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April 26, 2012


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.

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April 26, 2012

The Murder Of Bathhouse #2

The Albany City government shamefacedly tries to hide the looting of our forcibly abandoned treasure.

Okay, I’m really angry, pissed off, about ready to do something bug ugly. I’m almost mad enough to set myself on fire and go hug the mayor. And it looks like I’m not the only one burning up with rage.

This past Easter weekend, April 7 and 8, three large U-Haul rental trucks were seen parked in the gas station parking lot next to Bathhouse #2 down on Fourth Avenue. Over those two days several still unknown persons broke into our forcibly vacated architectural treasure and filled those trucks with copper pipes and wires that they systematically ripped out of the building. Apparently the scumbag thieves were in no hurry, no worries, they took their time and did a very thorough job.

Bathhouse #2 Today After The Looting
Bathhouse #2 Today After The Looting

What makes this DOUBLEY disgusting is that the copper piping was itself a unique historical treasure dating back to 1905 when Bathhouse #2 opened. I’ve heard the pipes under and behind the swimming pool described as an amazing tangle, now I wish I’d had an opportunity to see them for myself. All that thick-walled high quality copper tubing was functioning reliably up to the day the Bathhouse was forcibly closed by Mayor Jerry Jennings at the end of December 2010.

What makes this TRIPLEY disgusting is that the Albany Police did not inform the neighborhood or any media of this crime. But they did tell Jerry. No one else was able to discover news of the looting for ten days. Ten days.

Bathhouse #2 Today After The Looting
The Swimming Pool Inside Bathhouse #2 Before It Was Shut down and Destroyed (Camera Lens Steaming Up)

Now, before anyone starts accusing me of paranoid conspiracy theorizing, let me say that all the usual red flags that indicate clumsy manipulation by our public officials are too visible. We all know how much Jerry hates the Bathhouse, and it’s a matter of public record that He personally condemned the building to Demolition By Neglect. It’s not a far stretch to consider that He must be very pleased by the looting, which effectively ruins the building as a swimming facility.

It is no exaggeration to say that Jerry has a pathological hatred of Bathhouse #2, ever since at least the 1990s when the late Elfrieda Textores publicly humiliated Him into keeping the Bathhouse open. Old timers still remember how Elfrieda recruited some elderly Catholic nuns to berate Him during His call-in radio show. He meekly promised the pious ladies that He would keep it open for them, perhaps the only time He has displayed public humility in His political career.

City Of Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings This Past January
City Of Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings This Past January

As is usual with His Majesty, His lingering shame over that broadcast incident appears to have transferred to the actual bricks and mortar building itself. Not to mention the copper pipes. Remember, this is a guy who likes to destroy Albany’s old buildings. We know that all too well.

If Jennings or one of His minions had, shall we say, encouraged somebody to loot the copper out of Bathhouse #2, well, I can’t prove that. But somebody sure felt safe enough to take their time and do the job thoroughly and very visibly. That sure is making a lot of people think these scumbags had some kind of protection while they looted.

Right next door to the Bathhouse are the offices of the clumsily named St. John’s/St. Ann’s Institute. This important and worthy community service center suddenly lost their water, right in the middle of Easter Sunday. It seems the municipal water supply ran through Bathhouse #2 before it reached the Institute, a former fire house. This sort of series connection of water lines is not unheard of for older buildings in the South End.

For ten days the Institute building had no water, and the City pointedly ignored the cries for help from the Institute and from the Catholic Church across the street. Apparently all the City told them was that the water problem was their fault and their responsibility, and that if they wanted water again they would have to pony up $7000 that they didn’t have ($8000 according to Hearst.) The City made absolutely no offers of assistance to the Institute until the bad publicity about the Bathhouse looting circulated in the community.

St. John's/St. Ann's Institute, Bathhouse #2 At Right
St. John's/St. Ann's Institute, Bathhouse #2 At Right

The St.John’s/St.Ann’s Institute and the recently renamed St. Francis Church across the street are basically the same entity run by the same people, all of whom are part of the Albany Catholic Diocese. The magnificent former firehouse contains the offices of the Institute, several income producing office rentals, and an important food pantry on the ground floor for the forgotten poor in the neighborhood.

Basically the lack of water to the building was shutting down the Institute. You can’t rent office spaces without providing water, and you certainly can’t run a food pantry. If this situation had continued for another ten days we would have had another vacant building on this incredible historic block. One can’t help but wonder if that’s what Jerry had in mind.

Albany county Legislator Luci McKnight
Albany county Legislator
Luci McKnight

Actually, I don’t think He or His minions thought it out that far. I strongly suspect that Jennings deliberately left the Church and the Institute dangling in ignorance for ten days because He did not want to draw attention to Bathhouse #2. He knew how people would react to the unintended consequences of His applied neglect.

Let’s back up a bit. Let me tell you how everybody found out about this shameful looting of this municipal treasure, despite efforts by Jennings to suppress this information. Early Friday morning, April 19, I opened an email from my Albany County Legislator, Luci McKnight, that she had sent out late the night before:

This City of Albany Crime was committed over the Easter Sunday weekend! Apparently 2 large trucks were parked on the South Pearl Street Gas Station lot where thieves broke in and stole all or most of the copper wire and pipes. The APD did not report this incident. I just heard about it today. The St. John's/St. Ann's Catholic Church has been affected because by some crazy means their water system is connected from the bathhouse plumbing system. Pastor Sullivan is so concerned because he has stopped serving food and services to over 200 poor residents. Could the City Reps find out what happened and see if you can get the church’s $7,000 dollar water bill reduced.

Actually 3 trucks according to the cops. Luci sent this email to several people including elected officials, but guess whose name she put first on the header. She knew exactly how I would react to the news. To Luci’s initial email I immediately added my rage:

This is utterly disgusting. The people who conspired to close and abandon the Bathhouse need to be held personally responsible for this theft.

Another of Albany's unique treasures ruined. The theft of these pipes is a fabulous victory by the current City administration against the people of the South End of Albany, and against all the citizens of Albany.

Congratulations, Jerry Jennings! This is exactly what You were hoping for! Victory to You and to Your minions!!

I was in touch with my inner lunatic. Usually I try not to send out crazy emails with multiple exclamation points, but desperate times call for obnoxious measures. I broadcast this to everyone I knew who had an interest in Bathhouse #2 and whose email was in my address book, 65 in all.

Last Day Occupation Of Bathhouse #2 December 2010, Long Before "Occupy" Became Popular
Last Day Occupation Of Bathhouse #2 December 2010, Long Before "Occupy" Became Popular

Almost immediately I received replies, from every single one of them it was clear that no one had heard anything about the looting. Even Historic Albany (HAF) had not been informed of the looting, Director Susan Holland was surprised by the news. Interesting that Jerry went out of His way to keep her uninformed.

The immediate replies were incredulous. “Is this correct? The crime was known to have occurred but not reported?,” was one comment. “The FBI should also be asked to investigate,” was a suggestion, although I don’t see how an entrapment operation against Muslims would help. One gentleman suggested it might be an insurance scam by the City, but that was far-fetched even for me.

By mid morning the news was spreading across the City and beyond, by early afternoon the first online media report had come out. By evening the TV was mentioning it. By the next morning it was front page news in the Hearst Times Union.

I asked Luci several times how she found out about it. All she would tell me was, “It did not come from the APD [Albany Police Department] or anyone connected to the City. My source on this is confidential.” I would guess one of her constituents came forward, someone who had seen the crime happen but did not think it useful to call the police. But she definitely didn’t hear about it from anybody official.

Gas Station Parking Lot Next To Bathhouse #2 On South Pearl Street
Gas Station Parking Lot Next To Bathhouse #2
On South Pearl Street

Yet by His own admission Mayor Jennings knew all about the looting of the Bathhouse as soon as it happened. According to the Hearst Times Union article:

Reached by phone Thursday, Jennings said he knew the bathhouse's piping had been stolen shortly after the theft was reported, but said he only learned Thursday morning that the center [the church’s food pantry], which serves more than 500 meals a week, had been without water for 10 days. Jennings said he was deeply troubled by the news and instructed the head of the City's water department to help any way that was needed.

"I wish someone had reached out to me sooner," Jennings said. "It's one of the more crucial food pantries we have. It needs to be up and running."

Mayor Jennings claims He did not know that the Institute lost water and was facing extinction. Bull crap.

Suddenly He was “troubled” by the Institute having no water, but the looting of the Bathhouse pipes apparently was (and is) of no concern to Him. Other than acknowledgement of the incident we have not heard one single word from Him about the destruction of our public asset. We can only conclude that the looting of this priceless treasures pleases Him very much.

St. Francis Catholic Church, Formerly St. John/St. Ann's Church, Across The Street From Bathhouse #2
St. Francis Catholic Church, Formerly St. John/St. Ann's Church, Across The Street From Bathhouse #2

Of course He was troubled by the Institute’s troubles... but only after they became public knowledge. The imminent shutdown of the food pantry pointed to the theft next door that He didn’t want anyone to know about. And the publicity brought attention to lower Fourth Avenue, a historic neighborhood that He wants to make go away.

At one point this past winter, that one still working water line inside the Bathhouse building froze, cutting off water to the Institute building. The Albany Fire Department had to rouse up the Parks and Recreation Department, which still has official responsibility for the Bathhouse, so they could get inside the building and deal with the busted pipe. This past mild winter was the first time the Bathhouse had not been heated since it opened in 1905, so this problem had never occurred before.

Since this frozen pipe incident was clearly the City’s responsibility, the City provided what they called “a temporary fix” inside the Bathhouse. The persons who keep the books straight for the Church and Institute buildings (who very much wish to remain nameless) were told by the City Water Department that it would be a good idea to arrange to have a new water line laid “so we don’t get this problem again.”

Looking Up Fourth Avenue Toward south Pearl Street, St. Francis Church At Right, St. John's/St. Ann's Institute And Bathhouse #2 At Left
Looking Up Fourth Avenue Toward south Pearl Street,
St. Francis Church At Right, St. John's/St. Ann's Institute And Bathhouse #2 At Left

So the Fire Department, the Water Department and Parks and Recreation had all recently been made aware of the fact that the Institute building water pipes ran through Bathhouse #2 and were thus the City’s legal responsibility. Now, even though each of these City departments are administratively confined to their own “silos” and cannot effectively communicate with the other departments except through their department heads, those heads all answer to the mayor.

Yes, that’s how Albany is administered. Our City administration is arranged like a corporate pyramid that communicates exclusively through the bottleneck at the very top, Jerry Jennings. These departments are not even allowed to share trivial information with each other without first asking permission of their heads, who in turn have to get permission from their boss, CEO Jennings. Seriously.

That’s why those of us who study our moribund City government all say it is still locked in the 19th Century. But in a sense this backwards system in Albany is a vision of the corporate future, our entire nation is slowly and steadily being transformed into a big corporate pyramid like the Albany City administration. Look around the South End of Albany, this is what the entire United States is going to look like in a few more years.

Laying The New Water Line Immediately After The Publicity
Laying The New Water Line Immediately After The Publicity

So at least three City departments had recently informed the mayor about the pipes running through the Bathhouse building... believe me, He always knows what they are up to at all times. He demands that they do. That’s why I don’t believe for one nanosecond that Jerry didn’t know the Institute had lost water for ten days until the knowledge went public.

Allow me to humbly point out that Mayor Jennings would not have paid the slightest attention to the church’s troubles if Luci McKnight hadn’t passed me that information, and if I hadn’t broadcast my rage across the City. That’s one of many ways that individuals can “make a difference” in the face of official applied indifference.

By midday Thursday Roger Green, The Man Of Many Blogs, had posted on his Hearst Times Union blog the very first media report, based on what little information I had for him. Late morning it occurred to me to contact Jordan Carleo-Evangelist at Hearst. He passed the story to his colleague Bryan Fitzgerald, the next morning it was front page news.

Chief Steven Krokoff With Jennings In This Past January
Chief Steven Krokoff With Jennings In This Past January

This incident makes the Albany Police Department (APD) look very, very bad at a time when they can’t afford any more negative publicity, particularly in the South End. I’m hearing people wonder how, if the police are now routinely patrolling the South End, no passing officer noticed three rental trucks parked practically on South Pearl Street being loaded with scrap copper over the course of two days.

If this were the old APD run by one of Chief Steven Krokoff’s predecessors then I would automatically assume that the cops had been instructed to look the other way while the crime was taking place. But I find it hard to believe that Chief Krokoff would follow such an order from a mayor to whom he is not one bit beholden. If this turns out to be a case of police corruption or incompetence then the corruption didn’t come from the top police command.

Vacant 19th Century Brick House At 7 Delaware Street
Vacant 19th Century Brick House At
7 Delaware Street

With my own eyes I’ve been watching the police patrol the neighborhoods of the South End looking for copper thefts from vacant buildings. A little over a year ago I wrote about how the police responded quickly and effectively to stop a copper thieving incident in my neighborhood while it was in progress. At the time I was surprised by their response, I’d never known them to care about such things.

Earlier this year I helped several people clear out and repair a vacant house for occupation located near lower Second Avenue. We noted the patrol car that quietly parked on a nearby corner from the house, I knew the officer was sitting there trying to decide if we were up to no good or not. My companions started to get irrationally nervous, but I was happy to see this guy keeping a watch on vacant houses.

Get this, which happened the other week. While a neighborhood fellow was doing some light masonry work on the exterior of one of my Morton Avenue buildings, unknown to him a kid snuck into the backyard and tried to steal his bicycle. But the kid was observed by an APD detective who was following him! The detective nabbed the kid with the stolen bike and made him confront the victim and apologize, then took him into custody.

I’ve never seen anything like this in the City of Albany and certainly not in the South End, I still can barely believe it. The cops are out there doing their job and doing it well. So how the hell did they miss three trucks parked for two days on South Pearl Street being loaded with scrap copper?

The Chief’s statements to the media appeared to indicate that the APD is in the process of investigating the theft, and I sure hope they track down the buttholes. I’d very much like to see the perps hung from a light pole even though that won’t restore our ruined Bathhouse. But I’m not holding my breath. I do have a feeling that whoever in the APD was responsible for weekend patrols of that neighborhood on Easter weekend is going to swing from a light pole first.

Lester Freeman Performing For The Corporate Media
Lester Freeman Performing For The Corporate Media

And finally, throughout the initial uproar over this irreversible act of public destruction, Common Council Member Lester Freeman displayed his own deep irrational hatred of Bathhouse #2 by doing nothing useful except talk about himself. Remember, Freeman worked very, very hard (for him, he usually doesn’t do much) to shut the Bathhouse forever. It is absolutely no exaggeration to say that Jennings could not have successfully shut down this public facility two Decembers ago without help from Lester.

When Jennings first targeted the Bathhouse, Lester told anyone who would listen that he wanted the facility gone from “his” ward. “I don’t know anyone in the neighborhood who uses that pool,” I heard him say several times with a rare flash of genuine anger. It is perhaps the only time I can recall that he sounded sincere about anything.

Of course, as soon as Lester noticed that people weren’t agreeing with him, he started telling everyone “Nobody wants the pool open more than I do.” But he still couldn’t stop saying out loud that he doesn’t believe in “government handouts” such as Bathhouse #2. I guess he figures that if he wants to move up the social ladder then he has to suck up to the prevailing attitudes of the big neocon powerful who imposed ruin on urban communities like the South End in the first place.

Lester desperately wants everyone to forget his key role in taking our Bathhouse away from us. But hey, if Jerry wants to shut down our pool, who is he to argue with The Man. Whatever His Majesty wants, why, Lester is ready to please Daddy like the obedient minion that he is.

Franklin Street, Showing The Patched Hole Where The New Waterline Was Dug, The Connection Took Less Than One Day
Franklin Street, Showing The Patched Hole Where The New Waterline Was Dug, The Connection Took Less Than One Day

Okay, I’ve said my flame and now I want to go cool off before I start a fire and burn someone. I could jump into a pool of water and sizzle. But... where can I go.

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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:Barbara
Posted on:04/27/2012
I am shocked by some of the remarks I hear from Albanians when something sensational happens in Albany, such as the Kegs and Eggs riot. "What can Jerry Jennings do about.... (whatever the problem is that is clearly the responsibility of a mayor)?" Albany residents really don't expect much, I don't know what they think a mayor IS actually supposed to do all day. Dead bodies in the streets, buildings falling down, just a part of everyday life in a city, why should a mayor trouble himself with that?
I think part of the problem is that people have been brainwashed into believing that everything is about money
and that people without much money have some nerve thinking they can bother politicians with their petty concerns. People who live in Albany pay much more for their government than those who flee to the suburbs, yet they are held in contempt by many of their employees. That is what the Mayor is, an employee of city residents.


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