e-mail sent on 12/9/2010 to:
Hon. Carolyn McLaughlin
Hon. Richard Conti
Hon. Daniel Herring
Hon. Dominick Calsolaro
Hon. Lester Freeman
Hon. Ronald E. Bailey
Hon. Barbara Smith
Hon. Jacqueline M. Jenkins-Cox
Hon. Catherine M. Fahey
Hon. John Rosenzweig
Hon. James P. Sano
Hon. Leah Golby
Hon. Anton A. Konev
Hon. Michael O’Brien
Hon. Joseph Igoe
Hon. Frank Commisso, Jr.
Mayor Gerald D. Jennings
Re: Public Bath #2
This correspondence is to let you know that I am completely opposed to the permanent closure of Public Bath #2. This bath house can be an anchor building which represents a “form of stabilization” to the South End's much anticipated reinvigoration. This historic neighborhood and 105 year old structure “serve as reminders of a prosperous era, that represent an intrinsic, latent value that is difficult if not impossible to re-create from scratch and should be preserved to the maximum extent feasible“. (language taken from proposed city plans as a reminder of what the city said). The residents nor any visitors will benefit from their hard work when you take away a recreational facility. The building is not in total disrepair according to city data “renovations were done to the building 2007-2009“ it just needs to be maintained, monitored and preserved.
You cannot energize an area, nor state that you want to make the South End a "Community of Choice" when their very choices are being stripped from them and stripped out of the budget without a public hearing. Many residents doubt your level of commitment to meaningful citizen participation when they are being excluded from the process. The city's proposed closing of the bath house will be detrimental to the future of our community!
The National Historic Preservation Act mandates the active use of historic buildings for public benefit and to preserve our heritage. Preserving Albany’s historic buildings is essential and it is environmentally responsible by using existing buildings. I believe that local government officials also need to help change the perceived perceptions of the South End. The South End residents can work all they want to with their local leaders, but if these “leaders” are already of the mind that they are against an idea to benefit Mayor Jennings, than it is not going to benefit the people one bit. The people need to be heard, because the business of the people is suppose to be of the utmost importance to you as mayor and council members. You need to do what you were elected by the people to do, and forget any political obligations you have to the mayor. The Common Council needs to ensure equal treatment, so the criteria is not “bent” for any building. I respectfully request that you hold public hearings on the bath house issue. By the mayor and council members not requesting to have a public hearing, it places a severe burden on the public’s and the voters ability to actively participate in it’s local government. How can the South End ever be considered a “Community of Choice” when they are being excluded from their rightful role as resident and voter. You constituents have rights also, rights that should not be ignored, to appease an absentee landlord mayor. All of your decisions effect all residents everyday, whether in your ward or not. Your decision on this and every issue needs to be made without the mayor’s influence, and I ask all council members who voted “No” to reevaluate their choice and replace the funding for public bath #2 and keep it open. The honest people of Albany are insisting that their rights be heard and be protected by you and protected from the mayor’s inadequacies. We are relying on you to restore to a sound state the bath house after the mayor caused its dilapidating conditions through neglect. I along with other residents of the South End and the city of Albany, are fighting for this building, for it represents a piece of that area’s history and culture. I recommend that the common council educate and/or continue to educate themselves in regards to historic buildings and preservation of them, so preservation efforts will be sustained in Albany. I also recommend that ward leaders working on commissions regarding historic buildings should not be on those commissions unless they have preservation as their first priority. I also propose that an ordinance be done to provide for the preservation and protection of historic places, buildings, sites, districts, etc. in that the city of Albany start their own local landmark commission to ensure preservation is sustained, and to safeguard the architectural, historical and cultural heritage of Albany. A preservation ordinance stabilizes declining neighborhoods and protects and enhances property values; so historic preservation is a valid public purpose.
The Common Council has the authority to make sure rules/laws are complied with, and when it comes to Public Bath #2 the mayor did not comply with his own city’s laws/procedures, and possibly the Historic Resource Commission’s, and therefore as council members you should not follow the mayor’s recommendations to close public bath #2. The city’s codes are nothing more than wasted paper unless the city complies with same also. The city needs to repair their faults in order for it to truly be a great city. I propose if one does not already exist a documentation plan for Preservation should be developed using preservation as a treatment developing your own city plan for such, for this building immediately and for all historic buildings in the City of Albany. This bath house is “recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use“. Protection includes the maintenance of historic materials through treatments such as rust removal, caulking, and re-application of protective coatings. The City needs to stabilize. The pool is in need of repair to “stabilize it“ that does not constitute closing of the building.
I propose that the pool and all historic buildings be checked annually for needed repairs. The cracks in the pool are a normal repair most pools require due to movement and lack of reinforcement. Also, in lieu of an exhaust fan connected directly to the wet area to run right out the roof of the building to remove humidity, I propose installing ceiling fans to create steady airflow. The more air movement, the quicker the surfaces will dry. The “ventilation system” the mayor claims it needs, will not give you the air movement that you will get from ceiling fans that can be used in the locker room areas and elsewhere, which are cheaper in cost and more effective in drying surfaces, and will aid in keeping steam from rusting the buildings metal beams. (These metal beams can also have simple steel rods put in behind the beams for support) a simple not expensive way to fix the problem which many historic buildings that used metal beams do. To dry, you need good heat also. Keeping the areas dry also prevent fungal conditions like athlete’s foot. Regular walk-throughs by maintenance staff with hourly removal of any standing water on floors and surface areas also helps. The more time maintenance staff is there to spot problems they can take steps to resolve them. Other immediate remedies I propose to reducing and preventing wet conditions or rusting, is to purchase several Barco Turbo Downdraft dryers that suck in and release air in four directions; or similar unit, it can dry an entire room in 15 minutes, or another cheaper alternative is a Barco blaster with 2 different operating angles to direct air as needed, typically used to dry floors and carpets. Also, if not present you can also add a regular table or two for towels to be set on in the pool area to dry off before entering the locker room, another level of reducing water and wetness. So you see, with much less cost than the mayor claims, the bath house can remain open and these proposed suggestions can be put in place to resolve effectively and immediately routine needs of maintenance and preservation. Using my suggestions is not only cost effective, but it also will keep intact the historic roof, by not installing a ventilation system. The city needs to show it’s commitment to the historic buildings of Albany. This site can and needs to survive under the direction of responsible preservation practices with preservation minded people to enforce those practices. The simple fact that it is listed on the National registry warrants its preservation, it is a building of significance in a historic district. I also propose that a no demolition rule be put into effect, and that Jennings puts it in writing what he proposes to do with the bath house and files same with the clerk’s office for public record. The bath house is earning a “reasonable return” without the work being done to it, and if the building was not safe as the Mayor claims, people would not be in it today per code enforcement laws. The Historic Resources Commission should have laws set in place, so that the city was to ensure its preservation and maintenance thereof, and to propose not just elective work that needs to be done, but also serious deterioration issues that needs to be addressed which did not happen overnight. The city’s neglect of the building not only endangers the building but the historic district it sits in also. The mayor is a neglectful absentee landlord for he only sees a particular community as a place to maximize income without much cost on his part, and has continually shown his total disregard towards historic sites. The Mayor did not satisfy his obligation to this building. A code enforcement officer should have done something about this matter before now. If the building was truly a problem, the necessary tests would have been deemed necessary to determine the safety of the building then in ‘07-’09, which did not happen; and since the mayor admitted he was aware of these problems, then he is negligent for failing to do a written notice of the defective, unsafe and dangerous conditions he complains of, and his willful neglect is what “allegedly” puts public safety at risk, since he had a reasonable amount of time to repair and remove these defects and dangers of public safety and did not. Did the Commissioner of Public Works receive a plan from the mayor since its last repairs to make the remaining repairs? When a permit was necessary for example for the rusting inner beams/supports why didn’t the mayor obtain a permit to make said repairs? Why isn’t the city being penalized for not making said repairs?
The Historic Resources Commission needs to be the powerful force they can be by enforcing their own rules. It is not the mayor’s decision to make and the city should not be exempt from the same laws that a private owner would need to abide by. The city attorney /code enforcement would bring a case against a private violator for the same issues the city ignored. A correct review needs to be done so the mayor cannot continue to subvert the same processes of others. Do not allow the mayor to subvert processes for his own personal or political gain. The mayor is not going to simply move on from this issue, this is not a dead issue and the Historic Resources Commission needs to require the mayor to repair damages, and if he thinks he is going to demolish this structure, he does not meet the criteria to do so. The Common Council needs to make sure that the city is doing what it is suppose to be doing and that means looking into the process to make sure that the city is compliant. The mayor needs to stop trying to get special approvals on things outside intended law; and be reminded that you all have legal responsibilities that need to be adhered to or risk loosing state and federal funding because of it. It does not have to return the most profitable return contrary to Jennings.
The building code inspector should have been inspecting it regularly. Nothing prevented the city from ordinary maintenance and repair. Typical Commission laws have it that no person (including city) owning property within a historic district shall permit the property to fall into serious state of disrepair so as to result in its deterioration effecting the life of the property itself which includes deterioration of vertical supports, roofs or other horizontal members, ineffective waterproofing of roof, or foundation of pool. If Albany does not, I propose similar language to be added regarding enforcement.
I propose that parts of the city’s zoning ordinance be strengthened to encourage the preservation of historic resources. Since the Historic Resource Commission only covers mainly the exterior of the building, in the preservation ordinance there needs to be a provision for the interiors so that no one can allow a historic building to be neglected. A building inspector could have determined if the bath house required immediate repairs or stabilization to protect the building, its contents and the public. Ordinary things could have been done before now and still can be done. If established, the preservation commission should work with the planning board and an experienced preservation lawyer to assure the city and private owners do not fail in meeting its preservation goals. The city should include that approval for demolition should be contingent on the owner submitting an accompanying plan for reuse of the property that complies with the terms of the zoning ordinance.
With the growing rate of childhood obesity, I and others believe that it is absurd to close this facility. I propose better advertising and publicity to attract residents and visitors (previously not done) so this facility could again be a jewel to Albany, by providing healthier children and adults and a lasting legacy in Albany for the next 105 years. In regards to lack of attendance the city’s progress report of ‘07-‘09 states: “Hidden Secrets - …one being Public Bath #2.“ That being said more could have been done to make it more visible by promoting it and educating all residents new and old and visitors about its historical existence by making it a destination to come to. It was and still can be today what it was then, a social center and community meeting place. I propose that the walking tour brochures for the South End and all areas be placed on the city’s website for people to download to promote the South End and increase public awareness.
Therefore, we are all responsible in the protection, preservation, repairs and improvements of our historic resources and to make them accessible for use by all. I respectfully request that you vote Yes to keep the public bath #2 open and take my recommendations into consideration. I thank you for your time and consideration to this matter. If you should have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.