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Students, Residents create solutions at workshop

March 19, 2010

by Zachary Olsavicky

Albany, NY- Area residents and students had an opportunity to share their suggestions and concerns about development of the Pines Hills during a meeting co-sponsored by the City of Albany and two local schools.

About 50 residents attended the meeting, the first of two, hosted by the city in conjunction the University at Albany and The College of Saint Rose. The event was funded in part with a grant from the Capital District Planning Committee’s Linkage Program.

The project had been planned for years, but did not launch until basic advisory meetings were held after the grant was received in January of 2010. The second workshop is scheduled for June. Between the two public meetings, members involved with the study will be conducting focus groups with targeted stakeholders in the community, looking at ways to use land and methods of transportation, and planning the implementation and funding of survey results. The project is expected to be complete sometime in July.

After a brief presentation, members of the community broke in to discussion groups to discuss positive and negative aspects of the neighborhood. Residents praised the hospitals and schools in the area, calling them “anchors” that make the neighborhood unique. Captain Loren La Joy, a 24-year veteran of the Albany Fire Department, praised the city’s EMS workers, calling them the best in the Capital Region.

La Joy also commented on the opportunities provided by the neighborhood’s location. He said there were “lots of things you don’t get, particularly in the suburbs,” that you get with the proximity to so many other people.

One of the biggest complaints discussed involved the problem of communication cities face. Area students who attended the meeting said that issues between landlords and students could also have an impact on the community.

“A lot of kids don’t know what they are signing (with landlords),” said University at Albany student Michael Goldenberg. He found that the biggest problem was with students not being aware of city ordinances. Mary Dugan, an operations manager with the Archer Brown Corporation, said that it is a struggle to communicate the regulations and problems to the students. Trash was also an issue with residents of the neighborhood. La Joy said open trash bags are more of a problem in the neighborhood than littering is.

Many of the solutions proposed were rooted in infrastructure. Better lighting was proposed in the neighborhood where two of the darkest streets are predominantly occupied by students.  Some residents called for the presence of beat cops to help improve safety and to enforce some of the city ordinances. Many residents and students called for incentives for landlords to live on their properties in the neighborhood. Residents also suggested the creation of student-community events to increase the interaction between students and the neighborhood. Leah Golby, representative of the Albany City Council’s 10th Ward and a former University at Albany student, said there should be incentives for students to live in the neighborhood instead of commuting to schools.

Residents also called for business growth in the area. Many attendees voiced displeasure with the lack of businesses in the neighborhood compared to the main streets like Madison Avenue. But, Steven Friedman, a junior at the University at Albany, said the restaurant busineses benefit students. “Most students, if they do have a part-time job, work in the food industry.”

Michael Bucciferro, a junior at Saint Rose, thought that more businesses could act as “eyes on the street,” and give students a safer place to go than a house party.

Sarah Reginelli, principle planner of the Education District project, was happy with the turnout and found many ideas to build on with the project. Reginelli said the board would use “environmental design” to help reduce crime, and noted that better maintained properties could strongly improve the neighborhood.

“Everyone’s goal at the very beginning was to make this a neighborhood that everyone would want to live in. Not just students not just people who have lived there for their entire lives, but to make it a place where people want to be.” -30-

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