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Jonathan Mazur: April 2012 Archives
No one likes to be wrong; but in this case being wrong is totally right (see last Friday's Take). The Albany County Democratic Committee met over the weekend to interview candidates for the assembly seat of the retiring Ron Canestrari. Not entirely to my surprise the hierarchy chose to back Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin. She will now face Cohoes Mayor John McDonald in a September primary. McDonald announced his candidacy last Friday in a press conference surrounded by current and past mega democrats. Even the mayor of Rensselaer was there. He said Sunday that he is in the race for the long haul. Good luck John. Obviously the big boys on Colvin Avenue had someone else in mind. McLaughlin definitely has the resume and qualifications to be a legislator in the state assembly........Also reported today was the upcoming Wednesday announcement that Albany County Legislator Shawn Morse will challenge longtime state senator Neil Breslin for his seat in the new 44th Senate District. If nothing else, this September is going to be very interesting. We definitely need some new blood in that seat. With the redistricting, the district now comprises all of Albany county, the city of Rensselaer and South Troy. Morse a Cohoes Democrat and firefighter was featured in the TU with County Executive Dan McCoy along with Frank Commisso in a show of the county exec's support. At least you got one of them right Dan........Attention all wanna be criminals: When you break into a drive in hamburger joint, don't leave your wallet behind. This moron broke into Mr. Bills Car Hop in So. Glens falls, caused thousands of dollars in damage and left his wallet and cell phone behind. Cops didn't have to look too far to find him. Volunteers helped get the popular drive in back in business.........One good thing to feel good about today. One World Trade Center has achieved the status of the tallest skyscraper in New York City. After almost eleven years it is good to see that beautiful building against the NYC skyline. Indeed.
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As long as I live, I will never figure out human nature. Did you see the outpouring of support for the new supermarket on Central Ave. Shoprite opened its doors to the public yesterday, and if you happened to drive by and intended to stop in for a look, you had to wait in line for a parking space. It's a supermarket for god's sake!! You would think they were giving away free food. The Capital OTB is sharing space with the new market thanks to the sweet deal they made with Columbia Development. OTB who owned the property gave it to Columbia in exchange for constructing the new building. The former Teletheater, a dark and dismal place destined for closure was raised for the new construction. The food and beverage for the OTB will be managed by guess who? That's right, BBL Hospitality (I like Columbia Hospitality better). I just wonder that on major race days, where are they going to put all the cars? One good thing came out of all of this. Sneaky Petes is no longer in business .......Speaking of supermarkets whats up with Price Chopper doubling the amount you have to spend to save on gas. That is the sole reason that I would ever walk into one of their stores. Now that I think about it, to save one dollar on gas, you have to spend $1000 dollars. No thanks. They are way behind their competitors on giving their customers the perks they want to attract them to their stores........The Albany County Democratic Committee will hold their second nominating soiree tomorrow on Colvin Avenue to fill the vacancy of retiring assemblyman Ron Canestrari. Four candidates will kneel and kiss the ring of Chairman Matthew Clyne. At the end, John McDonald, currently the mayor of Cohoes (who conveniently will announce his candidacy today) will emerge as the choice. I hope that there is a primary for this seat and I hope Carolyn McLaughlin is in it. She has a real good chance of beating McDonald with the new redistricting in place.
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For a brief moment, I thought we were talking about Democrats. When voting in Albany, the norm is for democratic candidates to run unopposed. That didn't happen Tuesday. What happened was Mitt Romney won the Republican presidential primary by a statistical landslide. Statistically meaning it is real easy to win with your only viable opponent already sitting on the sidelines. Throwing money away seems to come easy for the system. Some reports say that the primary state wide cost some $25 million. Estimates in Albany County put the cost to taxpayers at $200,000. NewsChannel 13 reported that in twenty districts, no one showed up to vote. I originally thought that the $200K number seemed a little high. With further thought I realized that with four inspectors per polling place, that would amount to a lot of pizza and Chinese takeout. And just think; we can all do this again two more times........There was a great "Letter to the Editor" in today's TU. The piece was concerning the legalization of marijuana for medical use. The letter takes a well deserved shot at the governor for the absurd reasoning that "the risks outweigh the benefits". The writer goes on to say that he doesn't know why our inept state legislators didn't have enough time to consider the legislation. That's OK Wayne, nobody does. He was right about another thing. A person can walk into a doctors office with a headache, and walk out with a script for a hundred Hydrocodone pills, and someone with a debilitating type of cancer can't get the relief from pain they need. My suggestion to the governor would be: The next time you're in the doctor's office, just ask him........Imagine that. Mayor Jennings won't sign the antifracking bill that the common council approved last week. That means for the citizens of Albany they can be assured that there will be no drilling for natural gas on Manning Blvd. I wonder how much time the council wasted on such a ridiculous piece of law. Not once. But twice. The gas drilling companies in order to drill in the state, they need to overturn the no drilling moratorium now in place. To do that they need to win a lawsuit against a municipality. If I were them I'd start in Albany. Someone, somebody has to know the status of the new drilling regulations. They've been written, submitted for comment, so what is next?
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The process of choosing a leader can sometimes be as simple as picking the tallest kid to be Captain of the basketball team, or as difficult as choosing between four equally qualified candidates for class President. To be chosen a leader in the city or county of Albany, all you need to be is a Democrat.
Last November when I went to the polls to do my civic duty, I got into the voting booth with my ballot and discovered there was nobody to vote for. Almost every race was run by candidates unopposed. At least this November we are at least assured of one Republican on the ballot.
Last Saturday, the people gathered outside Colvin Avenue waiting; just like the Vatican, it finally came. A white smoke came streaming from the chimney; signaling they had chosen a candidate for the soon to be vacant Assembly seat in the 109th District. The committee chose Frank Commisso Sr. (not to be confused with Frank Commisso Jr. who wants to be mayor.) The reasoning behind their choice was simple: "Frank's longtime dedication to the Democratic Party". You work three decades for the party and you get rewarded with the most desired seat.
I'm sure that it happens elsewhere; lifetime, career politicians who get the office handed to them because they are good soldiers. I have lived in Albany for most of my adult life and I have seen three mayors: Erastus Corning, Tom Whalen and our current Mayor Jennings (Jerry, by the way was not the choice of the party). When I was old enough to vote, I registered as a Democrat. Why? Because my father was one, as was his father. If you lived in the city of Albany and owned property, you registered as a Democrat. In the Corning years they called it the "Machine". A well oiled machine that if loyal, got you a job. Over the years it might have gotten a little bit more sophisticated, but it is still the same.
In May the party will meet at the Polish Club and publicly anoint all of its candidates. This weekend the committee will decide that John McDonald will succeed Ron Canestrari in the 108th District. In the meantime, other candidates not on the approved list will come forth and announce their candidacy for the 108th and 109th Districts. The lists are long and we can expect interesting primaries in both districts. The Republicans will throw to the wolves Mike Byer and Ted Danz for the 108th and 109th respectively. We also can't forget about mayor. Some Common Council members are making noise, and a primary might be in sight for that race. My guess is that in a primary, Jerry wins big. That's because hydrofracking or not, he has done a great job running this city.
One thing remains certain. No matter how things change, they always remain the same. It is still the "Machine".
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When a company seeks to build a new commercial building and is a little cash strapped, they sometimes enter into a deal with the builder on a rent to purchase option. That means, the builder would initially own the building and the rent you pay is deducted from the purchase price of the building when you are ready to buy it. It's a great deal for the builder because your rent is paying his mortgage, and as the years go by his debt is payed down and he eventually sells the building to you at the market price of the day.
The County of Albany wishes it had anything close to it in the purchase deal of the Family Court Building. Since 2005, the county has been renting the building from Columbia Development for $2.1 million per year. They also have been required to pay the property taxes. Since when does the renter pay the property taxes? Are they not the responsibility of the property owner? Earlier this week the county announced its plans to purchase the building from the developer for $22.8 million. The price was negotiated from a $23.6 million appraisal obtained by the county.
This turned out to be a real sweet deal for Columbia Development. No matter what the building was appraised at, no one will ever know how much it cost to construct it. Estimates have put that number anywhere from $11-$24 million. Because the building was constructed by BBL, the construction arm of Columbia, the original cost of the building is probably closer to the $11 million number, if not lower.
How can County Executive Dan McCoy declare this a win for the county? How can he justify saving the estimated $385,000 yearly property tax bill as a win for the county. As of now the county is in debt for the seven years of rent totaling approximately $15 million plus the $23 million purchase price or roughly $38 million.
This has long been water under the bridge but who was responsible for negotiating that deal back in 2003. Even if you paid the higher of the estimated original construction cost of $24 million, you would be way ahead of the game today.
Columbia Development, who is politically active in and around Albany manages a lot of real estate built by their construction partner BBL. It's hard to beat the builder/owner. How about the county try to manage this building on their own.
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I am sure that everybody who lives in the city of Albany has traveled to Crossgates Mall at one time or another. Been there recently? With the ongoing expansion of the UAlbany Nano Tech Park around the Fuller Road and Washington Avenue area it is necessary to reconstruct the entire roadway system. There was a graphic in the TU last week that showed pretty well what the designers had in mind. Washington Avenue as we know it, will now be re-routed to the north around the building under construction. A bridge will be built to carry the road over Fuller Road. A rotary will be constructed to carry traffic north and south on Fuller. That is probably one of the busiest intersections in Albany, and the system as designed appears to work nicely (on paper). The construction is well underway and looks like it will be finished this fall. The builder is the same one that did a great job on minimizing aggravation during the renovation of Fuller Road........Thank you city of Albany lawmakers for passing the long awaited parking permit system. Although probably not to be enacted until later this summer, this system brings welcome relief to the residents of certain downtown areas flooded with state workers vying for free parking spots. For the workers who park there because of no alternative, I somewhat feel for you. For the workers too lazy to take the bus to McCarty Avenue, too bad. The council voted unanimously in passing the measure. It was not without comment however. Mayor wanna be Frank Commisso wondered if the $25 yearly fee is too low. Frank, (he is my ward leader by the way) I have said many times that the fee was too low. Make it $100 a year. People will still be standing in line for the permits........I am not going to harp on this too much but the council finally voted to ban hydrofracking in the city of Albany. Well congratulations. They also now have enough votes to override any veto by Mayor Jennings. Jerry who has been in opposition of the measure preferring to let it play out in the courts will probably let it pass without his signature. Albany now joins dozens of localities in favor of the ban. I don't know people; although I don't use natural gas in my home, this winter it has been by far the cheapest energy in town to heat your home. I believe that the DEC has now finalized their upgrade of the drilling regulations. It's up to our state government to approve these regulations while the lawyers get rich litigating the zillions of court proceedings that are sure to follow, by the drilling contractors who own mineral rights, or the landowners willing to sell them. Thanks to Messrs. Igoe and Herring for their opposition to this ridiculous, redundant legislation.
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This is the "Bottom Line on Hydraulic Fracturing". On his last days in office Governor David Patterson signed Executive Order No. 41 which virtually stopped any drilling or issuing of new permits for drilling for natural gas within the State of New York.. He essentially dropped the entire mention of "Hydrofracking" onto the lap of new Governor Andrew Cuomo.
I am going to say right up front, that if hydrofracking, which has been in use in New York State since the 1980's, is done in accordance with the regulations currently in place, I have absolutely no problem with it.
The problem is, a lot of people who are being fueled by the opinion of a writer who has no idea what he's talking about, are forming negative opinions of the process.
Approximately 40% of New York State sits atop of an incredibly rich natural gas deposit within the Marcellus shale formation. Twenty-five of New York's sixty-two counties are either mostly or totally within the limits. The limits include about half of Albany County. On the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) map the limit line appears to just skirt the City of Albany's western boundary.
You can rest easy City of Albany, Frank Commisso and the Albany Common Council made sure you won't see a drill rig in downtown Albany.
No doubt fracking is an involved process that utilizes an incredible amount of water. DEC estimates each well uses in excess of 1 million gallons. Drillers put that number at more than 3 million. Along with the water goes a mixture of sand and chemicals which are pumped into the well under extreme pressure to fracture the shale. It's the mixture of chemicals that drillers say you can find as household items that have not been clearly defined. One chemical allegedly used is Benzene. Benzene is pretty nasty stuff. It's also used as an additive in gasoline. Drilling contractors need to come clean on what they actually use in the process. While the wells are drilled through the groundwater aquifer, the DEC has strict regulations concerning the process of drilling through an aquifer.
The DEC only has control of the process of drilling. They have absolutely no say in the locations of the drilling. The governor decided to let the localities decide whether to allow or not to allow drilling within its confines. That measure has been upheld in a lawsuit brought by a drilling company against a town by the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The contractor who had the drilling rights argued that he was "grandfathered" by prior law. And he was. He is not alone. The landowners sell the rights to a contractor in expectation of a payday. The contractor buys the rights in expectation of acquiring a permit to drill under previous statutes in place. It has turned a win-win situation into a lose-lose one.
The new drilling regulations have been rewritten, submitted for public comment and now wait upon the approval of the DEC. If the state continues to let the localities decide on where they can drill, no drilling will take place. The areas of the state, mostly in the Southern Tier, need the industry. We need the energy. Supposedly there are 3/4 of a trillion cubic feet of natural gas concentrated within the confines of the Marcellus shale formation. In the state, we use approximately 1 million cubic feet per day. You do the math. Natural gas is the cleanest energy we have. We are decades away from solar and wind power to be effective, if ever. In the sun rich state of Arizona, their use of alternative energy is only 7% of the total demand. I'm sure in New York it's far less.
Legislators; it's time for you to get off your collective asses and get this legislation done. Everything comes with a downside. You can be sure with all the time expended on these new regulations, the DEC will make sure all the T's are crossed.
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I have to weigh in on the arrest in Florida of George Zimmerman. What on God's green earth took so long. I was reading a timeline of the events surrounding the shooting in a Florida newspaper, which revealed some interesting facts. The one thing that caught my attention was in the affidavit of the lead investigator provided on the night of the shooting. It recommended charging Zimmerman with manslaughter but was rejected by the state's attorney for lack of evidence. What changed between now and then? Does prosecutor Angela Corey have something else that led to the arrest? One thing is for sure: I would not want to be involved in picking a jury for this case. There is no way Zimmerman can get a fair trial in Florida or anywhere else in the United States........ If you live at Dove and Madison this day was a long time coming. The Albany Common Council will vote next week on the legislation to put in place permit parking. This will allow people who live within a radius of the Empire State Plaza to actually park close to where they live during daytime hours. These parking spaces are currently being used by state workers who park there by choice or have no alternative parking. While you have to feel for these workers, being an ex downtown dweller, the moment you put your keys in the door locks of the car, there was another car waiting for your space. If you needed to go home during the day, you couldn't park anywhere close to your house. I believe the permits which are limited to 2750 by state law, will cost residents $25 per year. If I still lived there, I would pay $25 a week........It's a little late Governor. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that the feds finally came through with $61 million in relief funds for areas ravaged by the tropical storms of last summer. The monies are welcome relief for towns who's budgets are already strained by paying the costs of the cleanup. What took so long to release the funds? At the time of the disaster, the governor was reluctant to release any funding saying he would wait to see what he could "wrangle" out of the feds. Some of these towns barely exist anymore. Some of these towns will never be the same. FEMA is responsible for providing 75% of the funding and usually the state and the localities split the remaining 25%. Now the state will pick up the localities portion. This hopefully will allow the towns to pay some past due bills.
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Here are folks I haven't heard from in a while. My friends at Occupy Albany. It seems the group has been dormant for a while (at least thankfully from the daily papers). I first got interested in the group last fall during their encampment in Albany owned Academy Park. It just seemed like a peaceful gathering of people emulating the much larger Occupy Wall Street group in New York City. Tents all around, music playing, people sitting around on blankets. It kind of reminded me of Woodstock. Even though the park had an 11:00 pm curfew, the city let the encampment exist. City officials, primarily the Fire Department conveyed to the mayor's office that the overnight encampment probably was not a good idea. Anyway, they stayed with no repercussions from the city. The news trucks showed up and they were on the 11:00 news almost every night. Then some genius wandered off onto state owned Lafayette Park and got himself arrested. Dozens of arrests later, and they were still in the park. Then the big melee with the police. Although always a peaceful group, the city decided they had to go. I for one was glad to see them go. A great impression of our city for the tourists to see when they are visiting. They retreated to their current home on Madison Avenue and have been relatively low key. My problem with the Occupy Movement in Albany is that they never displayed any kind of leadership. Every group needs a little leadership. If you want to get on the news let the leader speak for you. In the past, anything on the news, or in the paper had someone else's name associated with it. Maybe because the economy isn't so much in the tank anymore, some of the 99% are happy. One more thing. I you have any ideas of setting back up in the park now that the weather is becoming nice, think again. According to the U.S. Constitution, you can stay there until 11:00 pm. This being an election year, don't think the Mayor is waiting for your endorsement. Mayor Jennings stuck his neck out for you and got nothing in return........Pay raises for our legislators are being spoken about again. I understand, that it has been a while since you received one. Every time I think about that, I think about how you squeezed every dime out of the CSEA in their last contract. Or maybe that debacle in Patterson's last days when in a show of true partisanship, you gaveled in and gaveled out in a rush to get over to McGuires to spend your per diem money. Maybe you should have saved some of that.
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It has been quite a while since we've heard from Albany Common Council member Anton Konev. It seems Anton is calling on Paul Tonko's campaign for using UAlbany students to get the necessary signatures required to appear on the Independence Party ticket for his upcoming November election bid. Konev said that he received a call from a member of Tonko's staff who allegedly told him not to expect too much from the congressman in the future. Tonko's staff evidently new the law by listing their addresses locally. Did you ever think Anton, that maybe the students who are probably studying Government or Communications were getting a little taste of working in government? Oh, by the way. Albany democrats wouldn't do anything like that........This has been a topic since last year: The ongoing (now done with) situation regarding the leadership of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority. As expected, the scapegoat was the Chairman of the Authorities Board of Commissioners Dennis Brunelle. He and Executive Director Ed Spychalski have been under intense fire the last few months for the running of the authority. This all started with the bedbug situation at Stonequist Apartments which is an authority property. Then there was the nepotism in the hiring of Ed's children. And of course his salary and contract. Then there were trips to Vegas and New Orleans for authority business etc. etc. The board would fire Spychalski to if it wasn't for the four years remaining on his self written contract; The contract that was never approved by the mayor. You'd think the city could come up with a solution. They could also pay the $608,000 dollars to let him go ........What we need right now is Donald Trump for president. He says we are poised for a major inflation. He also says the unemployment rate is more like 20%, not the government reported 8.3%. In some places of the country he just might be right
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If you live in the city of Albany you put your trash by the end of the driveway or at the curb on a certain day. That is the last you think of it until you put the empty cans away when you get home from work. What happens to the trash in between is that it goes to an aging, almost full to capacity landfill.
The Rapp Road landfill has been located in the western part of the city in a ecologically sensitive area known as the Pine Bush for as long as I can remember. It has also been an eyesore for travelers heading east towards Albany around exit 24 of the NYS Thruway. Approaching the city the landfill is the first thing travelers see before exiting. Even when the landfill is finally put to closure, that mountain of trash will still loom to the left.
Last Monday night the Albany Common Council voted narrowly to provide $9.3 million in funding to expand the landfill $7 million of those funds will go to the expansion; the remaining $2.3 million is for a state mandated restoration of lands of the Pine Bush surrounding the landfill. The landfill currently reaps approximately $11 million in revenue from the landfill mostly from tipping fees from outside trash haulers.
The vote for the funding of the landfill was not without dissent. As it stands now with the expansion, the landfill would be at capacity by the year 2021. Wanna be mayor Frank Commisso addressing some 65 DGS workers who would be facing layoffs if the funding didn't come through said, "Was that a great deal? No." Commisso was referring to Mayor Jerry Jennings' proposed $2 dollar per ton set aside from the $50.50 per ton it costs outside trash haulers to use the landfill. The assessment would provide funding in cash to be used for landfill expenses.
While the expansion will probably take place this summer, council member James Sano hit the nail right on the head. He said that it would buy the city some time to find a solution to its waste disposal problems. Here is the major problem with that: The city better be looking real hard, right now on a location for a new landfill. Do you remember Mr. Mayor and fellow lawmakers when the city proposed to site a new landfill in the Ravena-Coeymans area some years ago? It turned out the area residents circled the wagons in opposition. A land owner would probably sell in a heartbeat seeing a windfall. It's the surrounding townspeople who will be up in arms. A landfill is dirty, noisy and would create more new truck traffic. You also can't overlook the smell. No matter what means you use, you cannot get rid of the smell.
Although the design of a landfill could easily be managed within a year, the steps you have to take to get there are enormous. First you have to find a site. Then you develop an Environmental Impact Study. There are endless town meetings. You have to gain the approval of various environmental groups which manage wetlands areas. Then you have to get permitted by the State Department of Environmental Conservation. This could easily take the better part of ten years. Those steps are manageable. Finding the site is not.
I hope that the city is at least thinking about this problem. Maybe they have a committee in the works studying the situation. The problem is real, and as the trash continues to pile up on Rapp Road, and trust me; there is no way another expansion to the existing landfill will take place. New state of the art landfills are expensive to construct and even more expensive to maintain. Dollars are usually available from the federal and state governments to build and close landfills. That also must be part of the equation. This being an election year, someone might better put the landfill on the list of issues. Rapp Road is going to be done in 2021.
And that is "The Daily Take"