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

Thursday, May 29, 2008


A lot happened last week that we did not cover due to the long weekend.

TROY — County health officials Wednesday issued a rabies alert for the Lansingburgh area after two raccoons found in that area tested positive for the rabies virus.

The raccoons were captured in Knickerbacker Park and on Fourth Avenue between 119th and 126th streets. No human or domestic pet came in contact with the raccoons, authorities said.

Mayor Tutunjian issued a press release on the situation:

"County Health officials have issued a Rabies Alert for Lansingburgh. The City of Troy will not recognize the Rabies Alert and condemn the County's action. Spiritual leaders of all faiths, including Jewishism, are welcome in Troy and are encouraged to visit."


In other Harry news, the Mayor takes a tough stand on stabbings:

TROY -- Police were on the scene early today of a fatal stabbing that occurred on Eighth Street. Police Chief Nicholas Kaiser said officers responded to a 911 call about 10 p.m. and found a 28-year-old man lying on the sidewalk bleeding profusely.

The man, whose identity was not released, was taken to St. Mary's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Said the Mayor:

"We don't want to see anything like this happen anywhere in the city," he said.

Ya' think? Maybe this policy will be incorporated into Troy's branding campaign.


According to Capitol Confidential, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno is coy about his re-election plans.

When asked whether he would run for re-election this fall, Bruno responded:
“I am where I am today. Here I am with you, having this delightful conversation and we’ll see what life looks like.”

Meanwhile, over at Albany Amp, they had this rumor. If it proves false at least the comments are fun to read.

Finally, the Rensselaer County Democrats have endorsed Brian Premo in his run for the New York State Senate seat currently held by Senator Bruno. Maybe he'll even appear on the ballot this time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Troy City Councilman John Brown has been subpoenaed to give testimony in the City's suit against Rensselaer for unpaid water bills.

“I really don’t know what they would want to question me about, considering that the lawsuit only covers the debt until the beginning of 2006, and I didn’t take any active role in pursuing any type of settlement until this year,” said Brown.

We would want to know if any Rensselaer officials stated what they believe Rensselaer owes and whether that dollar amount differs with what those officials say publicly. We'd also ask if any Rensselaer officials have stated what they were able to pay.

That's just our guess.

Councilman Mark Wojcik, R-District 1, sent a letter to Council President Clement Campana, D-At Large, in late March expressing his concern about rumors that Brown had been involved with pre-election discussions of the water debt with Rensselaer officials and that he had used the promise to try and approve a settlement in order to be elected in November.

Brown denied those allegations.

When that rumor surfaced it was the subject of at least one television story. Of course, there was nothing to document the rumor. In fact, Councilman Wojcik has not provided any proof or names to substantiate the rumor. We guess such substantiation is no longer required by the print or television media.

It would be very helpful if Councilman Wojcik would reveal the sources of those rumors and turn over any documentary evidence to substantiate his claim.

While the media reports rumors, dead silence on this story. Imagine if the subject of the story had been Campana, Dunne or another Democrat.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


An interesting, below the radar, issue arose at the Law Committee meeting the other night.

A citizen has Foiled records, including time sheets, of Council employees and employees of the Clerk's Office.

The Foil request was the Administration. According to sources, the denial was based upon time sheets being sacred, municipal writings, only available to the high priests of bureaucracy.

The Law Committee, controlled by Democrats, approved an appeal of the denial. In short, they have no problem turning over the documents.

This is of interest for two reasons:

1) The legislation creating Council oversight of FOIL request was vetoed. That veto was overridden. However, this may be legislation that does limit the Mayor's power and thus, not valid absent a referendum.

2) Time sheets can be FOILED. Despite the Administration's legal analysis, time sheets have to be turned over upon request. Not necessarily every piece of information on a time sheet, but in general, they can be FOILED.

Payroll records of municipal housing authority were not exempted from disclosure under Freedom of Information Law by CLS Pub O § 87(2)(b)since (1) records regarding days worked, leave taken with or without pay and leave accrued were relevant to day-to-day operations of authority, and (2) authority failed to show how release of records would result in economic or personal hardship, as possibility that records could be used to discover other financial information was insufficient and claim that newspaper might use information to create embarrassing article was also insufficient. Buffalo News v Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (1990, 4th Dept) 163 App Div 2d 830, 558 NYS2d 364.

Records identifying public employees who work during given period, rates of pay and number of hours worked are available because those records are "relevant" to performance of duties; Freedom of Information Law deals specifically with payroll information. Comm on Open Gov't FOIL-AO-4657.

So keep on Foiling and don't take no for an answer. Remember, the government has to articulate a reason for the denial. They cannot issue blanket denials.


Rensselaer County Court Judge Patrick McGarth has tossed his hat into the ring for a Supreme Court seat. If nominated, McGrath will face Judge Anthony Carpinello, an East Greenbush native and Appellate Division judge.

Looks like Tonko's in for the 21st Congressional District race and he received a warm welcome from fellow candidate Darius Shahinfar:

"I welcome Commissioner Tonko into the Congressional race. As Upstate New Yorkers deal with gasoline prices nearing $4 a gallon and rising energy costs, his experience on energy issues will be sorely missed at this crucial time for NYSERDA.

“However, I welcome his long experience in the New York State Assembly into a race which is very much focused on new ideas for the future of Upstate New York and our great Country."

And candidates Tracey Brooks also welcomes Tonko:

"I welcome Mr. Tonko to this race and I look forward to engaging voters as a leader with a different kind of experience, a clear vision for our future, and a focus on the right priorities to make real change happen."

If we didn't know better we might think someone is implying that Tonko is the past, not the future.


A much-anticipated independent documentary about Mame Faye, Troy's most famous madam, will premiere on June 14, 2008, at the Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 6th Avenue). Two consecutive screenings (at 7:00pm and at 8:45pm) will be held to accommodate expected demand. The Georgie Wonders Orchestra will perform Big Band music from Mame's era at receptions following each screening. Admission to this event is by donation ($10 suggested, $5 student/low income/senior citizen). Sittin' on a Million (length: 26 minutes) was produced and directed by local filmmakers Penny Lane and Annmarie Lanesey. The film is the result of nearly two years' labor, during which time Lane and Lanesey interviewed over 100 people, orchestrated street performances, found local actors to portray several "versions" of Mame in reenactment scenes, and dug into primary sources to piece together this almost-forgotten story. Last summer, a "sneak preview" of clips from the film, held on Mame's birthday (August 15) drew a diverse crowd of over 200 people.

Sittin' on a Million has stirred up some controversy locally. During a call-in show on WGY last fall, an anonymous caller said that the film was "disgusting," asking why the filmmakers believe that someone as "nefarious" as a prostitute should be treated as a "hero." Troy resident Geri de Seve, who performs in the film as one of several "versions" of Mame Faye, counters that whether one likes it or not, "[Mame] was a very important part of Troy's history, a very strong woman, and very much of an entrepreneur. There are a lot of ways that prostitution happens, and it's not always women lying on their backs. There are a lot of other ways that people sell their souls and bodies, and her profession just happens to be the one way we call sinful."

Tomorrow, Rensselaer's water woes continue. Or maybe next week. We may start our long weekend early. If so, have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Developer Jeff Pfeil took a shot at the City Council in Saturday's Record:

“My wife and I have a lot of money invested in Troy, and it is very disheartening for me to see the immature actions that have been going on with the council in recent months” said Pfeil, who noted that the city had seen tremendous progress in past years before Tutunjian and the council began their political war.

Pfeil, the owner of Powers Park Lofts, The Conservatory, and several properties in Clifton Park and Saratoga Springs, explained that he was once again disappointed after reading that Councilman Bill Dunne, D-District 4, had attacked Tutunjian during the council’s special meeting to discuss Community Development Block Grant funding Tuesday.

“That’s immature, inappropriate behavior,” said Pfeil. “I think the people who have elected these council members should say to them — grow up, you don’t do things like that at a council meeting.”

First, let us reiterate our commitment to development. We are all for it. Growing up, the girl next store developed a lot, so that was good.

Pfeil did a wonderful job with the Gay Building (The Conservatory). We would not take that away from Pfeil. A building with a few high-end condominiums is preferable to an empty building. But, lets not get carried away. The Conservatory was an IDA sponsored project which makes it exempt from property taxes. And despite all of the 'development', our property taxes have not gone down in Troy. Except in election years, they consistently rise.

More to the point, Pfeil ignores the consistent attacks on Troy's elected, legislative branch by the Mayor. Dunne's 'attack' was not "inappropriate." Indeed, it was highly appropriate after the false charges leveled by Tutunjian. Are baseless attacks supposed to go unchallenged, Mr. Pfeil? Are elected representatives supposed to 'lie-down and take it' so an out-of-town developer feels more comfortable? Perhaps the chaos of Democracy should give way to corporate needs.

Mr. Pfeil's comments would bear greater weight if he and his company remained politically neutral or bipartisan. But, what The Record fails to disclose, or Pfeil fails to disclose, is his blatant partisanship:

The Pfeil's, individually, or via their corporation, are consistent donors to Republican candidates:*

Tutunjian - $1430.00
Tedisco - $675.00
Bruno - $2000.00
Pataki - $580.00
McDonald - $500.00

As well as contributions to the New York Senate Republican Campaign Committee, Kathy Jimino, Henry Bauer and the Saratoga Republican Committee. Over $6000 to GOP candidates. All perfectly legal. Unlike other developers, the Pfeils do not contribute to Republicans and Democrats that are in power. Only Republicans. That's their right but please, spare us the righteous indignation.

*Source: New York State Board of Elections website.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Gosh, we guess the Mayor wasn't 'On' television calling the Council lazy. Perhaps it depends on what the definition of 'is' is.

Did any of these television "reporters" actually call Housing and Urban Development before leading the story with how the Council is late? Even the reporter asks the question: "Why do it so late?"

If they had called HUD, like a blog that shall remain nameless did, they would have known better. Instead, they base their story on something a politician said with no follow-up. Is this what our media has come to? Aren't they supposed to uncover the facts? Aren't they supposed to dig? Not just for this story but for any story. Hell, a political candidate had to spoon-feed them the Hevesi story.

Just, just....F---k it!

Moving on....

In the Twenty First, candidate Phil Steck receives more endorsements:

Phil Steck, Democratic candidate for Congress, announced today that he has been endorsed by Troy City Council Members John Brown (At-Large), Pete Ryan (District 3), Ken Zalewski (District 5), and Gary Galuski (District 6) in his bid to succeed Congressman Mike McNulty, who is retiring. Steck has now received endorsements from more than 50 local elected and Democratic Party officials.

“I am not surrounded by an army of lobbyists and my campaign is rooted in the community, and I greatly appreciate the support of the Troy City Councilmembers who are fighting for change at the local level,” said Steck. “We need people in Washington who don’t just talk about change, but who actually have a record of making change. People who are willing to be bold, who have the courage to stand up to get this country back on track.”

On the GOP side, Jim Buhrmaster picked-up two important nods:

The Schenectady County Republican Executive Committee and the Albany County Republican Committee have endorsed Jim Buhrmaster as their candidate in the 21st Congressional race.

Buhrmaster, whose family has owned a fuel business since the early 1900s, is running against one other Republican, Steven Vasquez. There are seven Democrats who have declared in the race. Here’s what the party leaders said.

“Albany County Republican Chairman Peter Kermani said, ‘We are very excited about Jim’s candidacy and look forward to helping him make history in November. He’s the only candidate in the race with experience in both local government and business. He’s the only candidate who’s actually cut taxes and created jobs.’”

Finally, Troy's Democratic Council blows another one. When the City Council was in Republican hands the City routinely won this contest. Now, under the Democrats? Defeat!

Guess they don't add the special ingredient: Love.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

CDBG $$$

For the past two weeks we've heard Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian blast the Democratic City Council for "endangering millions of dollars" in Community Development Block Grant Money. That is, grants distributed to cities by the Department of Housing & Urban Development.

The Mayor has repeatedly stated that the Council will miss the May 17th 'deadline.'

However, a call to the HUD Department's Buffalo Office, the office responsible for the CDBG money, paints a different picture. According to Karen Kist at HUD, The City Council has endangered 0 (zero) dollars in HUD grants.

The May 17th deadline is the deadline imposed on mayors for submitting the required One Year Plan (there is also a Five Year Plan submitted every five years). The Executive Branch of City applicants is required to submit a plan by May 17th. Not just a spreadsheet, but a narrative as well. The final numbers, after the legislative branch reviews and votes on the allocation of funds, must be submitted by August 17, 2008.

Well, that's what the people who hand out the money say.

Looks like the only thing endangered in Troy is the truth.

Monday, May 12, 2008


The Sanctuary for Independent Media filed a Notice of Claim against the City of Troy for violation of their First Amendment right to free speech. The Sanctuary was targeted for closure one day after a controversial exhibit, The Night of Bush Hunting, opened.

A Notice of Claim is the first step in the litigation. After the passage of the requisite time, a complaint will be filed. We believe the complaint will be filed in Federal Court.

For background and brilliant analysis, you can go here and here.

The Sanctuary has agreed to halt litigation in exchange for an apology. The Mayor has refused. An apology would save taxpayers a major expense but the Administration would rather spend our money defending their assault on the First Amendment. Perhaps a compromise is in order: Harry can apologize but keep his fingers crossed. That's perfectly acceptable under Federal Law unless the Plaintiff serves Notice of No Crossies.

What will the Sanctuary have to prove in order to be successful?

a plaintiff alleging a First Amendment retaliation suit must show that: (1) he engaged in protected speech; (2) the defendants' retaliatory actions adversely affected the plaintiff’s constitutionally protected speech; and (3) a causal connection between the plaintiff’s speech and the defendant’s retaliatory actions.

It will be difficult for the City to defeat the lawsuit on the first two grounds. The suite will likely be fought over the causal connection between the speech and the retaliatory action. Since municipalities rarely oblige with direct evidence of retaliation, circumstantial evidence will be needed. What suffices for such evidence? Temporal proximity is always useful:

Jones reasoned that Cole had done enough to send his case to a jury to determine whether the defendants were liable for unlawful retaliation. Both sides agreed that Cole’s investigative reports and critical editorials were protected speech. The judge also found that there was sufficient evidence to show that the defendants’ actions adversely affected Cole’s free speech. Cole noted that the resolution severely limited his ability to cover sporting events and student exhibitions. Finally, the judge reasoned that the passage of only three days between a critical article and the school’s resolution raised an inference of retaliation. - Cole v Buchanan County School Board

There are also implications in choosing a Federal forum for this suit. According to our legal advisers:

1) Litigation in Federal Court moves quickly;

2) Federal Judges are less tolerant of discovery-related hanky-panky;

3) Discovery is very broad;

4) All participants must wear powdered wigs.

A prominent figure in the suite, even if not a named defendant, will be Bob Mirch, Troy's Department of Public Works Commissioner. Mr. Mirch had this to say about the suit:

Everywhere I go, people say, ‘You are absolutely right!’ The people are behind me 100 percent,” he said. “I am having a great time. I live for this!”- Metroland

We're not sure if Mr. Mirch "lives" for seeing the First Amendment violated or for law suits against the City. His "great time" will only cost us more money.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Chair of the Troy Republicans, Tom Casey, continues to provide comic relief. He gave us a hearty laugh with his recent Pulse of the People letter.

Mr. Casey believes the Democratic Party "Bosses" are controlling legislative policy. He offers no evidence of this but we expect little in the way of evidence when the Republicans attack.

However, the irony of Mr. Casey's ethics lecture was lost on few.

The Chairman of the Troy Republicans continues to violate the ethics code of the City of Troy. City employees are prohibited from serving as party officers. Mr. Casey's reign as Troy Chair is one, continuous, ethics violation.

The biggest irony may be that under his reign, Republican council members were continually threatened by party "bosses" with the withholding of the Conservative Party endorsement if they did not do as they were told. This was especially true when the former GOP majority wished to cut one of Tutunjian's tax hikes. A few minutes before that vote, the GOP Council was given their marching orders. But not by GOP bosses. The boss of another party controls Mr. Casey's party.

Mr. Casey always gives us a good laugh.

We haven't forgotten about the Sanctuary's First Amendment suit filed against the City. Probably the first of two or three. We'll discuss that in the days to come.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Our weekly update on What's Happening in the 21st CD. Hey, hey, Raj!

Brooks Blasts Big Oil:

On Thursday, May 1st, Tracey Brooks blasted record-high prices at the pump and record-breaking big oil profits, and addressed how the Bush Administration's energy and foreign policy failures have led to this crisis, and discuss the need to finally implement both short-term conservation and long-term energy alternative solutions.

Brooks' blast comes as Exxon Mobil announced their first-quarter net income rose 17 percent to $10.89 billion and profits increased by 10 percent. Siena College also released a poll featuring citizens frustrated attitudes on gas prices.The price of gas has recently jumped in the Capital -- already knocking at $4.00 a gallon with prices ranging as high as 3.79 to 3.99, well ahead of the expected summer increases.

Tonko Toys with Congressional Bid?

Metroland wonders if Tonko is in the race.

More from the Times Union.

Always thought that Tonko, with a built-in base, would be the front runner for the nomination. Did he wait too long?

Phil Steck

The Albany Project wonders about a media blackout on the Steck campaign.

Democratic candidate for Congress Phil Steck, running amongst six other announced candidates to replace retiring Representative Mike McNulty (D, NY-21) opened his campaign headquarters Thursday.

Yet you wouldn't know this if you relied on the local mainstream media of New York's Capital Region. No news cameras were at the press conference called by the Democratic candidate who has raised the most money and received by far the most endorsements for his campaign for change.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Too many topics to choose. Just close your eyes and grab one.

The Troy Pig Out - We thought the Troy Pig Out happened last year, right after the elections. No, it's not about Tutunjian and his pay hikes.

Paying Rich Hanft - Don't know why this is such a big deal. Hanft should be paid the same way any lawyer retained to defend the Council is paid. He should be paid the same way Bailey & Associates is always paid when they defend the City. The Council is entitled to a defense under Public Officers Law.

Or, wait until budget time and pay Hanft with money that would usually go to the Corporation Counsels Office.

Hotels - Is anyone else sceptical about Troy's ability to sustain two (2) hotels?

North Greenbush - Jeff Spain speaks out about the mess in North Greenbush. Question: Doesn't Supervisor Evers have to sign the checks? Did he sign the checks? If he didn't, are the checks valid? If he did sign the checks.....

Another Veto - The Mayor believes a second Charter Review Commission is unlawful. Has the Council requested an opinion from the Council's attorney, Corporation Counsel, David B. Michell? Please cite the law that makes a second commission 'illegal.'

A charter commission may be established by a city governing body notwithstanding the existence of such a commission previously created by the city mayor. Both commissions may function simultaneously, but separate and independent of each other, and submit questions for voter approval at the same general election or separate special elections. 1974 Ops St Compt File #1300.

City is not authorized to limit number of charter commissions that may be established; city is not authorized to limit life of charter commission, as state law requires that work of charter commission be completed in time to present proposals to electors no later than second general election after charter commission was created and organized. Ops Atty Gen 89-34 (Informal).

If there's case law to the contrary, please advise. In any event, since the two commissions will operate independently, why does the Mayor care? This is good, old American competition. And competition almost always benefits the consumer.

It is exciting. Like that long-ago, Philadelphia summer of 1776. We just hope the new Charter is written on old, crinkled, parchment.

Friday, May 02, 2008


We are sorry to see that Judge Development did not submit a bid for the purchase of City Hall.

Longtime readers will recall that we found the Judge proposal intriguing. Unfortunately, when the deal was originally announced, there remained many unanswered questions. Some of those questions still remain. The tax payers agreed.

The Judge deal involved a property swap. After the Mayor announced the deal, Judge purchased the Sixth Avenue Verizon building. City Hall was to move to the Verizon building and Judge would lease City Hall. Ultimately, the rent paid by the City to Judge for the Verizon building would be used to purchase the Verizon building.

We never understood why a straight-up trade wasn't proposed. Why the five-year lease of the City property?

Not too long ago, at a Committee meeting (or Council meeting) the Mayor did announce that the Judge deal was dead. That announcement came just days after a request was made to see the operating agreement of the entity that sold the Verizon building to Judge. An operating agreement discloses the names of those who own an interest in company or other business entity.

The group that sold the Verizon building is under no obligation to disclose their operating agreement. Such a document is not a public record. Still, the timing of the request and the Mayor's announcement is interesting. The Sun doesn't rise because the rooster crows, but could there be some cause and effect here?

Not all is lost, however. Other people have shown an interest in City Hall. Our particular favorite:

Attorney Seymour Fox* offered to buy city hall for $500,000, redevelop it and hang a gigantic model of a sailing sloop on the Hudson River side of the building. His proposal calls for leasing city hall back to the city. The unusual nature of hanging a model ship on the side of the building dismayed city officials.

The Mayor's office would then be relocated to the giant, hanging sloop.

* If the name rings a bell, Seymour Fox was lead Counsel in the landmark Supreme Court case, Marbury v Madison.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Every time we try to get out they pull us back in.

There's a number of issues to discuss. We'll do so over the next few days.

First, the sacred Block Grants. Just another sign that Troy is a client state of State and Federal largesse.

Instead of ensuring that a hearing was scheduled, the Mayor seems more interested in casting blame:

Mayor Harry Tutunjian, a Republican, said today that the Democrat-controlled City Council has endangered the funds by failing to schedule a public hearing or a vote on the allocations.

"The City Council does not run the city of Troy and their continued insistence that they do has now put more than $2 million in funding at risk," Tutunjian said.

As a reader points out: If the Council doesn't run the City, perhaps the Mayor can stop laying blame and do his job. If he devoted half the time to the City as he did to pay raises for staff, things might run smoother.

We're not sure who is at fault. It's a money screw-up so chances are it's the Mayor. We fondly recall the Mayor, hat in hand, meeting with Mayor Stratton and Congressman McNulty so Troy would not lose millions in HUD money. Then there's the issue of why the Department of Transportation wants to meet with the Administration over state funds spent on unrealized projects, or the Carignan debacle or the South Troy Gateway/neolithic Rockhenge disaster.

So, the Council can dole out the Block Grants, hold a public hearing and a special meeting and get it done. Why all the drama? Didn't the Council end up holding something like seventeen special meetings until the Mayor finally got his utility rate hikes? It's not the end of the world.


According the The Record:

The City Hall Review Committee will provide no recommendation to the City Council regarding the sale or demolition of City Hall due to a lack of provided information, according to Councilman Ken Zalewski, D-District 5.

Zalewski, who sits as the committee’s chairman, explained that they simply did not receive enough information to make any kind of informed recommendation to the council.

Zalewski has thus far conducted himself like a mature adult. He obviously doesn't want to play politics with the committee. We have to ask: What information has been withheld and by whom? Has the Administration failed to provide information that would aid the committee? Unthinkable?

We never thought a recommendation, per se, was necessary. What the public wants to see is simple enough: Set forth the pros and cons of selling/swapping City Hall and the pros and cons of renovating City Hall.

If it's to be renovation, may we suggest vinyl siding? It's attractive, easy to clean and saves a lot on the heating bills.