The City of Troy, New York, "Where Henry Hudson Turned Around."

Friday, May 27, 2005


There have been a host of good stories involving Troy lately. It's difficult to decide what to highlight.

There's Marge DerGurahian's valiant fight to save historic buildings. Marge's love of history and the city really shines through on these topics and makes us almost regret how hard we can be on her. Despite any differences, she's a good lady.

There's Bauer's entry into the City Council race (a fact the Troy Polloi noted some time ago). That story will require some time. Hopefully, we'll get to part one next week.

For today, it's Mr. Franco's article on getting more bang for your buck in Troy.

Franco's story highlights the result of a study. Although the information compiled by is interesting, does it really surprise anyone? Unless you live an utterly provincial life, most people know that the cost of living is much lower outside of major urban areas.

Mayor Tutunjian's response to the report was boyish exuberance: "It's great news for the city, we are excited to be listed as one of the most affordable places to live in the entire United States," said Mayor Harry Tutunjian. "It is becoming clearer that Troy is turning the corner and even brighter days are ahead."

A politician's job is to lay it on thick. It's a leader's job to lay it on the line. A problem doesn't cease to be a problem because it's locked away in a closet and ignored like crazy Aunt Edna. Leaders must be truthful and candid.

Without a doubt, the Hudson Valley Region is one of the nicest places to live in the northeast(in the nation, we believe). That is beyond dispute. To say that a city like Troy has turned a corner....? That is demonstrably wrong.

Troy is a wonderful, unique city. Native Trojans have a fierce loyalty to their city. A loyalty one does not find in natives of more prosperous cities. The Capital District has much to offer people and families. That does not mean Troy has turned any corner. Nor will Troy turn any corner for the foreseeable future. All of the indicators are negative.

First, the population (like Albany's) has diminished. Troy's population has consistently dropped and has now dipped below the 50,000 mark for the first time quite some time. Young professionals are leaving cities and moving to the suburbs, if the stay in the area at all.

Ask yourself this: how many people, friends and family, are moving into Troy, NY? They're not. They're not going to move to Troy, NY. How many people do you know that have moved to Troy, NY for the schools? For employment? It's not happening. Think of those who have recently graduated college. How many have stayed in the area? How many have moved to New York City?

Harry is simply wrong. Remember, Schenectady, NY was not far behind Troy in the study. Is anyone going to argue that Schenectady has turned any positive corner?

The fact that Troy has diminished over the past few decades is not anyone's fault. Troy is little different than most old, industrial northeastern cities. As the economy moves from industry to service, these cities have struggled. That is natural. No one is at fault. And it's not just Troy or cities like Troy. The population is moving south and west. The northeast and New England are Old America (and in our opinion the best part of America). Look at the Electoral College map. In 1952 New York had 45 Electoral Votes (that's 43 members of the House of Representatives). In 1968 that number fell to 43. In the 1990's, 33. Now, NY has 31 Electoral Votes. That's a loss of 14 seats in Congress. The same decline holds true for Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and even Connecticut.

Property taxes in Troy are too high compared to outlying areas. The schools are not as good. A trip to the New York State Department of Education website shows that Troy City Schools, Lansingburgh Schools, Watervliet and Cohoes Schools simply cannot compete with North Colonie, Colonie, Brittonkill.....the list goes on. People move south and west because they grow tired of the long winters. There is a perception (wrong) that crime is rampant in cities. All of these factors contribute to the decline of northeastern cities.

We must move away from the old models. We cannot recreate the past. Troy and Schenectady are not going to be thriving retail centers. People shop at Crossgates and Walmart now.

Those are the facts. You can deny them, but that won't change them.

There are things Troy can do. One thought, and it's not a panacea, is preserving Troy's heritage and buildings. Savannah, Georgia preserved it's past and in the process ensured its future. Not every old building can or should be saved but there has to be a better understanding that preserving an old building is not just about the past.

Another idea is to focus on things such as quality restaurants and entertainment. Troy, at times, has had many good restaurants. It has the Troy Music Hall and the theatre now. A thriving (legal, non- pornographic) nightlife can't hurt. And, of course, there's the waterfront.

Most cities like Troy put the cart before the horse. They try to draw business, retail or commercial. Instead, it seems more logical to draw young, professionals to the cities. Those people will create a demand for services. However, those young families want, above all, good schools and safe neighborhoods. To top it off, it will take more than good schools and safe neighborhood to draw people with disposable income. It will take the perception of good schools and safe neighborhoods. The reality is that it is sometimes more difficult to change the perception than the reality.

Another thing Trojans can do is stop electing political hacks whose only qualification is the fact that they paid their party dues by helping to elect other political hacks (who then in turn appoint more hacks). Troy has many visionary people who have led succesful lives in the private sector. Perhaps we should turn to people like that rather than to people whose main concern is padding their pension (a bipartisan problem).

On the upside, we didn't know that Troy's Uncle Sam Statue was featured on a foreign stamp!

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