Forty years in Albany; two score!

Shall the city of Albany accept the offer of Mr. Andrew Carnegie of $150,000 for public library purposes?

Albany.land trustIt had totally slipped my mind that I have lived for forty years in Albany, NY. I moved to an apartment on the corner of Morris and Ontario Streets in August 1979 My intention was to attend graduate school at SUNY Albany in Public Administration.

I spent one year in grad school, pretty much hating it for a variety of reasons. Working at FantaCo, the comic book store, was meant to be a summer job; it turned out to be 8.5 years. After a little over a year at a not-great insurance job, I went back to UAlbany, this time to library school.

I worked for the NY Small Business Development Center for 26.7 years, in five different spaces. This included two in the same building, and one in Corporate (frickin’) Woods, also the general locale of the insurance job.

Since I lived in close to a dozen places in my first two decades here, my friends told me they put my information in their address books in pencil. I resided on both Morris Street in the Pine Hills section, and on Lancaster Street, off of Lark, two different times. The nice two-family house where I lived in the West Hill section of town now has a red X on it.

Before I moved to Albany, I resided in Schenectady, in the same metropolitan area. Though less than 20 miles apart, they’re quite different places. Schenectady has had Democratic mayors and Republican mayors.

1902

Forty years in Albany means that Erastus Corning 2nd, “the longest-serving mayor of a major American city,” was still running the show. The Democrats have been in control for nearly a century, and the Republicans for the previous 30 years before that. I blame the patroons.

In 2007, the city voted to create a much more robust library system. This was in stark contrast to a century earlier. From the Library Journal, volume 27, Nov 1902, under NEW YORK STATE LIBRARY SCHOOL, CALENDAR, 17TH SCHOOL YEAR, 19O2-3, NOTES AND NEWS:

“The students have been interested in watching the Carnegie library campaign, which culminated on election day, Nov. 4. The following question was submitted to the people on a separate ballot: Shall the city of Albany accept the offer of Mr. Andrew Carnegie of $150,000 for public library purposes?

“The offer was rejected by a majority of 5056. There were 7152 votes for and 12,208 votes against the proposition, 23,334 being the total city vote cast for Governor. Only four out of 19 wards gave a majority for the library.”

Albany was one of the relatively few cities in the US that rejected a Carnegie library because they didn’t want the comparatively small cost of maintenance. So Albany has evolved somewhat.

Sometimes, my wife asks where we might move to if ever that was our choice. I dunno. Right now, I’m within three blocks of a pharmacy, a grocery store, a library branch, a police station, a half dozen restaurants, and at least four bus lines. Whatever its flaws – and there are still a few – Albany is still home.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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