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Apathy and Hot Dogs

August 1, 2013
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Damn it, Albany, we have an image problem. No, strike that, we have a problem-problem. It’s not just image, it’s reality. In a recent Conde Nast Reader’s Choice Survey, Albany was rank 7th in the least friendly cities in America. We’re probably unfriendly because this isn’t the greatest place to live. This morning when I was blow-drying my hair I was thinking about Austin (#5 on the Friendliest list). Before they brought in Nano, everyone was talking about how Austin was a model for Albany’s future. I laughed to myself thinking, how could that be? On its current track, there’s no way in hell that will ever happen, and I’ll tell you why, it’s the COMMUNITY that makes Austin such a cool city. The politicians don’t care about us, the Albany taxpayers that keep this city afloat. I wonder if our high taxes are their way of trying to push us out in order to make us solely tax haven for business. I know a lot of really cool people who live in Albany. And there is a lot to love about our fair city. But it’s not enough. High taxes, political corruption, violence and general neglect all plague our city’s future.

Whenever someone comes up with an idea to revitalize Albany it only seems to involve tax breaks for businesses. That’s why I’m so ticked off about the Start-Up NY tax giveaway that just passed. I sat in at an Eagle Hood Neighborhood Association meeting and listened to Pat Fahey try to justify a vote that basically gave away our neighborhood’s backyard to more tax-free businesses. We live in a VERY middle class neighborhood that pays outrageously high taxes to live in this dying city. And we pay those taxes because the politicians have given away over 60% of the property in this town to tax-free business and government entities. Fahey tried to talk about much revenue ONE professor at Nano brought into the community, except for the fact that she couldn’t tell us how many of those professors actually LIVE in Albany. Let me ask you, if you were a PhD professor would you put your kids in a school with a 50% graduation rate? I’ll save you having to think about it. NO. You wouldn’t. You’d move to cookie cutter Clifton Park and put your kids in Shen. Fucking duh. These people aren’t moving to Albany.

Hey, I have an idea, let’s spend those tax dollars from the 40% of citizens footing 100% of Albany’s tax bill on a CONVENTION CENTER. Because, ya know, EVERYONE is itching to have their convention in Albany. We have awesome attractions and can compete with other fantastic cities like New Orleans because we have a totally unique culture of apathy and hot dogs and that’s way cooler than Mardi Gras and po’boys. Jennings must’ve smoked crack with Toronto’s mayor while watching Field of Dreams if he thought that was a good idea. For fuck’s sake.

You know what Albany needs? To support its community of people. To provide a good education to our kids. To create affordable, safe housing. To support SMALL business, I mean like Cheese Traveler and AOA small. To create a thriving haven for artists, musicians, writers and just plain passionate people. These are the things that are at the heart of the greatest cities in this country. And there is a spark of that happening. It’s funny how a little website like All Over Albany has started to build that awesome community. It’s fostered friendships, propped up small businesses, highlighted cool things happening in the region and created a really nice forum full of thoughtful people who want more for this area. So maybe we’re a part of a new beginning in Albany. We need change. We need a better future. We need to get on Conde Nast’s good side ‘cause that shit is downright embarrassing.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2013 1:37 pm

    Interesting. It’s funny how really, “city” = “corporate monoliths” in a lot of minds (and a lot of cities). I mean, even NYC, Manhattan, it’s not really thought of much as a place to live, just a place to see, a place to go do business/spend money and then go home, a place to commute to.

    • August 1, 2013 1:46 pm

      And that’s exactly it. I have no desire to live in Suburbia – I want to live in the city. I love the convenience of living in Albany – so much that I commute to the suburbs to work! I just wish that what we paid in taxes resulted in a better quality of life and better schools. If Albany was more welcoming to its own residents we’d be more friendly to those Conde Nast people passing through (b/c you know they aren’t actually visiting Albany!).

  2. August 3, 2013 1:48 pm

    I personally have a constant problem these days with people (with planning wishes and aquarium dreams) comparing Albany to cities that are all MUCH MUCH larger. Austin has a population of 820,000; it’s the 11th-largest city in the country. It couldn’t NOT have more going on. Albany is hanging around 90,000. Same with Chattanooga, or any of the other cities that people compare us to and wish we were more like. (On the other hand, we don’t have bail bondsmen located across from city hall, or highways lined with endlessly alternating strip clubs and pesticide outfits, so there are some parts of Austin’s cool that I will happily continue to live without.)

    You can make the “metro area population” argument, and boost the regional population, but then you have to ignore the realities that we have seven cities and many more towns, all competing for taxes and resources, and that isn’t going to change. We can’t even merge fire districts around here.

    You’re right about the schools and the taxes. When we bought our house, we simply couldn’t afford what were both higher housing prices and much higher taxes in Albany. It wasn’t an option if we wanted to buy at that point. I think that if the schools were better, people could take the taxes. If the taxes were lower, people could handle the schools (or put the difference into private schools, which of course many people in the city choose). But the combination means you have to want want want to live in Albany. I have to say that if I pull the urban trigger again, it’ll be for Troy.

    As for the unfriendly thing, I stopped during a bike ride a couple of weeks ago to help a couple get their picture taken with Mayor Whalen down in Tricentennial Park, explained to them who he was, and gave them a nice memento of their visit. So fuck you, Conde Nast.

    • Jane Doe permalink
      August 13, 2013 12:40 pm

      Thank frickin jeebus Carl! Took the words out of my mouth. Comparable to other cities Albany’s size – hell combine Troy and Schenectady in there too – we have a crapload of cool. So sick of people wishing this town was more like some other place. To those people (lookin’ at you, Val) I say, please either:
      A.) go to that other place (if is sucks here, why wouldn’t you do that??), or
      B.) shut up and stay, and do your part make Albany a cool, UNIQUE place to live.

      • August 13, 2013 1:24 pm

        It’s not like I haven’t tried to move. My house was on the market for over 2 years and never sold. Had interest until people saw the taxes. That’s the root of my problem with Albany. It’s incredibly expensive to live here and we don’t have a whole heck of a lot to show for it. My taxes are higher than my in-laws who live in an beautiful town with wonderful schools in the Philly suburbs. Failing schools and high taxes make it hard to attract people to the area which can create a negative perception about the town (hence the unfriendly tag by Conde Naste).

        High taxes with no schools to show for it is a major problem and I refuse to shut up about these issues because if we don’t speak out nothing will change. I DO celebrate what’s good about this community. I’ve met so many incredible locals (although most live in Troy!) who are doing their part. I think we’re seeing the beginnings of change here – and it’s a true community movement, I just want to also see changes in the City government that will support the individuals who are a part of that community.

  3. ktvorwald permalink
    August 6, 2013 1:39 pm

    Yep, and Hudson is the same way. Troy is plagued by the same stupid high taxes, but they’ve got some serious things going on up there and are developing a real sense of community. It’s great. I prefer country living myself, but would have lived in troy if taxes weren’t literally three times what I pay in Columbia County, in a far better school district.

  4. August 8, 2013 11:28 am

    Leave our hot dogs out of this. New York has a hot dog culture. So does Chicago. Hot dogs are not the problem.

    • August 13, 2013 1:28 pm

      I admit, it was an offhand comment but I was using it to illustrate something for which Albany is known. Hot dogs *are* part of the solution! When I used to work near New Way in Glens Falls I had 2 dogs, fries and a slice of pie for lunch far more often that I’d like to admit (for health reasons). :-)

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