TROY, NY (February 1, 2022) – Detailing major successes of the previous year and outlining significant challenges and opportunities for the Collar City in the months ahead, Mayor Patrick Madden delivered his 7th State of the City Address on Tuesday, February 1st. It was second-ever virtual State of the City Address in Troy’s history, held remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As during previous years, the Mayor’s annual update to the Troy community was broadcast on the City’s YouTube channel and Facebook page, part of the administration’s multi-year effort to directly connect Troy residents and families with City Hall using online tools and other social media platforms.
During the 50-minute progress report delivered to the Troy community, Mayor Madden outlined the City’s historic achievements to restore public confidence in the City’s finances, detailed record levels of investment in Troy’s neighborhoods, infrastructure, pools, parks, and public safety departments, and renewed the City’s commitment to clean energy and efforts to fight climate change. The address also outlined the City’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including allocation of millions in federal dollars from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to support the City’s economic recovery.
Key highlights of the 2022 address included:
- Approval of the administration’s 6th consecutive balanced budget to support neighborhood growth, enhance capacity in key departments, and strengthen municipal services.
- Historic final debt payment to the Troy Municipal Assistance Corporation, ending the City’s 25-year financial obligations caused by unchecked overspending by then-City leaders in the 1980s and early 90s.
- Completion of a 2.6 megawatt expansion of Troy’s solar array atop the former City landfill in South Troy.
- Completion of Phase 1 construction on the South Troy Industrial Road project
- Completion of upgrades to the City’s surveillance camera system, and deployment of police worn body cameras and vehicle dash cameras
- Creation of a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within the Mayor’s office to assist in developing City-wide programs and policies that promotes diversity within the City workforce.
- Start of construction on the $39.4M Tomhannock Water Transmission Line project to replace critical water lines between the City’s reservoir and water treatment plant.
- Start of construction on a new Traffic and Facilities Maintenance Building in North Central Troy.
- $3.3M in renovations and energy-efficiency upgrades completed at multiple fire houses across the City, and plans to construct a new, modern fire station in the City’s Lansingburgh neighborhood.
- Delivery of a new fire engine for the Troy Fire Department, the third new apparatus for TFD in three years, and the planned replacement of Station 1 in North Troy.
- Planned construction of a new municipal swimming facility in Knickerbacker Park, funded in part through funds from the American Rescue Plan.
- Implementation of significant changes in Troy Police Department operations, including use of new technologies, new trainings and education, and expanded community outreach & recruitment efforts.
A copy of the 2022 State of the City Address is available for download at www.troyny.gov/SOTC
An archived video of the address is available on the City’s official YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/troyny
The mayor’s full remarks prepared for delivery are below:
2022 State of the City Address
Delivered by Mayor Patrick Madden
Greetings and thank you for attending this virtual presentation of the 2022 State of the City Address.
A year ago I stood before a camera to record the first ever virtual State of the City address in our city’s history. I did so optimistic that we would be gathering together in person in 2022, given the impending rollout of groundbreaking vaccines. At the time there was a shared sense of optimism that life would return to normal by summer.
I don’t think anyone anticipated that vaccine hesitancy itself would become viral in this country, allowing the mutation of COVID -19 variants to spread so rapidly and aggressively. As I record these words, every two days the United States loses more people to COVID-19 than were lost on 9/11. This seems like an impossible number, but this is a painful truth of the deadly impact of this virus.
The strain on our frontline health care workers, on our children, on our small businesses, our institutions and our way of life has been crushing. This is a self-inflicted wound, with long term consequences, the extent of which we do not yet know.
To those who were vaccinated, boosted and continue to wear masks: thank you. Thank you for your efforts. Thank you for taking responsibility for protecting not just your own health, but the health of our community.
This country affords us great freedoms and opportunities. Time and again generation after generation we as a nation have shown gratitude for those freedoms and opportunities by making sacrifices for the common good. I think of my parents’ generation and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who volunteered to fight fascism and totalitarianism in Europe and the Pacific during WWII. The women who gave up starting a family to work in factories, building airplanes, trucks, and military equipment. The rationing of gas, sugar and other commodities we take for granted. These were sacrifices made willingly by millions of American families to preserve our country’s way of life.
In contrast, getting vaccinated, boosted and wearing a mask are very, very minor inconveniences which we can easily endure to protect the health and welfare of our communities.
I urge you, no, I implore you to get vaccinated and to follow the CDC guidelines and recommendations to bring this pandemic to an end. Talk to your doctor or trusted medical professional about the importance of getting vaccinated, and how COVID-19 vaccines can prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
Like you, I am tired, frustrated and angry after nearly two years of this virus taking from us the things we value most, including family and friends. We can bring it to an end. Please do your part. Do it for yourself, do it for your family, do it for your community.
Despite the persistent challenges created by this ongoing global pandemic, I am pleased to report to you that the state of the City continues to improve on a number of important measures and once again there is plenty of credit to share.
Through 2021 we passed five structurally balanced and fiscally responsible budgets that have received the approval of the State Comptroller’s Office. We have managed in that time to reduce the City’s irresponsible debt and make significant investments in our infrastructure, municipal facilities, and strengthen department operations.
I am proud to say that the 2022 budget continues that same discipline. Once again, the budget we presented, which was passed by the Council, remained under the State’s tax cap and provides for continued investments in our infrastructure, neighborhoods, parks, and essential City services. We used no gimmicks, no one shots, and no fund balance appropriations to balance the budget. All recurring expenses are covered by recurring revenues.
Last year I spoke of the impact of COVID on our 2020 revenue streams. We faced income shortfalls across a number of departments as well as a potential reduction in State aid. In response, and with the Council’s approval, we issued Revenue Anticipation Notes to ensure sufficient cash on hand to meet City needs as 2020 wound down. In simple terms, these notes are a loan to cover delayed receipt of revenues. I’m happy to report that in 2021 those Notes were repaid in full without ever having to use them. Due to strict management by the City Comptroller’s office, we were able to manage our cash to avoid the use of those funds. This was great news and evidence of Troy’s strengthening financial position.
The delayed 2020 state aid was ultimately received and recognized as income in 2021. As this was a one-time revenue, we used it to reduce debt to the NYS pension program, further reducing the City’s irresponsible debt. I am grateful to the Council for supporting that step. Fair credit goes to our Comptroller, Andy Piotrowski, for crafting a way to structure that arrangement.
In 2022, we will pay down more than $20M of outstanding bond anticipation notes (BANs) with grant proceeds for various projects including: the Downtown Seawall Stabilization project, phase 1 of the South Troy Industrial Road, improvements to Powers Park in Lansingburgh and the Riverfront Park North extension.
Last month brought the latest announcement which affirmed the City’s continued fiscal improvement. Moody’s Investors Services and Standard & Poor’s, both globally recognized credit rating agencies, once again raised the credit rating and outlook for the City’s financial future. Their decision was based on this administration’s responsible approach to the city’s finances and their analysis reflecting a growing local economy and tax base.
You might ask: why does it matter what these credit rating agencies feel about our finances? That’s a fair question. Their assessment of the City’s fiscal condition should provide you, as a taxpayer, comfort that we are not employing gimmicks or sleight of hand in either budgeting or managing your money and that we are taking prudent steps to ensure the City’s fiscal health into the future. Secondly, it sends a message to those considering Troy as an option for business investment that we are responsibly managing taxpayer dollars to strengthen our infrastructure, roads, and neighborhoods, and that investments made in our City will not be put at risk because of irresponsible actions by elected officials. In view of our past this is a critically important message. Finally, we still need to access credit markets to undertake the significant investments we are making throughout the City. A better rating yields a cheaper cost to us for that capital.
You may have also heard just recently that the City made its final payment to the Municipal Assistance Corporation, or MAC. This is a watershed moment that concludes 25 years of paying back millions in debt from irresponsible financial decisions made in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Having had to commit so much money over the years to the repayment of that debt meant that we were unable to properly reinvest and maintain our assets. As a result, the condition of our parks, our facilities, our equipment and our infrastructure suffered and deteriorated over the past quarter of a century. So too did services and programs we were able to offer. So while we should celebrate the conclusion of the MAC we must also recognize that the damage caused by the financial decisions made decades ago is not fully repaired. As I am fond of saying, ‘we are not out of the woods yet but we are on the right path and we continue to go in the right direction.’
This occasion presents a good opportunity to reflect on what we should have learned from this chapter in our City’s history. It happened because we promised more than we could pay for. We provided services we didn’t have the money to cover. We ran deficits and employed financial gimmicks to cover up the hard truths. As it always does, the day of reckoning eventually arrived, and our financial house collapsed.
I say this not to vilify the elected leaders at the time. Though they should have known better, it was us, the residents who demanded a level of services that we were unwilling to pay for. We punished, or threatened to punish, those who were unable to meet our demands and rewarded those who employed fiscal tricks and gimmicks to give us what we demanded. That is the hard truth.
The important lesson here is that services cost money.
Our core responsibility is to provide for the delivery local services to taxpayers and residents. The collection of taxes funds the delivery of services that the community wants or needs. This is the very nature of government. So long as we want to avail ourselves of services we must accept that we have to pay for them.
Be wary of those who promise we can do away with fees and taxes while delivering better services, or anyone who says we can “do more with less.” That is precisely the mind set and approach that put a millstone around our neck for the past quarter century. Ask them for specifics. Ask them to show you the math. As your mother probably told you: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Like everyone else, I appreciate having my garbage picked up, and having clean water delivered to my house, having a functioning sewer system that pipes waste away for treatment, having our streets paved, plowed and lit at night, and having top notch police and fire departments just a phone call away should the need arise, and so on and so on. I appreciate the work of our public employees and do not begrudge paying them for the work they perform on our behalf as residents.
So long as I remain in office I will do what I have done all along: I will advance balanced budgets without using fiscal gimmicks or employing one shots. I will use the benefit of my experience to run operations as efficiently as possible. Most of all, I will always be truthful to you about our finances. I will be a check & balance against the past budgeting practices that led to our City’s previous financial collapse.
We have made great strides over the past six years and we have all sacrificed to get here. Let us now move forward mindful of the lessons of our recent past.
Having taken the steps we did to improve the City’s overall financial health, 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 commence or complete a number of important projects in 2021 that were built upon our earlier work. In 2022, that investment will continue, including in our City’s 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 direct beneficiaries of the foresight and investment of those generations of municipal officials and taxpayers who came before us. Those investments benefit us on a daily basis. It remains a priority of this administration to be a responsible steward of that gift ensuring that our children, and our children’s children, will enjoy the same benefits.
Last spring we broke ground on the first phase of the major water line replacement project between the Tomhannock Reservoir and the City’s Water Treatment Plant. During phase 1 of the project, two 36-inch diameter pipes totaling 43,000 linear feet, totaling over 8 miles, will be installed below the ground. Phase 1 construction is well underway and we expect to complete this important job later this year.
I say without exaggeration that this is one of the most consequential and important infrastructure projects the City has undertaken since the water treatment plant was built over 55 years ago. These lines provide over 21 million gallons of drinking water daily to over 135,000 customers in Troy and eight other communities in Albany, Rensselaer, and Saratoga counties. It is an ambitious and essential project that will preserve the reliability of the City’s water infrastructure network for another 200 years.
The city has been awarded a $10M grant from NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation, with additional funding approved by the City Council. I want to thank our partners on the City Council for their support, NYS EFC for their assistance in securing the necessary grant funding, and our Department of Public Utilities under the leadership of Superintendent Chris Wheland for their work to make this project a reality.
Later this year, our Public Utilities Department will be moving forward with a storm water sewer separation project in South Troy. The project will separate a natural flowing stream from over 2,000 feet of sewer line beneath Polk Street to help reduce sewer overflows during heavy rain events. It’s the latest project associated with the City’s CSO obligations to protect the health of one of our most important natural assets: the Hudson River.
The second phase of the South Troy Industrial Roadway is slated to go out to bid this spring with construction commencing this year and concluding in 2023. This roadway first conceived of in the 1980’s will, when completed, remove heavy truck traffic from the South Troy Neighborhood while opening up long fallow lands along the Hudson River for redevelopment. The first phase of the road, from Main to Monroe Streets has been completed, and we’re eager for the start of phase 2 later this year.
I would like to recognize and thank the Federal Highway Administration for funding this project, New York State Department of Transportation and Capital District Transportation Committee for allocating the funds for construction, and especially the residents of South Troy for their advocacy and support throughout this long process.
In 2021 we completed numerous upgrades and repairs to five of our six firehouses. This two-year project invested over $3.3M in these vital facilities, work that was long overdue. The sixth firehouse, Station 1 in our Lansingburgh neighborhood, has been slated for demolition and reconstruction. This remains an important project for my administration and we aim to get design work underway this year.
We also undertook the renovation of the State Street parking garage in downtown. This city-owned facility is an important asset to residents and business owners in the downtown district. Due to years of neglect the garage had fallen into serious disrepair and had become a public embarrassment. The renovation included the entire removal and rebuild of the stair tower along with surface repairs, sprinkler repairs, new LED lighting and electrical wiring. Largely complete, the final touches will be finished this spring and should extend the life of this facility another 25 years.
2021 also saw important investments in our Public Works facilities on 7th Avenue. Long compromised roof structures on our multi-bay garage were replaced, masonry was repointed and structural changes were made to address drainage problems.
The original Traffic Control Building, built in 1963, has been demolished. Due to decades of neglect it was not cost effective to repair it. In its place we are constructing a new 10,000 square foot building that will house Traffic Control and Facilities Maintenance and their related workshops. This building is slated to open by the end of February.
The new pre-engineered steel building will utilize LED lighting, modern HVAC systems, and other upgrades. These investments created greater energy efficiency while providing better protection for our equipment and ensure a safer and more efficient work environment for our employees. In the long run the facility will more than pay for itself in energy savings. No comparable investment has been made in our DPW facilities in modern history.
2021 also brought a much needed increase in funding from NYS for road paving, helping us complete the paving of nearly 9 miles of roads. Although more expensive, each of these streets was milled prior to paving. This extra investment will yield longer lasting surfaces obviating the need to come back in a few short years to resurface again. We are grateful to New York State for the financial assistance they provide us for street paving and are delighted to see a continuation of those much needed programs, including the Pave Our Potholes initiative, in Governor Hochul’s proposed 2022 budget.
In addition to completing important roadway improvements, we also built or rebuilt 247 ADA compliant pedestrian ramps in more than 90 intersections across the city. These create pathways of accessibility for those who use assistive methods to transport themselves and those who simply push carriages. This aligns with our goal of creating a more welcoming and accessible community for people of all ages and abilities.
Investments in infrastructure are always expensive and many times unseen. But they form the basis, figuratively and literally, upon which a thriving community is built. Our commitment to responsibly maintain our infrastructure gives confidence to those seeking to invest private dollars in our community. Whether it be a homeowner, a small business owner or a large commercial developer, investors are drawn to reliability.
Despite the economic uncertainty wrought by COVID many plans continued to advance throughout 2021, a testament to the ongoing faith that people have in our City’s future.
Most notably, the selected developer of the One Monument Square site, Hoboken Brownstone, presented its vision for the redevelopment of that long vacant site last fall. The proposal met with universal acclaim from the public and buoyed the sense of optimism of the development team. Make no mistake: this remains a very challenging site to develop and an extremely complex and expensive undertaking for both the City and Hoboken. Work continues with the developer expected to present plans to the Planning Commission this spring.
Last summer we hosted HBO for the filming of the inaugural season of ‘The Gilded Age’. It was an impressive sight to behold seeing blocks of our City transformed back 140 years as a stand in for then New York City. The weeks they were here provided much-needed economic activity for our hotels, restaurants and coffee houses that had suffered during COVID-related shut downs of the previous months. Both we and HBO are looking forward to their return if the show gets greenlighted for additional seasons.
The conversion of two long underutilized warehouses was completed in 2021. The building known as Old Brick, located at 2 River Street finished its conversion and fully rented up its 80 apartments. This represents the largest investment in the South Central neighborhood in recent memory. The building located on the corner of Adams and River is a remarkable adaptive reuse of a former furniture warehouse and sales room.
Redburn Development Partners completed the renovation of 701 River Street….again. You may recall this property was nearing completion 18 months ago when a devastating fire all but destroyed the building’s interior. In a show of confidence in our City and the North Central neighborhood the development team rolled up their sleeves gutted the fire damaged building and went about rebuilding it. The property opened last year, and contains 77 apartments and ground level commercial space. This is an important and significant investment in this neighborhood.
The Troy Housing Authority and Pennrose LLC are moving ahead with the redevelopment of the Taylor Housing Project. The demolition of Taylor Buildings 1 & 2 is expected to occur this spring, supported by federal funds from the American Rescue Plan allocated to the City of Troy. Following the demolition, Pennrose will commence construction of 153,000 square foot mixed-use buildings with 141 residential units. When complete, tenants from the two remaining Taylor buildings 3 & 4 will relocate into the new building. This paves the way for demolition of buildings 3 and 4 and opens up 3.5 acres of prime riverfront and Riverwalk-fronting land catering to a mix of incomes and mixed use redevelopment, restoring a connection to the Riverside neighborhood, and catalyzing its future development potential. This promises to be a transformative project for this neighborhood and the residents of Taylor Apartments.
In November the City was named a winner of the $10M Capital Region award from Governor Hochul and New York State through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Designed to leverage private investment the intent of the program is to help revitalize downtowns as locations where people are drawn to live, work and play. Assisted by a consultant and a Local Planning Committee we will present a list of projects to the State later this year after which the State will make decisions on where the funding is allocated.
These funds come during a critical time for Troy as we navigate our pandemic recovery. With the assistance of the DRI, we will work to expand the revitalization of our waterfront, invest in transformative redevelopment projects to support local job creation and spur economic growth, and spread the excitement and energy from our downtown into our diverse neighborhoods.
Beyond the finances, beyond the infrastructure, beyond the business growth, the heart and soul of our city is our neighborhoods.
Since 2016, we have directed targeted investments to improve quality of life for Troy’s 50,000 residents and help our diverse neighborhoods realize their highest potential.
Improvements to our city’s pedestrian infrastructure continued unabated in 2021. The latest phase of the City’s sidewalk and curb replacement program made significant progress in South Central and Little Italy, working on 4th Street between Jackson and Canal. Federal funds from the Community Development Block Grant program make this work possible, evidencing the direct involvement our federal government in improving the quality of life right here in Troy.
Additional sidewalk improvements were also completed on New Turnpike Road in Lansingburgh and Ingalls Avenue in North Central.
On Juneteenth this past year we dedicated the Geneva Pompey Park. The product of several years’ work and many donors this beloved park on the corner of 7th and Ingalls received a complete make over including: two new basketball courts, playground equipment, a spray-pad, picnic tables, lighting, fencing and bathroom facilities. It was dedicated to Ms. Pompey for her years of dedication to the park and the generations of children she watched over from her home across the street.
In response to the pandemic, President Biden advanced the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, a transformative economic recovery program which aimed to provide direct assistance to localities and states battered by the pandemic. Approved by Congress, the program sought to hasten the economic recovery from the pandemic and to strengthen historically under resourced communities which suffered the greatest and longest term harm as a consequence. Funding is allocated over a two year period beginning in 2021. Although there is considerable latitude in the Treasury Regulations, the funding is tightly regulated. Troy received slightly over $21M in 2021.
Our overarching objective with the allocation of the ARPA funds is to repair damage as best we can and to create sustainable and lasting impact in our neighborhoods. This is a once in a lifetime investment of such magnitude and its impact should be reflective of that fact.
Broadly speaking, funds will be used in the following areas:
- Workforce Education
- Affordable homeownership
- Home Repair Assistance
- Removal of Slums and Blight
- Construction of new affordable housing for homeowners and renters
- Youth Services
- Upgrades to our Parks
- Additional EMS services; and
- Other community improvements as may be determined throughout the course of the program
The City will partner with our diverse network of non-profit and educational institutions. Program specifics will be developed with input from community members, prospective consumers, professional in the respective fields and elected officials.
A new website, TroyNow.org, is going live later this week to help keep the public apprised of progress and provide a means for community input. Community meetings are slated to begin later in February.
In our Lansingburgh neighborhood, we are moving ahead with the planned construction of a brand-new swimming pool at Knickerbacker Park. This long-awaited project comes on the heels of the reopening of the South Troy Pool in 2020, following a multi-million dollar renovation to rebuild the aging facility after years of disinvestment. Final design and siting decisions are now being worked out with the Park trustees after which the project will go out to bid. The expectation is to begin construction later this year.
In 2021 we completed a comprehensive review and planning process for the entire portfolio of City’s parks as well as several potential water lobbies in the Lansingburgh neighborhood. There is no debating that our parks have been neglected for a good many years. This plan will become the basis around which future park expenditures are made starting with the ARPA funds. The high value of parks in urban settings is an undisputed fact. Parks are nurturing to the mind and body as well as the environment. Troy is fortunate to have a number of parks of varying sizes spread across the City. It is past time to commit to a plan of reinvestment in these important recreational amenities and that will start in 2022.
As we begin to rebuild our local economy in the wake of COVID-19, we also should not lose sight of the environmental challenges facing communities across the globe.
In the last decade, we have seen record temperatures in the form of hotter summers and warmer winters, along with severe thunderstorms and flooding that damage infrastructure and bridges, and pose a threat to homes and neighborhoods. Scorching wildfires are burning down the great forests of the west coast on a scale that covers the east coast in smoke. The warning lights are flashing. Planet Earth is urging us to act.
In Troy, we have committed to confronting the challenges of climate change to build a better tomorrow for future generations of Trojans.
Through climate-smart initiatives and programs that expand the City’s energy portfolio beyond fossil fuels and non-renewable sources, deployment of electric vehicles, and streamlining approvals for solar permits, we are taking steps to reduce costs for taxpayers and build a stronger, healthier economy.
Last summer, we completed construction on a 2.6 megawatt solar array. Approximately 8,000 solar panels cover 14 acres atop the City’s former landfill in South Troy, an incredible transformation of an unusable space for a more beneficial purpose. Completion of this array now allows the City to source half its annual municipal electric needs from clean, renewable energy.
Just three short weeks ago, we completed the purchase of approximately 4,400 street lights from National Grid, the next step in the planned conversion to LED technology. The conversion to LEDs will help reduce the City’s energy costs by $1.3M each year, while improving visibility in our neighborhoods and enhancing the quality of life for Troy families.
We are not only relying on technology to shrink our carbon footprint. Last year, we advanced local sustainability programs for Troy residents and families to utilize that reduce costs for taxpayers and divert materials from local landfills. For decades, everything a resident no longer wanted was thrown in the trash. These items were collected by the Sanitation Department and eventually transferred to a local landfill where they will sit for centuries underground. Today, we have options to reuse and recycle materials, including textiles, electronics, hazardous household chemicals, and even food waste.
Last year, we launched a residential composting collection pilot program. Called “From the Ground Up”, the program aims to make composting and food scrap separation accessible for Troy residents. In just the last 6 weeks of 2021 we diverted over 2 tons of food scrap from the landfill from just 75 households. That’s the weight equivalent of two Honda Civics, or an adult rhinoceros. A weekly compost drop-off option was also established at the Troy Resource Management Facility in South Troy.
Troy residents looking to safely dispose of hazardous materials like transmission fluid, pesticides, asbestos, and antifreeze had more opportunities to remove these materials from their home. In coordination with East Greenbush and Bethlehem, we offered four household hazardous waste disposal events in 2021, double the prior year. In 2022, we’re working with Rensselaer County to expand the impact and benefit of these important programs to more residents throughout the County.
This December, we collected a total of 681 pounds of holiday string lights in partnership with Scouts BSA Troop 2526. That generated proceeds of $230 which was donated to Toys for Tots, a reminder that every recycling program, great or small, can make a difference.
Our social media and mobile apps are spreading the word, as well. In 2021 we increased our city wide recycling to 42 tons. In addition, another 19 tons of textile were diverted from the landfill. In total, that is the equivalent of nearly nine adult elephants, or 122,000 pounds. These diversions are not only environmentally responsible outcomes, they also save us money in tipping fees.
Sustainability is more than just recycling. It’s also about preserving the City’s natural environment, including urban forests and green spaces. Trees help improve air quality, absorb sunlight to lower temperatures, and absorb rainwater to reduce local flooding. In 2021, with support from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, we began the planting new trees in the Hillside and Beman Park neighborhoods, along Federal Street, 15th Street, River Street, State Street, and 3rd Street to replace those killed off by the Emerald Ash Borer.
Bending the curve toward a greener, more sustainable future will require more than individual and collective actions by local communities.
We need more, not less, federal oversight to protect our environment, our communities, our children, and our planet. We need greater regulation and enforcement of laws that reduce single-use plastics, non-compostable materials, and more emphasis on programs that incentivize even greater investments in renewable energy. We need industries to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and commit to building a workforce that can build a clean-energy future.
The choices we make today have serious ramifications for our future. I am committed to this effort, and pledge to advance the objectives of clean energy and sustainability in the remaining years of my term.
Inarguably the most important service that government provides its citizens is public safety. The Troy Police and Fire Departments stand as equals among the best in New York State. Their training, their dedication and their professionalism is recognized and highly regarded among their peers and the residents & families they serve.
As I say these words I have in mind very recent events which claimed the lives of three firefighters in Baltimore as well as those police officers ambushed in New York City and Texas; individuals who quite literally put their lives on the line to serve their communities, and their families who never thought that today might be the day their loved one doesn’t return.
These are sobering reminders of the risks willingly undertaken by our public safety professionals and their families. We are fortunate to have such individuals in our community. Be sure to thank them.
In 2021 the Police Department received over 50,000 separate calls for assistance and the Fire Department answered 12,568 calls.
In response, we made significant investments in both of these departments in order to meet this demand.
In 2019 when Chief McMahon was elevated to Chief of the Fire Department he undertook an analysis of our various fire houses. Working with our Engineering Department and consultants as necessary a scope of work was developed to address deficiencies and make necessary improvements. In 2021, as noted earlier, substantial completion of those improvements was completed. The total cost of $3.3M will largely offset by the energy savings generated by these improvements in the years ahead. As I noted earlier, we expect to make progress in 2022 on the siting and design of a new fire house in Lansingburgh replacing a long obsolete Station 1.
In 2021 we also took delivery of a new fire engine, the third apparatus purchased in the last four years replacing another 20+ year old engine that had still been in service.
In 2022 we have budgeted for the replacement of both an ambulance and an aerial truck. Delivery is expected in 2023 with consideration for supply chain disruptions.
Having secured the necessary funding, we will proceed with the analysis of the structure and operations of the department that I mentioned earlier, with the goal of assessing the services we are offering and the manner in which they are offered in relation to the needs of the community. The current model dates back more than twenty years. Much has changed in that time relative to community needs as well as the workings of the health care system. We want the best department that the taxpayers can afford. This study will help guide the department and our emergency services in the years ahead, and where to best allocate taxpayer dollars to support their mission.
On the personnel front we are delighted that we reached agreement with the firefighters union, the UFA, which settles their current labor contract with the City. Additionally, we welcomed Deputy Chief Rich Cellucci to the rank of Assistant Chief, as well as the elevation of Battalion Chief Jared Barringer to the rank of Deputy Chief.
The Police Department also experienced some personnel changes in 2021. Chief Daniel DeWolf was elevated to lead the Department , Assistant Chief Chris Kehn was promoted to the rank of Deputy Chief and Captain Steven Barker to Assistant Chief.
It gives me great satisfaction to say that 2021 also brought the first person of color in the City’s history into the department’s command ranks with the promotion of Sergeant Anthony Conyers to the rank of Captain.
There were countless noteworthy accomplishments made by the department last year. They comprise a series of significant changes in department operations, use of new technologies, new trainings and education, and expanded community outreach & recruitment efforts, all part of the department’s ongoing evolution as the area’s leading law enforcement agency. These included:
- The deployment of Body and Vehicle Dash cameras;
- The upgrade and expansion of the City’s street camera system;
- A newly constituted Police Objective Review Board with detailed operating procedures that has been meeting regularly since April both virtually and in person;
- Implementation of new case tracking software in the Internal Affairs Bureau which allows better tracking and reporting on individual investigations;
- Updates to several General Orders including Use of Force and the Complaint/Compliment Process;
- The creation of six new police officer positions, which expands our compliment of officers solely dedicated to community policing to 6 officers year round and 9 officers during summer months;
- Institution of a requirement that all officers complete the Emotionally Distressed Person Response Team training within three years of joining the force. This 40 hour course offers participants new tools to better respond to persons in emotional crisis resulting in safer and more effective outcomes. The City of Troy is the only department in NYS with this requirement. Approximately 85% of the department has completed the training, with two more training sessions scheduled for 2022;
- Completion of Procedural Justice Training Parts 1 & 2 by all police officers
- Two officers have been trained as instructors for Implicit Bias training. All Troy Police officers will complete Implicit Bias Training in 2022. These courses on Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias go beyond the training provided in the Police Academy;
- A number of training modules have been redesigned and delivered in a Reality Based Training modality providing the officers actual hands on experience in life like settings as opposed to a classroom lecture setting. The goals of Reality Based Training are to provide police officers with a foundation in the mental and psychological skills that can provide an optimum response in times of stress in conjunction with a maximization of an individual’s skills leading to better outcomes for the community.
- The deployment of the Mobile Command Center (MCC) in Community Engagement Details on no less than 20 occasions in various neighborhoods during the warmer months. Residents met and chatted with police, and kids and teenagers toured the MCC and played games with the officers, helping to build relationships between and among those participating. In every instance the community welcomed the presence of the officers and the MCC.
- Thirteen new officers were sworn in in 2021 and an additional 9 were sworn in earlier this month. Of the 135 sworn officers, 10 are persons of color and 13 are women.
Each of these accomplishments is a necessary and important step in the Department’s effort to advance trust and transparency in the community. The Department welcomes the opportunity to build ties with the community in recognition of the fact that safe neighborhoods come about when residents and police officers work together in mutual trust and support.
Six years ago in my first State of the City address I noted that our workforce was not at all reflective of the diversity of our city. I said that we could do better and that I would do better. I wish I could stand before you today and tout the progress we have made. But truthfully there has been little more than incremental improvement.
I have come to understand that change requires more than good intentions – no matter how good they may be. I have come to understand that meaningful progress requires a smart, sustained and focused effort by someone who knows what they are doing.
I have also come to understand that closing the racial equity gaps faced by communities of color requires more than a diverse workforce. We must also commit to ensuring that the programs and services of local government are fully inclusive and laser focused on achieving a more equitable future for all of our residents.
To these ends I am truly grateful that the City Council has supported my request to add a Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion to my office this year. A search will be underway shortly for an individual to work closely with me on three immediate goals:
- Ensuring that all of our residents are aware of career opportunities within the City workforce,
- Ensuring that our workplace is a welcoming and supportive environment irrespective of what may make us different from one another, and
- Ensuring that the programs, services and opportunities that we make available are tailored to be accessible to all members of our community and free of unintended bias that might result in unequal utilization based on irrelevant social, cultural or ethnic differences.
I very much look forward to getting this initiative underway in 2022. While results may not be immediate, we will be driving a cultural shift that will create expectations of those that follow us to continue in this vein.
Let me conclude with these observations:
These past two years have been the likes of which most of us have never before experienced. While the pandemic knocked us back onto our heels, it has not knocked us down.
Our restaurants, coffee houses, bars and small businesses have demonstrated an amazing ability to find creative ways to adapt to the new reality and, in the process they have provided new and enjoyable experiences.
New businesses are opening and people are continuing to move into the city filling every new apartment that comes on line. Housing and property values remain strong, and the number of vacant buildings in the City remains on the decline.
Our municipal projects continue to move forward as we continue to invest in our parks, our roads, our infrastructure, and our people.
Exciting private and public plans continue to advance for projects large and small alike.
That all happens because we have a strong foundation built by the hands of a great many people pursuing their dreams and passions in Troy. We have a spirit of optimism and resiliency that dates back to our days as an outpost on the Hudson River.
There is great reason to be optimistic about our City. I thank all those whose dreams, optimism and perseverance have contributed to our successes and primed us for a bright future.
We have again proven that we are Troy New York and we are in this together.
Thank you, and please stay safe.
John Salka, Communications Director
[email protected] / (518) 279-7131