Tackling Urban Blight

Students from Rockefeller College, Albany Law Share Ideas for Vacant Properties

The class makes its presentation. From left, Albany Law students Andrew Carpenter, Anthony Bargnesi, Jonathan Pritchard, Julia Kosineski; and Rockefeller College students Molly Johnston-Heck and Haining Sun. 

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 17, 2018) — Expedite foreclosures. Integrate code enforcement programs. Make “tax recapture” mandatory. These were some of the land bank recommendations proposed by students from Albany Law School and UAlbany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy who took a class together that studied the issues around blight and vacant properties, and strategies to develop these neighborhoods.

The study examined the land bank activity in the cities of Albany and Schenectady. Land banks are nonprofit corporations created by municipalities to take control of and redevelop vacant or abandoned properties to better to improve communities.


 The class was co-taught by Albany Law's Ray Bresica and UAlbany's Meghan Cook.

Students presented their findings to mayors from both cities, along with country officials and nonprofit organizations from the region, which generated a lengthy discussion that evolved into a working meeting.

“I’d like to share this presentation with the other 23 land banks across the state,” said Adam Zaranko, who heads the Albany County Land Bank Corporation.

“It sure got my wheels going,” said David Hogenkamp, who manages the land bank efforts in Schenectady.

The course is co-taught by Professor Raymond Brescia, Albany Law School, and Meghan Cook, program director for Center of Technology and Government who also teaches at Rockefeller College. Students presented their findings one by one, demonstrating the economic value of renewed property, impact on their neighbors and new strategies for funding, along with sharing anecdotal stories they stumbled upon during their research.

“Tackling urban challenges, such as blight, requires a mix of knowledge, skills and perspectives from a range of organizations,” Cook said. “Bringing together law students and public policy students together to work with nonprofits and governments creates an exciting environment where everyone is encouraged to innovate. The course is challenging but gives students a real opportunity to influence change, and they do.”

“The students put a lot of work into this,” Brescia said, “and the rich discussion it generated among the mayors, government officials, academics, other professionals in attendance and the students reflects the depth and quality of the students’ research and analysis carried out throughout the semester.”

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