Dominick Calsolaro

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Mr. Calsolaro Retires

The introduction of Dorcey Applyrs, a rumination on representational politics and discovering the Plumeri Complex near my house

Published on 3/31/2013 written by Dan Van Riper, albanyweblog.com

Damn that Dominick, how can he do this. He’s been the best thing politically that has happened to the the City of Albany during these long, torturous years of the Jennings administration, the guy who got elected to the Common Council in 2001 and immediately became the only politician in the City that the public trusted and considered honest. Now after twelve years of public service he plans to retire from politics.

That’s right folks, Dominick Calsolaro is not running for a fourth term on the Common Council, and he’s not running for another office. He’s still the same guy who entered politics because he was tired of tripping over the heaving sidewalks on Second Avenue when he walked his dog in the morning. But thanks in large part to his work, the political landscape in Albany has cracked apart like a neglected sidewalk and is about ready to be replaced by something better.


Dominick Calsolaro And His Very Understanding Wife MaryDominick Calsolaro And His Very Understanding Wife Mary

But let’s face it, he’s twelve years older than he used to be. This past last Wednesday in March Dominick held what I guess you would call a press conference in the parking lot of the new Plumeri Sports complex on Frisbee Avenue. The weather, which has been rather dicey lately, turned out to be the best one could have expected, sunshine and upper 40s F. When someone complained about the cold, I heard Dominick reply, “It’s Spring, I expected today would be in the 60s!”

The purpose of this event was not to conduct a funeral service for the man, we weren’t gathered there to drop him in a six foot hole dug overnight in the playing fields. He’s still our Common Council representative until the end of the year. But I guess he wanted to end the speculation.

Remember, this is the guy who promised to serve only two terms on the Council. A bit later, when he was giving his prepared remarks, he mentioned that he believed that when politicians stay in office too long they “tend to get too comfortable and become stale.” Suddenly he looked up from his notes, remembering the half dozen or so career politicians standing behind him. “Present company excepted, of course,” he added unconvincingly.

Standing Behind Dominick Calsolaro: Sheriff Craig Apple, Luci McKnight, Candidate Dorcey Applyrs, Carolyn McLaughlin, Neil Breslin, Kathy Sheehan, Cathy Fahy, Don Applyrs, Richard Conti, Barbara SmithStanding Behind Dominick Calsolaro: Sheriff Craig Apple, Luci McKnight, Candidate Dorcey Applyrs, Carolyn McLaughlin, Neil Breslin, Kathy Sheehan, Cathy Fahy, Don Applyrs, Richard Conti, Barbara Smith

But more important than discussing his own retirement from elected politics, Dominick wanted to introduce to the Ward and to the City the person he considered his successor on the Council, Dorcey Applyrs. For most of us present, including the media, this truly was an introduction because we were seeing her and hearing her speak for the first time. It turned out to be a good introduction, everyone I talked to afterwards was impressed with her remarks and with her strong character.

Dominick is already impressed with her. As he said in his remarks:

The decision to not seek re-election was made easier for me after I met Dorcey Applyrs. We spent much time together discussing the issues affecting the First Ward and the whole city. I talked to people who knew her, both in her professional and in her academic life. The more I found out about Dorcey, the more comfortable I became with my decision not to run for a fourth term. I firmly believe that Dorcey has the energy, passion and commitment for working on ways to solve the issues that negatively impact the quality-of-life of the citizens of Albany.

That’s some serious good praise coming from a guy who defied the corrupt old boy system and did so much to bring back to life this part of the City. And coming from him that’s saying a lot about a young woman who is running for office for the first time.


Dorcey Applyrs Announces Her Candidacy For The First Ward, Mary Calsolaro, Craig Apple And Dominick Listen CloselyDorcey Applyrs Announces Her Candidacy For The First Ward, Mary Calsolaro, Craig Apple And Dominick Listen Closely

Dorcey Applyrs (pronounced uh-PLEERS) was born and raised in Washington DC, and originally came to SUNY Albany to pursue her post graduate degrees. Her field is public health, she has received a Masters in the subject and is currently pursuing a Doctorate. As a field of study it is considered interdisciplinary, combining, according to an academic research guide, “political science, sociology, history, and economics, as well as the established public health areas such as epidemiology, biostatistics and the infectious and chronic diseases.”

It should go almost without saying that public health meshes inevitably with politics and with public advocacy. After Ms. Applyrs and her “loving husband Don” settled into their house nearby on Marshall Street, she plunged into local community advocacy projects that made use of her education in a practical way. Indeed I wonder how she does it all, a chronically lazy guy like me can hardly imagine.


Dorcey Applyrs Announces Her CandidacyDorcey Applyrs Announces Her Candidacy

It shouldn’t be surprising that Ms. Applyrs brought up public health as a centerpiece of her campaign at the Frisbee Avenue parking lot. Most notably she has helped implement and lead a program called GEMS (Growing and Empowering Myself Successfully) which is a mentoring program for “at risk” teenagers in Albany. This program encourages the kids to do things like eat well and become physically active, along with broadening their perspective on the world and presenting them with opportunities they probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Really, all that most of these kids need is some steady attention and some useful encouragement. Predictably, Ms. Applyrs approached this problem as a public health issue, developing an assessment program for the kids “ in key areas such as academics, leadership, socialization skills and health” and in preparation for a career. Thus we see what is effectively a practical substitution for what parents and schools are expected to have accomplished but have not done adequately.

Her public health perspective shows repeatedly in her employment history, working with quality of life issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, also with the social impact of chronic drug use. She has been involved with a long list of programs involving young women and with families with children. It’s not hard to see how all this sort of activity can lead her to consider an elected position.


Senator Neil Breslin Warmly Praised Dominick, <br />
Dorcey And Don Applyrs BehindSenator Neil Breslin Warmly Praised Dominick, Dorcey And Don Applyrs Behind

To most people the word “politics” refers to what a select group of celebrities and their assistants do behind closed doors, ritual mysteries involving money and power. But the original meaning of the word has nothing to do with elites and mysteries, it is about the public sphere, “of, for or relating to citizens” according to Wikipedia. As a reflection of this, I’ve heard that many publicly active young people make a distinction between politics and what they themselves do, which they call “activism.”

This is interesting how a word that once described public life has become narrow and another is coming up to take its place. It also reflects the recent (last 50 years or so) trend of our society, how the old Baby Boomers retreated from public involvement and how the younger generations are now rising to reclaim it. The danger in this, as some have pointed out, is that at some point “politics” and “activism” will become mutually exclusive and eventually at odds with each other.

Part of the reason for this is that our national population has grown while our political system has not grown, and as a result each of our elected representatives represent a larger number of people than their predecessors did. Thus all of our politicians have become more remote from us citizens and therefore less responsive to our needs. This lessening of representation by our government is one of the root causes of our national decline, a problem which is hardly ever noted.



Treasurer And Mayoral Candidate Kathy Sheehan Adresses Dominick And MaryTreasurer And Mayoral Candidate Kathy Sheehan Adresses Dominick And Mary

For several historical reasons, here in Albany we still have strong proportional representation of our citizens. Partly that is because our population has not grown, rather it has shrunk. At the same time unlike other small Cities, such as nearby Schenectady, the number of elected representatives holding office has not been greatly reduced and our elected representatives still represent actual defined parts of the City (wards.)

For the past few decades the voters of several downtown wards have worked to take advantage of this rare benefit to the citizens in Albany. For much of the 20th Century the 15 members of the Common Council were obedient lackeys of the prevailing political machine. There was no need for the political bosses to reduce representation as long as they controlled all the ward elections.

But in the year 2001 all that changed. Here in the “dissident First Ward” (as the Hearst Times Union repeatedly referred to us) we managed to elect Dominick Calsolaro, a man born and raised and who lived his entire life in Albany but owed no allegiance to the political power brokers. Nor was he out to curry favor from them or make a funny buck from the taxpayers. Not only that he turned out to be pretty smart, which really annoyed the old boys.


Albany Department Of Recreation Commissioner John D'Antonio, Apparently Attending On His Own InitiativeAlbany Department Of Recreation Commissioner John D'Antonio, Apparently Attending On His Own Initiative

That first campaign was surprisingly close, Dominick squeaked in with (if I recall correctly) 52 votes. A lot of older voters were scared to vote for him, Mayor Jerry Jennings used every method available to intimidate Dominick's supporters and make it hard for them to vote. (I’m proud to say that my neighborhood, a small election district, cast 25 out of 28 votes for Dominick. We’d had enough of the old boys and their neglect.)

Mayor Jennings, still at the height of His powers, could see that the election of Dominick was a blow from which he could not recover. At one point He even told His department heads to ignore all requests from Dominick, attempting to isolate him. On more than one occasion I’ve cringed with embarrassment for all of humanity as Jennings’ idiot minions on the Common Council stood up in the chamber one after another and denounced Dominick for demanding fiscal accountability.

But His Majesty could not isolate the 1st Ward representative, He couldn’t shut him up and He couldn’t stop him at the polls. For his second term Dominick was effectively unopposed, and for his third term he defeated Jennings’ chosen candidate by more than 2 to 1. If Dominick had decided to die in office like Erastus Corning did then he could probably have won one more time after his demise.

Campaign Manager And Former Ward Leader Judith MazzaCampaign Manager And Former Ward Leader Judith Mazza

I should add that Dominick did not get elected all by himself, he had some very talented assistance from his campaign manager, Judith Mazza. It would be no exaggeration to say that Judith is the one person most responsible for Dominick’s elections. Local politicians acknowledge her campaigning expertise, you should see how many elected officials show up at the annual winter holiday parties at her house.

So Judith is now Dorcey Applyrs campaign manager. I know Judith doesn’t want me to mention this and jinx her record, but she has never lost a campaign that she has headed. Part of the reason for this consistent success is that she doesn’t consent to run a campaign that she doesn’t think that she can win. So all I can say is that anybody thinking of running against Ms. Applyrs ought to think twice. (So far, despite unsubstantiated rumors, no candidate has emerged.)



Dominick At The MicDominick At The Mic

What Dominick has demonstrated these last 12 years is that in the City of Albany “politics” and “activism” do not have to be mutually exclusive. I believe that the example set by Dominick has led to an unprecedented wave of optimism for the future of this City. And I believe his example has also led to a marked improvement in the quality of our public officials, notably the election of Kathy Sheehan as Treasurer and the radical reform of the Albany Police Department with the ascension of Chief Steven Krokoff.

Readers of this blog have heard plenty about Dominick’s accomplishments, I’m surprised no comment troll has accused me of “hero worshipping” him. But yeah, I don’t have much criticism, he’s done that good of a job. For example, he’s managed to get more sidewalks replaced or built for the first time in the 1st Ward than has any of his elected colleagues in any other Ward, this despite the ongoing enmity of Mayor Jennings who hands out sidewalk repair as a mark of favor.

Perhaps Dominick’s most important longterm accomplishments involve opening dialogue about the most pressing problems in Albany. He listed three, “gun violence, vacant buildings and the City’s fragile financial condition.” Over the past decade I’ve seen every attempt made to silence the man and dismiss these concerns, but today all three are topics that no elected official in Albany can afford to ignore. That’s a success by any measurement.

Start Of A Baseball Game St. Rose Vs. Pace At The Plumeri, Last Saturday In MarchStart Of A Baseball Game St. Rose Vs. Pace At The Plumeri, Last Saturday In March

Despite all the “hero worshipping” I’ve done, I’ve completely missed some of Dominick’s notable accomplishments. In fact, standing in the parking lot along Frisbie Avenue I was looking at one of them and hadn’t even noticed. It was only a short walk from my house but somehow I had managed to ignore it for several years.

This Plumeri Sports Complex is a joint project of the College of Saint Rose and the City of Albany. As such the “complex” serves primarily as the playing fields for Saint Rose, and at all other times is available for use by Albany residents. The college paid for the construction and pays for maintenance, while the City owns everything and leases it to the school.

When the Plumeri was first proposed I was not pleased to hear of it. The College of St. Rose, which is crammed into the Upper Madison neighborhood, does not have any nearby space big enough for athletic playing fields. So when school officials approached the City it turned out the nearest available open space was here in the South End at the site of a former landfill.

Lacrosse Practice At Another Playing Field At The PlumeriLacrosse Practice At Another Playing Field At The Plumeri

If this transaction had been conducted in the Business As Usual manner then the entire plot of undeveloped land would have been simply given to St. Rose and treated like private property. I half expected it to be surrounded with a fence topped with barbed wire. But somehow as representative of the Ward in which it was located, Dominick managed to place himself into the role of negotiator. In his own words via email:

My involvement was that I was called in when the discussions about the project were starting. I asked that the contract have a provision that a certain percentage of "spots" in any sports camps for youth that the College holds in Hoffman Park be set aside for youth in the neighborhood who could not afford to pay for a slot in the camp.

What happened was that the College decided to build a "community building" and they applied for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help pay for the building. The agreement that was reached was that the City would provide $50,000 a year for five years out of its CDBG funds to the College to help with the building. The College, in return, would provide FREE programs for residents of the City.

Entrance To The Plumeri Sports ComplexEntrance To The Plumeri Sports Complex

The programs that are offered are adult and senior physical fitness classes; tutoring for youth; sports programs for youth; the Boy Scouts are hosted at the community center as is the Second Avenue N.A. There are also summer programs that take place during the day time hours and such things as movie night.

The collegiate baseball team, the Albany Dutchmen, also use the baseball field as their home field during the summer. The fields have also been used by high schools for sports games. Many people now walk around the complex for their daily exercise as the lighting is excellent and they feel safe walking inside the complex. St. Rose provides the security for the complex.


And to that he added, “There was some Council action for this to happen, like approving the CDBG grant. I think there was something else we had to pass, but I don't recall exactly what it was (I'm getting old, the memory fails me sometimes!)” Jeez, you’ve only got a year on me, that’s not so old. I think.

Going over to the Plumeri on Saturday around Noon I encountered dog walkers, some little kids kicking around a soccer ball and latecomers hurrying to catch a ball game about to start. When I went home I told The Wife she ought to go do her running there for a change of pace, and that we should attend one of the baseball games. “Really?” she said. “Did you have to pay to get in?” Nope, I said, I just strolled in and took pictures.

Dominick Calsolaro With Don And Dorcey Applyrs, Dorcey's Mom Who Flew In From Delaware For The Announcement, And MaryDominick Calsolaro With Don And Dorcey Applyrs, Dorcey's Mom Who Flew In From Delaware For The Announcement, And Mary

Well, that’s the way of the world, the old folks get older and the young folks grow up and take over. Dominick quipped that he didn’t want the door slamming his butt on the way out. He wouldn’t tell us what he was planning to do with his time after January, all he would say is that he wasn’t quitting because he was sick or too old.

I do know that he is planning to do a lot of campaigning for other candidates in the next six months, up to the Democratic Primary in September which is the effective election in Albany. He hasn’t had much chance to do that during the last two citywide elections because he had to defend his own seat, or he had to be prepared to do so. But this time, all I can say is watch out Jerry Jennings. Dominick is loose and he’s looking at you.



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