Posted at: 08/13/2009 4:57 PM
Updated at: 08/13/2009 5:24 PM
By: Matt McFarland

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Boarded up windows get artistic touch

ALBANY - The city of Albany says using an artistic touch for boarding up abandoned buildings is one way to battle blight.

But some feel its just window dressing for a much larger problem.

With a few quick cuts, a little paint and a few screws, they're taking plywood and passing it off as windows. It's part of a plan called Artistic Board Up, trying make abandoned buildings blend in.

"The main thing with the Artistic Board Up is the appearance. It just doesn't look as vacant, abandoned. So you'll have less people breaking in," Mayor Jerry Jennings said.

Blight is a pretty big problem in Albany. It's not hard to find plenty of boarded up buildings around New York's capital city. There are nearly 700 of them.

Thelma Foster lives on Clinton Avenue just a few doors down from one of these eyesores.

"It would be nice if they fix them, but if they can't fix them paint them up so they'll at least look like something, because it looks nasty," Foster said.

The goal is to make these vacant buildings attractive and one day put them back to use. Albany wants to change the city code, which would require owners to paint up the plywood in this fashion when they're boarding up the buildings.

Riding his bike up Sheridan Avenue, David Brickman says something has to be done with these eyesores. He's just not sure the Artistic Board Up is it.

"I don't know how much its going to cost paint how many windows, but whatever amount of money that is, maybe you could fix two or three houses, put them back to use," Brickman said.

In a statement, Jennings' challenger in the Democratic primary for mayor, Corey Ellis, says a coat of paint isn't going to fix the problem.

"It's very easy to be critical. Come up with solutions," Jennings said. "We felt it's important to take this initiative. It's proven effectiveness in other cities and that's why we're doing it. It's a small part of the overall strategy for the city."

Right now this is just a pilot program Albany is using for city-owned abandoned buildings, but the mayor says he would like to see these artistic boards popping up in neighborhoods throughout the city.

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