Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan delivers 2023 State of the City address
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan delivered her State of the City address Monday night in the Washington Park Lakehouse.
Sheehan’s appearance at the Lakehouse was a departure from the typical City Hall rotunda. She highlighted the 75th anniversary of the Tulip Festival and the 150th anniversary of Washington Park.
The third-term Democrat beamed as she shared a long list of accomplished and planned projects.
"And with our ARPA grants, our RISSE [Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus], which is another refugee resettlement organization, is going to be providing workforce linkages," said Sheehan. "And we also have an exciting application that was awarded to reimagine how we train the much-needed workforce that we need in our restaurant industry. Discover Albany is going to throw a huge party, no pressure, but we are going to become the place to be for Halloween weekend, all things 'Fall-bany,' and we're really excited about that because we have to have fun, right?"
Sheehan reminded attendees that Lincoln Park will be getting a new swimming pool, a new 911 dispatch center is being built, and that Albany is now home to the state's largest crime analysis center.
"Our police department removed a record 147 illegal guns from our streets in 2022," said Sheehan. "Most of those guns came from outside of our state, which is why it is so important that we saw the state make unprecedented investments in the largest Crime Analysis Center in the state, which is housed right here in the city of Albany. And I want to thank the state for being incredible partners in ensuring that we have real-time access to the data that we need, so that when there's a shooting in the city, when we find a shell casing, we are able to connect the dots, make arrests, and ensure that our residents are safe from gun violence."
Sheehan thanked state lawmakers for providing funding to Albany's Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, which, she noted, made its 300th diversion in 2022.
"Policing has changed," Sheehan said. "We and cities across the country have to reimagine how we hire individuals to perform public safety. It doesn't all necessarily need to be a sworn officer with a gun. So, our police chief, who is on the cutting edge and innovative, is going to be launching a new auxiliary police program this summer, he is going to be hiring civilian, non-sworn employees to assist with parades and festivals and parks and green spaces. And this will help to mitigate some of the staffing shortages we have. But it will also provide us with a pool of individuals who may then be interested in becoming sworn officers."
Sheehan touted the recent acquisition and redevelopment plan for downtown Albany's long-abandoned Central Warehouse as well as plans to reimagine Interstate 787, which runs between downtown and the Hudson Riverfront. 109th District Assemblymember Pat Fahy, a fellow Democrat, says a design firm spearheading the effort is expected to present a proposal by March.
"We can take down as much or reimagine as many parts of it as possible, but we can also go under it with the canal proposal and we can go over it with a land bridge of all greenspace,” said Fahy.
Sheehan also hailed Albany as "a great place for immigrants," and touted the recent $25 million dollar "Albany For All" initiative, 35 fully-funded projects including programs providing community spaces as well as supporting affordable housing and affordable homeownership with 1,500 units in the pipeline.
“We are also going to see more affordable homes built in the South End," Sheehan said. "Townhomes, the types of housing that our residents have been asking for, thanks to the Albany County Land Bank and their development partner MDG. And we are going to be working with CARES to spend $2 million to prevent homelessness. That means eviction prevention, it means rapid rehousing. If there is going to be an eviction, it means emergency housing, and workforce support for our families. In addition to that, we continue to see unprecedented investment. And we've attracted more and more affordable housing developers to our city who are building quality projects, and who are helping to transform our neighborhoods.”
Sheehan added the city has seen a 255% increase in the number of cases brought against landlords who don't hold a valid residential occupancy permit, thanks to a new law that says a landlord cannot evict someone from an apartment that doesn't have one.
Fellow Democrat Corey Ellis, president of the Common Council, welcomed Sheehan’s vision: "What I'd like to emphasize is the work that council members put forward that the mayor didn't mention in her state of the state, especially with the police reforms, and I think a lot of people don't realize myself in council leadership, and also council members and police reforms that we put in place that allowed things to move forward, also, and then hearing some of the recommendations we've talked about, like looking at individuals working with the police department, people who aren't police officers handling some things that police officers don't need to do. So I was happy to hear that in this speech as well. So it does show that council members, their advocacy, things we wanted, we'd like to see, put in places the mayor mentioned today so very, very, very glad to see that," said Ellis.