Binghamton City Council Work Session Report – 2.26.2024

Binghamton finally has a city council that will listen to the community. My new year’s resolution was to start going to every meeting and it’s mostly been me and 5-10 other people in attendance, sometimes less. These recaps are meant to inform and encourage discussion online and in-person at City Council public comment sessions (every other Wednesday). I am not a professional journalist (comments with corrections/questions are very welcome) and these city council members are not professional politicians. We all need to work together to spread awareness and share knowledge to build collective power against our professional politician mayor and the rest of the Cabal of Creeps (Jared Kraham/Rich David/Fred Akshar/Paul Battisti) who run Broome county. We also need public support and scrutiny to hold the Democrats accountable. They currently hold a 6-1 majority on the council, but fighting off the mayor’s PR machine is a full time job and getting any good legislation through will still be a struggle.

2/26 Work Packet

2/26 Video Link

2/28 Wednesday Business Meeting Agenda

This is a partial list of legislation discussed at the Binghamton City Council work session (2/26/24) which, I believe, will be voted on at the City Council business meeting on 3/13.

RL24-44: An ordinance to amend the 2024 budget for the demolition of a fire damaged property at 19 William St.

  • Summary: Multiple fires damaged this vacant building. The city is rearranging finances to pay for a tear-down.
  • My Take: The city and county have let slumlords run wild for decades and this is the result: dilapidated housing stock and rising rates of vacancy and homelessness. Kraham will bemoan these “eyesores” but he and his old boss Rich David actively prevented Code Enforcement from doing anything to hold owners accountable for their poor condition. It’s well known that the city has a top-down “Good Enough” policy of letting landlords off the hook for code violations. The recent Anti-Anzaroot crusade was led by local housing activists. Kraham is taking credit for it even though he and David (and Jason Garnar) allowed Anzaroot to freely buy up over 200 properties and exploit tenants for years.
  • Broader Issues: Binghamton elites just want low income people to suffer, die, and/or move away. Lack of code enforcement. Lack of safe, affordable housing.

RL24-42: An ordinance amending Chapter 400 of the City Charter, Vehicles and Traffic, adding the prohibition of operation of off-road vehicles in the city of Binghamton.

  • Summary: It is already illegal to drive off-road vehicles on city streets. The current  punishment for being caught is a towing fee (~$200) plus an impound fee ($50/day for max 20 days). Kraham is copy-pasting a Syracuse law that was enacted in 2021 that adds a $1,000 fine and minimum $2000 fee to retrieve the impounded vehicle. When asked, Kraham had no data regarding how often these citations are actually made in the city. He had no data about whether the new law affected the number of citations in Syracuse. The $2k fee would effectively make this an automatic seizure of property but Kraham said he has no idea where the money goes from auctioning impounded vehicles. Chief Zikuski said he thinks the money goes to a fund for police vehicles. A public hearing will be held to discuss the new ordinance.
  • My Take: The mayor is taking a valid concern from the community (noise pollution and unsafe driving) and proposing a solution that will accomplish nothing except putting further financial strain on the mostly young, low-income people that this ordinance is targeting. People get bored and make stupid decisions no matter the consequences. Increasing the consequences only leads to further impoverishment and feeds into Mass Incarceration. City council members actually had some interesting proactive ideas:
    • Using the issue to argue for increased public transportation at the county level
    • Encouraging and enabling these residents to use their vehicles on local trails and racetracks
  • Broader Issues: Short-term, reactive approach to crime. Binghamton elites just want low income people to suffer, die, and/or move away. Lack of public transportation. No bike lanes.

RL24-32: A resolution approving the agreement for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) by and among the City of Binghamton, Binghamton Saratoga I Housing Development Fund Company, inc. and Binghamton Saratoga I Limited Partnership

  • Summary: Renovation of Saratoga housing projects using RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) conversion. 101 Units. $40 Million. Private (Bank) ownership but continued public (Binghamton Housing Authority) control. Residents will have a Right of Return and would only be displaced into another unit in Saratoga until renovation is finished. Same company that did Canal Plaza on the North Side. Bruce Levine from 3D Development said “HUD is getting out of the public housing business,” implying that this is the only way renovations to Saratoga will ever get financing.
  • My Take: Sad state of affairs as public housing (just like every other publicly-controlled resource in America) is being privatized. Private investment is useful in the short-term, but long-term there is a heavy price to pay as profit is inevitably prioritized over people. Water privatization in Flint is just one example. I’m sure there’s a catch somewhere, but at least for now the Saratoga plan looks pretty harmless. If only we could put it in the hands of a well-funded Community Land Trust instead of a bank.
  • Broader Issues: Capitalism. Neoliberalism. Privatization. Lack of safe, affordable housing.
  • More Info on R.A.D.
  • Book Recommendation: Race for Profit by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

RL24-43: A resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into agreement with Chrysalis Research & Consulting, LLC for the creation of an Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing study required for the 2024 HUD Consolidated Plan.

  • Summary: I was confused by this part of the meeting so I reached out to (now temporarily deposed) Councilperson (and professional housing advocate) Rebecca Rathmell for an explanation: 
  • “The issue with this RL has very little to do with the request itself or Chrysalis Research & Consulting, LLC and just about everything to do with how the City has approached previous Analyses of Impediments to Fair Housing (AIFH). CNY Fair Housing, the only Fair Housing organization operating throughout the Southern Tier & Upstate NY, was contracted to perform an AIFH in 2014 that was published in 2015 (available here). That report identified 5 significant areas of concern related to barriers that impact housing choice throughout the City:
  • Insufficient Fair Housing education and enforcement 
  • Insufficient knowledge among renters of their rights as tenants
  • Insufficient supply of quality, affordable housing
  • The prevalence and promotion of student housing that limits housing choice for families with children
  • Low homeownership rates, particularly among Black and Brown households
  • CNY Fair Housing was again contracted by the City for an AIFH in 2019. Though the impediments that were identified in the 2015 report came with specific recommendations for how to address each, Binghamton demonstrated little to no progress in doing so. As such, the impediments and recommendations remained largely the same, with a concluding statement that reiterated the likely outcome of continued inaction: “If the City does not show a stronger commitment to fair housing, the problems identified in this Analysis will not improve.” 
  • Rather than responsibly consider the information compiled, the City instead refused to either publish the 2020 AIFH or pay CNY Fair Housing for their work and is now pursuing another contract – this time with an out-of-state consulting group – in hopes, as far as we can tell, of a more favorable report. This is a prime example of the City’s persistent commitment to doing the absolute bare minimum in order to comply with HUD requirements while demonstrating no actual concern for improving the conditions directly impacting vulnerable households. The task for our new City Council will be to ensure that any findings and their associated recommendations result in a plan outlining actionable steps toward reducing barriers and expanding equitable access to housing for all residents, not just those with special interest or profit potential.”  — RR
  • My Take: What Rebecca said.
  • Broader Issues: Lack of safe, affordable housing. Binghamton elites just want low income people to suffer, die, and/or move away.

RL24-41: A resolution authorizing the City to accept a Congressional Award for community project funding in the amount of $1 Million for City of Binghamton Youth Recreation Center.

  • Summary: NY Senator Chuck Schumer coming through with a million dollars for Binghamton youth recreation. Just imagine how many rec centers could be built with the money he’s sending to murder kids in Palestine. The city will be purchasing St. Mary’s Rec Center on Hawley Street for $500k to consolidate all city youth recreation activities into one location. The space will be available for free for anyone who wants to reserve it.
  • My Take: After dismantling the Youth Bureau as his first official act, Rich David proposed building a rec center at Columbus Park for $7-12 Million (likely part of his overall plan to convert downtown into a playground for BU students) so this seems like a pretty good alternative. The community should be loud and vocal about how the center operates to make sure it’s inclusive, cop-free, and isn’t used as an excuse to defund youth recreation in other parts of the city. We still need more basketball courts and lights for the few courts we do have.
  • Broader Issues: Lack of investment in youth. 

RL24-46: An ordinance to amend the 2024 budget to allocate ARPA funds to support building upgrades at 86 Walnut St for the Salvation Army’s new commercial kitchen, equipment, and furnishings to support its community meals program.

  • Summary: Citing “public safety concerns” and a better facility on Walnut Street, the mayor is trying to push the Salvation Army’s free breakfast to the West Side and away from downtown business interests and BU students at the cost of $100,000. The Salvation Army has already closed on the Walnut St building, seemingly with a promise from the mayor that this taxpayer money would be on its way.
  • My Take: The mayor has done very little to increase low-income housing options or improve services for unhoused people in Binghamton. This is an attempt to hide the issue by moving food-insecure people to a less visible area where wealthy people won’t need to look at them. More “eyesores” for the mayor to address without even acknowledging the root causes of the issue. Walnut St may technically be walkable from downtown but the move is still a considerable barrier imposed on already vulnerable residents, many of whom have disabilities and live downtown at the YWCA, YMCA, and Woodburn Court. If we’re giving public money to the Salvation Army (an anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQIA+ group that uses unpaid, forced labor), then why can’t we insist they operate multiple community meals? Having more community meal options available citywide will solve many of the problems the mayor supposedly cares about (long lines out the door, conflict between attendees). Also, why can’t the city start its own free meal program with this funding? Let’s see how many downtown businesses support this publicly and then let’s see the tax breaks the city gave them to set up downtown. 
  • Broader Issues: Food deserts, lack of public transportation, housing insecurity. Binghamton elites just want low income people to suffer, die, and/or move away.


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