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Quality of Life Letter
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April 29, 1999
Mayor Gerald D. Jennings
City Hall
Albany, NY 12207
Dear Jerry:

    All of the neighborhood representatives at the April CANA meeting instructed me to write to you to express neighborhood concerns about two issues that have a negative impact on the quality of life in our neighborhoods and will worsen as spring turns into summer, unless specific aggressive action is taken to intervene.
    First- we are very disappointed at the lack of enforcement of the city’s “Quality of Life” ordinance. Last year, with a great deal of publicity and fanfare, you announced this new law that gives “city officials... the authority to issue APPEARANCE TICKETS in connection with quality of life violators”. Since then, a city official was quoted in the newspaper saying that the city wasn’t enforcing the appearance ticket procedure, because the city “would rather rely on voluntary compliance.” Not only does voluntary compliance not work- which is why appearance tickets were necessary in the first place- but public announcements like this only serve to exacerbate the problems in the neighborhoods, as property owners, and more often tenants, know that they face no public sanction for their anti-neighborhood behavior. We discussed this matter with representatives of the police department at the same recent meeting, and were told that several officers were sued for issuing appearance tickets. Of course, we are concerned about the possible chilling effect this lawsuit will have on other city representatives who are charged with addressing this issue, and hope that the city will vigorously defend the officers in question and the appearance ticket process.
    We were told that the suit alleges that police officers are not qualified to identify “excessive” trash- only DGS workers receive training in this area. Unfortunately, in our experience, DGS workers do not issue appearance tickets either. They rely on the long- standing system of sending out a truck in response to a complaint, picking up the trash and billing the landlord. This response does not get to the heart of the matter, as it may not penalize the party actually responsible for the mess. If DGS workers are actually the ones qualified to identify violations of this law, it is imperative that they be directed to do so if we are ever going to see a change in the behavior of the people responsible for trashing our city. We can have no hope of attracting newcomers to our neighborhoods if they are strewn with trash.
CANA QOL Letter    page 2

The second Quality of Life issue that needs immediate attention as summer approaches is the problem of loud auto sound systems. In the past, police officers could effectively deal with resonating or cutout mufflers by ticketing offender. Tickets and stiff fines made it too expensive for drivers to keep up with that faddish behave and many young people removed their loud muffler systems as a result. We believe that a similar strategy would effectively deal with the current boom box problem.
    Asst. Chief Epting and Sergeant Chambers told us that the Department has only 3 decibel counters, and that they are only being put into service this spring with appropriate calibration to insure that the tickets will stand court challenge. We support aggressive use the existing equipment, and fully believe that more patrol cars should be so equipped. There is no doubt, based on the level of sound abuse that we notice, income from fines would offset the cost of additional equipment many times over, if all officers are diligent about ticketing offenders.
    We greatly appreciate any support you can give to these suggested responses to ongoing problems, particularly since the impact of each of these issues will increase with the temperatures this summer. With all city agencies and neighbors working together to improve the quality of live, we hope to nip these problems in the bud and make Albany a much more pleasant place to live and work.


                                Marggie Skinner
                                CANA Chair

cc: Deputy Mayor Phil Calderone
Chief Tuffy
Commissioner Bruce
Members of the Common Council