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Troy Arson Task Force Mulls Latest Blaze

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Arson continues to plague Troy's Lansingburgh neighborhood.

The latest in a string of suspicious fires was set in the wee hours of Sunday at the back of 509 Second Avenue near 113th Street. The pattern is all too familiar to neighbors and authorities: set during a quiet time at the rear of a vacant structure that is accessible via one of Troy's numerous alleys, which date back to the late 1700s', many of them originally streets in their own right.

Last July, when arsons had the neighborhood gripped in fear,  Mayor Lou Rosamilia met with police and the fire chief at Troy City Hall to talk about a unified plan of attack.  Police promised extra patrols, while the mayor urged everyone to "be vigilant."

Seven months later, the 'burgh remains on edge.

In January, a 3 a.m. fire set in back of a vacant house at 811 Second Avenue took out two other buildings. It left 13 people homeless.

Firefighters quickly put out Sunday's fire, which reportedly did little damage.

Police told the Times Union Rosamilia's arson task force, created in January, "discussed the circumstances of the fire and assigned it for immediate investigation." 

Former city council member Carmella Mantello and possible mayoral hopeful grew up in Lansingburgh. "These arsons have been occurring since last summer. It shouldn't have taken this long to call for a task force and a tip line, quite frankly. I don't know why the leader of the city, the mayor, and folks are announcing what the task force is doing.  If you think about it, the task force is comprised of the fire and the police and code enforcement."

Mantella wonders how a bold arsonist can singlehandedly successfully conduct a reign of terror despite vigilant citizens and frequent police patrols.  "There's gotta be folks who have seen suspicious people. And then we're being told there might be 10 possible people that they're investigating now as the arsonist or arsonists.  It just doesn't make sense. We need to tackle the vacant buildings. We still have some of the fire burned buildings - the recent one - the one three weeks ago - still hasn't been torn down. There's other vacant buildings, 500 throughout the city, but obviously they'll target that number down and concentrate on Lansingburgh, and that's not even being done at this time."

City Councilman Jim Gordon says up until this point we've been lucky.  "I've asked the mayor for an update in regards to the arson task force, and he's been reluctant to provide me with any information. I've asked him again last night. It's a bit troublesome that you have yet another arson happen in the target area, in a timeframe when the other arsons have been occurring, at a time when you're supposed to have a heightened level of presence, of law enforcement etc. on the street, or task force members on the street. I'm interested in learning how these events continue to happen."

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Mayor Lou Rosamilia

WAMC News asked  Rosamilia — who is facing heightened criticism from political opponents this election year, although he hasn’t said if he’ll seek another term — about the task force on Tuesday. 

"They meet multiple times during the week. That includes members from the police department, fire department and our code department. And they share information amongst themselves. We also reach out to outside agencies with evidence to get their input on what's been happening. We use outside agencies also to do some mapping, frequencies."

Rosamailia assured us each agency knows what the other is doing.  "Beyond that I really can't comment on what they've done. I don't wanna compromise any of the investigations that they've completed thus far."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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