From “Providing Housing” to “Building Communities”: a brief History of the Albany Housing Authority

Conclusions and the Future of the AHA


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Conclusions and the Future of the AHA

When asked about what he feels has been his greatest success, Steve Longo replied, “I would have to say, although not quite complete, it is the North Albany HOPE VI. Thanks to Mayor Jennings, the demolition of Corning Homes created a blank canvas. The opportunity to read all the different theories and philosophies espoused on urban living as well as work with creative people who understand that buildings alone don’t make a neighborhood. I think that has been the most rewarding and exciting thing I’ve done.”

In the eyes of many, the Albany Housing Authority stands at a crossroads. It is a crossroads that lies ahead for many housing authorities. It has arisen in response to HUD’s comprehensive reevaluation of its mission and methods in recent years, as well as nationwide changes in how lawmakers and citizens view the role of public housing. As with other housing authorities, the AHA is bound to a great extent by federal policy and federal funding. Legislation and policy decisions at the federal level will continue to have a huge impact on the direction the AHA can and will take in future years.

Nonetheless, the Albany Housing Authority has much to be proud of. Unlike many other public housing authorities, the AHA’s housing stock is in good, marketable condition and all of the developments are viable and in demand. Having survived the financial crisis of the 1970’s, the Authority has managed to set aside a modest budget reserve that continues to buffer it against an uncertain future. The AHA also benefits from a core group of loyal, dedicated and long-tenured employees. These individuals pass on a sense of stability to those who follow. Human Resource Director Brenda Brooks points to this “…common thread…” that winds through both veteran and new employees. She says, “People have earned their right to be here.” This feeling of job ownership helps support the AHA, and provides it with one of its strongest resources.

The AHA’s future will hinge on its ability to remain connected with housing events on the federal level, both anticipating and reacting to trends. With the federal funding cuts for new housing in the 80’s there was also the creation of a new mindset at the federal level. This new mindset calls for a more business-like approach to public housing. In the early 1990’s the National Commission on Distressed Housing began making suggestions that led to the inception of the HOPE VI program. Housing authorities are now encouraged to look at their properties as assets. With this new approach comes a new challenge to provide for clients while maximize the value and use of those vital assets. To succeed, the AHA must continue to ride the crest of the wave, ready to retool and rethink its options if need be.

In October of 2001 the Albany Housing Authority broke ground for a new 3.8 million dollar office complex.111 The new offices at 200 South Pearl Street encompass roughly 30,000 square feet of office space and consolidate the offices at 159 Church Street and 4 Lincoln Square into a single location. The cost and physical characteristics of the building belie a deeper symbolism of the move. The shift to South Pearl Street places the offices in an area surrounded by private development. Away from the formidable towers of Lincoln Square, the building becomes a part of one of the communities it is designed to serve. Even the design of the building reflects this mentality. Rather than simply a building block structure, consistent with many office buildings of this type and size, the new AHA offices are stylized to reflect the Dutch row housing that is indigenous to the area. The building is a reminder that the AHA’s focus is community, not simply housing, and that Albany is an historic city with a growing pride in its heritage.

With its nameless HOPE VI project and new office building, the Albany Housing Authority has entered a new chapter in its history. The days of building conspicuous public housing are gone. Driving by the new houses where the Corning Homes once stood, visitors to Albany are unaware that the neat and beautiful homes with yards and driveways are also public housing. In its new offices, no longer isolated from the traditional neighborhoods by distance and contrasting design, the AHA is poised to integrate its efforts toward the creation and sustained marketability of affordable housing, into the communities it serves. With the emphasis on new, mixed-finance housing and increased availability of rent subsidies, the AHA is committed to removing the stigma of public housing from those who rely on them for assistance. Shared vision defines future reality and the vision that Albany Housing Authority seeks to share is of communities that embrace their residents for the benefit of all.

End Notes

1 The Mayor maintained this booklet among his public papers until the time of his death. It can now be found in the Corning Papers at the Albany County Hall of Records.

2 Proceedings of the Common Council, v. 2 1945, p. 7

3 Times Union, March 31, 1946

4 Chapter 95 §1284 Consolidated Laws of the State of New York

5 Minutes of the Albany Housing Authority 1946-1950

6 Proceedings of the Common Council, v. 2 1946

7 Knickerbocker News, July 23, 1946

8 Vale, Lawrence, 2000. From the Puritans to the Projects: Public Housing and Public Neighbors. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Mass.

9 AHA Minutes 1946-1950

10 Times Union, January 24, 1952

11 Historical sidenote: Whalen was also the attorney of famous Albany political boss Dan O’Connell. For more information see Kennedy, William, 1983. O Albany. Viking Penguin, New York.

12 Knickerbocker News, 15 January 1953

13 Times Union, October 30, 1953

14 Times Union, Oct 30, 1953

15 Knickerbocker News, June 15, 1954

16 New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. 1962. Survey of Middle-Income and Low-Rent Housing Need and Demand in Albany, New York. Albany.

17 Plunz, Richard, 1990. A History of Housing in New York City. Columbia University Press, New York.

18 Knickerbocker News, September 18, 1958

19 Knickerbocker News, December 16, 1958

20 Knickerbocker News, August 8, 1958

21 Times Union, July 22, 1959

22 Knickerbocker News, January 4, 1961

23 AHA Minutes 1966-1968 The Albany Housing Authority would eventually have to hire a maintenance company available 24 hours a day to make emergency repairs.

24 Times Union, March 13, 1963

25 AHA Minutes 1966-1968

26 AHA Minutes 1966-1968, 1969-1970

27 Times Union, Sept 13, 1969

28 AHA Minutes 1966-1968

29 AHA Minutes 1968-1969

30 Times Union, May 14, 1969

31 Times Union, Sept 19, 1969

32 Times Union, April 13, 1972

33 Times Union, August 23, 1973

34 Knickerbocker News, February 2, 1977

35 Isadore Candeub & Associates. 1958. Albany, N.Y. Planning Report 2 Urban Renewal Plan. Albany.

36 Candeub, Fleissig and Associates. 1963. Rebuilding a City. Albany.

37 New York State UDC Brochure. Ten Broeck Manor.

38 Times Union, June 8, 1986

39 Blau, Peter, 1994. Structural Contexts of Opportunities. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

40 AHA Brochure. From Our Point of View.

41 Knickerbocker News, February 2, 1971; March 2, 1971 Times Union, Feb 5, 1971. One of the main complaints against billing was that damages due to vandalism were assessed to the family who owned the unit. The complainants said this was unfair as a large portion of vandalism was external to the unit and anonymous.

42 Knickerbocker News, June 11, 1971 Times Union, June 11, 1971

43 Times Union, Oct 29, 1971

44 Knickerbocker News, March 1, 1972

45 Knickerbocker News, February 3, 1972

46 Times Union, Oct 14, 1971

47 Knickerbocker News, May 23, 1972 Times Union, May 24 1972

48 Times Union, Sept 6, 1973

49 Times Union, April 5, 1973

50 Knickerbocker News, Sept 18, 1974

51 Knickerbocker News, May 1, 1973

52 Knickerbocker News, January 28, 29, 31, 1974. Times Union, January 31, 1974 During the trial Granger admitted that whites were often not shown the Thacher Homes. His reason was that those who had seen them universally refused to live in them. Granger further admitted that the AHA knew that this would result in a Black Ghetto at Thacher, but no other solution readily presented itself.

53 Knickerbocker News, June 3, 1974

54 Times Union, Oct 6, 1974

55 Knickerbocker News, December 19, 1974

56 Knickerbocker News, January 8, 1975 A short, but thoughtful biography of the life of Edward Kennell by Julian Parrish can be found in the Albany County Hall of Records in the Urban Renewal collection.

57 Knickerbocker News, June 4, 1976

58 Knickerbocker News, June 9, 1976, August 10,1976

59 Times Union, May 27, 1976

60 Knickerbocker News, Jan 11, 1978

61 Knickerbocker News, Oct 14, 1977

62 Knickerbocker News, May 22, 1978

63 Knickerbocker News, Aug 10, 1979 The AHA actually obtained three parcels of land around the time the original NYS-137 was being planned and partially constructed. One parcel was donated to a private foundation were the South Mall Towers were constructed to be low-income housing for senior citizens. The second parcel was leased to McDonalds in a 40-year deal with increases every five years. It is the final six-acre parcel that was eventually sold to the state for 1.2 million.

64 Knickerbocker News, August 22, 1979

65 Knickerbocker News, November 13, 1979

66 Times Union, February 5, 1998

67 Knickerbocker News, May 23, 1980

68 Knickerbocker News, April 3, 1981

69 Knickerbocker News, September 16, 1981

70 Knickerbocker News, June 2, 1978

71 Knickerbocker News,, June 2, 1978.

72 Knickerbocker News,, December 10, 1981.

73 Times Union, December 3, 1982.

74 Knickerbocker News, July 5 1983

75 Knickerbocker News, November 3, 1982.

76 Knickerbocker News, August 24, 1978, Sept 19, 1978

77 Knickerbocker News, December 22, 1982

78 Knickerbocker News, April19, 1983

79 Knickerbocker News, Mar 24, 1983

80 Knickerbocker News, December 3, 1980

81 Knickerbocker News, May 13, 1980

82 Knickerbocker News, July 1, 1981

83 Times Union, July 1, 1981

84 Knickerbocker News, Sept 8, 1981

85 Times Union, July 16, 1981

86 Knickerbocker News, March 9, 1982

87 Knickerbocker News, June 12, 1979

88 Knickerbocker News, January 4, 1985

89 Times Union, March 26, 1985

90 Knickerbocker News, April 11, 1985

91 Times Union, April 30, 1985

92 Times Union, May 1, 1990

93 Times Union, March 28, 1988

94 Times Union, March 29, 1988

95 Times Union, July 10, 1990

96 Times Union, Oct 23, 1990

97 Times Union, December 6, 1990

98 Times Union, January 16, 1991

99 Times Union, December 19, 1990

100 Times Union, Oct 2, 1991

101 Times Union, July 2, 1993

102 Times Union, May 11, 1994

103 Times Union, June 2, 1995

104 Newman, Oscar, 1973. Defensible Space: Crime Prevention through Urban Design. Macmillan Publishing Co., New York.

105 Times Union, October 3, 1997

106 Times Union, August 19, 1999

107 Times Union, November 24, 2000

108 Times Union, July 27, 2000

109 Vale, Lawrence, 2000. From the Puritans to the Projects: Public Housing and Public Neighbors. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Mass.

110 Times Union, November 25, 2001

111 Times Union, Oct 30, 2001

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