SCHENECTADY — Mayor Gary McCarthy said the city is on the upswing.
But progress is a team effort, he said, and success requires a broad coalition of community partners.
“Schenectady is viewed as a place worth investing in,” McCarthy said. “Our stewardship of this community must not be taken lightly, and the opportunity to lead places a significant responsibility on us.”
McCarthy, a Democrat, formally announced his bid for a third term on Tuesday.
He said he has fulfilled his campaign promises since first seeking the office in 2011, having successfully wrangled the number of city-owned distressed properties under control, initiated a partnership between the public and private sector as part of an innovative home-buying program and supporting a unified economic development strategy.
All of the above, he said, has led to four years of consecutive tax cuts for city residents, as well as a 36-percent drop in crime over the past decade and a record number of sales of distressed homes last year.
“Good things are happening in Schenectady and people are seeing that,” McCarthy said.
‘WORTH INVESTING IN’
McCarthy pointed at $100 million worth of active downtown projects as evidence that the city is undergoing a “renaissance” under his leadership.
Those investments are joined by $150 million worth of projects in the city’s neighborhoods, including the $13 million Boys & Girls Club at Quackenbush Park and the Community Builders’ Hamilton Hill project, as well as the new Mont Pleasant Library and Joseph L. Allen Apartments.
McCarthy also listed a number of infrastructure projects his administration has tackled, including the pending replacement of Kings Road Bridge, a pump station in the city’s Stockade neighborhood and planned improvements at Orchard Park this summer.
He pointed at economic workforce initiatives under the city’s affirmative action office which have served 65 low-income residents by offering training and helping them transition into the workforce.
If elected to a third term in November, he said, he would make implementation of the Smart Cities initiative a key priority, which would include deployment of high-speed internet across the city, as well as the installation of electric charging stations.
McCarthy faces a Democratic primary challenge from Thearse McCalmon, a teacher and activist, on June 25.
Republicans are not running a candidate.
McCarthy delivered his comments in the City Hall rotunda surrounded by numerous city department heads and at least three members of the City Council: Council President Ed Kosiur, Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas and Marion Porterfield.
While Porterfield said City Council members do not explicitly make endorsements, she said she supports McCarthy's bid for re-election.
“I think things have improved largely,” Porterfield said after the event.
Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford also stopped short of offering a direct endorsement.
“We have a very good working relationship,” Clifford said of McCarthy. “His full support of the Schenectady Police Department is not only important to me, but important to the city as a whole in keeping people safe.”
Jeff Stark, president of the Greater Capital Region Building & Construction Trades Council, said McCarthy has been at the right place and the right time to oversee an influx of investment into the city.
He pinned the development of Mohawk Harbor and Rivers Casino & Resort directly to McCarthy’s leadership.
“That would not have happened without Gary’s direct influence,” he said. “He worked this plan. He took this opportunity and made the most of it.”
Margaret King, a former City Council president, called McCarthy a “key player” in the city’s progress.
McCarthy also received early endorsements from the two state assemblymen representing the city: Phil Steck, D-Colonie, and Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, who hosted the hour-long event and referred to the mayor as a friend.
“Gary’s a partner for progress,” Santabarbara said.
Steck called McCarthy “the very best executive I’ve ever worked with in government,” citing his knowledge of local government issues and running a city with limited financial resources.
McCalmon has criticized McCarthy for failing to address the needs of the city's low-income residents, frustrations she said surfaced repeatedly as she collected signatures for ballot access this winter.
“He’s ignoring the communities,” McCalmon said in an interview. “There’s a lot that needs to be done and he’s paying too much attention to downtown. He’s fixing what is already fixed. There are so many needs in the communities that are being ignored.”
She said the city should take steps to combat police brutality and become a sanctuary city.
Without naming McCalmon directly, Steck took at a shot at “the opposition” on Tuesday, contending those areas are outside of the scope of city government.
“The opposition is basically calling on this mayor to solve all the social ills of our society,” Steck said. “That’s not the job of the mayor. Quite frankly, it’s the job of your state legislators, your governor, your president and your Congress. The mayor does not have the resources and cannot raise the revenue the way we can to address all of those issues.”
Paul Paterakis, campaign secretary for the McCalmon campaign, fired back on Twitter.
"I strongly believe being mayor is the public post in which you have the greatest opportunity to change peoples' lives for the better,” he wrote, quoting former Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes. “People live in cities, not states or nations. As a mayor, you are connected directly to citizens.”
The McCalmon campaign also criticized the McCarthy campaign for filing general objections to McCalmon’s Democratic petition signatures at the Schenectady County Board of Elections on Monday.
McCalmon’s campaign said they filed over 900 signatures last week, far surpassing the threshold of 575.
Election officials would need to invalidate 328 signatures to bounce McCalmon from the ballot.
“This odious process is enacted when a candidate does not have a record or platform they can stand on,” said the McCalmon campaign in a news release. “It’s a disruption of the democratic process to deny voters a choice for who their next mayor will be.”
McCarthy shrugged off the criticism.
McCalmon also aims to obtain the Working Families Party line, and said she has submitted enough signatures to run in that party's primary, which means she mean could remain on the ballot for the general election in November even if she falls short in the Democratic primary.
She criticized McCarthy for accepting the Conservative Party line, which she said contradicts Democratic issues and policies.
“He’s not a true Democrat,” McCalmon said. “He’s a Democrat because he has to be in Schenectady.”
McCarthy countered, “Is she opposed to fiscal restraint? Or doesn’t want to lower taxes? It doesn’t make sense.”