The re-invention of New York’s Capital City was viewed by Governor Rockefeller as the renewal of Albany, but also as a pilot program. Albany would serve as a test case for a state and local partnership to reinvigorate the decaying cites of New York State. His ability to pull this off would serve be a feather in his cap when he ran for re-election in 1962, and when he sought his party’s presidential nomination in 1964, which he most assuredly would. Time was of the essence. The Harriman State Office Campus would be completed on his watch, the new State University at Albany construction would begin shortly and serve as a model for enhancement and expansion of New York’s public college and university system. It would rival, if not surpass, that of California, the best in the nation.
Albany would be the crown jewel, garnering national, perhaps even international attention. It would be a modern city, stripped of the old, surrounded by a modern transportation network of highways moving hundreds of thousands of people every day around the jewel. It would be a model of efficient government and public administration. It would provide empirical evidence of what Rocky could do for the country, as he reached for the national brass ring.
As I mentioned before, Rocky’s ideas weren’t new, they were shared by most governments in the Northeastern corridor and in the Midwest Older , rusting cities needed to be brought into the 20th century. Kennedy, the new president, was just as eager at a national level. if we could put a man on the moon, we could make it happen across the country. Money was no object. Massive re-development was the ultimate stimulus package for a sagging economy.
Feb 1, 1961
And JFK was more than willing to help Mayor Corning, despite Rocky’s being a potential opponent in the 1964 election. The Democratic Machine’s ability to deliver votes within the City and County of Albany was on a par with the great political machines of Chicago and Boston. Such was the power of Mayor Corning and Dan O’Connell, legendary political boss for over 30 years. During the days of the hard fought 1960 Democratic presidential primaries a special visit had been paid by close Kennedy aides to the Mayor and Uncle Dan (as he was known). (And since this is Smalbany, they went to visit Dan at his house, and of course the neighborhood was atwitter when we saw the limos on my street during that visit.
Additionally. Joseph Kennedy, JFK’s father, owned an office building on State St. and had been the major owner of RKO when it built the Palace Theater. Everything is intertwined.
February 6, 1961
February 8, 1961
February 14, 1961
The consensus of those who had moved to suburbia was that Albany needed many things to draw them back to the urban core – a convention center, better lighting , parking and removal of “eyesores”.
February 2, 1961
February 4, 1961
Although Mayor Corning had already commissioned a study and plan to re-invent the city, a housing survey conducted by the State was moving forward, designed to elicit formation about available housing stock at all income levels, deteriorated areas, community development needs, and needs of employees. All this information would be correlated with urban development activities all ready under way (cart before the horse?) . The results of the survey would not be made public (LOL- how times have changed), but provided to the Mayor to release as he saw fit.
February 4, 1961
The survey of downtown business was moving along as well. The urban planning firm of Candeub, Fleissig & Associates has been retained by city merchants . The Candeub firm has been retained by the Mayor two years prior to develop the urban renewal plan for Albany that had been made public only recently.
Candeub was the the largest and most powerful urban planning firm in the nation at time. As federal money for urban re-development became abundantly available across the country, Candeub was recommended to large and small cities everywhere by federal housing officials. isadore Candeub was the primary partner in the firm, and a 1948 graduate of MIT with a degree in city planning, Candeub was ubiquitous in municipal and environmental planning almost everywhere; Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and even Alaska. Candeub’s approach to urban planning epitomized the time. It was all about the modern, the new, and efficiency, with the little thought to what we today call “social capital’. Candeub, i think, was the most influential single entity in urban planning throughout the 1960’s and into the 1970’s and put its stamp on America that would persist for generations.
(I’m not going into the a long discussion of the 1960’s approach to urban planning. For anyone who is interested, I recommend the work of Jane Jacobs, one of the first ( and most influential) activists in fighting conventional urban planning in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Get a copy of her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) and Robert Caro’s The Power Broker (1975), the story of Robert Moses.
February 8, 1961