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First-term Troy Mayor Carmella Mantello marks 100 days in office

First-term Republican Troy Mayor Carmella Mantello marks 100 days in office
Samantha Simmons
First-term Republican Troy Mayor Carmella Mantello marks 100 days in office

Troy’s first female Mayor, Carmella Mantello, says her work has only just begun as she marks 100 days in office. The Republican former city council president has kept up a high profile in the city since taking office in January. Speaking with WAMC’s Samantha Simmons, Mantello says making the city feel safer and cleaner is a top priority that will drive the local economy.

We need to lead by example. I know I keep saying that. And the Quality-of-Life Action Task Force, it's not like we're hiring a bunch of new people. It's just a different mentality, a different culture. And people honestly are so excited right now. What they're seeing on their streets, but it needed to be visible. And so, think about it. If your streets are filthy, which they were. I mean, it pained me as someone born and raised in Troy, I had never seen the city get like as filthy as it was over the past several years. So, for me, just someone who loves Troy, it's in my DNA, I had to, if I were to win, show the people of Troy that you have accepted, subpar along your streets, whether it be safety, quality of life, cleanliness. So, it was really important to show the people of Troy we can be better. We can be the greatest city in this state, and it starts out by having cleaner and greener streets. I'll keep saying the two go hand in hand.

Focusing on other neighborhoods besides Downtown was a really big priority for you during your campaign. Do you think there's been a shift in that focus since you took office?

Absolutely. But more all across the board. I think a lot of people sometimes think that the downtown restaurants, bars, office is like this, but there are a lot of folks that live downtown. So, I tell everyone, let's take that momentum from downtown and spread it into the other neighborhoods. Whether it be North Central, Lansingburgh, Eastside, South Troy, Sycaway. The downtown is a neighborhood. So, I really want to get out there only because so many people say, ‘Hey, we want to revitalize our neighborhoods,’ me being one. But what I have learned over, especially I want to say the past three, four years is a lot of folks live downtown, a lot of families live downtown. But you know, Samantha, one of our huge priorities was spreading that momentum that the downtown's important to be that catalyst for economic development and to obviously connect our trail along the waterfront but our neighborhoods needed real TLC, real revitalization.

A new city hall has been a little bit of a contentious issue, last month it was and last year, it still was. Now that the back rent has been paid on this location and the Hedley Building and negotiations are moving forward. What's your plan for the next space of city hall or now that negotiations are moving forward, do you plan to stay here for a little bit longer? What are those negotiations looking like?

First and foremost, you’ll see City Hall, I call it City Floor. Great view, but it really isn't something that people of Troy can be proud of. We're paying close to half a million dollars a year; we've done that now for the past 12 years. Add those monies up. So, the first step was paying that overdue rent. It put us in a position to be able to negotiate with First Columbia on hopefully a short-term lease. What we're looking at three-to-five-year lease, they may not go less than five, but maybe if we do five years, we can give them early notice be out in three years. Within the next, hopefully week, we literally are putting the final touches on an RFP and so that RPF will be out the door over the next week. And what we're doing through the RFP is we're looking, hopefully, to create a public private partnership. own our own city hall, something that you wouldn't drive by and not know it's a city hall. So many people come to City Hall if they aren't from Troy and even people from Troy don't even know we're on the fifth floor of the Hedley Building, there's nothing outside. There's no signage. No flag. So, there's nothing here that signifies that we are City Hall until you come on the fifth floor and see the plastic sign that says ‘City Hall’.’ So, my goal is to create something we're proud of, we'll look at various buildings like the ICC, the Frear building, the atrium building, the old Price Chopper in the ‘Burg.

And One Monument Square was a failed proposal to City Hall. There's a number of things that can't be worked around because it's too expensive or other things. What's your future for one Monument Square?

The land agreement with Hoboken is no longer so there is no agreement with Hoboken. Sumeet Gupta, who was driving the bus for that proposal, he's in need of more financing. So, I think our first step is first to ensure the $19 million stays in the budget, which the good news is we are told it's in the budget. So once the budget passes, the $19 million will be for that sight. So, the good news is, the $19 million was not specifically for that particular proposal, it's for the site. And so, what we're hopeful to do is sit down with John McDonald, the governor's office and hopefully shift that money. What do I envision? Well, we all know we're on our sixth proposal. The people of Troy, we've had number of charettes and a number of public meetings. We know with the folks of Troy want to see at that side, some type of public-private, maybe a little bit more public than private. The farmer’s market is looking for new home. So, my goal is to develop that site, but really utilize the public forums, the charettes that were held.

Some city council members think there's other things that should take priority over a new city hall. Do you share a similar vision? And do you think City Hall should wait a little bit longer or other proposals should move forward?

The good news on that front, if you can't multitask, don't be mayor. We’re not just focusing on city hall, on One Monument. The fire station up in Lansingburgh, a year and a half that has been on the back burner. In fact, discussions, negotiations with the property owner, that we're looking to relocate and build in the firehouse, were dead. I have reinvigorated those discussions. We just completed environmental phase two, now we're in the cleanup mode. So once again, the fire station is now back on track, it is going to be built at that site. Negotiations continue. We're going to buy that land. So, all the other projects that the council mentioned, are all either in the middle, at the beginning, all being negotiated. We're not a one subject administration, you have to be able to multitask.

The lead pipe replacement, percentage wise, it seems like maybe it’s slowed down a little bit. Last time we talked, you said it hadn't. What's going on behind the scenes that the percentage isn't climbing so quickly?

Yeah. I think what you saw in the first 50 percent is the low hanging fruit. The folks like me, and the folks who are a little more knowledgeable of what's going on with pipes in their homes, etc. And maybe go online or watch the news. Now, that next 50 percent, we are going to have to go door to door. So once again, stay tuned. We're working with the environmental advocates, New York League of Conservation Voters, and we have RPI students. We're going to, within the next two weeks, go out door to door campaign and start knocking on doors and educating people how important it is to drive that inventory up. The good news, I think, literally, out of all the municipalities across the state, we are leading the charge when it comes to our inventory being close to 50 percent. Additionally, with our lead pipe replacement program, we've actually gotten calls from other municipalities who are asking us, ‘How are we going to about it,’ ‘How are you doing it.’ So, we hope to be a model for other communities. So that next 50 percent, while I don't think it’ll be as easy as the first 50 percent, we're going to get there. I hope to be by the end of the year at least 75-80% if not more.

Now that you're in office, and you see the day to day, behind the scenes, everything. You've hired a comptroller; how likely do you think it is that you'll reach one of your campaign goals of not raising taxes?

We’re thinking differently. We're looking at things, how can we be more efficient? How can we, in-house, communicate better, do our job better in-house, too? As I have mentioned many times, taxes and fees are through the roof and our services were down in the basement. Well, now, services are moving up, and people are starting to see what their taxes and fees are paying for. And they're seeing cleaner streets. They're seeing businesses starting to pop in and starting to talk to us here in Troy. They're seeing their neighborhoods revitalized. They're seeing hot pockets be addressed through Park Walk and Talk and other programs and we plan to announce a number of anti-violence initiatives over the next couple of weeks.

You just touched on something about hotspots, like crime hotspots. Lately, I've been seeing a lot more reports from the police department about stabbings or shootings or whatever it may be. Do you think there has been an uptick in let's say, I guess the last year, and you said some initiatives, can you talk about any of those now?

Sure. Um, the stats, don't say that. However, stats are stats. People need to feel safe in their neighborhoods. So, you know what I've talked to the chief about, I want to see and I've already informed them, our patrols pulling over cars more. To date, we have literally triple if not quadruple the number of guns that we've taken off the street, compared to all of last year. Do I see an uptick? It's in the Capital Region. It’s just unacceptable. We're not going to tolerate it here in Troy. We're going to do everything humanly possible to show that Troy has zero tolerance when it comes to not just, violent crime stabbings, etc., but your low-level crimes, whether it be speeding through our neighborhoods, the ATV bikes that are flying through our neighborhoods, the one-wheelers, you name it.

We're nearing June, kind of. The Burdett Birth Center, the proposed closure is in June. Where do you see that going from here? They had the public forum a few months ago, I think it was now, and we were there for hours. People were expressing their thoughts about how it would affect the community, communities around it. Where do you see it going from here?

I hate to say I think it's a done deal. I'm going to be really frank, not beat around the bush. I think once they announced it, they did not care, obviously. The communication from day one was absolutely horrible. Local leaders, state leaders didn't know about it and we had to read about in the paper, unacceptable. They have tried over the past, we'll say, couple months maybe try to repair that communication damage, but I think it's irreparable. And unfortunately, it looks like the plan is a done deal. That does not mean, I'm waving the white flag. We will fight it and we'll continue fighting it. And in June, if they announced that it’s closing, whatever we have to do to keep that open. Frankly, the governor could step in right now and end this. The buck stops with the governor. Governor oversees DOH, she can end this. Budget talks, we haven't heard a single word about saving Burdett, which blows me away. So, it really is sad. It's unacceptable. But I'm not waving the white flag and I'll continue fighting with the Save Burdett folks, the SEIU and our residents in the City of Troy and the county. This is just something that we cannot allow to happen.

Samantha joined the WAMC staff after interning during her final semester at the University at Albany. A Troy native, she looks forward to covering what matters most to those in her community. Aside from working, Samantha enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and cat. She can be reached by phone at (518)-465-5233 Ext. 211 or by email at ssimmons@wamc.org.
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