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Schenectady Mayor Delivers State Of The City Address

Lucas Willard

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy delivered his State of the City address last night. McCarthy, who has been mayor since 2011, touted progress within the city over the last few years. But some in the audience had hoped the mayor would address another issue.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said the state of Schenectady is strong.

The second-term Democrat highlighted the 125th anniversary of General Electric in the city and tied the future of the city to the uncertain beginnings of the company’s history all those years ago.

He said both the private economy and government “are at points of dramatic change.”

“The possibility to improve educational outcomes and public health, lower crime, and support economic development are at our fingertips. But we must come together to make this possible or Schenectady will lose its chance to continue as a leader in New York state and the nation as a whole,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy touted a unified economic development strategy, improved city finances, crime rates on the decline, the use of smart technology, and a focus on infrastructure.

At the forefront of McCarthy’s strategy for the new year is continued investment in neighborhoods, code enforcement, and fighting blight.

“Understanding there is no single solution to break the cycle, we have undertaken a multifaceted approach that ranges from removal of the worst structures, to investing in home ownership and safe and affordable housing,” said McCarthy.

The mayor said strategies range from quickly tearing down burned structures to combatting “zombie properties.”

The mayor made an example of 1575 Santa Fe Street. The home, abandoned in 2011, was found to be tied up with at least eight banks or federal agencies involved with its mortgage since it was purchased in 1992. A bank auction was scheduled and then canceled.

The city, armed with the state’s new zombie properties law, is aiming to finally demolish the home later this year.

“If this was just one property it would be all right, but this is the fact pattern that repeats itself continually through properties throughout this community, in other communities across the state and across the country,” said McCarthy.

And of course there was mention of large private investments, including the ongoing work at the Rivers Casino and Resort and Mohawk Harbor project. The casino will open next month and a hotel is already completed on site of the former Alco plant. More than 450,000 hours of labor have gone into the project so far.

But for all the highlights mentioned, some in the audience had hoped the mayor would address another matter. Earlier this month, Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen, serving as a special prosecutor, released the results of an investigation into an incident involving the mayor last year. McCarthy had followed a woman late at night. The woman claimed the mayor smelled of alcohol. The mayor, who was not given a sobriety test by police, has denied any wrongdoing.

It was the mayor’s first public appearance since the release of the report. The report found insufficient evidence for criminal charges, but also concluded the incident could have been handled better by the mayor and city police department.

Independent City Councilor Vince Riggi, the only non-Democrat on the council, was hoping to see the matter addressed Monday night.

“There should be some response from someone on this on the recommendations that were made,” said Riggi.

Democrat John Polimeni said the night was supposed to be about the city and progress, not about an individual person.

“There’s been editorials and comments by various individuals that are looking to separate elected officials and how they’re interacted with the police and other individuals. And the reality is everyone should be treated the same,” said Polimeni.

McCarthy did not speak to the press immediately following his address. When approached soon after by WAMC at a nearby restaurant, where a celebration was being held with elected leaders and others, the mayor would not comment on the report.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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