Stop whining and do something about it

By Kim M.

soap box badgeWe're pulling out the AOA soap box each Sunday for people to praise, complain, suggest, joke, or make an observation about things they see going on in the Capital Region.

Since January's Troy city council meeting, one speech during the public forum has stayed on my mind.

I knew I was going to be interested in what Marcia Pascarella had to say when she said, "I want to talk about my neighborhood. My drug dealers. My welfare people. My street runners. My stabbers, my shooters. I'm talking within a 3-4 block radius."

Marcia's from North Central, has a long memory, and doesn't pull punches.

She went on to talk about a mound near her home that she doesn't own, but likes to see taken care of. She mentioned that some people who used to pitch in she hasn't seen in a long time. "It's not the idea of blaming anyone, it's the idea of caring. Every one of you should care", she said, speaking to the council members. "No matter how big it is. You should care." She talked about past police officers, who knew what was going on because they lived in the city, not outside of it.

And then Marcia really got to me, I could hear the emotion in her voice. She said, "I just can't understand. Everybody just seems to not give a damn. You're killing our city. I know you've already killed my neighborhood."

Marcia was looking for evidence that someone -- the council, the mayor, the police chief -- cared. Before she stepped away from the podium she asked, "But does anyone here care? Did anybody pay attention?" When Mayor Tutunjian addressed the council moments later, he first addressed her question, "We do care. And that's why we're here. I wish there were more people here, but by showing up and speaking, it's a sign of caring."

He was right. We were all there because we care, Marcia.

As a member of The Uptown Initiative, I've seen a lot of positive things happening in and around Troy. At that same council meeting, Elizabeth Young spoke about the Troy Downtown Collaborative competing for a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh Everything grant for business development, beautification, and other efforts. And since that meeting in January, Uri Kaufman, the developer behind the Lofts at Harmony Mills in Cohoes, has purchased the Marshall Ray building, a magnificent neglected warehouse in North Central. The city's economic development coordinator, Vic Christoper, has been busting his butt for Troy and has a real knack for capturing the beauty and potential in these buildings. I suspect that we will soon hear of redevelopment projects for other vacant buildings -- like the Marvin Neitzel building and the Oviatt Plumbing building -- that haunt his photo stream. Our neighborhood is certainly not dead, and these projects will breathe new life into our city.

But what really struck me about Marcia speech was that sentiment. I think it was exactly what people mean when they say that any "sense of community" has completely broken down. I think it's something that many urban areas are struggling with -- the consequences of suburban sprawl. Building back that sense of community is something I experience when I've joined other Uptown members for a clean 'n sweep. We should all volunteer our own time to causes we feel passionately about, even if it's just beautifying your street. Don't just complain -- think about solutions to those things that drive you insane.

So what things do you see that make you crazy? Are you doing something about it?

Kim loves Troy even more than you do.

Comments

It is too easy to dismiss this to the consequences of suburban sprawl. Flight is part of the issue for why old cities see decline, but not the only one. Why did people choose to leave these cities to begin with? Nine times out of ten it was likely due to the combination of political corruption and better opportunity elsewhere.

I worry that the possibility of revival for cities like Albany, Schenectady and Troy will be limited to small pockets of short term improvement. If city councils and elected state and federal officials only continue to resort to schemes of quasi economic development vs. real reform opportunities, I fear it will only be short term.

What makes me crazy? High business turnover and empty buildings. That's my biggest concern. It seems like many of the businesses that go into the area haven't realistically mapped out a business strategy that's going to keep them successful in that location with local employees. When our residents can't keep a job, that's a problem. I know the Co-op is struggling, Bournebrook closed, we saw the Judge's Inn come and go and the same with Tosca. Those are just off the top of my head, but I know there are dozens more.

I'm not sure what to do about it outside of keeping our company in the area and residing in the city. That's the plan for now. We work on Broadway and live at Washington Place. I've started the house hunt and I instinctively want something with a big yard up the hill, but I occasionally dream about remodeling a brownstone. It's such a commitment, but I see people like you who took it on with such a passion and commitment. It's admirable and rare. We'll see where we end up, but I'd like for it to still be in the area and in general to just get more involved with Troy.

Where do you recommend a new volunteer start? Are there a couple organizations that might be better than others?

Also, hadn't seen Vic's Flickr stream before, but that's a great collection of shots from local buildings. We really do have a beautiful city.

I had no idea Bournebrooke had closed since I left town. That is sad.

When I was covering Troy for awhile, there were so many issues that absolutely fascinated me. The Sandy Horowitz case is one that I find incredibly interesting and sad. Here you had a developer coming in and working to really revitalize a lot of places and get the economic development ball rolling - it was amazing to see how his eventual bankruptcy and other legal issues had such a ripple effect on the city.

And while I wasn't thrilled to see RPI's brick-and-mortar business incubator shut down, I am hoping that the new incarnation will have a positive effect on the city by putting new businesses in some of the many vacant offices and storefronts.

Marsha has a lot to say, she has seen it all. It is very interesting to hear the older generation speak of this City and how it was way back then. I wish I could have lived it. The buildings speak volumes they where built with love and had a purpose. These buildings housed families and where built with pride. Some where down the road of time be it politics be it a way to save a dying city someone let in investors who were intent on only making money and had no care about neighborhoods being destroyed. Angry homeowners selling out to just anyone. Troy became a welfare city and still is to this day. Its a shame because I have met some wonderful and dedicated people who decided to stick it out and who work very hard to keep their neighborhoods sustainable. Budgets being the way they are and always have been, one can't look to that for resolve. Rolling up ones sleeves, and digging in on handling the issues of a neighborhood is the best way to go. Join one of the many, many neighborhood groups who are determined to clean up their piece of this magnificent City. Get involved, stay involved, engage neighbors whether they rent or own making people realize that they are all important in the neighborhood makes a big difference.
Contact a neighborhood group near by and see what a difference you can make.

What Troy needs is real estate developer backed, government funded agency like the Metroplex Development Authority in Schenectady. Downtown Schenectady seems to have gone from rags to riches, and it's largely in part to the organization and help of the Metroplex and the Galesi Group. Troy needs that kind of help too.

http://www.galesi.com/newsPress/newsPress.aspx?action=details&newsid=126

For those in Troy looking to get involved in a neighborhood group, TRIP has a list online http://cpanel.triponline.org/community_building/list_neighborhood_associations.html.

@Sophie - I can't agree w/ you more about the absentee investors who've come in just to wring every last drop of value left in a property, destroying neighborhoods. But I see hope in the people I know who have moved INTO Troy in the last decade who are intent on improving the city. Unfortunately many live-long Trojans can't or won't see that the tide is turning, although it is still a struggle.

Get the freekin ghetto out of Center Square before these animals scare off the last of anyone decent. So sick of it.

Troy is a beautiful city. Truly. My partner and I often drive or walk around Troy and admire the architecture. I love the brownstones, they remind me a little bit of Brooklyn. I love the farmer's market and the antique shops. But all that being said, as long as my kids are still in school, I would never live in Troy. Part of revitalizing communities are attracting those who are young and vital, to my mind, that's families and families will not want to put their kids in the schools there.

I'd love to say I can do something about it but my calling is in the kitchen, I have to idea how to improve the schools of Troy but I think it would be a step towards attracting people who want to invest in Troy. Seems like a chicken/egg dilemma...

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