Hospital urged to improve transit
Amid multi-million dollar expansion, protesters push for transit-centric answers
Published on 11/4/2013 by the Times Union written by Alysia Santo
A handful of protesters gathered Monday to encourage Albany Medical Center Hospital to improve public transit access for its employees and patients.
Most gathered on the public sidewalk, but 76-year-old Lucile Brewer, founder of advocacy group Citizens for Public Transit, opted to sit in her wheelchair directly outside the hospital's main entrance.
A spokesman for Albany Medical Center, Jeffrey Gordon, said they called police on Brewer after she refused to move off the hospital's property or put down her sign. When police arrived, she put the sign down and was allowed to continue sitting on the property, said Gordon, but soon after she got into a cab.
Other protesters included Albany County Legislator Douglas A. Bullock. Brewer said she took a cab to the Albany police station to ask why she could not protest on the property.
In recent months, there have been a number of public hearings on how the hospital's $110 million expansion plan — which includes apartment buildings, medical offices and a new six-story parking garage — would change the Park South neighborhood. Some are concerned it would lead to further traffic congestion. It's been suggested that Albany Medical Center should subsidize Capital District Transportation Authority bus passes for employees to encourage them to take public transit into work rather than drive.
Rally attendees said they wanted to see the number of bus stops on Albany Medical Center's growing campus increase to make it easier for people who use wheelchairs, like Brewer, or with other disabilities, to make their way to their appointments.
Gordon said he could not comment on whether increased bus routes or subsidized passes would become a reality but noted the concerns of the protesters were being actively discussed. "We want to ensure we provide as much access as possible to employees and residents," said Gordon. "We'll provide those proposals as soon as they're fully developed."
Asked about expanded bus routes in the area, CDTA spokesman Jonathan Scherzer said he was "happy with where the conversations were headed," but it was too early to discuss details.
"This is a peaceful demonstration to get them to consider this," Brewer said in an interview prior to the rally.
Albany Common Councilman Dominick Calsolaro said vehicles already crowd the streets around the hospital, and without concrete solutions that problem will only worsen.
"Two weeks ago I did an experiment, and it took me almost 40 minutes to go about seven-tenths of a mile" on roads surrounding the hospital at about 3:30 in the afternoon, said Calsolaro.
"This whole development should be looking at more transit-centric development than car-centric development," he said.