Calsolaro backs newcomer for 1st Ward seat
Published on 3/26/2013 by the Times Union written by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST Staff Writer
Albany: Three-term Democratic Councilman Dominick Calsolaro, for years the face of opposition to City Hall, threw his support behind political newcomer Dorcey Applyrs Tuesday morning after formally announcing he won't seek another term this fall.
Applyrs, 31, is a doctoral student in public health at the University at Albany and former director of programs for the Capital District African American Coalition on AIDS.
Calsolaro, 57, has represented the district on the city's southeastern border with Bethlehem for nearly 12 years and over that span became one of Mayor Jerry Jennings' most passionate and colorful critics as the council more broadly, he said, has become more progressive and independent.
"I don't believe in term limits, but I do believe that some elected positions are not meant to be lifetime appointments," Calsolaro said in front of Hoffman Park, the redevelopment of which — with the College of Saint Rose — he said was a landmark event of his tenure.
He and Jennings have battled politically over the city's finances, its management of the Rapp Road landfill, the future of the environmentally frail Pine Bush, its willingness to talk frankly about street violence and the legality of backyard chickens.
Despite that, even one of Jennings' close friends, city Recreation Commissioner John D'Antonio, paid tribute to Calsolaro despite their own past political battles.
"Dominick always put politics aside, and he really put the people here in the 1st Ward first," D'Antonio said.
Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin called him the "conscience" of the Common Council, while city Treasuer Kathy Sheehan noted that no corner of city government was immune for Calsolaro's questions.
"Dominick made everybody in City Hall work harder," said Sheehan, who is running for mayor, "and Albany is better for it."
While Calsolaro has been considering stepping aside for some time, the progressive wing of the city's Democratic Party has been hesitant to lose his voice without a candidate they felt worthy of replacing him and who they believe also could win the newly redrawn district.
State Sen. Neil Breslin said meeting Applyrs, who pledged to focus on economic development and improving the health of 1st Ward residents, helped quell that fear.
"We think of Dominick Calsolaro making every decision not based on who it upsets, not based on Democrat or Republican, but based on what's best for the community," Breslin said. "He'll be a mentor toward Dorcey."
Calsolaro, first elected in 2001, is a charter member of the council's current progressive faction, which has gained strength and forced Jennings to wield his veto powers repeatedly over the last three years. But he cautioned that the 1st Ward's reputation for independence stretches beyond him to the tenure of his predecessor, Councilwoman Carol Wallace.
The 1st Ward, which as of next year will stretch from the west side of the Port of Albany to the Normanskill Farm and south from Second Avenue to the Normanskill along the city line, is one of the two new wards in which minority voters now constitute a voting-age majority.
Perhaps the biggest change to the ward under the new political map drawn with data from the 2010 Census is the loss of the Mansion Neighborhood, which is now in the 2nd Ward with the South End.
Applyrs is a native of Washington, D.C., who moved to Albany after graduating from college.
"I would like to humbly accept this torch that Dominick is graciously willing to pass to me," Applyrs said. "Albany has invested in me, and now it's time for me to invest in Albany."
She may face a challenge from Scott Mannarino, the candidate the city's Democratic Committee backed against Calsolaro in 2009, who is said to be planning to reprise his run this year.
Calsolaro handily beat Mannarino in the Democratic primary that year despite the fact that the challenger received support from Jennings.
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