The mayor is taking aim at corner stores that encourage the drug trade, he announced in his State of the City address.
“They foster an environment of drug activity, buy stolen merchandise, their accounting is creative at best and they clearly have a negative impact on our neighborhoods,” Mayor Gary McCarthy said.
While many corner stores are good, strong businesses, he said, he has a long list of ones that need to be scrutinized.
He plans to meet with each owner, along with the police chief, building inspector and fire chief.
The message will be clear, he said.
“If they don’t play by the rules, I want them out of business,” he said.
He also told the Common Council that the city is prospering — citing many new businesses and specifically thanking a dozen business owners who were in attendance.
“As you look around our city, you can see the results of our efforts,” he said. “However, our work is not nearly done.”
The city government’s finances are “stable” and the city would have a slight surplus for 2013, he said. The books will be closed in March, so an exact figure is not yet available.
2014 state of the city
Read the entire speech by clicking HERE.
On the topic of saving money, he unveiled a new recycling campaign, dubbed “It starts with me.”
The campaign includes a colorful, childlike scribble of the phrase, which McCarthy said could be used to attract children to start recycling.
“The rules, the goal, the benefits of recycling are fairly simple to understand,” he said. “It’s something that a fifth- or sixth-grader gets.”
The city is also getting help from Union Graduate College, McCarthy said.
A team of MBA students, who need to do a capstone project to finish their degree, will work on the city’s HOMES project.
The goal of Homeownership Made Easy in Schenectady is to sell distressed houses here, but it hasn’t been simple to set up.
The marketing part of the project has been running smoothly, with monthly open houses and many houses sold. But selling distressed houses has proved harder, and McCarthy has said that each house seems to have unique challenges that must be solved to make a sale.
Now the graduate students will look at it from a business perspective.
Their teacher, Mel Chudzik, said they will create a marketing plan and a financial plan for the program.
“How can we put these homes and properties back on the tax roll?” he said. “He has a product: homes and properties. To me, it looks like a business.”
Student Molly MacElroy said the team is focusing on streamlining the entire process.
“From initial point of contact to closing,” she said, adding that many potential customers don’t have key information, including city requirements or a list of banks that offer mortgages through the program.
They will complete their work in 10 weeks.
City Council members received McCarthy’s speech enthusiastically, and Councilman Carl Erikson thanked the mayor for creative solutions to long-standing problems.
“Just taking a different perspective to things, thinking in new ways,” he said, citing in particular the new paving system that costs much less than completely rebuilding roads.
In other business, the council said goodbye to Councilwoman Denise Brucker, who moved two weeks ago to her new home in Niskayuna.
As a Niskayuna resident, she is no longer eligible to be a council member. She announced a week ago that she would resign after Monday’s meeting.
McCarthy thanked her for her years of service and handed her a key to the city.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to give you,” he said before revealing it and adding, “in case you ever change your mind and want to get back in.”
Brucker wished the city well, noting how much it has changed since she took office in 1998.
“Really the re-creation of Schenectady,” she said. “It looked a lot different than it does now. The streets are crowded! There’s all these people and restaurants.”
She said she couldn’t take credit for it.
“None of it could be done by one council member, a city council, or an administration, but certainly as a team,” she said.
Then she thanked the business owners who had moved in.
“You make us look good,” she said.
McCarthy recalled Brucker’s “tenacity,” while Erikson praised her experience and Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said Brucker had been a mentor who taught her the job.
“I learn from you every meeting,” she said. “You ask really thoughtful questions. I’m going to miss you terribly.”
Even Councilman Vince Riggi, the only non-Democrat on the council, offered praise to the woman with whom he has often disagreed sharply.
“We both go back a long way — you on the council and me on the other side of the rail,” he said, before thanking her for her work.