Troy Mayor Patrick Madden delivered his State of the City address Thursday night.
In a virtual address, Mayor Madden made COVID-19 and its impacts on the city a focus, as he recounted the events of 2020.
“Our businesses struggled to stay viable. Students struggled with a new concept of remote learning. Local families struggled with the loss of jobs and income to cover the essentials of food and housing. We all struggled with how to keep ourselves safe from a microscopic enemy,” said Madden.
Madden, a second-term Democrat, announced in late December he was recovering from COVID-19. Twice in his speech he asked city residents to do their part in halting the spread of the virus.
“If we all appropriately wear masks, maintain social distancing, wash our hands, and take the vaccine, we can significantly cut future deaths over the next six months,” said Madden.
Madden, who spent much of his first term working with the city council to stabilize the city’s finances, said it was those efforts that made it possible to get through the pandemic year.
“There is no question that the steps we had taken in our first four years got us through 2020. Without our fund balance, without the ability to go to the financial markets on favorable terms, we would have been in for significant reductions in staffing and services last year,” said Madden.
Madden thanked the council for their work on a challenging city budget, but also said that he would continue to pursue a pay-as-you-throw trash fee for fiscal year 2022. Fees on waste collection have remained a sticking point in budget negotiations.
Madden’s presentation included details on infrastructure and development projects big and small. 2020 saw the completion of the city’s seawall stabilization project, and Madden announced a new $11.9 million contribution from FEMA would bring the federal agency’s funding of the project up to 90 percent. Madden also touched on upgrades at Riverfront Park and the downtown marina, which is expected to open for a full season in 2021.
Among other projects, Phase One of the long-awaited South Troy Industrial Roadway was completed in 2020, with Phase Two in the planning stages. Madden is also envisioning a reconfiguration and restoration of River Street as the crumbling Taylor Apartments towers 1 and 2 are slated for demolition later this year. Residential development continues with 302 apartments added in 2020.
On water infrastructure, Madden announced 2021 would see the groundbreaking of the water transmission line project to connect the Tomhannock Reservoir to the city’s water treatment plant – which supplies water to more than 135,000 customers in Rensselaer, Albany, and Saratoga Counties. Current transmission lines are over 100 years old.
“This will be one of the most consequential and important infrastructure projects the city has undertaken since the water treatment plan was built over a half-a-century ago,” said Madden.
Work also continues to move water lines in preparing the future location of the new One Monument Square.
But work on finding a new home for City Hall has stalled, with Madden adding that now is not a “prudent time” to move forward with the relocation project. The restoration of the American Theater, in partnership with Proctors, has also been put on hold indefinitely.
With 2020 bringing a sharp uptick in crime, public safety was also a primary theme of Madden’s address.
“Not unique to Troy, communities across the nation are reeling from increasing gun violence this past year and searching for answers that might lead to effective strategies,” said Madden.
Troy saw more than a dozen homicides in 2020, including the killing of an 11-year-old boy. The mayor said arrests were made in 9 of 14 serious stabbing and shooting incidents, and he asked the community to come together to help solve the crimes.
Madden outlined enhancements to the recently-reactivated Police Objective Review Board. He also announced that he intends to keep the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, which recently began holding public meetings as it examines police policies and procedures, as an ongoing workgroup in searching for ways to improve police-community relations even after the report is due to the state April 1st.
Additionally, police body-worn cameras are in the process of being rolled out, and Madden also highlighted enhanced police training.
In the weeks following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Troy saw one of the largest regional demonstrations for racial justice last June.
As conversations continue on policing and community, Madden asked city residents to do their part by looking inward.
“While we are the products of our environment, we are uniquely endowed with the capacity to examine how we are shaped by our environment. We have the capacity to question our subconscious assumptions and our learned biases. The time urgently calls on us to do that. Don’t let this opportunity pass us by,” said Madden.