Monday, March 29, 2010

Hunt is on for colorful, candy filled eggs!

Troy’s annual Easter Egg Hunt is this Saturday April 3, 2010. This year the egg hunt returns to Powers Park after a one year hiatus to Knickerbacker Park. Children between the ages one and twelve are invited to join the Easter Bunny to search for colorful candy filled eggs.

This event has become a much anticipated event each year in Lansingburgh. Dozens of children can be found scurrying about the park for their sweet prizes. Even the grey, cold, and rainy weather last year wasn’t enough to deter the youngsters and their families. But you should be sure to come early this Saturday because the weatherman says it’s going to be an absolutely beautiful day!

The event is organized by Colleen Bessette and Vito Ciccarelli with help from members of the North Lansingburgh Neighborhood Watch and sponsored by the City of Troy, Whitney Young Health Services, and Hannaford.

Troy Easter Egg Hunt
Saturday April 3, 2010
12:00 pm
Powers Park, between 110th and 111th Streets on 2nd Avenue in Lansingburgh

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Troy - The Tax-Exempt Utopia

Routinely, residents of Troy hear statistical figures detailing the number of tax-exempt occupants in the city. Most recently the percentage of properties not contributing to the tax base is 56%, that is up 2% from the last figure that I heard. It isn't hard to arrive at this number when you add up the amount of property the three colleges own and the countless number of non-profits that continue to migrate to Troy and gobble up properties to expand their operations. It's no wonder that when a taxpayer in Troy is asked, "what's your number one concern," the answer routinely is "the taxes are too high." The tax-exempts are one of the major contributing factors to this concern because the 44% of us who are not tax-exempt pay 100% of the annual tax levy.

Recently, I read about, what could be one of the most useful pieces of legislation to come out of Albany in a long time. A plan will be introduced by a member of the State Senate that would require private colleges and other public tax-exempts to pay property tax. For a cash strapped state and city this could prove to be an excellent safety valve for homeowners by lessening our burden. It will be interesting to read the proposal and to learn more about the particulars, such as will the tax rates be the same or will "special deals" be made for certain tax-exempts allowing them to remain untaxed? Anyway you look at it, it's a decent idea. Why should 56% of Troy receive the same level of city services as the 44% do with the exception that the 56% get it for FREE? It's also worth noting that many of the tax-exempt entities receive state and federal grant monies(our tax dollars)on an annual basis to help run their operations, so in essence they are "double-dipping" on the tax paying public.

Clearly the system is broken and something needs to be done and this is a good first step. Who knows if the proposal will gain any steam or if it can even be done legally, but it is definitely worth exploring. Ultimately, a state constitutional convention needs to be held to address the dysfunction, shortcomings, and corruption that exists in New York State government. Curbing the wasteful spending, pealing away and eliminating the layers upon layers of bureaucracy and the plush jobs they offer is the only true way to approach our problem that is seemingly out of control.

Monday, March 15, 2010

State of our Alleys

What you see in the photo to the right has become a common reoccurring theme in our alleyways from South Troy to Lansingburgh. Litter and trash. What puzzles me is why would people be comfortable to live in these conditions. How could anyone accept living each day surrounded by filth?

I receive numerous reports monthly from neighborhood group members about the varying degrees of litter in their alleys, but upon seeing this alley I decided to tour the alleyways of Troy. What I found was this was not an isolated incident. I spoke with neighbors and asked them why this happens and how long has it been happening. I was given a number of answers as to why it happens, but there were several that were reoccurring. Residents are putting there garbage out in the alleyways everyday of the week not just 24 hrs prior to pickup, which alone is against city ordinance, but they are doing so without the benefit of a trash can. This leaves the full bags of waste vulnerable to animals and humans who are in search of a "prize." After they have finished their search for the "prize" they leave the raw waste strewn about for all their neighbors to contend with. Now litter is one thing, but raw waste/garbage is another. It attracts certain vermin that, in a residential setting, is highly undesirable (rats, skunks, raccoons, rats, skunks, and did I mention rats?). The second common theme I heard was that the majority of those who wish to detract from the communities quality-of-life and break the law are tenement dwellers, transients that inhabit buildings that are owned by absentee landlords and who have zero care for the community they have become a member of. The landlords are either unaware of the situation or they just don't care. Many of the long-term residents of our neighborhoods have never seen the property owners. All that they do see is the results of their lack of care and management.

How do we deal with this... Hold the landlords accountable. It would make no sense trying to reach out to the individuals who are creating the mess to begin with because for the most part these are individuals who have never been held accountable in their lives and they're sure not going to start now. Personally, I think the city has been very successful with the nuisance abatement program, could this program be expanded to include this and other code violations? Fines only go so far and they really don't "hurt" the property owner, they just pass it along to the renter. Expanding the current abatement program so that the city now has the mechanism and authority in place to shut-down a house that continues to negatively impact society maybe the answer showing everyone that Troy is not the place for deadbeat property owners and tenants.

In my opinion this is not an issue with a lack of code enforcement or ineffective DPW. They do their jobs, they cleaned the alley shown in the photo and many others in a timely manner and cited those they could for code violations, but this cycle will continue until a resolution is formulated. For the mean time if you know of or see violators turn them in because if you don't your telling them its OK to deface your neighborhood and constrict your quality-of-life.

Friday, March 5, 2010

North Lansingburgh Neighborhood Watch to Host Reassessment Meeting

Below is the press release I have sent out regarding my neighborhood groups upcoming meeting next week. Please spread the word and urge everyone you know to attend this meeting. Its an important issue that needs each persons understanding...

Press Release
For Immediate Release

Contact: Jim Gordon

(March 5, 2010 – Troy, NY) As part of their March Neighborhood meeting, the North Lansingburgh Neighborhood Watch will host a public information session on the proposed city-wide reassessment. Recently, the Troy city council delayed a vote that would have moved the process forward in an effort to provide city residents and taxpayers the opportunity to learn more about the process.

The neighborhood group will have representatives from the New York State Office of Real Property Services and the City of Troy on hand to outline the process and educate residents on the matter. Last fall several similar meetings were hosted city-wide with the intent of detailing the matter, but the majority of them were not well attended.

“We hope this meeting will be well attended now that reassessment has become a front page story. This is a major decision that needs to be made and deserves strong consideration,” Jim Gordon a leader of the neighborhood group remarked. “We have held informational meetings like this in the past because it’s the right and necessary thing to do. Sometimes what the residents read and hear are just sound bites and do not include the full story.” Previously the group hosted question and answer sessions with members of the Troy Public Library prior to the vote to establish a library tax district and hosted a meet the candidates forum for those running for election in last year’s city council race.

The neighborhood meeting will be held at 7pm, Tuesday, March 9th at the Lansingburgh Boys & Girls Club located at 501 4th Ave in Lansingburgh. For more information contact Jim Gordon at

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is RPI a good corporate citizen?

Am I the only one that takes issue with the current plan RPI is proposing to construct President Jackson’s new “home”? Last month the zoning board denied the variances needed to construct this new monstrosity of a building on an adjacent piece of property. So, now in the standard RPI fashion they’d thumbed their nose at the city and now plan to demolish the existing president’s home and rebuild in its place. I find it very entertaining that the current residence is inadequate to entertain and host guests of the institution. What? Are you serious? The current home is 120 years old, has seven bedrooms, five bathrooms and is 4,884 square feet. Does Mrs. Jackson plan on inviting the entire Swedish hockey team to visit and then host a friendly hockey game in the living room? The proposed footage of the new home is over 9,500 square feet! What is just as absurd is that fact that RPI trustees will be paying for this. There are actually individuals who see fit to grant hundreds of thousands dollars to have this built.

Ok, if I now step back and think about the issue with RPI, maybe the problem isn’t the empire RPI continues to build up on the hill. Many residents in Troy have a negative view point toward them because “they continue to take from the city and never give back.” Do you think RPI, who has been identified as one of the largest taxpayers in the city, doesn’t have the best community relations plan? Normally large universities and corporations in small cities, country-wide, have an aggressive community outreach program to take an active role in community events. Show the “townie’s” that they are vital to their overall success. According to the RPI website they do have such a department and a plan what they call “Communiversity,” but from the perspective of a resident of Troy it doesn’t appear to be too successful. For example, last year when the Troy City Council was pouring a tremendous amount to time and energy into whether or not a dog park in Beman Park should exist and who should pay for it, that would have been a prime opportunity for RPI to step in and say “how can we help with the solution?” The park is right in the heart of their campus on 15th Street. Their students would have benefited just as much as the Troy community. RPI had an opportunity to work with the neighbors and city to devise a plan to design, construct, and help pay for the proper solution. This would have provided RPI an opportunity to begin to build good will among residents of Troy. Honestly, all we hear is the negative and Troy’s taxpayer’s approval rating of the college isn’t that great at the moment. Yes, RPI does provide some funding for their use of city resources, for economic development with the city, and some taxes, but many people see these as obligations that RPI isn’t to sincere about. It’s time for RPI to be sincere. Be a positive and responsible corporate citizen that expresses a level of care and well-being for Troy is what most people desire. I would think it would be in their best interest that the city and it's residents support RPI and it's endeavors, just as it’s in Troy’s best interest that RPI do the same for them.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Preserving the Burgh's Past

I don't think its a far stretch to say that outside of Lansingburgh many residents of Troy do not realize that there are two historical societies preserving the past in the city. Chartered in 1965, the Lansingburgh Historical Society was formed as a result of the Lansing House, a structure dating back to 1749, being demolished. Currently, a small group of individuals work hard to protect, interpret, and educate the history of what once was America's oldest incorporated village, Lansingburgh. The Society operates from the Herman Melville House on 114th St and 1st Ave. The home of the "Moby Dick" author has become the center of the groups mission. Each year the Board of Trustees and the volunteers maintain and update the building as well as the Society's many collections.

The Society has a seven person Board of Trustees who are the backbone of the groups success. Each year the group hosts several educational meetings at the Melville House that are open to the public. Many of these events feature special guest speakers presenting a piece of our regions past and are normally well attended. Other events that are held are fund-raisers in the form of book and porch sales, silent auctions, and dinners.

A note worthy project that the Society is currently putting together is the rehabilitation of the two cemeteries on the east side of 3rd Ave and lying on the north and south sides of 107th Street. The project is of interest to Senator Roy McDonald, whom the group met with and will be submitting a grant proposal to. A number of soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War are buried in these grounds along with descendants of many early Lansingburgh families.

The Lansinigburgh Historical Society has become a labor-of-love for all those that are affiliated with it. Currently, there are 248 members. According to the group membership has decreased slightly, which they attribute to the poor economy. This is unfortunate because the Society depends on these funds to continue the preservation and growth of their collections as well as their community. Lansingburgh holds a unique place in the history of Troy and the Capital District. Once the home of Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States, where Herman Melville wrote his first two novels, home and final resting grounds to many soldiers that sacrificed everything to protect what the volunteers of the Lansingburgh Historical Society are now looking to preserve.

Please visit to learn more.