The city of Troy has a new mayor who is keeping a positive outlook despite some financial and structural problems in the Collar City.
Up until election day, Madden had never imagined himself as mayor of his beloved Collar City. "Running for mayor, running for any elected office just wasn't on my five-year horizon. I loved the job I was doing, I did good work, I helped people, I changed people's lives, I worked with a great staff, and politics just seemed as though it wasn't for me, didn't interest me."
Madden spent 30 years at TRIP — the Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, where he says by trial and error he learned several "techniques" that helped him in his leadership role. He's brought them to City Hall. And put them to practice almost immediately. "What I inherited goes back well beyond Mayor Rosamilia's administration. We've been on a certain glide path for a number of years, a number of decades really, and these are problems that all of the mayors that preceded me struggled with, and I will pick up that struggle. I'm coming in with a little bit different approach in that I have more of a business background than I think my predecessors did, and so I tend to look out beyond election cycles. I tend to look at numbers, project numbers over a 3-to-5-year horizon, and make decisions based on how those decisions will play out, not just in the next year or two, but in the next 4 or 5, 6 years."
Without pointing a finger, Madden, a Democrat, says short-term decisions made over many administrations have not played out well for Troy. He was aware of Troy's precarious financial position before he announced his candidacy, and identifies one shortfall, the city finance office, which: "...has 26 percent fewer people today than it did in the year 2000, yet the responsibilities are greater... and to me, that makes little sense. We're a financially troubled corporation. We need the best and smartest people we can, looking at our finances, making projections, analyzing our decisions, yet we've cut year after year in that department."
Madden says it will time and hard decisions to fix the problems, which he assures will be done in transparent fashion with open dialogue. Just days into his term, the new mayor faced a major challenge: that water main break in Lansingburgh that flooded streets with millions of gallons of water and debris. The ancient line affected the water supply of municipalities beyond Troy. "This particular line is a tricky line to repair because of the way it was constructed. It's a steel-riveted pipe. They're harder to repair than the cast-iron pipes or the ductile-iron pipes. It is imperative for us to try to move quickly to replace this line. We have coincidentally, before this break, had begun the process of applying for funding to replace this line. It's about 3,700 linear feet. It's a 33-inch main. It carries a lot of water and carries essentially half of the water supply to our system."
Madden and his team were meeting Friday with the Environmental Facilities Corporation to determine what sort of assistance might be available from the state. His trial-and-error strategy came into play at one point during the water crisis that left the towns of Waterford and Halfmoon high and dry: "There's an old line that used to run over the bridge, and then some years later, a line was dug under the river bed. And we've been using the under the riverbed line all along to service Waterford and Halfmoon. We thought if we opened the other line across the bridge that that would increase the water flow. But in fact, both of those lines are fed off the same 16-inch line on our side of the river. So you don't increase water volume by opening a second line off of the same 16-inch feeder line. It's just a matter of volume of water. It wasn't a blockage or anything like that. There wasn't enough volume to result in an increased flow by opening that second line."
The pipe broke in Lansingburgh, which has struggled with other issues, including arson and other crime. Madden has a comprehensive plan for the ‘burgh and the other diverse neighborhoods in the city. "And it will lay out some initiatives, some directives for various neighborhoods. And I'd like to take the piece that addresses Lansingburgh and move that one forward as quickly as we can. Start marshalling the resources that we can. We're not going to be able to inject with public funds enough revenues to address all of the issues in any of the neighborhoods in our city. But we can, with the help of this plan, strategically make those investments and leverage private investments, much as we did in our downtown."
Madden says Troy's neighborhoods offer everything but 5 acres and a picket fence. He's determined to keep them from crumbling and plans to continue to build on the success of Troy's downtown revitalization and its many business success stories. "The Farmers’ Market is a stunning success. This past Saturday I was down there and I couldn't find a parking place. And I was sort of muttering under my breath, 'argggh I can't find parking,' then I realized how good a problem that is to have in an urban setting on a Saturday morning. Downtown is very exciting and I'm thrilled with what's happening down there. We of course will continue to support that, but that's largely driven at this point by the market, by private investors, who are realizing that Troy is a good place to invest, that Troy is a good place to invest, that there's a return to be had on their investments and they're putting their money up and opening businesses, buying buildings, rehabbing buildings."
Madden attributes the downtown boom to creating a buzz that has spread to adjoining neighborhoods. "We're seeing that in South Central Troy and North Central Troy. People coming in, looking at our building stock, getting excited by what they see in the downtown, and putting a stake in the ground and becoming urban homesteaders and rehabbing their own buildings and bringing small private investment into the neighborhoods. Very exciting! We need to fertilize the ground for them."
With RPI and Sage Colleges integrating more student life into downtown, Madden is looking forward to working closely with both institutions. He's also getting to know the city council, which in past administrations has rarely seen eye-to-eye with the mayor. "We're working together. So many of us are new in our roles right now. We're figuring out who does what. But we're doing that in a very civil way. I met with the council president the day after the election. We've known each other for years, but we got to know each other better, talked about governing styles, talked about visions, what we want to achieve. there was a lot of agreement."
Madden says his term, however long it lasts, will likely be his "swan song" in politics. "I don't have any aspirations, you know, to move into the Senate or the Assembly or to do anything bigger than that. I've spent my career working in the neighborhoods of Troy, mostly in the lower income neighborhoods that have suffered disinvestment. This is an opportunity for me to continue that work on a larger scale, but I have no aspirations to serve a bigger area. My passion is not politics. My passion is serving our neighborhoods, and this is the highest and best way I can do that."