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It’s Official: DMV To Leave Albany’s South End For Central Avenue

The South Pearl Street DMV office in Albany.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
The South Pearl Street DMV office in Albany.

In September, word came that the Department of Motor Vehicles would be moving out of downtown Albany, setting off debate about the South End neighborhood. The official announcement came this week.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles confirms it’s moving its downtown district office out of the Albany’s South End.

Albany County Director of Operations George Penn says the DMV had plans in the works to move operations to a more central location:   "Last year DMV told the county it  was moving to another location. DMV had requested an extension, and the county granted that. DMV will be leaving the space at the end of October."

The end of October came and went, the DMV remained on South Pearl Street. Meanwhile, plans were unveiled to move the Albany County Board of Elections into the DMV space. The announcement didn't sit well with BOE officials, some of whom balked at the idea of moving from Russell Road into what they call an "unsafe area of the city."

Detecting racism in that narrative, County Legislature Deputy Chair Wanda Willingham called for Republican Board of Elections Commissioner Rachel Bledi to resign after Bledi characterized the neighborhood as "a dangerous place."

By November County Executive Dan McCoy was involved:  McCoy said the people of the South End deserved an apology.    "I'm calling for the Republican and Democrat to at least apologize, if not resign. At least come out and say 'lookit, I made a bad, you know, I put out a bad statement, I should have looked at the data,’ because when the crime data came out, and we showed it to people, the South End crime rate is lower than that of the current BOE on Russell Road."

No apology was forthcoming; no resignation handed in. Bledi told WAMC any potential move by the Board of Elections was not for McCoy to decide.    "The Albany County Legislature has jurisdiction over the Board of Elections, according to election law to find a suitable and appropriate location for the Board of Elections to function, and therefore the ultimate decision as to whether or not we move and where we move to lies with the Albany County Legislature."

McCoy also called out Democratic BOE Commissioner Matt Clyne, insisting he should also be faulted for remaining silent on the matter. To this day, Clyne has not returned calls for comment. Bledi could not be reached for an update.

A spokesperson for McCoy would not go on tape, opting to email a statement, which says:  “A Request for Legislative Action to move the Board of Elections to the South Pearl Street location was submitted by the County Executive to the County Legislature following an analysis conducted by our office to ensure there is adequate space and accommodations. Now that the DMV has formally announced its departure, we look forward to this process moving forward to ultimately save taxpayer dollars for the cost of rent – over $25,000 a month – while moving the facility to a location that is easily accessible via public transportation and an area with some of the lowest voter enrollment in the County.”

The legislature did not return a call for comment.

The DMV says its new office at 855 Central Avenue will officially open on Monday, January 7th at 8:30 a.m.

To facilitate the move, the South Pearl Street office will close at 1p.m. on Friday, January 4th.

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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