Synopsis of Paul Bray's remarks at the Neighborhood Works Conference on
Saturday, November 18, 2000. Paul Bray was the keynote speaker, and is
President of the Albany Roundtable.
Summary of Keynote Address by Paul M. Bray
Jane Jacobs-”A city is a problem in organized complexity”.
Ray Oldenburg-”The problem with living in a suburb is that
everything that needs to be done has been done. There is no room
for collective effort. There is nothing there that is ours.
Everything in the subdivision is either yours or mine or the
road’s. That’s it. And wherever there is real community there
has to be something that is ours.”
The Keynote address was in three sections:
I. Cities need to define themselves based on their assets and
Albany with a wealth of assets can define itself as:
1. a great American historic city like Boston or Charleston.
Albany is the second oldest continuous settlement in America and
has had a role in almost every epoch in American history from
European settlement to the modern state which Rockefeller helped
define when he was Governor. Albany has outstanding architecture
and a good historic fabric. What is missing is that its
officials lack a sense of history and there is little or no
heritage tourism economy.
2. an Education City with its education tradition and diversity
of good quality educational institutions.
3. a green city with Washington Park, Lincoln Park and nature
preserves like the Pine Bush, Tivoli, Corning Preserve and
Stevens Farm. By liking Albany’s parks, preserves and greenways,
making city streets more bicycle and pedestrian friendly,
improving public transit, engaging the citizenry to establish
state of the art recycling and use of renewables for example from
our power providers and aggressively carrying out civic projects
like tree planting, Albany could be the greenest of cities.
4. a major Capital City serving a showcase of the best of New
York State and as a meeting place for the culture and commerce of
5. a city of well-knit neighborhoods with the highest quality of
II. Four elements for a successful 21st century city were
1. Urban culture which includes Both the story of man’s
attainments over time in Albany and each citizen’s personal and
family history in Albany. Having urban culture of place
highlighted inspires and energizes civic life.
2. Linkages both physical like greenways and heritage trails and
institutional like beneficial arrangements between educational
institutions and neighborhoods, between independent business and
between cultural institutions.
3. Civic engagement or having an informed citizenry participating
in civic life and contributing to Albany.
4. Public realm or what is “ours” in Albany
III. Finally, the dark clouds over Albany’s future were
discussed. This are: a. that there is an increase in
deteriorating buildings that will lead to the spreading of urban
blight and the primary solution being advanced seems to be
demolition that creates blight conditions, and b. too many one
time committed people to Albany and urban living have moved from
Albany or are seriously contemplating selling their Albany home.
What is missing in Albany is citizen engagement and belief that
quality of life matters can be improved. In addition, the
partnerships like between colleges and neighborhoods happening in
other cities are not happening in Albany.
City Hall can’t do it alone although one can expect that money
will be spread around before the election next year. When it
comes to the essentials like maintaining housing stock, getting a
positive message out about livability in Albany, maintaining
safety on the streets and improving our schools, City Hall needs
to encourage and foster civic engagement.
In effect, the Mayor’s failure to make his appointments to the
Urban Cultural Park Advisory Committee as called for in local law
and his failure to continue the Albany Educationway Committee are
indicative a city that wants to discourage citizen engagement.
The Keynote concluded with the recommendation of the book The
Good City and The Good Life by Daniel Kemmis, former Mayor of the
City of Missoula, Montana.