By Kathy Sheehan, Mayor of Albany
When Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise made Albany home in 1846 and later founded what would become the fourth-oldest Reform Judaism congregation in the United States—Beth Emeth—he did so while standing in the face of oppression and divisiveness, culminating with the Rosh Hashanah fight of 1850. As the mayor of a city that embraces the same diversity Rabbi Wise sought, I value how important our Jewish community is to Albany’s neighborhoods.
New York’s capital city is home to almost a dozen temples and Hebrew schools located throughout our unique walkable neighborhoods, as well as the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center and SUNY University at Albany—a four-year college educating more than 5,300 Jewish students, making it one of the largest Jewish student populations in the country. These important institutions and the residents and visitors who utilize them are one reason why I have embraced a Complete Streets initiative—ensuring that we are making our streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike, especially as our neighbors walk to and from synagogue on Shabbos and during the upcoming High Holidays.
The Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center has been a longstanding part of our city, a good neighbor and a place that is accepting of people from all races, religions and walks of life. When Jewish community centers across the nation were threatened with violence earlier this year, including right here in Albany, I stood with our Jewish brothers and sisters because the JCC is us and we are the JCC. Albany has been and will continue to be a city that rejects the rhetoric and practice of hate.
My administration centers around common-sense Democratic (and democratic!) values. At a time when the Trump White House is stoking the flames of fascism and white supremacy, we must also stand together in the face of the vitriol. That is why I am a proud signatory of the United States Conference of Mayors “Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry”—expressly rejecting extremism and all forms of bigotry, denouncing all acts of hate, and promoting law-enforcement training in responding to and reporting hate crimes and domestic terrorism.
We have also made important reforms to the way we police our city. Under my direction, the Albany Police Department was the third city in the United States to implement Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). This program allows police officers to exercise discretion when dealing with low-level offenders and divert them to services they need such as mental health and away from the criminal justice system. Our commitment to community policing and 21st-century policing strategies has brought crime in the city of Albany down. In 2016, our efforts caught the attention of the White House and the Department of Justice—who named the Albany Police Department one of 15 role-model police agencies in the country.
In a city where more than one in 10 residents was born in a country other than the United States, my administration has also ensured that equity and social justice guide all decisions. That is why I recently signed an executive order reaffirming our commitment to community policing and protecting immigrants, because individuals who are the victim of or witness to a crime should not be afraid to contact the police due to their concern that the police will inquire about their immigration status.
From bringing equity to our neighborhoods and making Albany a national model for community policing, to securing new state aid and holding the line on property taxes, the plan we put into place when I became mayor of Albany is working. I love our city, and I work hard every day because I believe that honest public service can change lives and communities for the better.
I hope you will visit Albany and see all that it has to offer—and maybe even choose to make New York’s capital city your home.