Mayor Madden Delivers 2020 State of the City Address

Mayor Madden Delivers 2020 State of the City Address

For Immediate Release
February 5, 2020

Mayor Madden Delivers 2020 State of the City Address

TROY, NY – Touting four years of financial stability, neighborhood and infrastructure investment, and economic growth in the Collar City, Mayor Madden delivered his 5th State of the City Address on Wednesday, February 5, 2020.

Held at the newly-opened Loft 433 located atop the historic Hedley Building in downtown Troy, Mayor Madden highlighted major milestones and achievements in key areas, including neighborhood revitalization, rebuilding Troy’s water and sewer infrastructure, improving waterfront access, renewable energy initiatives, and critical upgrades and repairs to City-owned facilities. Mayor Madden outlined his continued optimism about the future of Troy while applauding the residents, businesses, and City staff who help propel the continued revitalization of the Collar City forward.

Key highlights of the address included:

  • Four years of balanced budgets, improved bond ratings, and reduced fiscal stress scores
  • Rising home values (6.3% increase over 2018), and shorter “time on market” (down 10% over 2018), indicating growing confidence in homeownership
  • Substantial completion of the downtown Troy seawall project, a $24M infrastructure investment to protect businesses, properties, and the County sewer system
  • Over $500M in private investment from new construction projects and local building permits
  • Upgrades and repairs for Troy’s firehouses, including new roofs, lighting, windows, HVAC units, kitchen upgrades, plumbing, and foundation repair
  • Several efforts to promote sustainability, including a 2.6 megawatt expansion of Troy’s solar array on the former landfill, installation of LED lighting in City-owned facilities, and other climate-smart initiatives to reduce Troy’s carbon footprint
  • Major sewer and water infrastructure projects, including the relining of Sage Avenue and Campbell Avenue sewer lines, storm water diversion line beneath the Lansingburgh bike path, and planned replacement of transmission lines between the Tomhannock Reservoir and Troy’s water treatment plant
  • Proposal to create a Lansingburgh Historic District to ensure the preservation of important historical properties in North Troy
  • Completion of the Ingalls Avenue Boat Launch, and planned renovation of the 7th Avenue Park in North Central
  • Finalized agreement to commence construction of the South Troy Industrial Park Road

Mayor Madden also announced plans to explore options for a permanent City Hall. The City will issue an RFQ seeking professional real estate services to begin assessing the City’s operational needs, square footage, and financial capacity.

The speech was broadcast via live webcast on the City’s official YouTube channel, part of the administration’s commitment to civic engagement and transparency using social media and other online tools.

A copy of the full State of the City Address presentation is available for download here: http://www.troyny.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/State-of-the-City-2020-presentation.pdf 

An archived video of the address is available here: https://youtu.be/H5PShsf9A_U

The mayor’s full remarks prepared for delivery are below:

STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
Mayor Patrick Madden
Wednesday, February 5, 2020

It is my honor to stand before you tonight and offer the 2020 State of the City Address.

I am pleased to report to you that the state of the City continues to improve on a number of important measures and that there is plenty of credit to share.

When I first assumed office four years ago, we faced some significant challenges. Unbalanced budgets. Aging infrastructure.  Depleted financial reserves. Decades of disinvestment. And years of political strife which took our collective eye off the ball and paralyzed progress.

Confronted with these challenges, we set to work in righting our fiscal ship and restoring confidence in Troy’s future. In the last four years, we have made remarkable progress toward making Troy a more vibrant, resilient, and more welcoming community built on a stronger financial foundation.  The result has been greater confidence and optimism in the City by small business owners, investors and homeowners. This is evidenced by the growth in investment that we are witnessing.

But this was not done alone.  As will be evident this evening, the progress we have made is the result of a great many people contributing to the process.

Let me begin where I always do.

Finances

I have spoken frequently of the state of the city’s finances four years ago:  the depleted reserves, the deferred bills, the dependence on one shots, the debt, the critical reviews from the Office of State Comptroller, the falling bond rating and the structural imbalance of our budgets year after year.  We were truly on the threshold of insolvency.

I don’t mention this to vilify those who came before me in elected office. Nor do I believe that any of the past practices of which I have been critical were the result of nefarious intent.  In fact, the uncomfortable truth is that we all – collectively – bear responsibility for the past. For too long we have demanded our elected officials deliver a level of services that we have been unwilling to pay for.  We have punished, or threatened to punish, those who were unable to meet our demands and rewarded those who employed fiscal sleight of hand to give us what we demanded.  

The problem was that it was unsustainable. 

My administration has acted differently, both by design and necessity.  We built bridges over political divisions to make real change. We made hard decisions about taxes, fees and staffing.  We instituted honest and effective changes to ensure long-term viability of important City services. We said ‘no’ more often than any of us would have liked. 

This has not been easy.  Fiscal discipline rarely is.  We have made difficult and, at times, unpopular decisions.  The results though, have been noteworthy and have produced real and measurable results.

  • Working with the Council we secured four consecutive structurally balanced budgets, an accomplishment that my administration and the City Council should be proud of.
  • Fiscal years 2016, 2017, and 2018 produced modest surpluses, adding strength to our fiscal position.  We expect the same from 2019 when those numbers are finalized.
  • Moody’s Investors Service improved our credit outlook twice. 
  • The Office of State Comptroller reduced our fiscal stress rating in three consecutive years.
  • Our reserves, while still slim, are the strongest they have been since 2009.
  • In 2019 and again just two weeks ago Moody’s rated our Bond Anticipation Notes at a MIG 1 level – the highest grade for municipal notes.

These achievements are the result of our commitment to fiscal discipline and truthful, realistic budgeting.  As I have in the past, I will continue to caution that we are not out of the woods yet, though we are heading in the right direction.  Don’t believe those who would promise quick fixes. Fiscal discipline is a practice, not an event.

My administration will continue to act in the long term best interest of today’s taxpayers as well as the generations that will follow us.

On the bright side, having taken the steps we did, each year we are in an increasingly better position to reinvest in long neglected assets of the City. 

Our strengthened financial position allowed us to complete and/or commence a number of important projects in 2019 that were built upon our earlier work.  In 2020, that investment will accelerate.

And much of that investment has been in infrastructure.

Infrastructure is the life blood of any community.  Often taken for granted and just as often not even visible, a reliable network of infrastructure is essential to the long-term health, growth and vitality of our City.  We are the beneficiaries of the foresight and investment of those who came before us. Those investments benefit us on a daily basis. It has been a priority of this administration to be a responsible steward of that gift ensuring that our children may enjoy the same benefits.

In 2019, we achieved substantial completion of the renovation of the seawall.  This $24M project addressed deficiencies in our century old seawall ensuring at least another 80 years of useful and productive life to this important structure.  Years of natural erosion exacerbated by damage from Hurricane Irene left the wall vulnerable. What few realize is that the seawall is the only thing that separates the County sewer interceptor line from the Hudson River, and failure of this barrier would be catastrophic. First conceived of under my predecessor, Mayor Rosamilia, significant funding for this project was secured through FEMA with strong support from Senator Schumer.

In 2019 we achieved substantial completion of the renovation of the South Troy pool.  We acknowledge we did not hit our stretch goal for this project’s completion, but unforeseen conditions changed the project from a repair to a wholesale renovation.  The result is that this pool’s useful life is extended at least another 20 years. And I’d like to extend my thanks to Assemblymember McDonald who was able to provide a grant to help offset the cost of this project.

Under the leadership of Fire Chief Eric McMahon we commenced a number of repair and renovation projects at our firehouses. They included new roofs, new lighting, new windows, new HVAC units, kitchen upgrades, plumbing repairs and foundation repairs.  This work is progressing as we speak.

In 2019 we repainted and upgraded two of our three water tanks.  In the process we added aeration mechanisms to improve the quality of our water.  The third tower is under consideration for replacement in the near term. 

While we’re on the topic of water, let me share with you a few facts:

  • Did you know that there are more than 280 miles of water and sewer pipes under our streets?  End to end that would stretch from Troy to Buffalo.
  • Did you know that we draw and process more than 21M gallons of water a day from the Tomhannock Reservoir?  That water serves over 135,000 customers in Troy and 9 surrounding communities in three counties. And our water is being considered as a source for the Town of Hoosick Falls.

The importance of maintaining that system cannot be overstated.  It has been a priority of this administration to ensure that the proper and necessary investments are made to maintain the quality and continuity of this system for all of our customers.

We are replacing or reinforcing sections of our water system like the 33 inch main we replaced in Lansingburgh, the sewer line under Sage Avenue and the sewer line under Campbell Avenue, 2 sewage pump stations. 

And it is why we’re moving forward with the replacement of feeder lines which connect the Tomhannock Reservoir to the water treatment plant.  These lines, for which there is no backup, are over 110 years old. They were placed in service during the Presidency of William Howard Taft.  

This is a monumental undertaking scheduled to take place over the next two years. When complete, it will ensure a reliable flow of water for at least another 250 years.  

Troy came of age in a time when cities used the nearest river as their sewer.  We were no different. In the 1970’s, under orders from the EPA, the County and City installed a sewer interceptor line along the river which transported sewage to a treatment plant just south of the City.  The problem was that our system captured surface water as well as sewage. In times of heavy rain that system can become overwhelmed and result in discharges directly into the river. 

In 2006 the communities of Albany, Rensselaer, Watervliet, Troy, Cohoes and Green Island came together in a unique partnership to work collaboratively to reduce the overflows in this section of the river.

Since 2011, The City of Troy and our municipal partners have implemented more than 65 projects and programs, investing more than $130M dollars to lessen the frequency of sewer overflows and improve the health of the Hudson River.

Right now we are in the midst of installing a storm water diversion line beneath the Uncle Sam Bike Trail in Lansingburgh.  This line, approximately one-half mile in length, will divert storm water away from the city’s combined sewer system, reducing sewage overflows to the Hudson River and mitigating a serious surface water problem for the residents of that neighborhood.

Last month, the City was awarded $1.825M from New York State for various CSO projects over the next three years to further reduce the volume of sewage reaching the river during storm events.

Sewer metering pits were installed to monitor sanitary sewage volume from outside communities entering the City’s system. These improvements will help gain a better model capacity of Troy’s sewer system by measuring sewage flow from Rensselaer County communities. This data will inform how future improvements can be made, and how we can collectively as a County make more responsible development and infrastructure-related investments.

These investments are costly, but with the assistance of grants and low-interest financing available through state and federal agencies, the City is committed to preserve and maintain the integrity of our water and sewer systems as well as the health of the Hudson River.

Economic Development

These investments and others that we make across our City reflect back on us in the form of investments made by large and small businesses.  

Fiscal discipline coupled with investments in public infrastructure and neighborhood amenities enhances not only the day to day lives of current residents but also adds to the confidence needed to attract investment, grow new jobs, attract a more robust workforce, build a tax base, and drive private capital into new projects.   This is precisely what we are experiencing.

Since 2015, our rental housing stock has grown 2% with over 450 new units added to the market and over 1,000 more anticipated in the next 5 years. 

Notable projects slated to open in 2020 or underway include:

  • 444 River Lofts (74 units)
  • Kings Landing (52 units)
  • Old Brick Building (80 units)
  • Vicina Modern Urban Flats (80 units + Commercial)
  • 701 River Street (80 units)
  • McCarthy Building at 257 River Street (19 apartments) 

All told, planned and underway projects represent over $175M in private investment.  This investment is based on confidence in Troy’s present and Troy’s future. These investments create jobs and tax base while eliminating blight and decay.

In the past four years we have issued 3,152 building permits representing over $360M in private investment.

Neighborhoods 

While our bustling downtown continues to be the envy of upstate New York, it is Troy’s diverse neighborhoods that truly define our community.  The City boasts a wide variety of neighborhoods. From dense urban streetscapes to single family homes with generous yards, Troy offers a housing environment for every taste.  Making each of those neighborhoods realize its highest potential is a significant focus of City Hall each and every day.  

Increasing the rate of homeownership remains an important priority for our neighborhoods.  Working with partners such as TRIP and Habitat for Humanity we allocate a significant portion of our federal HOME funds each year to assist in creating opportunities for our residents to own their own home.  

And homeownership has proven to be a good investment in Troy.  Continuing a four year trend, in 2019, the median price of a single family home in Troy rose 6.3% over 2018.  More telling though is that “Time on Market” fell again in 2019 by 10% over 2018. That means homes are selling more quickly and at higher prices.  This reflects an optimism about Troy as a place to own a home and raise a family.

On the heels of the adoption of our new Comprehensive Plan last year, we have begun an update and revision to our zoning ordinance.  Last undertaken in the 1980’s the current ordinance is woefully outdated and in numerous respects does not honor the type of development the community prioritized in the Comprehensive Plan.  That work is underway. 

It should not come as news to anyone that throughout the northeast, cities like Troy struggle against the ravages of freeze/thaw cycles on our paved surfaces.  Historically, and due to budgetary constraints, we have relied on an annual funding from the State solely to fund our paving program. That is no longer sufficient.  

For the five year period 2020 through 2024 we have allocated an additional $1.7M  to augment the State funds. This will enable us to pave an additional 15% -20% more each year.

In the Lansingburgh neighborhood we are in the midst of completing the environmental remediation of the old Leonard Hospital – a precursor to demolition.  Once removed we’ll have a 6.5-acre site suitable for redevelopment. We will actively engage with the community to determine the best active use and pursue a development path to achieve those goals and attract additional investment to Lansingburgh.

The Lansingburgh neighborhood contains many of our community’s important historical buildings. As our third century of history begins in the Collar City, I am proposing the creation of a Historic District in the Lansingburgh neighborhood to ensure their preservation for another century.

Located between 111th and 117th St, this will enable home and property owners to pursue available tax credits of up to 20% total costs for restoration or rehabilitation of properties in the proposed district.

Additionally, the City will work with the Golub Corporation and their affiliates on future opportunities at the Lansingburgh Price Chopper site. Seeking a new vision for the site will improve the Lansingburgh commercial district along 2nd Avenue and increase public access to our waterfront.

This project will build onto the City’s place-making work to create more waterfront amenities including the 123rd Street Boat launch and riverfront trail. Reimagining the Lansingburgh commercial district will accommodate these new improvements in alignment with new zoning changes, including a waterfront overlay which will require public waterfront access for new developments along the Hudson River.

Future developments and improvements will help rekindle the vibrancy of Lansingburgh, and we will continue to hold additional community meetings to work with Lansingburgh neighborhood residents and families to identify priorities for North Troy.

This program is one part of a broader strategy to help reestablish Lansingburgh’s neighborhood identity as a great place for families to live and grow.

In South Troy, we’re continuing our targeted investments in sidewalks and other neighborhood upgrades through the Community Development Block Grant program. This spring, we’re on track to complete the replacement of ADA compliant sidewalks, curb ramps, and new lighting and trees along 2nd Street. Similar work is scheduled to begin on 4th Street later this year.

We have added several miles of dedicated and shared bike lanes on the Uncle Sam Bike Trail creating a 7+ mile long trail which connects South Troy to Lansingburgh, part of a growing waterfront trail.

Working in partnership with the Osgood Neighborhood Association and others we are transforming a vacant lot into a small pocket park on Jackson Street.  The idea conceived of by the neighbors and designed by them will provide a congenial meeting place in the neighborhood. Work is progressing and should be completed this summer.

I am delighted to report that we have reached agreement with the County regarding the construction of the South Troy Industrial Roadway.  The terms have been agreed to and the checks have been cut. I anticipate a closing in a matter of days. Decades in the making this roadway will remove heavy truck traffic from our South Troy neighborhoods while at the same time open up long fallow land for productive use thereby growing our tax base.  With this matter resolved we should be going out to bid in a matter of weeks.

This is a win-win-win for the City of Troy, Rensselaer County, and the residents of South Troy.  

On the Eastside we have begun design work for repairs to the Campbell Avenue Bridge.  Funded through a $3.58M BRIDGE NY grant, this project will replace an aging structure ensuring a safe traffic route between the Eastside neighborhood to South Troy neighborhoods, Hudson Valley Community College and the Town of North Greenbush for generations to come.

Construction will likely begin in 2021, and we thank Governor Cuomo and our state representatives for funding this important and expensive project. 

Spurred on by a recent accident we are taking an opportunity to make significant traffic and pedestrian improvements to the Spring and Campbell Avenue intersections.  Adjustments to the road configuration and the installation of smart technology will make this busy intersection safer and more efficient for both pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

In the North Central Neighborhood we will be undertaking an exciting renovation of the 7th Avenue Park.  This popular pocket park is one of the few green spaces in this particular neighborhood.  The new park will include a new basketball court, a new spray pad, bathroom facilities, playground equipment, a pavilion and new fencing.  About a third of the cost of this project will be covered by City funds with the balance raised from private foundations and state grants sponsored By Senator Breslin and Assemblyman McDonald.  We are aiming to get construction started this spring.

Last year we completed the Ingalls Avenue boat launch.  This was another project initially conceived of by one of my predecessors, Mayor Pattison, over 20 years ago.  Since its opening this has proved to be a great attraction for those looking to access the river with their boats, fish from the docks or just simply sit and enjoy the river views.  This too was made possible with significant funding from New York State through the Environmental Protection Fund and the Department of State’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.

In the downtown neighborhood along with Troy Housing Authority, we are paving a path forward to a complete redevelopment of the Taylor Apartments – a particularly exciting project that promises mixed-income housing without displacement of existing tenants, and new public space along the waterfront. Towers 1 and 2, long vacant would be razed removing a blighting influence and creating opportunity for productive development better suited to Troy’s scale and market.  

In conjunction with that effort we are studying the possibility of reestablishing River Street to its original layout. This visionary project would remove physical barriers for pedestrians to create a walkable, more connected waterfront, and reconnect downtown directly to the Riverside, Osgood and South Troy neighborhoods.  Funds to undertake this study are already in hand.

In 2019 the City was awarded $4M in grant funding from Federal Highway Administration to improve pedestrian safety and accessibility on Congress and Ferry Streets.  The Route 2 Project will redesign Congress and Ferry Streets from 11th Street west to the Congress Street Bridge, into a safer, more attractive route for the public.

Enhancements and upgrades include: 

  • New curb extensions,
  • ADA accessible curb ramps,
  • Replacement of sidewalks,
  • Smart traffic lights for improved traffic control,
  • Additional street parking,
  • Bike lanes to connect with existing trail network, and
  • Lane reductions to slow traffic and increase safety for pedestrians.

Over 13,000 vehicles travel this route daily.  As our downtown develops its residential character it becomes more important to make traveling along or across these streets safer and easier for all. Design work is scheduled to be completed next year.

I am excited to confirm that the American Theater – more recently known as the Cinema Arts – is moving toward redevelopment.  Proctors Collaborative, which includes Proctors in Schenectady, Capital Rep in Albany and Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga, is proposing a reuse of the American Theater on River Street as a movie and music venue.  We will be sharing more about this exciting historical preservation project in the coming months. 

An ongoing problem in our neighborhoods is the presence of vacant and so called ‘zombie’ properties that started making their appearance after the mortgage crash some 10 years ago.  These eyesores remain a vexing problem for communities across the country and of particular concern to the neighbors who live nearby.

With the assistance of a $250,000 grant from the New York State Attorney General’s office, we’ve taken a new approach to zombie property enforcement. This funding enabled us to hire an additional Code enforcement officer and legal counsel dedicated solely to zombie enforcement.

The program has resulted in compliance and civil penalties on a number of properties. Most recently, the City received a court decision which imposed a $78,400 civil penalty against an out of state mortgage company for failing to maintain a property located in Troy’s North Central neighborhood.  We hope that this sets a precedent off of which we can prosecute more cases moving forward.

Financial institutions and mortgage lenders should take note: this administration is serious about improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods and we will hold you accountable.

I want to recognize our entire Code Enforcement Department, specifically Eric Ferraro, the City’s zombie enforcement officer, and legal counsel whose work is critical in holding banks accountable for maintaining their properties.

Sustainability

Did you know that 2019 capped the world’s hottest decade in recorded history?

Did you know that the past five years have been the hottest on record?

Recent studies predict that by 2050 – 30 years from now – one-third of the entire country of Vietnam will be below the high tide mark. This is only one example. The ripple effect of climate change will have a destabilizing effect on a global scale, creating potential political and economic unrest. Many of us will live to see this unfold, and certainly our children and their children will be in the thick of it. If we care about the quality of their lives we have a moral obligation individually and collectively to take action.

In the absence of any leadership or even acknowledgment out of Washington, cities around the country are taking steps to act more responsibly toward our planet.

In Troy we are expanding our investment in renewable energy with an expansion of our solar array on the former Troy landfill site.  In 2018, the City completed the installation of a 2.1 megawatt system with 6,700 solar panels. It currently provides 20 percent of the city’s annual electric needs and is expected to save taxpayers an estimated $2M in municipal energy costs over the next decade.

An additional 2.6 megawatt expansion is currently under construction on the former Troy landfill site. When complete, the combined output of the entire solar network will provide over 40 percent of the City’s electrical energy needs.

With assistance from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the City purchased five electric vehicles, for use by the Bureau of Code Enforcement. Capable of travelling up to 150 miles on a single charge, these electric vehicles will replace older, less fuel-efficient vehicles in need of frequent repairs. This will result in significant cost savings on fuel and maintenance and reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

This year we will complete the purchase of 4,168 street lights from National Grid, part of a City-wide initiative to install energy-efficient LED lighting in neighborhoods across Troy.

LED lighting will help increase visibility, creating safer, better-lit streets while reducing the City’s overall electric utility consumption.

Other energy related upgrades are being undertaken across city owned properties including LED lighting, roofing, insulation, windows and HVAC replacements  in the 5th Avenue and State Street parking garages, fire stations, City Court House, Troy Police Central Station, various Public Works facilities, and the Knickerbacker Ice Arena.

The resulting reduced consumption coupled with the solar arrays should bring us to the point where 50% of our electric consumption is provided by renewables.

In an initiative led by our Sustainability Task Force, Troy has joined several other Capital Region cities, towns and villages, including Albany and Schenectady, to explore the benefits of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). 

By grouping together with other municipalities, we can obtain competitive electric rates, stable pricing to avoid price spikes, and access to renewable ‘green’ electricity, for our residents.

Several public information sessions will be held in the coming weeks. More information is posted under events on the City of Troy’s official Facebook page.

City Council Member Anasha Cummings was instrumental in bringing this opportunity to fruition in Troy with the very able assistance of our Sustainability Task Force.

Solid Waste Management

There is a saying to the effect that if you fail to plan you should plan to fail.  That is a particularly apt maxim when it comes to solid waste.

We know that landfills are closing around the country.  We know the pace of landfill loss is the greatest in the northeast.  China has closed its markets for most recyclables, disrupting the recycling industry on a global scale.  Yet, as a society we continue to carry on seemingly oblivious to these facts.

Over the past three years we have taken steps to change our relationship with solid waste and prepare for a time when landfill costs spike.  Key to this effort is reducing what we throw away and then creating avenues to divert unwanted items from the waste stream. To support the success of this work, we are proactively implementing the objectives of our 10 year solid waste and recycling plan beginning with extensive outreach and education.

We created an online newsletter “Recycling Matters” providing timely tips on how residents can Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

We launched a textile recycling program to remove clothing and related textile from the waste stream.  In 2020 we will be partnering with local schools and universities to expand the reach and capacity of the program.

We are working with NYS DEC to reopen the Alamo giving residents the option of bringing yard materials to that collection site where they will be deployed and processed.

In 2020 we will be locating nine dual-stream recycling/waste receptacles in the downtown providing people the opportunity to recycle ’on the fly’.  Simultaneously, we will be relocating several cans from downtown to North Central to provide more access to proper disposal. These steps will inform future efforts to expand into other neighborhoods.

The City’s annual Hazardous Household Waste disposal day was expanded to two days in 2019, serving double the number of residents. This important service provides residents a means to safely dispose of household hazardous materials not accepted through the normal weekly garbage collection service.  It is important that we keep these harmful and potentially toxic contaminants away from local landfills.

Unfortunately instances of illegal dumping and improper handling of bulk trash remain all too common.  It’s an issue that affects the general appearance of our community and also contributes to a general decline in neighborhood quality-of-life.  In response we have assigned two full-time Litter Patrol officers working exclusively on efforts to combat illegal dumping and oversee bulk collection.

Utilizing our own portable camera systems as well as video and tips provided by neighbors, we are able to track down increasing numbers of illegal dumpers and hold them responsible. Word is getting out. We are beginning to see better outcomes in North Central and South Troy.   

I would like to thank our Solid Waste Advisory Board made up of residents from across the City as well as Renee Panetta, our Recycling Coordinator, Chuck Wojton, our Commissioner of General Service and our DWP staff for the work that they have put into these various initiatives.

Public Safety

Attractive neighborhoods are also safe neighborhoods.  I’m proud to say that our Police and Fire Departments stand as equals among the best in New York State.  Their training, their dedication and their professionalism is widely recognized and well regarded.

Effective public safety is rooted in a mutual relationship of respect between the community and those who enforce the law.  Our Police Department is committed to building that trust. Chief Owens and I meet regularly with constituencies across the City to share information, accept feedback, open lines of communication and build the mutual trust necessary to foster effective public safety.

While no amount of crime is an acceptable level, it is worth noting over the last four years, according to the Capital Region Crime Analysis Center, Violent Crime declined 26.7% in Troy.  And property crime declined 32.8% over the same period. While many communities have experienced a decrease in crime over the same period, this represents the largest drop in the Capital Region.  In fact, across the three major cities in the Capital Region Troy’s crime rate on a per capita basis went from the highest to the lowest over that period.

Despite these positive changes, additional work remains.  The number of shots fired in 2019 remained level with 2018.  This reflects the ease with which illegal guns can be obtained – a challenge not unique to Troy.  In response, TPD held a gun buy event in 2019 during which 77 firearms were turned in. The outcome surprised us all and speaks to the need to do it again – which we will.

These improving crime statistics are not accidental.  They are the result of considered decisions, new training and close relationships with state and federal agencies, including the FBI, State Police, DEA and the Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Department.  The willingness and ability to adapt to changing conditions is vital to remaining effective in today’s public safety environment. 

I would like to recognize Police Chief Owens and thank him for his leadership on these important issues.

The Fire Department has been under the leadership of Chief Eric McMahon for just about a year now and he has proven himself to be the right person for the job.  In that time, the Chief has spearheaded capital improvements in each of our firehouses – some of which I noted earlier. He is leading the discussion on the replacement of the Lansingburgh facility and has championed changes that better protect the health and safety of our dedicated firefighters.

These capital improvements have continued our unprecedented investment in the Department.  Since coming into office we have purchased three engines, two ambulances, a fire boat, replaced all outdated turnout gear, and we are in the process of purchasing a second set of turnout gear as well as additional washers and dryers to remove dangerous chemicals from our firefighters gear.

Much is changing in the field of firefighting.  Not just in Troy but across the nation. In the over 20 years that that we have been operating under the current model in Troy we’ve experienced changes in call volumes, shifting patterns of calls, new technologies, population and demographic shifts, understandings and expectations around how communities deliver emergency medical services, as well as changes within the healthcare system that impact us at the municipal level.  

All and each of these shifts are putting pressure on our systems, on our equipment, on our first responders and on our budget.  Over the course of the next year the Chief and I will be closely examining these issues and exploring potential paths forward for the Department that best preserves the services that our citizens have come to expect in a manner that respects our first responders and our taxpayers.  

I would like to thank the Chief for his leadership and our firefighters for the skill and determination with which they approach their jobs.  

Civic Engagement

Sustainable development requires support from the public.  It has been a hallmark of this administration to open up the process to build trust and create that buy in.  Public engagement has been a priority since the beginning of my administration.

During the last four years, we have organized dozens of community meetings to give residents an opportunity to be heard on important issues. These gatherings give the public a chance to speak directly with City staff and department representatives.

  • We lifted the veil on municipal finance during several City Budget workshop events.
  • We held a series of meetings across the City to finalize the Comprehensive Plan.
  • We held a four-day planning charrette to develop a public vision for the Monument Square site.
  • We established a Solid Waste Advisory Board consisting of representatives from neighborhoods across Troy to assist the City develop new programs and proposals to improve solid waste management operations and expand recycling opportunities.
  • When an engineering assessment found serious structural issues with the Mount Ida Dam, we committed to a transparent and open process to address community concerns during a series of public meetings in the Little Italy and Eastside neighborhoods.
  • And just last month, residents participated in two well-attended meetings in Lansingburgh and downtown Troy to provide feedback on several waterfront access and gateway improvement proposals.

Time and time again, citizen input influenced how the City moved forward. Many of you in this room have been to these and near countless other meetings offering your considered opinions and ideas.  That input has improved our work and I thank you all for those efforts.  

2020 Census

On April 1, the U.S. Census Bureau will begin the once-a-decade count of every person living in the United States, Washington D.C. and U.S. territories. This count will determine the allocation of billions in federal funding for local communities.

Programs which support Troy’s rebirth and revitalization are dependent on federal funding which is directly tied to the U.S. Census results. A low count can affect how hundreds of billions of federal dollars will be allocated each year for the next decade.

It’s critical that the City and Rensselaer County have a full and accurate count this April, and we’re taking steps to ensure our city and region are prepared to participate.

The City’s original Complete Count Committee, headed by CEO, has been expanded to encompass the entirety of Rensselaer County. With the assistance of a variety of non-profit and governmental agencies, we are moving forward with a local effort to get the word out to Troy and Rensselaer County residents.

Outreach efforts will be ongoing during the leadup to the count, and throughout the month of April.

Beginning in mid-March, the U.S. Census will send the primary packet of materials, with additional reminders throughout March and April. Please watch your mailbox for these important documents.

Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail.

Meeting 50,000 threshold is critically important. That’s why it’s essential that you complete your census form, and encourage your friends, family and neighbors to do the same.

The Future of City Hall

We are here this evening – in this room – not merely because it has great views but because we do not have public facilities of sufficient size to host events like this.  Since the ill-fated decision to demolish our last city hall in 2010 our seat of government has endured a nomadic existence. This has proven problematic in a number of ways, including when issues of broad concern need to be debated and discussed.

Tonight, I am excited to announce we are putting the final touches on an RFQ to secure a commercial real estate services partner to assist in assessing operational needs, financial capacity, and possible locations, for a new City Hall.

A new location should provide the City with flexible space designed to accommodate the needs of the community – whether it’s 5 years from today or 50.

A new location also provides an opportunity to create a more modern, efficient building better suited to serving the public and incorporating the latest technologies to reduce the cost of ownership.

This process is not a commitment to constructing a new City Hall tomorrow but it is the first step in getting us back to a home base.

Closing Remarks

I have a couple of concluding thoughts I would like to leave you with tonight.

In my comments this evening I have tried to convey two main themes.

The first is just how far we’ve come over the past four years.  Fully cognizant of where we still come up short there is an undeniable sense of opportunity and optimism.  Residents are engaging. Businesses large and small are investing.  

The second is recognition of just how many people deserve the credit.  Hundreds, if not more.  

Let me start with the City staff.  During my first term I have worked closely with a good number of our employees.  

They are a small but mighty group.  They have endured lean times. They endure the heat, the cold, the rain, and the snow.  Some perform the mundane tasks while others are called on to continually come up with creative solutions.  Some sit behind a desk. Some are probably in the ground more than they are on top of it. Some carry a gun and some have to run into burning buildings.  They are different in so many ways but in one important respect they are the same. They are there to serve you when you need them. I am proud to work with them and I am grateful for their commitment.

And then there are two employees both of whom probably regret the day they said yes to me.  I’d like to recognize them because they have had a hand in everything that I’ve mentioned this evening.  Please stand and be recognized:

Our Deputy Mayor, Monica Kurzejeski without whom most of this would not be possible.

Andy Piotrowski, our Deputy Comptroller whose attention to detail and understanding of municipal finance is second to none.

It is a pleasure to learn from you, be motivated by you and work with you every day.  Thank you both.

There are also our partners in State Government Senator Breslin and Assemblyman McDonald both of whom are strong advocates for us in Albany and have helped us in countless ways.

And then there are the real movers and shakers.  You, the public.

Credit goes to all of you who participate in our many neighborhood and civic groups, the investors and business owners who have taken a chance on Troy, the rich fabric of non-profits that serve our spiritual, physical and intellectual needs and all the homeowners who show pride in their homes and neighborhoods.

Thank you all for the efforts you repeatedly make day after day to shape your community.

Because of you I am boldly optimistic about our future.   

Optimistic that our present challenges pale in comparison to our possibilities.  

Optimistic that we can create a future that measures favorably with the greatness of our past.  

I see and hear that optimism on a daily basis from residents and non-residents alike.  It gives me great confidence in our future.

I am proud and humbled to be your Mayor.  It is my goal to make you proudly proclaim that Troy is your home.

We are Troy New York and we are in this together.

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