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Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations

Meeting Minutes March 2, 2005

Albany Public Library


  1. Introductions

Lauren Pierce of the City Office of Special Events announced that volunteers are needed for this year’s Tulip Festival.  The deadline for vendor space applications has passed.  


  1. Minutes

Minutes of the February 2, 2005 , meeting are revised as follows:


FROM:            “The City agreed to consider revising its website to include code violations and a flow chart that updates progress in complying”

TO:                  “The City is currently considering revising its website.  The Code Committee will explore the feasibility of developing an on-line capacity to search for code violations and status of code enforcement by building address and by owner name.”


With that change, the minutes were accepted.


  1. Guest Speaker


Albany Common Council President Helen Desfosses


Helen Desfosses was elected President of the Albany Common Council in 1997.  She is the first woman and the first independent candidate elected to that office.  She is not seeking reelection for another term.


Common Council president is one of the most important positions in city government because the individual elected to that office succeeds the mayor if s/he is unable to serve.  And like the position of mayor, the president is elected by the citizens’ votes. 


During Ms. Desfosses’ tenure in the position, the council has used powers it had but did not previously exercise as the cases of the Board of Assessment Review and IDA appointments.  Citizens have become more participatory in the Common Council process and are encouraged to share their views. 


Ms. Desfosses discussed several of the issues that she would like to see addressed by the Council after her departure.


§         The Council needs an office and full-time staff.

§         The Council chamber is in need of a sound system, and the feasibility of including that item in the upcoming cable television contract is being investigated.

§         The Council receives between 70 and 100 calls, letters and emails per day, yet the Council has no public relations director to act as a contact point for citizens and neighborhood associations.

§         The City would benefit from a “311 system” to facilitate rapid response from agencies and give residents the ability to check on the status of any request made through that system.

§         Continued strengthening of the link between the universities will benefit the neighborhoods.


Ms. Desfosses is opposed to legislation that would eliminate the election of an individual as president of the Common Council.  She feels Albany needs as many individually elected positions as possible, and that the voters should be able to select who will succeed the mayor.  In New York City , the common council president is a citizens’ advocate and can propose legislation but only vote in a tie.


Ms. Desfosses discussed some of the issues about which she has been vocal and hopes the City and Common Council will continue to address; namely, neighborhood development; archeology and historical development; and the decline in the city’s population.


Ms. Desfosses plans to mentor her successor.  To date, two people, Sara Curry Cobb and Shawn Morris have expressed interest in running for the office.


She opposes a reduction in the number of members on the Common Council and feels it would be costly and limit representatives’ abilities to be responsive to residents.  She feels that the Council needs one full-time staff person and one half-time attorney. 


Her plans for the future include international consulting similar to what she did in the past, more writing, and she plans to stay involved in media such as newspapers and television.




  1. New Business and Announcements

§         Associations who have not done so were reminded to pay their 2005 dues.

§         Grant applications have been forwarded to member neighborhood associations.  Melrose and Park South have applied to date.

§         Topics at the next three CANA meetings will be auto crime, the school budget, and older Americans.

§         The Neighborhood Resource Center is seeking nominees for the 2005 neighborhood service awards to be presented at their May 10, 2005 , annual meeting.  The deadline for nominations is April 8. 

§         Friends of the Madison Theatre will meet at St. Joseph ’s Hall at the College of St. Rose on March 8, 2005 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM to discuss possible future uses for the building.

§         2005 National Night Out will be held on August 2.  It was suggested that neighborhood associations band together to have one, city-wide function.  Howard Stoller will write to the Department of Public Safety about this suggestion.

§         CANA ’s Executive Committee will begin contacting neighborhood associations that have not been represented in recent months at CANA meetings to encourage them to send a representative.

§         Community Realty:  Eric Dahl presented information about Community Realty, a new resource in the Capital District to assist first time and existing homeowners.  The agency is composed of seven not-for-profit agencies, and the focus of the organization is to strengthen neighborhoods.  It is not government funded or affiliated and services are not limited by purchasers’ income or geography.  Community Realty promotes city living and does not represent sellers.   They match buyers with homes, conduct seminars, assist purchasers with applications and paperwork, and leverage assistance and public purchasing programs.  


  1. Committee Reports


§         Codes Committee

Five properties have been identified as being in violation of city codes, and a letter was sent to Valerie asking for the properties to be researched.  Members will be submitting ideas to define the goals of the committee.  The committee will meet on Monday evening from 7:00 to 9:00 at the Library to focus on additional information.


§         Cable Television Committee

Committee members met with George Stoney in Saratoga to discuss ways to educate the public about cable television and public access TV.  Saratoga has a committee that meets regularly.  The committee will write to Mayor Jennings and identify itself and offer to assist in moving the process of securing a new contract along.  They will include information about the benefits of cable and public access television to Albany ’s students.


§         Budget Committee

The Committee met on March 1 to plan for the coming year.  The plan to address the issues of


1.      City employee health insurance benefits

2.      Public access television

3.      Financial borrowing

4.      Community development


§         University and Community Relations

The next meeting will be held March 9, 2005 .  Local beer wholesalers will attend the meeting so the committee may explain and give them information about the Tavern Owners' Advertisement Agreement and obligations of the “cooperating taverns.”  Additionally the first draft of the annual spring 2005 Seven-Point Plan will be reviewed.


§         Zoning Committee

The committee will meet on Thursday, March 10, 2005 , at the Albany Public Library Main Branch to review with the Development and Planning Department the list of intended improvements and changes to process currently in consideration as well as to initiate the task of compiling, investigating, and reporting on


1.      Summary of any zoning/land use issues that need to be addressed as well as examples of how these issues are addressed in other municipalities.

2.      Recommendations in regard to a database “tickler system” for ensuring that conditions and reviews are observed.

3.      Zoning ordinances, notices, applications, etc. from other municipalities

4.      Information about how other municipalities run their meetings.


All members are urged to attend or send an alternative representative as this should be a very productive meeting.   Questions may be directed to David Phaff at 469-8984.



  1. Adjournment


The meeting adjourned at 8:55 PM .



Meeting Attendees

March 2, 2005






Holly Katz


Colin McKnight


Daniel W. VanRiper

Lincoln Park NA

Eileen Murray


114 So. Main Ave

Anne Brewster


45 Willett St

Eric Dahl

Community Realty

Erin Shannon


Julia Mamset

SEIU (?)

Jeff Cannell

Albany Public Library

Gene Solan

Pine Hills

126 So. Allen St

Harold Rubin

Center Square

156 Chestnut St

John Cirrin

Albany Public Library

Patricia Maxon


Mary Connair


68 Summit Ave

Howard Stoller


Tom Gebhardt

University at Albany

1400 Washington Ave.

Matthew Couch


Lauren Pierce

Office of Special Events

Marggie Skinner

Pine Hills

Craig Waltz

Helderberg NA

Dennis Mosley

Pine Hills/Sheridan Hollow

Susan Holland


David Phaff

New Albany

Andrew Harvey

Park South NA

Sandy LeVan

Washington Park