Students Work to Educate Troy leaders

By Lauren Mineau
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Four students and Dean Hirokawa stand in front of Troy City Hall

Four Albany Law School students appealed for a “racially appropriate history” to be reflected in the city of Troy’s Comprehensive Plan, Realize Troy this summer.

Natanaelle Germain ’24, Olimata Jobe ’23, Honora Harris ’24, and Jocelynn Joy Buti ’24 each spoke before the Council on July 7 and collectively called on the governing body to account for the impact previous redlining policies have on current and future residents of the city.

“These reports reveal how a previously redlined community has lasting implications for a community’s well-being. The history of Troy’s redlining has not only segregated its immigrant and Black population but it has deliberately excluded immigrant communities from resources and services in communities that are perceived as desirable,” Jobe said.

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The students specifically mentioned The Hill neighborhood which abuts the central downtown Troy. In the 1930s, this neighborhood was redlined. The term dates back to the federal Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC), which surveyed cities and graded sections of them based on perceived "security" of investments. Those with less perceived security were marked red and often those lines struck through neighborhoods with large minority populations.

 “The troubling conditions of these neighborhoods and the compounding needs of those residents is a direct result of practices of structural racism committed by the local government. On one hand, you have a racially appropriate history, which is a truth telling. On the other hand, we have a comprehensive plan, which is not just any story, but is the story of the city. Let’s look at Realize Troy and what identities, histories, and values are reflected in the plan,” Germain said.

The students called on the city leaders to take a closer look at the way the city’s story is told, so it is reflective of all residents, instead of only those with privilege.

“If we were to take an inventory of the street names, buildings, and celebrations recognized by the city of Troy, we would discover a predominantly white history. This history creates a white space, one in which non-white individuals feel a sense of otherness and a lack of a sense of place in this community,” Buti said. “This may not be your lived experience. It is not my lived experience. But it is an experience that countless Troy residents experience every day. Troy’s institutions will never be able to realize their goals until Troy looks back at how the city came to be today in 2022.”

Buti noted that the Comprehensive Plan acknowledges a lingering negative perception about the city such as high crime and undesirable residential neighborhoods, but without any language addressing equity, equitable, or equality, gentrification, minority, marginalized communities, race, or justice.
The group noted that efforts like declaration of Black History Month as an official city celebration—supported by events and announcement of a state grant to support research and education on redlining in the city—are a start. But more work is needed.

 “Without a racially appropriate history, a city fails to create an inclusive reality for the population that already exists and ruins the potential for a diverse set of newcomers to feel welcome,” Harris said.

The City Council concluded that the matter should be addressed and asked the students for a proposal and their contact information.  Representatives from the Mayor’s Office, the planning department, and the City Council, were present and expressed interest in speaking to the students further.

Student comments begin at 1:24:00

Related: Commentary: City of Troy has to want to fix its problem with institutional racism by Professor Keith Hirokawa