A string of arsons in one Troy neighborhood has residents on edge and authorities on high alert.
The latest fire in a series of 15 since July was reported around 3 a.m. Sunday at a vacant two-story located on 809 Second Avenue, Lansingburgh, which took out two occupied neighboring homes. That was apparently the last straw, sparking officials to act. The mayor scrambled to assemble a six-member panel, which is reportedly looking at 10 suspects. City councilman Jim Gordon says "It's about time. Because this is something that specifically I requested three weeks ago today in a meeting with the mayor. I believe it's a good step in the right direction because it's something the community needs. We need a specialized group to focus on the arsons in regards to investigation, in regards to identifying, securing and dealing with the vacant buildings."
Gordon notes the hard-scrabble neighborhood has been plagued by other suspicious fires, dating back to 2012. "Those most recent fires, we're seeing them happen in densely populated areas. With several families displaced over the weekend, this definitely has the Lansingburgh community at a heightened state of concern."
Gordon says police are patrolling more frequently with additional manpower in an attempt to thwart further incidents. To date, all of the fires occurred at vacant properties, save for one, where the owner was away on vacation.
Former city councilwoman Carmella Mantello is considered a possible mayoral candidate. "It's a public safety hazard. We need a government that's more pro-active, not reactive. It's time to escalate our pro-activeness in the city of Troy and Lansingburgh."
Mantello is urging Mayor Lou Rosamilia to invoke emergency powers to immediately take inventory of vacant buildings and tear them down, using federal funds if necessary. "We need to deter arson in our city. We need to deter evil people who are going to jeopardize our residents."
Mayor Rosamilia says city government IS taking a proactive stance using a three-prong approach. "One, is that we're going to be increasing patrol in marked cars and police officers in uniform. Number two, we're creating a task force made up of police officers, detective bureau and city code to work together exclusively for the purpose of trying to resolve the situation. They will be meeting on a daily basis to review items and then each will do their own tasks as they prepare to bring forth additional information for the following day. Finally, we've set up a fire tip line in order to gather some more information. From residents or anybody who has information for us. The phone number there is 687-1045."