Historic Northside neighborhood group brings concerns to Albany City Commission

Mar. 7—ALBANY — Desmond Searcy has lived at his house for four years and has been involved with the Old Historic Northside Neighborhood Watch group for two months. But, Searcy told Albany City Commissioners Tuesday, some of the issues impacting residents there have existed for decades.

Searcy represented the organization in front of the Albany City Commission at its meeting, with about a dozen of his neighbors in the audience.

Some of the problems he recounted included nearby houses filled with residents who have mental health or drug abuse issues that are impacting the neighborhood.

In one recent incident, Searcy told commissioners, he waited 45 minutes for police to respond to a call of someone from the house next door trespassing on his property. Once there, the officers asked why he had not called sooner and threatened to cite him because he was upset with the situation.

"I'm a property owner," he said. "I pay taxes. I don't think being next-door to a facility that's not property managed is the Good Life City."

The house on the other side of him burned down, he said, but before that it was the gathering site for individuals who stayed at homeless shelters at night and used the location as a place to use drugs during the day.

"People are being bused into this community from all across the state because they need to be placed in a position where they can be rehabilitated," he said.

Searcy said he feels empathy for the residents of shelters and congregant homes in the area and that it is his desire they get the assistance they need. However, the city also needs to protect residents from incidents like one in which the windows of three of Searcy's cars were broken overnight.

"You can't allow people to rent to them without responding to their health (needs), without any help," he said. "It can't just be a bunch of talk. Something needs to be done."

The city's Police and Code Enforcement departments have not been responsive to requests for help with dealing with neighborhood issues in the past, Searcy said. The neighborhood encompasses the area of Roosevelt Avenue to Fourth Street, and Washington Street to Monroe street, Searcy said during an interview after his presentation.

"This is the first time I've had the chance to be with these officials," he said. "To this point, the city hasn't responded. I called Commissioner (Jalen) Johnson, and he suggested we come here.

"We are calling Code Enforcement. There are calls that have been made for the last 25 years."

One resident who gave Searcy a hug while he was standing outside after the meeting told him that when she moved into her residence years ago she walked in the neighborhood. But now, she said, she does not leave her yard due the way the neighborhood has deteriorated.