Albany’s South Mall Part 3 Dear Nelson/Dear Erastus

The first two  weeks  of January 1961 had been a whirlwind. Governor Rockefeller’s  notice of his general desire  to “improve” Albany and  the Mayor’s revelation of his specific plans for the City caused a  quite a stir.  The  rest of the month would be equally as newsworthy. Additionally, the face of Albany was changing, independent from  urban redevelopment and renewal.  New road and highway construction was moving at warp speed. Old buildings that had stood for years  anchoring parts of neighborhoods had reached the end of their useful lives and were being demolished.  High rise housing projects were almost completed in the South End and “slum clearance:” was moving ahead in North Albany.

On January 17, the Common Council authorized $250,000 to obtain rights to build the “Crosstown Arterial Highway”.  Additionally the State was planning to build the “Slingerlands Bypass”.  Construction of the State Office Campus,  well underway off Washington Ave., and the  planned construction of the new University site next door on Washington Ave., made these 2 highway construction projects more important to  increase access to both the Campus and University sites.

January 17, 1961

jan 17

People began dreaming the impossible dream.  There were thoughts of  riverfront development.  Pretty much an impossibility as  as the  riverfront arterial was being constructed, cutting off access to the Hudson.  But why let reality intrude?

 In an address to a local American Legion post, Gene Robb, publisher of the Albany Knickerbocker News,  proposed building a new Capitol  on the Hudson River.  And if that was not possible,  why not a state museum, civic center or peace memorial,  he conjectured. He  said that this was the first time in recent history  that residents, merchants, the city and the state  all had an interest in re-development.  He also indicated that additional resources would be necessary and suggested a sales tax for Albany!

Dear Nelson

On  January 18, the other shoe dropped.  Mayor Corning sent a “Dear Nelson” letter to Governor Rockefeller in which he proposed a  permanent.. not temporary,  joint city/state committee to deal with on-going  state and city issues    Nelson’s spokesperson responded to the Mayor’s letter by side stepping the request and saying that Albany still needed a “comprehensive plan”.

January 18, 1961

jan 18jan 18 1

January 18, 1961

erastius 1- 18 (2)

Dear Erastus

Ever the gentleman, Governor Rockefeller replied to  the Mayor’s letter on January 18th.  In  his letter of response  he thanks the Mayor for his welcome words about the Temporary State Commission and  ignores the Mayor’s request for a  permanent joint state/city committee on  state and city issues.  In his letter he also stresses the need for a “comprehensive plan” for Albany.  (The implication is that the  two year old study magically produced by the Mayor on the heels of the Governor’s announcement of HIS plans for Albany was neither a plan nor comprehensive.)

january 24 1951

No More Rent Control in Albany…..self-deportation

Yet another master stroke.  On January 20th, the State  Rent Commission proclaimed that it would be ending rent control  (in place since World War II) in Albany since a recent housing survey had demonstrated that the housing shortage had “abated”.  (Seriously?  I can’t stop laughing.)    Every other report indicated  dangerous over crowding in Albany!!  Why that was part of the rationale for urban renewal !

Rent controls had already been eliminated  on one family single homes and two  family homes.  In 1957, the City had been offered the option  to remove rent controls, but had declined. Hmmm

The timing of this decision could not be better.  Decontrol rents on multiple unit dwellings and you have a partial answer to at least one problem.  Most of the multiple unit buildings were located in lower income areas. Those were the areas slated for “urban renewal”. Take away  rent controls and  tenants would be looking for alternative housing.  There were really only  two choices. They could move into the low income,  high rise housing projects constructed by the city and for which there had not been great demand.  Or they could move out of the area. If  tenants moved out,  there were 2 options; move outside of Albany or stay within the city limits.  

A move outside Albany was possible, but not likely.  In 1961 most of the jobs were still located within the city. Many lower income persons did not own cars and depended on buses to get around. Public transportation outside the city was poor at best and in the worst case, no existent. Nor were the many apartment options outside of the city, and single family housing was out of the financial reach of  most current tenants of multiple dwelling units. So a move  uptown, but still within the city, was most likely.

One way or another, many of the units in the multiple unit  buildings would be vacated. Win/Win for urban renewal. There would be fewer families to displace through eminent domain when the property was seized. AND,  vacant units in a multiple unit dwelling meant the property would be worth less when it was purchased to make room for urban renewal activities.  Eliminating rent control really would be the impetus for “self-deportation”.  

jan 20 1961

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