Street violence leads to sidewalk summit

ALBANY – Less than a week ago, the streets surrounding Madison Park in Albany were filled with Albany police officers in full tactical gear, searching for the gunman who had just murdered a Hamilton Street resident.

On Thursday morning, at that same corner of Hamilton and Ontario Streets, and Madison Avenue, in the city’s Pine Hills Neighborhood, Albany’s mayor and police chief came to meet with area business owners determined to find a solution to the unruly and violent behavior that they say threatens the business owners’ livelihoods.

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Frank Scavio, the owner of Paesan’s Pizza, requested the meeting.

“This is what you’re supposed to do,” Scavio states, “You’re supposed to fight and stand up for what you feel is right, never back down, and do what’s right in your heart.”

Scavio and others shared their stories of frustration with city officials, stories that includes not just dangerous gunfire and unruly fights outside his store, but also marauding mobs of teenagers who have climbed on his tables and knocked over pizza boxes inside.

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“It’s going to be a long term solution,” Scavio admits, “I knew from the git go that it’s not going to get solved overnight, but we have to try.”

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins labeled the meeting a “success.”

“I understand (Frank’s) frustration,” the chief stated, “I can understand the frustration of other people in the community. We talked about things we can do in terms of programming in the park and some innovative things we can do in terms of police presence and community outreach.”

Mayor Kathy Sheehan said the conversation was “helpful”.

“If we could eliminate shootings, they’d be eliminated,” the mayor asserted, “I’m very optimistic. There are some things that they’re seeing that we can address and we’re working on them as we speak.”

Everyone who attended the sidewalk summit agreed that Thursday was just the beginning of a dialog, and it must continue.