned about what the council would do in 2009 and who was really in charge of the legislative body.

“I need to be able to talk to someone that can speak clearly for the majority of the City Council and I haven’t found that person yet,” said Tutunjian. “My confidence is shaken when I see a press release from the council president that says he’s going to do something one day and does the opposite the next day.”

A press release had been issued to some of the local media outlets with Campana's name on it Monday saying that the council would be overriding the mayor's veto Thursday at 7 p.m.

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They won't certify it

Mayor Harry Tutunjian and City Comptroller Deborah Witkowski said Tuesday that they would not certify the proposed 2009 city budget if an amendment moving more than $500,000 from various departments into a contingency fund was included in it.

The mayor and the comptroller believed the council didn't quite know what they were doing when they moved the funds because, according to them, the transfer of some of the money goes against fiscal law.

Other changes could jeopardize contracts the city has with independent auditors since Witkowski normally encumbers money for that purpose in a purchase order in January, for an amount higher than she has been left with after the council transfer, just to get on the auditor's schedule by mid-summer.

Council President Clement Campana, D-At Large, said that the council had not yet decided whether to override the mayor's veto of the amendment but the council still needed to provide more fiscal oversight on how the city spends its money.

Councilman Bill Dunne, D-District 4, said that the council had looked over the budget lines for unused funds before making their changes and could have moved a lot more money if they had wanted to be malicious.

The matter could soon end up in the hands of the state Comptroller since no one knows what will happen if the mayor and comptroller do not certify the city's budget.

Read more about this here on The Record's Web site.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Residents of the Park Ridge Apartment complex and those who live along 25th Street are advised to boil water before drinking it after an early morning water break Tuesday decreased pressure in distribution pipes, increasing the chance that harmful bacteria could enter the city’s water system, officials said.

The system lost pressure around 4 a.m. after a 12-inch water main broke in the apartment complex.

According to water plant officials, the break has been isolated and city crews are currently working to repair the broken line and return service to residents within the next 72 hours.

Residents are advised to boil water for one minute and let it cool before drinking it or using it for making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further novice.

The water currently being distributed to this area may contain harmful microbes which could cause nausea, diarrhea, cramps, headaches and other symptoms, posing an increased health risk for infants, elderly residents, and those with compromised immune systems.

Those who experience persistent symptoms should seek medical advice.

For more information individuals can contact the city of Troy at 237-0319 or the Rensselaer County Department of Health at 270-2632.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Troy budget woes

On Monday, Mayor Harry Tutunjian vetoed the City Council's budget resolution which had moved more than $500,000 from various city departments into a contingency fund.

The council responded saying that they will call a special meeting as soon as Thursday to override the veto.

Tutunjian said that, while he disagreed with the changes made, he voted the legislation because the council did not follow proper budget procedures and because the resolution would leave the city with an unbalanced budget for the first time in more than 10 years.

Council President Clement Campana, D-At Large, said he planned to check with the majority's legal counsel to determine if anything had been done improperly and would fix it if that was the case.

Jim Franco has the rest of the lowdown so far.

Keep checking back for further updates on the matter on this blog and The Record's Web Site throughout the week.

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As always, Stroll is a success

An estimated 20,000 people walked throughout the city's downtown Sunday during the 26th annual Victorian Stroll.

While the weather was bitter cold and packed with high winds, most of the snow stayed away from the Capital District, allowing Trojans and residents from surrounding communities to enjoy the opportunity to examine Troy's historic architecture along with crowds decked out in 19th century attire.

Read more about it in Dave Canfield's article here.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Wojcik: Council is failing to keep public informed

In a statement released Friday, Councilman Mark Wojcik, R-District 1, accused the City Council's Democratic majority of deliberately trying to avoid broadcasting the council's decisions to the public because they have not videotaped meetings for at least two months.

According to Wojcik, the Democrats' failure to tape the meetings for broadcast on cable TV means that many city residents are being denied the opportunity to watch the council's actions and decisions.

Wojcik also believed that the Democrats were deliberately not taping the meetings to hide what he referred to as "a series of missteps and errors by council Democrats."

"It is disgraceful council Democrats are failing to keep the public informed about the actions of the council," said Wojcik. "I am calling for the taping and broadcast of meetings to be started immediately."

Wojcik had made a point to address the issue to Council President Clement Campana, D-At Large, during Thursday night's meeting.

Campana responded by saying that the council's video camera had been broken and that they needed to purchase a new, digital model which he estimated would cost around $1,000. Given the tight economic times, Campana said the council would purchase the camera when they could find the funds to do so.

Campana had also alluded to having addressed the issue with Wojcik and other council members at committee meetings beforehand - a statement that Councilman Mark McGrath, R-District 2, said was not true.

"Democrats ran on a pledge of openness, but council Democrats have pulled the plug on keeping the residents of Troy informed," said Wojcik. "Council Democrats have no problems spending over $400 to replace a lock on a building we will be vacating in just a matter of months, but cannot allocate the resources necessary to keep the public informed."

According to Wojcik and McGrath, the camera that was used to tape council meetings had been provided by Time Warner Cable, but Campana said that was not the case.

"We would never intentionally try to prevent any arena for Mr. Wojcik and Mr. McGrath to make their stand publicly," said Campana.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

BID remains a major talking point

The City Council chose to eliminate a resolution from their meeting agenda Thursday night that would have postponed a public hearing on the proposed downtown Business Improvement District from Dec. 18 until Jan. 22, but the topic continued to be the major talking point of the night.

Several major Troy developers including John Hedley, Sam Judge, David Bryce, and Jeff Pfeil showed up along with other board members from the Troy Downtown Collaborative to show their support for the BID and thank the council for not delaying the public hearing.

If the hearing had been delayed, the 30 day period for property owners to vote against the BIDs establishment also would have been delayed. As it currently stands, that period will begin after Dec. 18.

Local restaurant owner Michael LoPorto and Tony Iannacito, the owner of Tony of Italy on Fourth Street, spoke in opposition to the BID's creation because they did not want property owners to pay an increased 5 percent property tax and felt its cost for administration was too high.

More details and comments can now be found here on The Record's Web site.

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Lots to do in the city Sunday

This Sunday, Dec. 7, Troy will host it's 26th annual Victorian Stroll, a hugely popular community event which is expected to draw thousands to the city.

While special events will be held throughout the day at a number of city shops, restaurants, and boutiques, city residents may have a chance to see themselves on display at City Hall.

Troy's Little Italy neighborhood will be partnering with the Italian Community Center and the Troy CYO to share an information booth in the building Sunday where visitors will have the opportunity to view slides of various activities their neighborhoods and communities had been involved in during 2008.

Food and drinks will also be offered.

For more information on Victorian Stroll events visit:
Troy's Little Italy and Troy's Victorian Stroll

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cutting benefits to cut costs?

City Councilman Mark McGrath, R-District 2, asked members of the council’s Democratic majority Wednesday to support the idea of eliminating health care benefits for council members to save taxpayers money.

According to McGrath, council members are currently in the open enrollment process for health care, which he believed should not be offered to part-time employees in the first place.

Council President Clement Campana, D-At Large, said the council certainly could discuss the option but couldn't speak for those who do receive health care benefits from the city because he personally did not.

There are currently a total four council members using the city-providing health insurance program, according to the city's Personnel Department, but their names could not be revealed because of HIPAA regulations.

More details can be found here.

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After 19 years, Ahern property to be sold

*Update* - Read the full story here.

The Troy Housing Authority is expected to soon sell 2.3 acres of land where the John J. Ahern apartments once sat to the developer of the Congress-Ferry Street Corridor project for $649,000, according to THA executive secretary Bill Meissner.

The property was closed by 1989 due to persistent crime and drug problems at the location and has sat vacant ever since. The four buildings which used to stand on the location were demolished in 2000.

There will be public discussion on the matter Friday at 11 a.m. at the Italian Community Center, located at 1450 Fifth Ave.

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Even door locks can be political in Troy

City Clerk Bill McInerney said on Wednesday that it didn't matter whether a new, digital combination lock on the door to his office had been replaced in the current, soon-to-be-demolished City Hall because the door, along with several others used by city government, would be moving with city employees when they eventually make the transition into the Verizon building on Sixth Avenue.

On Black Friday, Mayor Harry Tutunjian had questioned why the lock had been installed on the door to the City Clerk's office in the building when, according to information he'd received, the original lock had not been broken.

Tutunjian was under the impression that the lock cost $900, based on a copy an estimate from a local locksmith who had examined the mechanism, and criticised the council for spending money to purchase new office supplies only days after they shifted funds in the 2009 budget from city departments into the city's contingency fund in an effort to save taxpayers money.

Further information on Tutunjian's criticism of the purchase can be found here.

According to Campana and McInerney, the lock had only cost $400 and was needed because the original indeed had been broken and it was necessary to protect the vital documents stored within the office.

McInerney also noted that final installation of the lock was done by Greg Mangione, the owner of Magione Mobile Locksmith.

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