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Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy Delivers 2019 State Of The City Address

Schenectady City Hall
Lucas Willard
Schenectady City Hall

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy delivered his State of the City address last night.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy
Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy

In a crowded City Hall, three-term Democrat Gary McCarthy kept his annual State of the City address brief, focusing on the positives.

“The City of Schenectady is doing well. 2018 was a good year for our community. And we are positioned to continue that performance this year as well,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy continued to pitch Schenectady as a city of technology and innovation – opening his speech by talking about some of the new lights in the Electric City.

A redeveloped Amtrak station boasts programmable exterior lighting and new pedestrian lighting shines under four railroad bridges, as just some examples. 

In a city that has seen growth in its downtown over the last few years and the arrival of Rivers Casino, property taxes, a common complaint among residents, have continued to drop, down 6.5 percent since 2015.

“We have cut property taxes four years in a row in the City of Schenectady,” said McCarthy to applause. “But to build on that, I’ve directed the new LED lighting system in the City Hall clock tower be turned green tonight to reflect the operating surplus that financer Commissioner Ferrari has told me to anticipate when we close out the books for 2018.”

There’s also been a drop in the violent crime rate – down 6.5 percent over the five-year average. Schenectady’s police force is now up to full-strength with the recent swearing-in of eight new cadets, bringing the total to 161 officers.

Growth continues downtown with several new businesses and buildings being rehabilitated.

But while finances and crime are trending in the right direction, the mayor highlighted one prominent issue facing the city.

“The major problem we faced continues to be vacant and distressed property. We have just under 800 properties that we’ve identified as problem parcels,” said McCarthy. 

In the last year, the city sold 146 properties to address its problem of vacant buildings. The mayor focused on several neighborhood planning initiatives and construction projects underway.

Performance of Rivers Casino at the location of the former Alco plant improved in 2018, but revenues are still falling short of projections. The mayor endorsed a platform that casino operators are pushing for.

“We need to work with the New York State Gaming Commission, which is headquartered here in our city, to release the regulations to allow Rivers Casino to offer sports betting at its property. And after watching Rivers’ successful partnership with Capital District Off-Track Betting, I know that sports betting will enhance the entertainment opportunities in the city,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy, whose term runs through 2019, has suggested he will run for reelection in November.

Following the address, Democratic City Council President Ed Kosiur hailed the city’s progress before adding his biggest concerns for the new year.

“The number one and two items that we always hear are the costs of taxes and potholes,” said Kosiur.

Kosiur mentioned the senior center that opened in late 2017  on upper State Street. It’s a partnership among the city, assisted living facility Kingsway, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Kosiur also wants to focus on the city’s youth, “Through summer youth employment opportunities for our young men and women.” He added, “We’re actually going to be creating a youth advisory board in the next meeting or two.”

Vince Riggi, an Independent who is the only non-Democrat on the Schenectady City Council, said the city’s neighborhoods are not being addressed fast enough.

“People are dying, you know, they want to live in just peace and quiet in their neighborhoods and that’s not happening,” said Riggi. “So all the good things are happening, the mayor ought to be at least more forthcoming and let us know the bad things that are happening and how they might be addressed. I didn’t hear that tonight.”

While the mayor drew a standing ovation for his roughly 25-minute speech from a crowd that included several prominent business owners and local officials, Riggi said the people of Schenectady were not there.

“This is a Democratic lovefest is what it is. I’d rather see the people of Schenectady see the mayor’s State of the City address, see what they think of it,” said Riggi.

You can hear the mayor’s entire address below:

Mayor Gary McCarthy delivers his 2019 State of the City address.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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