How Do Albany Mayoral Primary Results Impact UAlbany?
Kathy Sheehan will continue working with the University at Albany as the city mayor should heavy Democratic enrollment signal a November victory.
After her primary win against Frank Commisso Jr. and Carolyn McLaughlin in the city’s Democratic primary, Sheehan said Tuesday that she hopes to build on partnerships with the university during a second-term.
Sheehan during the campaign touted overhauling a half-century-plus zoning code, a change which allows the university to redevelop its downtown properties. This includes the $60 million Schuyler Building renovation to house the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences within five to seven years.
Last August, she and former UAlbany President Robert Jones announced a city-university study aimed at finding ways to revitalize the downtown corridor neighborhood.
“I know that a lot of times in a lot of the rhetoric in this campaign focused on the non-for-profits and the fact that they don’t pay their fair share in property taxes,” said Sheehan. “But I think that we also have to recognize that UAlbany is an asset and that the students represent a strong consumer force here in the City of Albany.”
At $600 million, UAlbany is the city’s fourth highest valued tax-exempt property, according to data collected by The Times Union. Commisso, a Common Council member, campaigned on auditing all tax-exempt nonprofits to find potential areas of revenue growth.
The Albany Student Press reached out to the Commisso campaign for comment, but received no response at press time.
Throughout the primary, the three candidates butted heads on taxes, budgeting, poverty, and safety.
Emily Vaculik, a senior political science student, has been involved in the race since the beginning. Vaculik has supported Commisso since he announced his mayoral run in March.
Vaculik, who has lived in Pine Hills since her junior year, is concerned with urban decay. Last year, she skipped renting one of her top apartment picks because it was located next to an abandoned building. There are roughly 1,000 abandoned buildings in Albany.
“I’ve been living in Albany for the last four years and I’ve seen the crime in my own neighborhood [for the last two years],” she said. “I’ve just seen abandoned buildings all over town and those are just two examples of things I knew needed to change.”
Albany has received a recent surge in crime, especially gun violence, within the last year. For the first half of 2017, shootings have risen in comparison to the same time last year.
Sheehan, Commisso, and McLaughlin sparred over issues such as crime during the three debates, one of which was at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy on Sep. 6.
“You could tell by the back-and-forth that she clearly was the most qualified,” said Michaela Pickett, president of Kappa Alpha Pi pre-law fraternity. “She knew what she was talking about.”
Pickett interned in the mayor’s office over the summer, and much of her fraternity has kept close ties with Sheehan. Over the last two weeks, Pickett canvassed across the city for Sheehan’s re-election campaign.
Unlike Vaculik, Pickett believes that Sheehan’s re-election will benefit off campus students, especially those living in out-of-code apartments. Sheehan plans to revamp the Department of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance, a task aimed at pushing residents to report code violations.
Beyond off-campus commuters, pending city decisions could impact Alumni Quad students. With the downtown corridor study ongoing, potential solutions to reduce parking constraints remain unclear. With less than 80 spaces on Alumni Quad, parking is at max capacity most weeknights.
Sheehan hopes to push public transportation, such as bike-sharing and ride-sharing rather than opening up an additional lot.
“I would say: as we explore options for increasing parking around Alumni [Quad], the two things we’re going to take into serious consideration are what kind of development that the City does and doesn’t want to see,” said Jordan Carleo Evangelist, UAlbany director of Community Relations.