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ACPHS to Open College Parkside Pharmacy Jan. 25

In an effort to train tomorrow’s pharmacists and fill a critical gap in providing care to underserved populations in Albany’s South End, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (ACPHS) will open College Parkside Pharmacy on the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 25.
Located at the Capital South Campus Center (20 Warren Street), College Parkside Pharmacy is the second student-operated pharmacy in New York State. Last March, ACPHS cut the ribbon for the state’s first student-operated pharmacy, College Hometown Pharmacy, at Hometown Health Centers, a nationally recognized primary care and dental practice located at 1044 State Street, Schenectady, N.Y.


Ezra Prentice Community Health Project

A Joint project of AVillage…, Inc., and the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center.

Introduction: The Ezra Prentice Community Health Project was developed in response to a need perceived by AVillage… Inc., a community based not-for-profit in the South End of Albany. Ezra Prentice Homes is a public housing project situated next to the Port of Albany in the city’s far southern edge and has been officially designated as an Environmental Justice community by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. However, until recently the DEC has been reluctant to address the air pollution issues that plague this community. Through direct observation it was evident that residents of Ezra Prentice suffer from an extremely high level of illnesses that appeared to be related to air pollution. Ezra Prentice is in a highly industrialized area, with many potential sources of air pollution, but the two sources that most clearly impact residents are from the Kenwood rail yards, where oil tanker and other rail cars are parked and switched directly behind Ezra Prentice, and the heavy diesel truck traffic on South Pearl Street.
The Health Survey: Working with the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center, a partner South End not-for-profit, we designed and implemented a comprehensive health survey and organized local residents to do the outreach. Wherever possible we used verified questions and relied on advice from faculty at the SUNY School of Public Health in the design and administration of the survey itself. The Resident Outreach Workers make the initial contacts, conduct an initial environmental awareness survey, and make appointments for graduate students certified in human subjects research to administer the survey. Residents are compensated for taking the surveys with gift cards, and survey results are kept confidential and under lock and key.



AVillage’s Annual Celebration of Progress is our opportunity to thank our partners and friends, and to insure we can continue to have an impact on life in Albany’s South End. Besides, it’s a great party!
Please mark this date for the 2017 Celebration of Progress on your calendar: Thursday, March 9. We have reserved the same space as last year, that beautiful old bank lobby at 60 State Place in Albany. We look forward to your company whether you’ve been with us for our first two years or if this is your first.  We will be sending you a formal invitation in early December.

AVillage.., Inc., is a unique community based organization. We operate on a very slender budget, so your support has a great impact. Each year brings new challenges and opportunities, and new stories to tell. Community health has been a major focus this past year, with new initiatives at the Ezra Prentice community and also in the gardens and vacant buildings of the South End.


What We Learned From Global (And What We Still Don't Know)

Residents at Ezra Prentice and members of AVillage met on November 9, 2016, with Global Partners, owners of the black oil tanker cars. The meeting produced no big surprises, but one commitment from Global and some helpful information. More information should come from the meeting planned by the EPA tonight at Ezra Prentice.
Dylan Remley, Global’s regional manager, was accompanied by two members of the company’s environmental quality staff and three members of the local facilities staff. He gave a brief presentation of the company’s operation at Ezra Prentice, with a site map showing where it loads its oil cars onto barges or ships.
Several residents asked Remley whether the tanker cars have to be parked immediately behind the residences at Ezra Prentice. They talked about the constant noise and the tension of living with an unknown, menacing presence only yards away. He replied that he has no answers now, but will talk to Canadian Pacific and the Port of Albany. He explained that Canadian Pacific owns most of the track near and behind Ezra Prentice (some is also owned by CSX and by the Port of Albany’s own rail subsidiary).
Remley also said he would ask Richard Hendrick, the Port of Albany General Manager, to come and talk directly to the residents of Ezra Prentice. “He says he will come,” said Remley. He said he would find out who is responsible for the Canadian Pacific tracks near Ezra Prentice and pass on that information.
The global economy has done what years of litigation and actions could not accomplish. Remley stated that in the last three months there have been “essentially zero” oil trains coming through the Port of Albany.
Note: This is confirmed by observation and independent media reports, and is based at least in part on the current glut of petroleum products on the world market. “Due to lower prices, East Coast refineries can get oil cheaper from Africa by tanker,” says Justin Milkula, a local observer and contributor to industry watchdog Desmogblog.
Remley said the tanker cars we are seeing are carrying ethanol.
Note: These tankers will look the same from the outside. Ethanol is also a volatile fuel, but there is some evidence that it is somewhat less dangerous than the heavy North Dakota crude that had been coming through the Port, says Mikulka. 
Remley was asked about odors that seem to be coming from the tanker cars, especially with the lids up. He said the lids up do not signify that the tanker cars are venting gases. The only venting takes place when the tanker cars are emptied for shipping, and those gases are captured and do not go into the atmosphere.
Note: This is also partly confirmed by Mikulka: “When you see those hatches up on the top of the cars, those are only the exterior man way covers. So there is another interior cover that keeps the tank car closed to the atmosphere. I spoke to someone who used an infrared camera to check for fumes venting from the tank cars and they said they saw none. I also believe that they would not want the cars open to the atmosphere.  In DC I saw a presentation about the corrosion issues they have with the Bakke tank cars. It is a real issue. They definitely would not want to leave them open to the atmosphere and risk a rainstorm. 
“However, this is all assuming everything works properly.  As we know, that isn't the case with the oil and rail industries.”

Remley resisted discussing the legal issues that Global is facing from the state and federal governments, or its proposal to build heating ovens so that even thicker crude from Canada could be processed through the Port of Albany.

  -- Tom McPheeters


Breathing Lights Event

By now, you’ve probably heard of or seen the pulsing lights on vacant buildings and are either intrigued, irritated or just plain curious. This is Albany City Weekend for Breathing Lights, the regional public art exhibit that is supposed to be highlighting our vacant building problems here. We at AVillage are doing our best to shine a spotlight on the South End, which hosts 13 of the installations (plus three in the Mansion Neighborhood), and many more vacant buildings.
This Friday from 5 to 9 p.m., which is also First Friday, the Capital South Campus Center at 20 Warren St. hosts a revolving showing of Breathing Lights-inspired films made this summer by our local Youth FX program and also youth film programs in Troy and Schenectady. Also on hand will be volunteers to take you on a guided automobile tour of the South End Breathing Lights buildings, or across town to The Barn, which has its own set of events. We’ll also have information on the Albany County Land Bank, including a list of its South End Properties, some success stories and information on the Reclamation Clinics coming up. It’s a good time to give us your ideas about bringing these buildings and our streets back to life.
On Saturday, artist Jillian Hirsch will lead a walking tour of South End buildings with mosaics created this summer by youth working with AVillage and the Radix Center. Some of the young people who made the art will be there to share their stories. Since many of these buildings are also Breathing Lights and Land Bank buildings this is a good chance to see the neighborhood in the daylight. Tour starts at 3 p.m. at 46 Alexander St.

Breathing Lights is public art that can be a catalyst — if we make it so!


Ezra Prentice in the News, and Behind the Scenes

  The campaign for a healthy Ezra Prentice community continues on many fronts, but much more publicly than we had expected at this point. Part of the story can be told in the media coverage that has come following the visit by EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck last August. 

Here are some more developments since our last post:
  • A lengthy and well researched article, Carbon Wars, by Jenny Zou appeared on the website of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington think tank and was picked up by Huffington Post and circulated locally. The video that Jenny shot while visiting Albany framed the Ezra story very well, and the article puts our issues in the context of the nation-wide problems of the failure of governments at all levels to properly fund environmental protection or address environmental racism. The article drove home to us the importance of local organizing
  • Another lesser known but important source is Desmogblog.com, which published this article by their local correspondent, Justin Mikulka: Ruling by Little-known Federal Agency Paves Way for Communities to Say No to Oil by Rail.  Justin has been following the Ezra story for several years, and his blog has become a must-read for locals.
  • Fred LeBrun, the Times Union columnist who makes the Cuomo Administration cringe every time they pick up the Sunday paper, weighed in with his October 16 column (Oil Scales Tip to Albany Citizens). Although this is the first time in a while that Fred has covered the Oil Trains at Ezra Prentice, we owe him a great deal of thanks for his relentless coverage of the Hoosick Falls PFOA debacle. Without Hoosick Falls there might not be an Ezra Prentice in the news.

  Meanwhile, the wheels turn, but slowly. We have established regular meetings at Ezra Prentice so residents can keep informed, and so that the various players can come there to report and answer questions. That would include the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Port of Albany, and also Global Industries, which is now mandated by DEC to address the environmental racism issues in the continued presence of the oil trains yards away from Ezra Prentice homes.
  Our team of advisors is planning to meet soon with DEC to dig into their plans for air quality studies that are scheduled to start next spring. They will report to residents after that meeting.
  And while we have heard nothing directly from the Port of Albany, we are informed that their traffic counts are pretty close to the traffic counts we did on South Pearl this summer — about 1,000 diesel trucks during work days. 


New Gardens In the South End

  AVillage worked with Catherine Bullwinkle, of the New York State Department of Health, to identify two new sites for local gardens, that could be funded through a brownfield grant.

  These sites were purchased from the Albany County Land Bank by Ulysses Bell (on Alexander Street) and JoAnn Morton (on Fourth Avenue), who generously agreed to make them available to neighbors for gardening and informal gatherings.

Both are now finished —two new neighborhood treasures! 
We will be excited to see how they are used.


Ezra Prentice Health

Ezra Prentice Health — The Next Stage 

By Tom McPheeters 

  In one whirlwind week, the Ezra Prentice Health Survey, which began last winter by AVillage…, Inc. and the Radix Center, went from being a barely noticed outreach effort in an isolated and neglected community to being a very big deal. The health of Ezra residents has gone from being the concerns of a few to a problem now shared by the entire region.  

  Our task from here on out will be to ensure that the new interest by all levels of government translates to actual benefits to the more than 300 residents of the Ezra Prentice Homes, as well as to former residents who have been affected by the environmental hazards long ago.  

  I will skip the background for now and cut to the chase. Most of the action flows from Dominick Calsolaro’s success in setting up a meeting at Ezra by the regional staff of the federal Environmental Protection Agency for Aug. 17th. It also helped a lot that Paul Grondahl, journalist for the Times Union, started making calls earlier this week for his Wednesday column on our health study and the EPA visit.  

  Our role was to make sure that residents knew about this meeting and were prepared to speak for themselves. At our first full-blown community meeting on August 9th, 23 residents showed up, and also Assemblyman John McDonald. It was clear that we would have a good turnout the following week, and that residents had educated themselves to the core issues — the trucks, the trains and lack of reliable air quality data. They also knew that many of them were sick.  

  McDonald in turn got to work in his sphere, and there was a meeting with State Senator Neil Breslin, contacts to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and emails flying around with other elected officials. On Tuesday, Aug. 16, the day before the EPA meeting, Dominick received a call saying Basil Seggos, the EPA commissioner, would like to meet with us that afternoon.

  Commissioner Seggos brought an entourage and met with Willie White, Councilwoman Vivian Kornegay, Dominick Calsolare, and myself (Tom McPheeters). Also attending were Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Assemblyman McDonald, State Senator Neil Breslin and Mike McLaughlin, who was representing County Executive Dan McCoy.  Seggos started with a long apology, stating that the DEC should have been at this table much sooner, and pledged to be a partner from here on in. There was some discussion about that, as well as about the first round of air quality testing that left everybody feeling unsatisfied. 

  Mayor Sheehan spoke about current efforts to address the diesel truck traffic saying that she has met with Port of Albany staff to explore ways to move the traffic through the port, and has learned that much of the traffic is not directly related to the port. The next step is to sit down with the state DOT officials, since South Pearl (Rt. 32), is a state route. There is also the issue of the school bus depot just south of the Center for the Disabled. The solution to this issue will require a "broader community conversation," she said. 

  Mayor Sheehan also expressed concerns about the health survey not being conducted by AVillage. She said it is very difficult to pin down causes of health problems, and wants to be sure that we do not go off with incomplete or possibly misleading data. Tom McPheeters replied with a brief explanation that the health survey is a work in progress, and the numbers reported so far were for the information of the residents. We understand that more data and a thorough analysis is needed, but we cannot in good conscience withhold the data we do have from the residents and the community. Tom said the data, coupled with the heavy truck traffic, is cause for immediate concern. It is impossible to ignore the intensity of the diesel truck fumes on South Pearl, he said.  

  To address those concerns, and to make sure this very valid study does not get discounted, they have already set up a meeting with Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, the Albany County Health Commissioner. Stacy Pettigrew, our partner in this endeavor, will go over the survey and how it is being administered, and we will also start a dialogue about bringing county health services to the Ezra Prentice site.
  Commissioner Seggos said he thinks DEC can quickly to install air monitoring at Ezra Prentice that will answer many questions. He said he would work with his team and have a proposal in time for the Aug. 17th meeting. He noted that it was a DEC “pullover” action the previous day that took place at the Center for Disabled to measure emission levels and safety compliance of diesel trucks. The trucks were found in compliance, although he noted that NYS has long petitioned the federal government to put more stringent standards on diesel emissions.  

Seggos concluded by committing to three things:
  • A credible air quality study at Ezra Prentice 
  • Funding for a traffic study 
  • Funding for a health study of residents.  

  Later that evening, Seggos called Dorcey and told her that DEC was committing one half million in funding to meet those commitments. The press release on that followed on the 17th Here’s the press release.

  Quite a week! 

AVillage's Willie White speaks out about what Ezra Prentice residents want to say.
EPA administrator Judith Enck listens at his right.

  And then there was Wednesday, August 17 — the EPA comes to Albany and everybody jumps to attention! 

  My one regret for this meeting was not reserving a block of seats for the actual residents of Ezra Prentice. More than 100 people tried to cram into a pretty small room (Albany Housing had brought in extra chairs, but there was seating for only about 60) and many of the late arrivals from the neighborhood ended up standing in the halls and outside straining to hear.  
Willie White spoke about the purpose of the meeting and summarized the goals we have heard from Ezra residents: 
  • Stop the diesel trucks from passing through Ezra Prentice. We don’t care how they do it. 
  • Measure the air quality at Ezra Prentice and provide us information that is reliable, verifiable and actionable. The residents want either an independent air quality monitoring system operated by a credible third party or a system that can be verified by credible independent parties.  
  • Move the oil trains that are parked behind homes at Ezra Prentice to another parking place within the Port of Albany. 
  • If a wall is to be built to separate the track from the homes, it must be built by the railroads, not from settlement money from Buckeye or Global. We emphasize that a wall is not an adequate protection against accidental fires or explosions. 
  • Reject the Global proposal to build boilers to heat heavy tar sands crude for shipment out of the Port of Albany.  
  • Reject the Pilgrim Pipeline proposal with its northern terminus at the Port of Albany near our homes.  

  We distributed the summary of the health survey to date as well as the diesel truck traffic count. The numbers for all to see set the tone for the meeting.  You can find that posted here

  The news coverage was extraordinary. In addition Paul Grondahl’s front page story on Wednesday morning, there were two good articles in the Times Union the next day, one on the meeting and one on the EPA’s attempt to rein in Global Partners’ excessive air pollution. And there was blanket coverage by all of our local TV stations, and our local public access channel was there as well.  
  Spot news coverage like this inevitably leads to a few inaccuracies (I’ve been accused of worse than sneering). The only one that concerns me right now is to make sure people know that our health survey is not done by the SUNY School of Public Health, but is entirely our work. This is not because we don’t want to give the School of Public Health credit (indeed, their professors have been extremely helpful, and we would be lost without the wonderful students and interns), but because we care about their credibility and want to continue to work with them in the future. 
  I do not need to say much more right now. When you have this kind of event, and get this kind of overwhelming reaction, you need a few days to process and figure out what’s next. Several of us did a very quick debriefing after the meeting, and the major theme was the need to keep the pressure on, to hold all the public officials accountable, and to make sure that the residents are included in all decision making and that we stay united 

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos speaks to a packed house on August 17th, at Ezra Prentice.

UPDATE: On Monday, the Times Union called for closing Ezra Prentice. They did not offer any ideas on how to accomplish this. We are interested in your opinion. You can comment on our Facebook page, or by emailing us at avillageworks@gmail.com.


Saturday Farmers' Market

Good afternoon residents of Albany.
   Once again, we are having our Farmers' Market this Saturday at Lincoln Park in the South End of Albany. But, this time, we are going to change a few things up. Our new hours are going to be from 11am-2pm, so get here before all of the food runs out!!! Also, in a slight replacement for our Nutrition Classes, this Saturday we will be having smoothie demonstration led by our newest volunteer, Julia Nye. So, come out, and learn about healthy and tasty ways to prepare smoothies.


As many of you are well aware, and for some new viewers, the mission of AVillage is to improve the quality of life for residents of the South End and beyond, by reclaiming the neighborhoods, and by encouraging, engaging, and empowering the communities. We cannot complete that mission without input from the community. So, when you come to the Farmers' Market this weekend, we ask that you complete a short survey after purchasing food, so we can get an idea of what the community expects from us, and what we should do to help you. Check out our sample survey....


We look forward to seeing you here, rain or shine. Cheers.