The Only Advertisement You Will Ever See On This Site!

Jackson's Computer Services

Let The Wife Take Care Of Your Computer Needs







March 25 2010


A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

Click on this link to add this site to your RSS feed.

Now With Comments! Check the bottom of the page and try them out.

March 25, 2010

David Brown Hates Swimming Pools

In the name of profit the CEO of the Capital District YMCA is waging war against the City of Albany

* * UPDATE * *: Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings has announced that He wants to take over the Washington Avenue building from David Brown, who appears to be going along with Jerry's idea to salvage his PR disaster. We’ll see how that goes.

David Brown, the President and CEO of the Capital District Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) has big plans. He wants to update his organization’s sport and exercise facilities and provide them with more parking spaces. And he has repeatedly stated that he wants, more that anything else, to enhance the Y’s bottom line.

Unfortunately, the Guilderland resident wants to do what suburbanites are always trying to do. Last December 20 he announced to the media that he has joined the crowd of speculators and interlopers who hate our urban community. He declared that he wants to demolish the downtown Albany YMCA building on Washington Avenue and replace it with a parking lot, or a parking garage.

Oh, and he added that someday he’d like to put a pared down little YMCA next to the parking lot, something a lot like those storefront exercise facilities for office workers. Yes, he wants to suburbanize Albany and turn the Capital District YMCA into a clone of Curves or Gold’s. But it appears that he has a second personal agenda. He wants to eliminate the YMCA’s swimming pools as much as he can.

Albany YMCA Building On Washington Avenue
Albany YMCA Building On Washington Avenue

Brown’s proclamation came on the heels of the Fort Orange Club Republicans who want to tear down a perfectly good, upscale ready for immediate occupation brick building built in 1855 located a short walk down Washington Avenue. Yes, they want to turn it into a parking lot. That’s all suburbanites ever want to do, tear down our City and replace it with parking lots.

The problem with these suburbanites is that they think that buildings are disposable, like coffee cups, plastic bags or immigrant workers. They are incapable of seeing the difference between a 150 year old brick building that helps define an urban streetscape, and a worthless cinder block strip mall squatting in the middle of a parking lot.

Admittedly the Washington Avenue YMCA building is ugly as sin, typical mid 20th century lousy architecture. Ideally the Y building ought to be replaced with one that is attractive and energy efficient, or at least the present building should be upgraded to a minimum standard. But that doesn’t mean Brown has a right to waltz into our City and tell us that we would be better off with fewer buildings and more parking lots. Who the hell does he think he is?

Albany YMCA Closure Protest, March 16, 2010
Albany YMCA Closure Protest, March 16, 2010

As if declaring war on our City wasn’t bad enough, Brown announced special offer reduced price memberships in the YMCA for a limited time only. Clearly he was hoping to take advantage of his negative publicity to turn a quick buck. After attacking our City he wants our money. That really made me angry.

So I decided to give this arrogant dumb ass suburbanite a little piece of my mind, a warning shot across his bow, so to speak. Here’s the email I carefully composed in a fit of rage on December 30 and fired off to him:

Mr. Brown:

So why should we take advantage of your special offers? You people have already decided to shut down our deliberately starved urban YMCA on Washington Avenue so you can pocket more money with your suburban outlets.

This issue of making money was so important to you when you built the Guilderland YMCA that you demanded that Pine Bush Preserve be sacrificed for your bottom line. As far as you were concerned nothing stood in the way of your new Guilderland Y, not even dedicated preserve land. You only caved in and dropped the drive to take Pine Bush Preserve because you finally realized that Save the Pine Bush was ready willing and able to tie you up in court for a decade.

So Mr. Brown, why don't you show similar dedication to keeping open our urban YMCA? Are we in Albany are not good enough for you?

I am am sick and tired of people like you, Mr. Brown. Suburbanites like you mismanage the US Postal Service, people like you occupy the Fort Orange Club. You people imagine yourselves as warriors out to destroy our urban community, as apostles of sprawl and crusaders for suburbanization.

This is our City, this is our YMCA. You are the caretaker of our YMCA. We do not give you permission to destroy our YMCA. Put that thought in your mind and keep it there.

-Daniel W. Van Riper

Plus I provided a couple of links to articles about how Save The Pine Bush fought the YMCA to a standstill in Guilderland back in the 1990s. Brown’s organization got their big, shiny new YMCA built, but they were forced to give up their drive to take and destroy Pine Bush Preserve. By the way, this nice new Y out on Route 20 with it’s big, beautiful swimming pool is the one Guilderland resident David Brown and his family are most likely to regularly use.

Guilderland YMCAAlbany YMCA Closure Protest, March 16, 2010
Guilderland YMCA

Predictably, Brown chose not to address any of the issues I raised in my email and with his reply instead tried to divert this into trivialities:

Thanks for your note. I’m not a member of Fort Orange and although I appreciate your passion for the Albany YMCA, your comments and personal attack on me are mis directed. I’ve given my professional life to helping inner city youth since I am one myself, you should look at our Achievers program. I’m not even going to dignify any of your other comments with a response because you are so far off base it is sad. It is unfortunate that you would form an opinion without talking with me or even getting to know me and to attack my character on an email blast is cowardly. If you would ever like to sit face to face, man to man, I would invite you to do that with me. I’m sure you won’t be so tough if we are face to face. Everything you wrote is false and what is even sadder, is your talking all this noise and you are not even a member.

I’m an anonymous coward? I’ll just mention that Brown could plainly see by the header that I had cc’d this email to more than 35 people, mostly community leaders of various sorts, and leave it at that. The Wife leapt to my defense with a more polite sounding reply to Brown. But again, in his reply to her the CEO pretended to be ignorant of the issues.

CEO David Brown
CEO David Brown

Now, there’s an important little detail that pops out here. I automatically assumed, as the CEO of a local division of a big international corporation, that he had been born into the hereditary ruling class. I did not know at the time that I sent the email that David Brown is African American, a black guy. I only found that out in early January.

That explains the threatening bluster of Brown’s reply (“I’m sure you won’t be so tough if we are face to face...”) If I had known he was a black guy I certainly would not have repeatedly used the phrase “you people.” That’s a set of buttons I don’t ever knowingly push.

Oh well, my bad. Now that it is March everyone knows that Brown never had any intention of keeping our YMCA open. Once again, with my first out of the gate angry ranting email, I am proud to say that I was ahead of the curve on this issue. I had no trouble seeing that Brown’s destructive plans were a done deal and nothing short of direct confrontation could stop him.

Am I prescient, can I read minds and predict the future? Nah. I’ve seen plenty of clowns like Brown over the years, arrogant, manipulative, full of self importance. Guys (and gals) like him reign supreme inside their own little corporate dictatorships, so they assume the outside world will automatically bow and scrape to their horsecrap. And they always throw tantrums when reality hits them square in the ego.

Through early January Brown appeared at a series of “informational” meetings with downtown Albany citizens. I caught him at the Council of Albany Neighborhood Association (CANA) meeting, where he repeated his standard song and dance routine for the benefit of the neighborhood activists. He pretty much gave us the same spiel he had given a more general crowd of 400 or so the night before.

The Wife and I sat ourselves down front and center right in front of the room. And Brown sat down next to The Wife, not knowing who we were. Both of us looked at the impatient, angry expression on his face and quietly decided not to introduce ourselves.

From ACT, David Brown Sits Down Next To The Wife
From ACT, David Brown Sits Down Next To The Wife

When his turn came to speak, Brown displayed his characteristic belligerent manner, basically justifying his right to do anything he wants and practically daring us to challenge him. “i don’t have to do this,” he snarled at us. “I can close it right now. I can do that.” The mostly white middle aged audience appeared temporarily taken aback by his attitude.

But then he had to answer questions from the representatives. This was not, he discovered to his consternation, the usual group of easily befuddled citizens. More than once over the years I have heard astonished public figures say, after making presentations to both bodies on the same topic, that the CANA representatives are much better informed and ask way better questions than do the elected members of the Common Council.

The CANA reps quickly tore up some of Brown’s, er, verbal misrepresentations. For instance, he proclaimed matter of factly that “there are three YMCA facilities in the City of Albany. This is too many for a market of this size.”

Huh? What’s he talking about? There’s the Washington Avenue facility, and the smaller newer facility in North Albany, but where’s the third one? Well, it turns out that there’s a little YMCA sponsored health club buried somewhere deep underground in the State Plaza under the Capitol. Sort of like a Curves or Gold’s Gym.

It took several more questioners to punch through Brown’s evasions, but it turns out that this storefront under the Capital has about 200 members. Brown was forced finally to admit that most if not all of these 200 members do not live in the City of Albany. He then told us that, as of early January, the main facility on Washington Avenue had 2400 members, and the North Albany, he claimed, had 2000.

Albany Save The Y RallyFrom ACT, David Brown Sits Down Next To The Wife
Albany Save The Y Rally

What it comes down to is that Brown wants the smaller newer Y building in North Albany to be the sole facility for the City. It has a much smaller swimming pool - four swimming lanes instead of six - and it doesn’t have a hot pool, which is used by folks who need physical therapy or for others who want to warm up before working out. North Albany does have a much better running track, Washington Avenue was not built with running in mind.

So here’s what Brown is trying to shove down our throats. If we dismiss the storefront under the Capital as irrelevant, which it is, that means North Albany will have to serve the entire Y membership of the City of Albany. Using Brown’s numbers, that would be 2400 plus 2000 plus about 750 new members since January 1st. That means that North Albany will serve a total of 6150 members from now on.

What’s wrong with this picture? North Albany is smaller than Washington Avenue, it could never handle that many members. Obviously Brown wants us to drive cars to his suburban YMCA buildings. He’s just like the US Postal Corporation clowns who are shutting down our neighborhood post offices and who keep telling us to drive 30 - 40 minutes out to New Karner Road or Colonie Center Maul to buy stamps from now on.

Does this save his corporation money? A commenter in Mansion News and Notes has pointed out that the Washington Avenue building is assessed by the City at $3,432,600. Since the Capital District YMCA is a non profit, they get a three and a half million dollar write-off on their taxes. That will be gone if they close the building. So what the hell is Brown trying to do?

Former Mayoral Candidate Corey Ellis At The Save The Albany YMCA RallyAlbany Save The Y RallyFrom ACT, David Brown Sits Down Next To The Wife
Former Mayoral Candidate Corey Ellis At The Save The Albany YMCA Rally

Let’s look at what Brown did in Schenectady. He’s shutting down the venerable Schenectady YMCA building and had a shiny new one built partly at taxpayer expense. The new one does not have a swimming pool. From a recent Business Review article:

The new Y won’t have a swimming pool or racquetball court, but it does have an NCAA regulation-sized basketball court, small running track, cardio machines, aerobics studio, locker rooms, steam room and sauna... There’s also a teen center, multi-purpose rooms and administrative offices.

No swimming pool but a big basketball court. Brown has repeatedly said that he considers swimming pools too expensive. But at the same time he considers himself one fine excellent basketball player who briefly considered turning pro. Without question Brown is imposing his personal preferences on the community.

Speaking of money, the North Albany YMCA building was built in the 1990s as part of the federally funded housing initiatives in that part of town. Basically the Hope 6 grants came with a boatload of conditions, among them a requirement that the money be used to create community centers. The Capital District YMCA was brought in and provided with public money so that these requirements could be conveniently fulfilled.

Perhaps I’m sounding like a wild eyed radical here, but I think that if public money is being used on a private project then the privateers need to be held publicly accountable. That’s my tax dollars you’re spending, you arrogant neocon. That alone precludes your “right” to tear down my community anytime you feel like destroying a City.

North Albany YMCA
North Albany YMCA

Shortly after Brown announced his assault on our City, he tempered his threats by saying that if the community could come up with enough new memberships to the YMCA then he would reconsider tearing down the Washington Avenue building. So at the beginning of this year some civic minded citizens began a drive to keep the Y open by soliciting new memberships.

The membership drive has been coordinated by Chris Mercogliano of the Free School in the Mansion neighborhood, which is directly across Lincoln Park from my neighborhood. Basically, Chris played it straight, conducting the campaign as if David Brown was being sincere in his promises. By early March the group managed to bring in about 750 new memberships with promise of more to come.

You see, the Free School often uses the Washington Avenue building for their own physical education requirements, just as they use Bathhouse #2 down on Fourth Avenue near South Pearl Street along with other public facilities. Nothing unusual about that, we see schools of all sorts increasingly having their physical education facility requirements met by being given access to publicly funded facilities.

For example, the North Albany Y building was built to be used by the students of a nearby public school. This makes me wonder just how many of the alleged 2000 members of the North Albany Y are actually the nearby student population rather than paid memberships. Is this another one of Brown’s misrepresentations?

Chris Mercogliano At The RallyNorth Albany YMCA
Chris Mercogliano At The Rally

Self interest aside, Mr. Mercogliano had another reason to work to Save The Y on Washington Avenue. “Whenever an individual or a corporation is violating its responsibility for the public good,” Chris wrote, “it is important for as many of us as possible to tell them to stop and do the right thing instead.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

As early as late January the passion and effectiveness of the citizen’s campaign to increase YMCA memberships in the City of Albany was starting to make Brown nervous. I think it is pretty obvious that Brown did not expect that his stated conditions would actually be met by the community. To his consternation, all he has done is demonstrate that our community is an untapped market that he failed to recognize.

No doubt Brown made this gross public relations miscalculation because he couldn’t get past his own sneering contempt for our City. His typical suburbanite attitude did not allow him to admit that maybe, just maybe the citizens of Albany have a lot of pride. And his hardcore corporate orientation did not allow him to see the untapped financial potential of our community.

So the Washington Avenue YMCA building will sit vacant after April 1st [See UPDATE Above] all because some arrogant, self centered corporate CEO hates swimming pools. And eventually he will have the building torn down because our City doesn’t have enough parking lots to suit his taste.

But David Brown doesn’t care. Out in Guilderland where he and his family live there’s plenty of parking. If he or any of his family want to go swimming near their house, why, there’s a new really nice, big and well maintained YMCA facility for them to enjoy. Too bad you can only get there by driving a car.

Prior Post * * * Next Post


If you are having difficulties posting a comment, please email Daniel Van Riper. We are experimenting with our spam filters, and we do not want to exclude any legitimate commenters, just spammers!

Posted by: Gabe
Posted on: 03/27/2010
Interesting. I had kind of hoped that U Albany would take it over!

Posted by: annon
Posted on: 04/01/2010
I can't imagine that somebody couldn't make a few dollars operating a fitness club there, and not a multinational corporation. Couldn't somebody, possibly with a partnership with the city for cheap bonding, keep the fitness center up and running?

Add a comment, if you like :

Posted by
Email (required
will not be posted )
Web (optional)


Are You Human? To post this comment please answer this question!

What is one plus one?
Please type the answer as a number (not as a word) here:

Your commment will only post if you answer the question correctly!

- Did you answer the question "What is one plus one" above?

You will lose your comment unless you answer the question correctly!

Prior Post * * * Next Post

This site maintained by Lynne Jackson of Jackson's Computer Services.