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Neighborhood Association elects officers, offers input on bus route restructuring

October 21, 2010

by Kathleen Roark

Albany- The Pine Hills Neighborhood Association elected new officers and offered input on Albany County bus route restructuring Thursday evening at their monthly meeting at the LaSalle School.

Todd Hunsinger, a biology professor at SUNY Cobleskill and Hudson Valley Community College, was elected president.  He had previously served as vice president and chair of the association’s Public Safety Committee.

Todd Hunsinger was elected president of the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association Thursday (Kathleen Roark)

“I am excited to be in this position,” said Hunsinger.  “The group is as strong as the people and there are some very good people” in the Association, he said.

Hunsinger said that he sees the association as a catalyst for change in the city. He said that in the coming year the association will be working with the Albany Police Department in implementing its recently announced neighborhood engagement unit.  “I would also like to see us work towards revitializing…parts of Madison Avenue from Lake [Avenue] up,” said Hunsinger. He said he was interested in working with city offices and businesses to promote viable businesses on upper Madison Avenue.

Dan Healy, a systems administrator at Excelsior College, was elected vice president. He grew up in Albany and has lived in the Pine Hills area for about a decade.

Healy said that he would like to improve membership and work to facilitate a better relationship between the students and Pine Hills residents.  He said that he would like to see the relationship become less adversarial and more of partnership.

Also elected Thursday were Maryanne Schrank and Shannon Hickman. Schrank is new to the board and will serve as secretary. Hickman was re-elected as treasurer.

All officers were unopposed, and they will serve two year terms.

“New members are nominated in advance of the election by a committee of past presidents and one to two members of PHNA in good standing,” said Julia D. Healy, the outgoing association president. Members who have paid their dues are considered to be in good standing.

The nominating committee takes into consideration suggestions, said Healy. “Qualifications for officers are members in good standing, organized, willing to work with the public and members and police and public officials, dedication to a two year term, and they have to be residents of Pine Hills,” she said.

PHNA members also had the opportunity to offer input to representatives from the Capital District Transportation Authority regarding bus route re-structuring in Albany County. Two CDTA employees, Ross Farrell, a transportation planner, and Onicela Cedeno, a travel trainer, attended the meeting.

Farrell said that CDTA is engaging in a comprehensive study as it prepares to restructure bus routes.  As part of its data collection efforts, CDTA is reaching out to neighborhood associations within the City of Albany and other community groups for their input during the next two months.

At Thursday’s meeting, Pine Hills residents had the opportunity to identify service improvements for CDTA to consider.  “We will look at everything we are requested [to look at],” said Farrell. However, CDTA may not be able to implement every recommendation, he said.

PHNA members identified approximately a dozen service areas they would like CDTA to improve on. In the Pine Hills area these recommendations included better crosstown service. Residents said they would like to see service along Allen Street extend from St. Peter’s Hospital to the new Honest Weight Food Co-Op site. They also said they would like to have better service on Quail Street from Arbor Hill to Albany Medical Center.

Another topic of discussion was Madison Avenue, which is developing into a transit corridor, said Farrell.

Pine Hills residents help CDTA to identify priorities for service improvement. (Kathleen Roark)

Currently, Madison Avenue is served by different routes that splinter off, he said. Residents would like to see improved bus service along this route.

Residents also offered input on areas outside of the Pine Hills area. These suggestions included more express buses coming into Albany, extending service on Western Avenue beyond Crossgates Mall to Route 146, and adding bus stops at Colonie Center and Northway Mall.

CDTA will continue to conduct meetings with community groups in the next couple months, said Farrell. There will also be citywide meetings. CDTA is also collecting data on bus usage from various sources.  In addition, the public will have an opportunity to comment on the routes before their implementation. The proposal for the new routes is tentatively scheduled to be ready in May, said Farrell.

“In general, I like the idea that they are starting from a clean slate” and looking at demographics and other data, said Virginia Hammer, a Pine Hills resident.

The “viability of our cities…is going to be mass transportation,” said Hunsinger.  He said the proposed restructuring was “forward-thinking on [CDTA’s] part.” -30-


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