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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Friday, April 13

John Kaufmann has problems with Authority

Last weekend, local resident and Housing Authority critic John Kaufmann e-mailed me (as I'm sure he e-mailed every news agency in the area, judging by the fact that he frequently appears in stories about the Housing Authority in the Daily Gazette and the Times Union) about the Saratoga Affordable Housing Group.

They met Tuesday at Longfellow's Restaurant for their quarterly meeting. Kaufmann was encouraging newspapers to go and he, in fact, went himself to deliver concerns he has raised over asbestos at the buildings that the Housing Group tore down on Allen Drive for the new apartment complex.

Kaufmann, though, did not get to sit-in on the meeting. He was shown the door as soon as he came into the restaurant — by Housing Authority Executive Director Ed Spychalski who at the time was also the president of the Saratoga Affordable Housing Group.

And of course, that was the last meeting Spychalski was president of that group.

To be clear, though, the Saratoga Affordable Housing Group, while it receives public money through the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority and through grants and other avenues (and despite the fact that many of the same people are involved in both organizations), is a non-profit organization and thus is not subject to the same Open Meetings Law standards as the the Housing Authority.

"Ed told him it was a closed meeting," recounted Rocco "Rocky" Ferraro, the non-profit's new president, after the meeting. "He was not a happy person."

Ferraro said "It was felt the meetings were not necessary to be open to the public," but then added "We'll be evaluating alternatives for the future ... we want to have it as transparent as possible."

And he said being the president, he will make sure that happens.

As for the asbestos issue, Kaufmann was saying that it was improperly dealt with at the demolition and subsequent construction, something Ferraro denies.

"As far as I know everything went according to plan and met all of the OSHA requirements," he said, adding he recalls extensive conversation on the board about contracting with a company that specialized in asbestos removal because he remembers how expensive it was. "It was something we talked about a lot," he said. "We knew it going in."

I'll look into that further, just to confirm what Ferraro remembers, but that's what I know now.

That's all for now. Stay classy Saratoga.

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