Monday, February 28, 2011

Absentee Landlord and Vacant Building Management

If there is one thing this wicked winter has thought us it is the importance of our city’s Absentee Landlord registration and our Vacant Building registry. As the inches upon inches of snow have continued to fall coupled with the occasional rain/ice storm many neighbors have been asking, “Who is going to clean that sidewalk?” Often referring to a building that sits vacant or one owned by a known out-of-town owner. A well facilitated registry program is the answer to the question. The data that is required to be submitted by the property owner to the city allows city officials quick access to all pertinent contact information to seek a timely remedy to an issue that may arise.

In 2008, the city adopted a Landlord Registry. This program requires all property owners who live 20 miles or more outside the city limits to register their property with the city. The property owner is required to provide all pertinent contact information for themselves and for their required property manager. The process to register is simple. Either in person or via mail the owner has to complete an application which can be found on the city’s website or at city hall. Ninety days after taking ownership of the property this application needs to be completed and on file with the city. (Note: all properties owned by out-of-town landlords must have been registered within 90 of the passing of the registry in 2008.) The application fee of $150 will be waived if the property owner registers within these 90 days. If the owner does not register, the $150 fee is required plus an additional $75 fee for each 60 day period until the property is registered. Any fees that remain unpaid during a calendar year will be added to the tax levy of the affected property. Should a property remain unregistered the city can being action against the property owner and should they be found in violation, the owner will be subject of a fine up to $500. This registry provides the city with effective means of contacting and seeking remedy to any issue that may occur at a non-owner occupied property. In the past tracking down an owner or the owner’s representative presented city officials with challenges, especially with those who reside well out of the area. Owners are required to register their property every three years.

The city’s vacant building registry has been in place for a number of years now, but recently it has been updated. To be considered vacant a building must: A. be unoccupied and not secured or not boarded in compliance with the standards set forth in the city code; B. be unoccupied and not maintained in compliance with the standards set forth in the city code; C. be posted as "Unfit for Human Habitation" by the City of Troy Bureau of Code Enforcement; D. be illegally occupied; or E. be unoccupied for a period of time over three months. Vacant buildings can pose a serious health and safety issue to their neighborhoods. If they’re not secured and maintained properly they could be a breeding ground for unsavory activity and if they’re not well maintained they could fall victim to continued vandalism and severe dilapidation. Just as the landlord registry, there is a fee schedule. The city’s desire is to have these properties occupied and valuable assets to the community. So, an aggressive fee schedule has been developed to encourage owners to occupy them in a timely manner. The first year registration fee is $250, which along with the registry application and a plan for the property must be submitted to the city within 30 days of the building be declared vacant. Each year thereafter the registration fee increases: 2nd year is $500, 3rd year is $1,000, 4th year is $1,500, 5th year and each succeeding year is $2,000. Note that vacant building fees for buildings of 5,000 square feet or greater shall be doubled.

Why are programs like this important? They compel neglectful property owners to be responsible for their properties. City officials now have the most current information for the property owners and their representatives enabling them to effectively communicate in the event of an emergency or violation. Well maintained and occupied properties improve neighborhoods, increase property values and marketability, and prevent neighborhoods from falling into despair. They help provide all of us with the quality-of-life we desire.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Specialized CDTA Service for Senior's and Special Need's Patrons

Recently, I became aware of a specialized service offered through CDTA. The STAR (Special Transit Available by Request) program is a paratransit (alternative mode of flexible passenger transportation that does not follow fixed routes or schedules) service that provides origin to destination transportation for seniors and people with disabilities who are unable to ride a regular fixed-route bus. STAR is available in areas where CDTA's regular route service is provided. A reservation is required with a one way fare of $2.50 ($5.00 round trip).

This service follows the existing CDTA bus service routes and will make pick-ups and drop-offs to any location within three quarters of a mile of a CDTA fixed route on the same days and times. For example, if a CDTA bus operates Monday- Friday from 6AM - 7PM, along a specific route, STAR is available within three quarters of a mile on either side of that route during those same hours. All STAR buses are ADA compliant and the service allows for personal care attendants with proper identification to accompany the individual free of charge.

Given the guidelines of this program, Troy seniors and those with disabilities can travel the majority of the Capital Region at a low cost. Whether it be for trips to the doctor, shopping, or to visit family or friends CDTA has made their service assessable to everyone.
If you believe you or someone you know could benefit from this service contact CDTA to learn more by calling 518-482-2022 or by visiting the STAR website by clicking here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Troy Family YMCA - Reach Out For Youth Scholarship Program

Each year the Troy Family YMCA embarks on a fund drive to support their Reach Out For Youth Scholarship program. This program is supported through the donations from members of the Troy community. The money that is collected allows the YMCA to provide scholarships to children and their families across the City of Troy who otherwise would not be able to afford YMCA programs and services. Each day you will find children from South Troy, Lansingburgh, North Central, and everywhere in between enjoying swim lessons, daycare services, after-school programs, or a visit to Camp Chingachgook on Lake George. This program assists in getting the kids off the streets and into a community center where can develop core values: caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility; values they will have forever.

I often hear from my neighbors, “We need more for the children to do.” A program like this provides that answer. Like all things it takes money. Last year the Troy YMCA collected over $150,000 which was then returned to the community in the form of scholarships for kids to enjoy the Y’s services. This is amazing stuff, but requires your help.

This is an on-going fund drive and, if you choose, you may pledge in one of several ways. The simplest is to make a one-time monetary donation of any amount. You can also sponsor the children by donating monthly. You can give a child the chance to make new friends, learn how to swim, and more with a YMCA membership for a year for just $9 a month. You can give 5 teenagers the chance to attend a three-day rally where they’ll learn leadership skills that will benefit them forever; this is just $21 a month. You can give 10 kids the chance to join a youth basketball program where they’ll develop team-building skills that will help them stay in school and be successful in life. This is just $42 a month. There are also several social fundraisers scheduled where you can donate to the program, as well.

For those of you who are still shopping for a special someone’s gift for Valentine’s Day, there will be a jewelry sale this Saturday, February 12th from 10am to 12pm at the Troy Family YMCA featuring Latebloomers Jewelry Design. All proceeds will benefit the Reach Out For Youth program. Then on Tuesday, February 22nd from 5pm to 10pm at the Recovery Room Sport Grill on Hoosick Street 15% of all customer bills will be donated to the Reach Out For Youth program. So, stop by with your family and friends to support the in YMCA in their mission.

To learn more or to donate contact Alecia Bilpuh, Membership Director, of the Troy Family YMCA at 272-5900 extension 2210 or email

Locally, we have several great community centers that provide outstanding programming and services for our city’s youth. Those include the Lansingburgh and Troy Boys and Girls Clubs, the CYO, the Sunnyside Center, and the Ark. Each of these organizations, like the YMCA, serves a purpose in their specific communities. If you support their programming, great, please continue to do so. If you’d like to support the YMCA’s youth programming as well that’s even better. Either way, it’s the support of the youth in Troy that matters.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Report on the Issues - Part 2 UPDATED

I’m still receiving a good number of responses to my “What matters post,” and the “Report on the issues” post. So much response that a part 2 of a, “report on the issues” is warranted. Again, keep the questions and comments coming for future posts.

Weekly Household Garbage Collection
Our neighborhood group fields a number of complaints regarding weekly garbage pickup. The primary complaints revolve around when individuals put their garbage out and about individuals not utilizing a secure receptacle (covered garbage can). Some people may think either one of this issues are not a big deal. Well tell your neighbor that when the wildlife (skunks, raccoons, squirrels, dogs, cats, birds, and rats) tear the bags apart in search of a meal. City ordienance states that household garbage should be placed out to the curb or in the alley after 7:00pm the night before your pick up day, or before 6:00am the day of your pick up and that garbage is to be placed in water tight wooden, plastic or metal covered containers or heavy duty plastic bags tied at the top or specially treated paper bags.

For more information or if you are unsure of your scheduled garbage day or if you have any questions concerning pick-ups, please call DPW 270-4579.

For more detail on what and what isn't considered "household" garbage click here.

For the detailed City Ordinance click here.

Troy’s parks are a major asset to our community. We are lucky to have a diversified abundance of parks city wide, each offering a different atmosphere, opportunity, and experience. A health parks program will be vital to the continued revitalization of our city, offering individuals and families with a verity of options and venues. In the past I have written about our city parks and the continued investment by the City with Park and Rec’s Department. Making and keeping our parks accessible, clean, and current should be a priority. Recently, I submitted a grant application to CDTA on behalf of the North Lansingburgh Neighborhood Watch for bike racks for the Knickerbacker Ice Rink and Knickerbacker Pool. If chosen these two sites will receive new bike racks for the children and their families to safely store their bikes as they enjoy the countless opportunities Knickerbacker Park has to offer. Additionally, in the near future, our neighborhood group will be a part of an exciting announcement concerning a pocket park in our community.

I have blogged about of parks program in the past, Troy's Wonderful Parks, and to learn more about the city’s parks and their locations click here.

Home Incentives and Economic Development
One way to assist residents in the continuing effort of removing blight and assisting to stabilize the community is through municipal incentive programs. These programs are geared to improve the appearance of both residential and commercial properties and entice people to settle in Troy. Think of this as the city investing in itself by utilizing grant dollars from the state and federal governments along with other sources. These incentives help current residents maintain and update their properties, as well as, help to draw individuals into the city. There are different qualifications for each program, some are income based, and some are not. These are programs that everyone should know about and take full advantage of because they will not only benefit the individual, they will benefit the community as a whole.

To learn more about the city’s Housing and Home Assistance programs click here.

To learn more about the city’s Economic Development Programs and Incentives click here.

Snow Removal
This is a red hot issue at the moment. I debated whether or not to comment on this one because it’s hard to specifically point to the issue, but I thought I’d give it a try. No one can deny that this winter we have experienced a substantial amount of snowfall, of which the majority fell over short period of time. Since Christmas we have had in the neighborhood of over 45” of snow, just storm after storm. Our city DPW and DPU workers are doing their best with what resources they have to keep up with the demand, but with so much to do, snow continues to accumulate. What some people don’t realize is that Lansingburgh is plowed by the Department of Public Utilities and the remaining areas of the city are treated by the Department of Public Works. This examples just how much of a strain a simple service as plowing places on our city workforce. When you have had several significant storms in a row, as we have this year, it adds additional strain on the manpower and equipment. I believe what we are experiencing with snow plowing/removal recently is caused by a couple things. One is, simply, the amount of snow that keeps falling. The city seemingly appears to be focused on keeping up with ensuring city streets are passable. You need to manage the storm and its outcome first. Snow removal isn’t happening as quickly as people would like, but in reality the machinery is "multitasking" performing several functions. Let me example… the large dump trucks that would be utilized to haul away the snow are being utilized to plow streets or they’re dispatched to other sections of the city for removal. Every pickup truck is out plowing and salting and with a limited amount of city workers, there’s only so many hours they can personally work before a rest break is necessary.

People are quick to point out the response of other municipalities on their own streets. These muni’s, unlike Troy and maybe with the exception of Albany (who is in another class of their own), receive a certain level of assistance from their county’s highway department and from the NYS DOT. In Troy, we don’t have that benefit; the burden rests on the city manpower and equipment. Also, when we take stock in other municipalities roads are we seeing the side streets and the less traveled residential roads or just the main corridors? I agree we could do better; there are always ways to improve processes and procedures. Should Troy work out a better approach for the future? Absolutely, but at this point in time I believe we all need to be patient and do our part. Believe me I’m as frustrated as the next person. This is not an excuse or reasoning from the city, but purely my own perspective. I’m not attempting to defend or minimize. I started this post by saying it’s hard to pin point the reason(s) for our current experiences. My intent is to give you something to think about. I feel just like you when I walk outside and see my block and those that surround it, but they are just a couple of the thousands of blocks citywide. But let’s look at the bright side, the days are growing longer and we’re just days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to baseball’s spring training camps. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you are excited about this because it signifies warm days are on the horizon.

If you want to report a sloppy street, use the See Click Fix section of the Troy Records website or call the Troy DPW.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2011 State of the City Address

Putting all the political drama of recent times aside, I think you’d have to agree with me that Troy has become a better place to live, work, and invest in over the past 7 years. Each time a mayor and his administration come into office you would expect them to progressively move their municipality forward, it’s their job. Each past Mayor has and each future one will do so as well with differing levels of success. With less than 11 months remaining is his second and final term as Mayor; Harry Tutunjian can look back and honestly say, “I’ve made a difference.” Troy is truly in a better position to capitalize on its future. People may be quick to point out a few setbacks, but after all they are human, like you and I. Many tough decisions had to have been made, many where popular and some not so, but knowing the Mayor as I do I know each decision was made in the best interest of the city and its residents. You may not agree with me and I respect that, everyone is entitled to their own individual opinion.

Tonight Mayor Tutunjian will deliver his 8th and final State of the City address prior to the Regular City Council meeting. Given the significance of this year’s speech, one would assume he will outline the progress Troy has experienced over the last 7 years, while outlining his agenda for the next 11 months and how this will impact the future of the city.

The council meeting begins promptly at 7pm at the Christ Church United Methodist at 35 State Street in Downtown Troy. The Mayor's SOTC will be the first item on the agenda. I’d encourage you to come and listen, after, if you have a question or concern talk to the Mayor yourself following the meeting. Don’t rely on the media and sound bites from politicians to help frame your thoughts and opinions. This is our city and our government, participate in it.