There’s this pattern that happens with abusive spouses. They often explain to their victims how to behave so they won’t get beaten up again. All the victim needs to do is give them proper respect, not burn their dinner, remember to leave out their slippers at the right place, never buy the wrong brand of toothpaste, never make them feel like they are being laughed at, never give them attitude or make them mad. And then, supposedly, they’ll be safe.
Of course, the abuser is not actually owed any of those things in the first place. And in any case, it’s always a lie. It’s a losing game. The abuse will continue, because periodic reminders of control are necessary and because the abuser will keep finding new things to add to the reasons they were “forced” to administer a beating.
This was one of the first things I thought of when I heard the details of the police portion of a recent “workshop” on police encounters that Albany youth were forced to attend as part of the city’s summer employment program. Continue reading
They are at it again. The same folks in the wealthier part of Western Albany who don’t want to provide a decent building to educate our children in also don’t like that a church in their neighborhood was participating in a regional effort to help families without homes via a day time outreach program hosted in a church parsonage. Neighborhood ne’er do well and perennial candidate Joe Sullivan, pursuing his vision of segregation and protection from scary people down on their luck, managed to luck into a judge who decided to overturn the zoning decision based on a technicality about whether a parsonage is actually a house of worship. Chris Churchill at the Times Union is right that this was a bad decision; I hope Family Promise and Bethany Reformed Church do appeal.
Wow, You Said That Out Loud
But the controversy also provided a disturbing look at how many residents of wealthier, whiter, single-family-home neighborhoods seem to feel that they deserve the right to decide who can enter those neighborhoods just by virtue of owning homes there. (Yes, I read the comments, so help me God.) They are startlingly direct about it: They feel that anything serving people poorer than they are should be considered a noxious use for the purposes of zoning and banned from their “nice” neighborhood. Continue reading
On Monday, Jan 25., I joined the group of protestors who disrupted the beginning of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s state of the city speech. It was a very powerful, really well organized action, a demonstration of a community coming together and insisting on being heard. That latter bit is more important than how the mayor reacted. (Hear more from the organizers here.)
However, she did engage the crowd for a while, and a bunch of things have been rattling around in my head about what she said. I wanted to spell them out, especially for people who don’t really understand why what she said met with negative reactions. Continue reading
Having an unexpected chance at a last-minute final column for Metroland, is a blessing and a curse. No pressure, after an almost-12-year run. At first I scrambled to try to assemble a column on one of the topics I hadn’t gotten to, wanting to just continue as I had been, but over the holidays and it being a big topic, I couldn’t pull it together properly.
Instead, I will leave you with a distinctly non-exhaustive spattering of some questions I didn’t get to, or that I (and plenty others) have written about but remain important and unanswered, some rhetorical, some deeply not. Though Metroland was one important place we could have conversations like these, it needn’t be the only one. Continue reading
Last spring, as I walked to a board meeting of the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region on Orange Street in Albany, I passed a memorial to a young man who had been shot and killed a couple of days earlier. There was a huge collection of candles on the ground between two stoops, marked off by caution tape, and with a large crowd of mourners around it.
Across from that memorial, tacked to a telephone pole was a relatively recent cheerful green and white sign that designates this stretch of road as part of a get-fit walking trail, and exhorts the viewer to “grab someone and take a walk!” This walking route is a loop that extends up into Center Square. Continue reading
Some people are a little bit upset about the city of Albany’s decision to install red light cameras.
OK, perhaps I am understating a little bit. Many people—most, from my unscientific survey, though not all, white men—are apoplectic. Continue reading
In case you missed it, Albany is redoing its zoning code. Given that portions of it date back to 1968, conflict with each other or are too vague to consistently interpret, and are scattered through about a dozen different chapters of the city code, this is a good thing. Just by making something consistent and accessible, the city will vastly increase its friendliness to people who want to open businesses, rehab houses, and otherwise participate actively in the ever-evolving landscape that is a city. Continue reading
The map of Albany on the screen, at quick glance, looked a little like a heat map of poverty and distressed neighborhoods, with one large red area over the Sheridan Hollow, Arbor Hill and West Hill neighborhoods, and another over the South End. There was a knowing intake of breath among the various neighborhood leaders and civic activists attending the Albany Roundtable’s May 21st event.
But the map that Dr. Mindy Fullilove (left), the evening’s keynote speaker, had put on the screen was not a current map. Nor was it a descriptive exercise reporting on building conditions or poverty.
No, that map was a cause. Continue reading
At a regional forum on inequality earlier this month, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan made some remarks that jumpstarted some regional discussion about regional equity, commuter taxes, and the like. As reported by Jimmy Vielkind at Capital New York, Sheehan argued that “the funding mechanism for cities—property taxes—was set up at a time when cities were regional centers of wealth and industry. Times have changed, she said, and so should financial structures.”
This makes me very happy. In 2007 I wrote a column called “The Unapologetic City,” in which I argued that our municipal neighbors were getting a ton of benefits from the city without paying for them, but it seemed like a pipe dream then to be hearing others talking about what to do about it in earnest. Answers aren’t easy, but they do exist. Continue reading
Albany has a lot of abandoned buildings and vacant lots, as most of us know. They can be an incredible drag on neighborhoods, inviting crime and disinvestment, and they represent a tremendous waste of potential, especially in neighborhoods that desperately lack many things, from community facilities to commercial. Many of them are locked in a horrible speculative cycle, bought by people looking to make a quick buck that either do not care about the neighborhoods or are unable to care for them, or often both. Continue reading