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Report from Paul Malecki on March 14, 2003 ARISE meeting

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ARISE

Regional Forum on Collaboration and Equity

"Planning for Growth"

March 14, 2003

St. Vincent’s Center

Albany NY

A precis prepared for the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations (CANA)

by Paul M. Malecki

SUMMARY

ARISE, a faith-based coalition of organizations concerned with human and economic

development issues, sponsored a regional forum on community growth, March 14, 2003. The

immediate concerns of ARISE are the anticipated effects of a growing hi-tech industry in the region

– such as the arrival of SEMANTEC – on low-income segments of our population.

The attending community leaders discussed and suggested ways in which goals of

collaboration and equity could be affected in four activity areas:

- coordinating regional economic development,

- planning for growth,

- revitalizing inner cities, and

- enhancing education and workforce development.

The comments and suggestions articulated at the March 14th forum will be summarized and

presented for ranking and further development at a followup ARISE forum in mid-June.

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ARISE

ARISE (A Regional Initiative Supporting Empowerment) "is a faith-based community

organizing project covering four counties: Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, and Saratoga. Our

purpose is to bring together congregations and other membership organizations in the Capital Region

as a strong coalition so that we can locate areas of shared community concern, define solutions and

develop a powerful voice for positive change, especially in distressed neighborhoods. ARISE

currently has over 40 member organizations with a combined strength of 12,000 people."

Seed money for ARISE activities has been provided by the (Roman Catholic) Campaign for

Human Development and several private foundations. A listing of ARISE’s members and projects

is provided as appendix A to this precis or may be viewed at:

<http://www.uumin.org/arise-2002.htm>

ARISE has issued a Declaration of Interdependence which is prefaced by the preamble:

We live in an interdependent regional community, and this

community has reached a crossroads. High tech industries and other

developments are poised to bring more new work and new growth

into the area than we have seen for a long time. This situation

confronts us with a fateful question: Will this development take place

haphazardly and continue to fragment our region, or will we plan,

market, and unify our cities, suburbs, and rural areas in a way that

will lift all boats on the rising tide? We affirm that our area can

prosper in the long run only if all of our citizens have access to

educational and economic opportunities and live in an ecologically

sustainable environment. We oppose the patterns that have tended to

separate us by race and class and have created unmanaged growth

and pockets of poverty in many places.

The Declaration further states that four "principles reflect our convictions and our selfinterest:"

- Plan for Sustainable Growth

- Develop A United Front Against Poverty

- Promote Access to Housing and Education for All

- Create Regional Business and Job Opportunities

A copy of the full Declaration of Interdependence is provided as appendix B to this precis.

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FORUM ATTENDEES

Invitations to the March 14th forum bore the signature of Bishop Howard Hubbard. As any

community leader in this region would be hard-pressed to ignore an invitation from Bishop Hubbard,

more than 100 participants filled the meeting room at St. Vincent’s hall on Albany’s Madison

Avenue. Elected officials present included State Senator Breslin, Albany County Executive Breslin,

Schenectady Mayor Jurzcynski, Amsterdam Assemblyman Tonko, and several Council members

from the region’s cities. There also appeared to be a good turnout of planners and education

officials, as well as the organization membership of ARISE.

FORUM TOPICS

Following several introductory presentations, the attendees were split into four "breakout

groups" to consider the following topics:

- coordinating regional economic development,

- planning for growth,

- revitalizing inner cities, and

- enhancing education and workforce development.

The full topic list and discussion-stimulus phrases is provided as appendix C to this precis.

Participants in each group were encouraged to come forward with suggestions that would

describe existing or desirable collaborative activities, among communities and/ or organizations

within the region, that were relevant to the group’s topic. The group considering the challenge of

revitalizing inner cities discussed the following concepts, in no special order, as put forth by

participants in response to the printed discussion-stimulus phrases and individual concerns:

~ Owners of (apartment) buildings should be encouraged to raise the salaries and benefits

of caretakers and supers, most of whom are neighborhood residents and low-wage earners.

~ Employers should provide extra benefits and incentives to workers who walk to work.

~ Zoning laws and municipalities should encourage a healthy mix of owner-occupied and

rental housing.

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~ As the free market has resources that far exceed those of non-profit housing and

rehabilitation agencies, the key players of the free market – banks and real estate agents – should

be involved in an effort to get them to take a friendlier look at promoting urban home ownership.

~ Recruited in-migration, such as the efforts undertaken by the City of Schenectady, can

provide self-stabilizing and rehabilitation to neighborhoods.

~ Tax policy, such as abatement of taxes for mixed-use development following the tenets of

NCD (New Community Design) should be used to encourage revitalization of older urban and

suburban areas.

These, and comments from the other three groups (education, regional cooperation, planning

for growth) were gathered together and reviewed in a summary session of the forum. The group

considering education issues expressed a number of ideas that had as a common theme a desire to

see training for the building trades conducted on-site to revitalize neighborhoods.

A followup meeting will be held by ARISE in mid-June to rank, further develop and seek

action on the ideas that were generated by the four groups.

COMMENTARY

Of presumed interest to CANA was the frequent mention of New Community Design (NCD)

concepts by March 14th forum participants. NCD is, by and large, a popularization of anti-sprawl

and new urbanism theories that have become popular among a young generation of architects and

planners over the last decade. New urbanism is based on the notion that most people’s preference

is for a physical community that contains housing, amenities and work within walking distance. New

urbanism extolls the attractiveness of front porches and sidewalks, and values pedestrian traffic over

automobile traffic. NCD adds the concerns of what to do with brownfields, how to maximize

municipal infrastructure, and a host of solutions to problems that the early new urbanists simply

ignored. The expository book New Community Design to the Rescue (Hirschhorn & Souza; National

Governors Association; 2001; www.nga.org/Center), a summary of NCD theories and recommended

practices, was handed out to forum participants.

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New Community Design to the Rescue is a book that can provide both focus and stimulus in

viewing the interaction between the built environment and human behavior that manifests itself as

a major contribution to "desirable" or "undesirable" community life. The ideas within the book are

an excellent jumping-off point for discussing, for example, a proposal by a chain drugstore to build

a new facility that requires substantial setbacks from existing streets and sidewalks in order to

accommodate new automobile traffic patterns. New Community Design to the Rescue is highly

recommended reading.

At this writing, the City of Albany is currently reviewing adoption of an NCD-inspired taxbreak

proposal authorized by Real Property Tax Law §485-a., "Residential-commercial urban

exemption program." RPTL §485-a authorizes cities to offer PILOT - like phased property tax

exemptions for mixed use developments that combine housing and commercial spaces. A copy of

RPTL §485-a is provided as appendix D to this precis.

The March 14th ARISE regional forum was more an opportunity to get ideas on the floor than

a session to put activities in motion. Evidence of any success of the enterprise will not begin to show

until the ideas generated at the forum are given more substance and direction.

PMM

28 March 2003

The ideas expressed in this report reflect the views of the writer and are not to be construed as representing

the official views of the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations.