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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

BID hearing finally happening tonight

After months of delays and setbacks, the official public hearing regarding the proposed downtown Business Improvement District will be held at City Hall tonight at 7 p.m.

Residents will be able to come and share there views on why they believe there should or should not be a BID in the city of Troy.

Once the meeting is held, a 30-day public comment period will begin where residents can submit their formal opposition to the BID's creation to the City Clerk's office.

If more than 50 percent of proposed district members oppose the BID, it cannot be created. However, not voting counts in favor of establishing the district.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

School district: last "town hall" meeting of the year

The following is a press release from the district:

What: Troy City School District’s Town Hall Meeting

When: Monday, May 4, 2009 at 7 p.m.

Where: School 16 – 40 Collins Avenue, Troy, N.Y.

Details: The Board of Education for the Enlarged City School District of Troy, NY will host its final town hall meeting for the 2008-09 school year on Monday, May 4 at 7 p.m. at School 16. This will conclude its first year-long series of monthly public forums.

This meeting is open to the public and creates an opportunity for an informal question and answer session with Troy’s Board of Education and district administrators. The district also recently created an online feedback form at where comments and questions can be sent in electronically, to be addressed at town hall meetings.

With the hopes of reaching all segments and neighborhoods within the district, town hall meetings were rotated monthly so that they were hosted by all eight schools. The meetings were held regularly at 7 p.m.; the series started in October 2008 and ends in May 2009.

On April 1, the Board of Education unanimously (8-0) adopted a budget of $95.1 million. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Wednesday, May 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the Doyle Middle School Media Center. District residents will vote on the proposed budget on Tuesday, May 19, 2009.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Mayor questions council actions

Mayor Harry Tutunjian questioned the validity of a special meeting held by the City Council Thursday that started more than an hour after its scheduled time.

According to a legal notice which appeared in The Record on April 21, the council planned to hold the meeting at 7 p.m. to make an appointment to fill the vacancy on the Board of Assessment Review and to override Tutunjian's veto of Local Laws 1 and 2 for 2009, which dealt with allowing both political parties on the council to hire their own legal counsel.

However, the special meeting did not actually begin until roughly 8:15 p.m. after the council's Finance Committee, which ran long because members had listened to a 30-minute presentation on reassessments from the state Office of Real Property Services.

Tutunjian said that the council was required to follow the schedule set forth in its legal notice - including both the time the meeting would start and the matters which would be discussed, since the override of his vetoes was actually moved to the council's regular May meeting.

"This appointment is null and void," said Tutunjian, who noted that the appointment was ever legally challenged it would not hold up in court.

Council President Clement Campana, D-At Large, said that that the council did the fair thing and was not in the wrong.

"I would never stop government from acting, regardless of what the clock says," said Campana, who said the complaint was typical of Tutunjian and his administration. "We weren't going to let these people speak, and as a courtesy, knowing full well that this thing wasn't ready to go forward, I let the guy speak."

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

School district budget newsletter

Click here to view a copy of the Enlarged City School District of Troy's Spring newsletter, which will soon be mailed to city residents.

The newsletter includes useful details regarding the proposed $95.1 million budget which was adopted by the Board of Education on April 1 and the 3.84 percent tax increase that it carries.

It also mentions estimated tax rates based on the assessed value of city homes, discusses what will happen in the event that the proposed budget is voted down the public, and includes breakdowns of where the district's money will be spent as well as where it is coming from.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Layoff numbers for Troy Schools

The Enlarged City School District of Troy is expected to lay off more than 60 employees by the end of its fiscal year.

The layoffs are part of an effort to balance a proposed $95.11 million that the Board of Education adopted on April 1. That budget will soon be presented to as part of a public referendum on May 19.

Board of Education President Jason Schofield said that the layoffs would be spread across the district’s three labor unions — the Troy Teachers Association, the Troy Administrators Union, and the Civil Service Employees Association.

Roughly 50 teachers will be laid off under the proposal. The district's business department, certain foreign language programs, and Troy High School's theater department will also likely be affected by the cuts.

Read more about the issue in Wednesday's edition of The Record.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Discussions on Proctor's

Below is a series of messages regarding ideas to save Proctor's Theatre on Fourth Street. There are currently 2,100 signatures on an online petition to save the building.

Richard Herrick, local citizen

Suggested several ideas on how to save Proctor's theatre:

"1. Relocate Rensselaer's Lighting Research Institute which is currently in leased space to the Theater. Why waste money on leased space when RPI can use space it already own and what a better place to study lighting than in a theater setting. Envision if you will the construction of two floors of open office space over the current theater seating areas. These open spaces would overlook the stage creating a tremendous learning and work environment for the Institute and its students.

An additional benefit for Troy can also be had: Convert the Gurley Building into more downtown dormitories. Rensselaer and Stellenbosch University , one of the premier research universities in South Africa have recently teamed up to expand their science and engineering capacity and to encourage young people in Africa to visit America and focus their energies on addressing the great global challenges of our time. More dorm space is needed to house these visiting students and Gurley's fits right in!!. The Proctor's and the Gurley Building combination is a sure bet for success and a Win Win for all.

2. Use a restored Proctors to house the New York State Youth Theatre Institute (NYSTI), a theater without a permanent home. The Mayor and the Troy City Council's passed a resolution recently urging the State to keep this world class theater for our children in Troy. I could not agree more. The NYSTI is housed in temporary cramped space at Russell Sage College and does not have its own Theater space Proctor's can certainly be used to make the world a better place for our children and stand as an internationally acclaimed professional and educational regional theatre for the Theater Institute.

3. Use Proctors as a Convention Center. Troy currently does not have large convention center space, but should. Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson as former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission carries with her a stature which can bring large conferences to Troy to meet and address the future of nuclear power, including its economics, waste disposal, proliferation or non-proliferation, and study innovations in nuclear technology, all in a renovated Proctor's. This use will continue and expand upon RPI's world class recognition as leader in science and engineering research and education. A restored Proctors could also be used at other times as a movie theater for first-run movies, have a Broadway and NYSTI production every now and then and yes, have that old fashion vaudeville show.

Opportunities Abound to Save Proctor's and I urge Rensselaer President Jackson, Mayor Tutunjian and the Troy City Council to work in collaboration with Columbia Development to Save Proctor's

Use RestoreNY money to Save Proctor's and not DestroyNY's historic treasures."

Councilman Bill Dunne, D-District 4
"Sadly, the $5,000,000 in RestoreNY money is not enough to renovate this building. It is not even enough to "mothball" it. Any of these ideas below is a minimum of $15 - $20 million. Right now, given the economy, that money is just not out there."

Jim de Seve - local resident
"Go Richard! There are creative solutions. The one being proposed is not creative. SEFCU, while welcome in Troy has a choice of office space downtown. As someone proposed on the petition why not put SEFCU into the old Quackenbush's (Grant's and then Rite Aid) at Third and Broadway? The building is huge.

The structural assessments of the theater say that it is rock solid. Most of the damage is superficial. Much of the building is steel, concrete and brick. It was built to last. It has a new roof.

There is nothing that makes this project urgent. Let's keep Proctor's in a historical savings account. Let's spend time researching and coming up with a creative way to save this theater.

Let's reject the "saving history by destroying history" double-speak that has been coming from the mayor. It is bizarre reasoning.

Harry hopes to have a big "win" while he is still in office. Tearing down Proctor's is a big loss for everyone!

We will not stand and watch this theater be demolished. No way in hell is that structure coming down. Politicians who advocate its destruction will have to atone on election day.

Sign the petition to the state - now at 2,017 people!

Bill - Get me the 5 million and I will show you how to mothball the building. That is a ridiculous statement. The walls are straight, the inside structure firm.

We don't need politicians making excuses for their support of demolition. We need leaders with vision and cojones."

Blaise Hartley - local resident
"Can anyone provide sources for these estimates?

I have real questions about where all these numbers come from. We've seen news articles on similar buildings in similar or worse condition being restored to a usable state for around $1M, but the numbers *for* demolition always seem to be very vague.

Has a qualified professional presented estimates on projects similar to the ideas below, or even ANY other ideas besides demolition? If so, why hasn't anyone simply produced these estimates, to clear the whole thing up? If not, what valid source are these numbers coming from?

The single reality-based number I've heard from those in favor of demolition so far has been the Proctor's Schenectady argument, to the effect of "The Schenectady Proctor's needed a $30M renovation, and it had never been abandoned, so our Proctor's would cost at least as much, if not more." This would *seem* to be a good argument, so I researched it a bit, and found that it is a completely invalid comparison. I haven't found exact numbers yet, but several articles point out that the vast majority of the $30M was not spent on renovating the theater space at all! Most of it went to renovating the building next door, building a new stagehouse, building a community theater down the street, and building an entirely new high-tech black-box theater as advanced as the one in EMPAC, complete with iwerks movie equipment and self-unfolding seating that automatically hides itself away in the walls!

I'm not saying I KNOW what the numbers are, but how are we expected to believe "It's too expensive" if the only real evidence we've seen says it isn't, and all other arguments are built on hearsay?"

I have a Master of Architecture degree and manage million dollar commercial construction projects. I think that qualifies me.
The building needs asbestos abatement, mold remediation, cleanup, selective demolition and stabilization and then the entire electrical and mechanical systems need to be replaced, plus...
This will consume the $5,000,000.

The Quackenbush has no parking. Jim, where's the money??? Show us a realistic alternate.

Greg Cholakis, local attorney
Amen, brothers Jim Don! And you're right: I guarantee that scores of volunteers, individuals businesses, will give of their time resources, to further stabilize mothball the buildings, making it far more attractive for potential development.

And Bill: your expertise aside, there is no way in hell that this portion of the project will cost that much money. In either event, seeing how at least one of us is wrong, why is it that we don't have legitimate estimates for this work, but instead apparently rely on rumors or worse yet, Columbia's self-serving statements on this issue?

And I promise you that I will be first in line to roll up my sleeves to help.......assuming I could possibly elbow my way in front of Jim and Don. Instead of telling us why we will fail, why don't you pledge to join me and volunteer your time?

de Seve
Bill -
As Don Rittner pointed out - why is there money for demolition?

This was sprung on the public very quickly. The answer to anyone (and that is MANY people) who does not agree with this idiotic plan is - what is the alternative?

Given enough time and research alternatives will be discovered. There is always a way to pull of the "impossible".

The problem is that our public officials have dug their heads deep in the sand and tout this "destroying Proctor's is saving Proctor's" nonsense.

Why? So one of your own can claim to be the savior of Proctor's for his own political benefit? (big mistake) The people are screaming at you guys to do better - and your collective ears are very deaf.

I know there is more history here including another viable response to the RPI RFP. There are also possibilities of renovation through Americorps or other programs that would train people in historic renovation. Stone cutters were trained at the Capital renovation recently through a similar program.

There is also a very determined populace to help. I have no doubt that many people will answer the call to volunteer with a fix-up effort. Maybe just enough to mothball for now. And given the solid structure mothballing would not be that hard. I have renovated buildings and been around renovations all my life, including several buildings downtown that were way worse than Proctor's. It can be done.

And if we all believe in a healthy future for Troy - can't that future include a renovated theater? If we are stupid enough to tear it down now, there are bound to be HUGE regrets in the future.

This is being foisted on us verrrrry quickly with very little government transparency and little will to look for alternatives. It has a lot of people really pissed off.

Bill, I promise you that we will not let that theater come down. We will picket SEFCU, we will form a human chain around that building if demolition equipment comes anywhere near. You will have to pry my dead body off that theater before a brick is harmed.

And we will hold politicians who support this monstrous foolishness to very high standards come election day.

Sign the petition at:

Thanks for the response. I wasn't specifically addressing my questions to you, but I appreciate you stepping up!
If I understand correctly, your professional opinion as an architect is that you estimate that it would cost about $5M to return the theater space to what others have referred to as a "mothballed" condition, i.e. structurally sound, sealed from the elements, safe for humans to enter, and with a semblance of modern infrastructure, but still in need of cleanup and restoration. If this is the case, I have a question. Is the current plan actually guaranteed in any way? What I mean is, have the parties involved already completed the plans for the new building to be built behind the facade and entryway, and secured the loans/cash needed to complete them, or is the project speculative, and contingent first on the demolition?

If the project is speculative, has anyone done a real risk assessment on what its chances of coming to pass are? I would think that given Troy's track record in this department, we should be skeptical of the plan's chance of success, unless there are already some kind of guarantees in place.

Obviously, if the $5M grant were used to "mothball" the structure and buy it back from RPI, to be put in the care of a non-profit corporation whose job would be to raise funds for restoration, etc, there would be a risk that that project too would fail, but the potential rewards, I suspect, would equal or exceed those of the current proposal, so having some idea of the probabilities involved would really help to convince me and others one way or the other.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Campana: Comments were misleading

City Council President Clement Campana apparently wasn't satisfied with the response of Corporation Counsel Charlie Sarris to his questions about a lawsuit filed against a city employee last year to remove a reverter clause from the former Verizon Building on Sixth Avenue.

In his reponse to Campana's questions about why the City Council had never been notified of the issue, considering that its members also make up the Troy Urban Renewal Agency - which had control over the reverter which was enacted in 1973, Sarris had said that the city had not disposed of any property and that Sondra Little was named as the defendant in her capacity as Commissioner of Planning and Community Development.

"Your comments are erroneous and extremely misleading to the general public," wrote Campana in a letter Thursday. "The caption of the verified complaint states in plain English that Ms. Little was being sued in her capacity as Executive Director and Secretary of the Troy Urban Renewal Agency."

Supreme Court Judge Michael Lynch ruled on Sept. 18 in the LLC’s favor after receiving no opposition to the motion from the city.

The matter is not believed to have any impact on the city's current lease on the Verizon Building or its plan to use the structure as a temporary City Hall.

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Consolidated Plan focus groups

Three public focus groups have been scheduled centered on the city’s preparation of its 2010-2014 Consolidated Plan.

The plan, which will describe the city’s five-year goals and objectives for the use of federal grant money, must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this year.

The money applied for each year includes Community Development Block Grants, HOME Investment Partnership funding, and Emergency Shelter Grant funds.

The plan is also the first step in a process Mayor Harry Tutunjian announced earlier this year to steer more than $6 million in CDBG funding toward improvements in the south Troy and North Central neighborhoods.

The meetings will be held April 29 at the Polish American Club, located at 507 First St., May 6 at the North Central police substation, located at 3100 Sixth Ave., and May 20 at the Lansingburgh Boys and Girls Club, located at 505 Fourth Ave. All of the meetings will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Residents with any questions can contact Timothy Mattice in the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development at 270-4476.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Pickles" for legislature

Michael "Pickles" Picarillo, the city's superintendent of streets, could soon be appointed to the Rensselaer County Legislature to fill the vacant seat of Legistlator Nancy McHugh, who passed away in February.

Pickles, who has been with the city Department of Public Works for 36 years, was chosen for the seat by Legistlative Chairman Neil Kelleher.

The official vote to appoint him will be cast on April 14. If appointed, Picarillo will have to run for re-election along with the rest of the legislature in November.

Read more about it in Dave Canfield's article.

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