October 4, 1006
Thank you for that kind
Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.
CANA initial step was
In 1975 I asked Harold to
join the NRC Board. At the time,
he was busy as the Chief Budget Examiner (DOB) and very active with Ruth in
Center Square matters. Yet, he
agreed, provided I would give him a ride over to our noon meetings at 340
First Street. I don't think he
foresaw that 31 years later we would be celebrating his brainchild, CANA, a
federation of all Albany NAs. (Harold chaired CANA 1976 - 1996).
CANA is celebrating a rich
tradition of Albany citizens non-partisan involvement through NA's:
to obtain services as a right
to reform a government stuck in ancient ways by:
moving BZA meetings to evening so people could attend
insisting on public comment periods at Common Council meetings
enhancing and preserving Washington Park by convincing the City to
place curbs to prevent cars from parking on the grass
defeating Mayor Corning's proposal to permit conversion of large houses
to floor through apartments in R-2 neighborhoods
1981 [Jennings a Common Council member]
38 Speakers; 88 more signed up
litigating to secure rather than demolish vacant buildings and to
enforce the zoning law
creating a transparent budgetary process and hiring a Budget Director
to inform residents through
"Love Thy Neighborhood" conventions
Who can forget the Tom Mayer/Roger Marcovics inspired skits that led to
major City initiatives in
positive zoning changes
property assessment reform
1997 Neighborhoods USA National Convention
And, no, contrary to
fears, the alligators did not take over the swamp!
Even better, the swamp was
drained and beautiful flowers now appear at all major intersections and
requires an appreciation of the politics of Albany.
Following 30 years of
Republican rule, the Democratic party, under Dan O'Connell, took control in
1921. He maintained a political
monopoly until his death in 1977 when power passed to his handpicked
successor, Mayor Erastus Corning, who held office from 1941 until his death in
The machine enjoyed the
longest period of dominance of any party apparatus in the country.
It operated through ward
leaders who kept an eye on political control and local issues.
Mayor Corning encouraged
people to approach him directly. He
had reputation for responsiveness.
A political machine
combined with a political boss covered local needs.
In fact, William Kennedy
noted that the machine opposed federal anti-poverty programs as
City's first application in the 60's was denied because local officials failed
to sign it.
Kennedy captured this time
with his novel "Roscoe". Roscoe
Conway is a not so fictional figure who asked his father, a former Albany
Mayor, how the democratic party would get the money to operate if it took over
from the Republicans in 1921. His
USE BOOK PASSAGE
By the early 70's: a
Republican had been elected
to the State Senate,
to the Assembly and,
worst of all, the critical office for the machine, the District
Mayor Corning won by less than 4,000 votes,
the $2B South Mall was completed, increasing property values downtown
and eroding faithful machine voters,
the Vietnam War and political unrest were ongoing
the Washington Park Spirit chronicalled change.
What motivated the organization of NA's?
The ground was fertile for
who to go to
how to get information
how to take effective collective action
holiday tree lighting
enhance City services
Generally, it was a
specific issue, often involving the use of land and development.
Pre 1975 four were
Center Square founded in the 1950s to beautify the area between
Washington Park and the Capitol/Swan Street.
When I-787 and the South Mall were under construction in the 1960's the
highway was proposed to extend west under Washington Park eliminating all
homes in the way. This threat
prompted a response led by Harold Rubin. Ultimately
this initiative failed.
the early 1970's when McDonald's retained the politically connected Rutnik law
firm to obtain a zoning change to permit the erection of Golden Arches on the
northwest corner of Madison and Swan, it was Ruth Rubin, the Mother of all
Neighborhood Associations, who suggested neighbors could organize and defeat
this. Against long odds, after a
spirited public hearing in Chancellor Hall, this proposal was tabled.
had long existed to influence improvements in this jewel.
organized in the early 1970's by Mimi Mounteer, was focused on defeating
slumlords who were seeking to buy up and subdivide old single family homes.
reorganized in the early 1970's to assist homeowners in their quality of life
issues in a neighborhood that was losing VI, a long time stabilizing
influence. Student parking, code
enforcement and Ridgefield Park occupied its agenda.
1975, with initial funding
and leadership from the Council of Community Services (Dorann Zimicki
(Brady/Farrell) and Lee Lindstrom (First Trust), I was asked to incorporate
the NRC with offices at 340 First Street.
The Board hired Tom Mayer (acknowledge) and set out to organize new
- formed after the McDonald's incident to resist the tearing down of row
houses owned by Joe Leone (Mac Mowbry). (Gregg
Bell - recently led opposition that defeated a proposed (BZA) to benefit a
slumlord on S. Lake Avenue.)
- to resist a parking lot and expansion of a dentist's office.
Fought Middle School/traffic (environmental site review).
- west of Bleecker Stadium - long time residents concerned with quality of
- housing conditions in the South End/tenant issues/public safety.
Second Avenue NA
- grew out of South End.
How do NA's fit with politics today?
In the 1980's a
presentation by NA's at a City budget hearing resulted in Albany hiring its
first Budget Director (Dan Klepak).
Department heads regularly
attend CANA/NRC/NA meetings (here tonight) and are very responsive.
Harry Michaels (DPW) - first NA cleanup days around Earth Day
Bill Bruce - simple thing as a holiday tree for students at Pine
Chief Tuffey - sharing his vision for Albany
Mayor Jennings has
continued a tradition begun by Mayor Whalen of addressing CANA in early
January of each year.
President of the Common
Council does the same.
We live in a progressive
City rich in culture, diversity and history.
A City where citizen
participation is welcome, indeed encouraged.
A City facing challenges
of vacant buildings downtown, street violence, economic pressures and unfair
poor perceptions of schools.
Yet, a City which has made
great strides in the past 30 years.
a beacon for upstate
where the best minds work and play
where hope/optimism prevail
A City with tremendous
colleges and universities; medical and law schools
Albany Institute/NYS Museum
Seat of NYS government
Our NA's are changing:
35 years after I first held the office - back as PHNA President
still connecting citizens
an expectation of success
Upper Madison Avenue (FOTM)
Our future is our own.
is so bright that I need to wear sunglasses!!