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Albany Law To Host Conference On Blight

Composite Image by Dave Lucas

Blight — even the most successful cities deal with it. One of the most daunting issues facing local governments is the problem of vacant and abandoned properties. A conference next week at Albany Law School will take an up-close look at landscape renewal.

Organizers say "Community Renewal and Its Discontents" will include multiple panels and workshops exploring topics related to local government, blight, scarcity, and renewal in both urban and rural settings. Albany Law School Professor Christine Chung details plans for the conference starting Nov. 3.   "There's a series of workshops and a keynote, events begin at 9:30 in the morning. That's when the first panel will kick off. Registration is at 9. And the panels are going to address issues concerning urban, suburban and rural perspectives on community renewal. The final event will be a keynote address from Joseph Schilling, he's a senior researcher at the Urban Institute, and we just have a variety of looks and a variety of panels discussing how we fund community renewal, what tools we use when thinking about community renewal, what does renewal look like again in our suburban in our rural and in our urban environment."

Chung will be on a panel titled “Municipal fiscal stress and community response.” Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan will be a panelist.

Keynote Speaker Joe Schilling:   "The discussion is really gonna highlight the multiple dimensions of vacant and blighted properties. Blight is a term of art and a number of state statutes and local ordinances and there's certainly a lot of case law that has interpreted that term. But that's on the surface. There's so many dimensions to blight that we wanna explore, including the racial legacy of the term and how it was used as part of urban renewal efforts in the 1960s and 70s, and some recent developments that we've been working on, which looking at the public health impact of living in and around blighted properties."

Chung notes that the focus, locally and nationally, is on challenges with aging infrastructure and issues with water supply systems.  "We've seen issues of blight and issues with water supply. We've seen pipes bursting and when you look it's a 100-year-old pipe or a pipe that isn't even made out of metal. So I think we've just seen extreme examples of what happens when your infrastructure is not up to speed. Your bridges and roads are crumbling, and I think that has really generated intensive interest in 'How can we, in a world of unlimited resources, renew our neighborhoods and our cities and our towns?'"

Schilling adds, "The goal really is to expand people's horizons and have them understand these multiple dimensions of blight, so, thinking about that blight is connected to property and to people. Too often we detach ourselves from that human aspect of what it means to live in and around blighted properties."

The conference runs from 9-4:00 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3rd at Albany Law School. It is free and open to the public.

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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