Can school neighborhoods be improved? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Can school neighborhoods be improved?

June 27, 2007

Albany -- Areas riddled with gang activity near two Albany schools may get a makeover. Leaders are trying to come up with a plan to revitalize the areas by wiping out abandoned homes and dilapidated structures, and building new ones.

Albany High School is in the heart of what is known as CME Rattlers gang territory. "I think there's some apprehension on part of some parents to attend, there's an allegation of tremendous crime, drugs and other activities in that area because of deterioration," said NAACP chief William Wright.

Scared to send kids to school. As were parents of students at Lincoln Magnet school last year, when gang violence was threatened there.

"We've met with the Mayor to talk to them about the city and school board joining forces to improve those neighborhoods and make a better environment around the schools," said School Board Member David Maschke.

Those discussions could lead to a massive revitalization project that could take years and millions of dollars to complete. One option, to tear down old public housing units and build new housing that people will be proud to invest in.

Housing that doesn't harbor criminals. Wright said, "Basically dismantle it, rebuild it, and also relocate those persons who live in there and give them first right to return once you decide it's economically feasible."

And get rid of abandoned structures that practically ask for criminals to find a negative use for them. "To generally upgrade it and make it a better neighborhood for those people that are there now as well as people that will be moving in there," said Maschke.

But stakeholders must invest in the area with dollars, if they want to make an investment in the future of the community. "Have to be willing to come to the table, and they have to come with money. That's the most important thing and then, a different attitude toward that community," said Wright.

A community that provides a safe place for kids to learn.

The Albany Housing Authority Board voted yesterday to postpone all major capital improvements on public housing in that area, until a more defined plan is outlined.

Revitalization talks are only preliminary. It could be three to five years before the project even gets underway, and could cost more than $50 million to complete.

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