Past, Present & Future
May 4, 2010
I have been following the Albany2030 program with interest having lived my whole life in the City and have witnessed the changes in its "quality of life" character.
As a child growing up in the Pine Hills I was like many other children at the time. We had our natural mothers and numerous "street" mothers such mothers "Hudson", "Jay"', "Madison" and mother "Main".
If any one of us got out of line in any way or form, the offender was hard pressed to get home by running as if the devil himself was chasing us and any using all known shortcuts home before the news was communicated to the perpetrator's natural mother.
The point of the above recollection is at that time there was a deep sense of community, parental involvement and caring by all neighbors. So what has changed?
Now, instead of having two parent families with the mother at home providing parental supervision and the father working to support the family we now have many single parent families for a host of reasons. In many instances, the single parent has to work to support the family or if both parents are present in the house both might have to work and are not available to the children.
Another recollection of my youth was that much of the City was owner occupied residential. This is no longer true.
For many reasons absentee property owners replaced owner occupied. The absentee owners saw the future of the growth of SUNYA and Saint Rose and other institutions to start their own "development" program in the heart of the City. These absentee owners carved up properties that were once two family units to two to four units with possibly three to four occupants per unit.
The primary example of this transformation is the "student ghetto" in the Pine Hills section of Albany. In the "ghetto" we have cars parked on front lawns, numerous calls to both the AFD and APD for incidents after the students visit a local bar, building and code violations and the ever present trash problems that DGS has to attend.
I am talking about the vast areas of the City which were once tax paying properties that are now tax exempt such as both the SUNY downtown and uptown campuses, the College of Saint Rose in the heart of the Pine Hills and the Empire State Plaza.
These institutions are all tax exempt yet depend on on City services. At this time approximately 43 to 46 percent of the accessed of the property in the City is tax exempt.
One of two ways to provide safe neighborhoods and increase the "quality of life" of Albany is for the APD to increase its community outreach program to replace or to act as the missing parent which it has begun to do. The second is to increase the presence of the AFD in neighborhood activities.
Both these positive steps are hindered by present City budget constraints placed on the City by the high percentage of tax exempt properties and low state financial assistance.
It is my considered opinion that the City has to pursue to its fullest the potential of PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Tax) program and some form of other assistance from other institutions not a part of PILOT.
Without all of us being on the same page at this time; the State, educational institutions, medical institutions, absentee landlords and homeowners we will all possibly be come a part of the fall of Albany.