History of Albany, New York - Corning Administration (1942) To Present Day

Corning Administration (1942) To Present Day

Erastus Corning 2nd, arguably Albany's most notable mayor (and great-grandson of the former mayor of the same name), was elected in 1941. Although he was the longest serving mayor of any city in United States history (1942 until his death in 1983), one historian describes Corning's tenure as "long on years, short on accomplishments," citing Corning's preference for maintaining the status quo as a factor that held back potential progress during his tenure. While Corning brought stability to the office of mayor, it is said that even those that idolize him cannot come up with a sizable list of "major concrete Corning achievements." Corning is given credit for saving, albeit somewhat unintentionally, much of Albany's historic architecture.

During the 1950s and 1960s, a time when federal aid for urban renewal was plentiful, Albany did not see much progress in either commerce or infrastructure. It lost more than 20 percent of its population during the Corning years, and most of the downtown businesses moved to the suburbs. While cities across the country experienced similar issues, the problems were magnified in Albany: interference from the Democratic political machine hindered progress considerably. Governor Nelson Rockefeller (1959–1973) (R), who had a preference for grandiose, monumental architecture and large, government-sponsored building projects, was the driving force behind the construction of the Empire State Plaza, SUNY Albany's uptown campus, and much of the W. Averell Harriman State Office Building Campus. Albany County Republican Chairman Joseph C. Frangella once quipped, "Governor Rockefeller was the best mayor Albany ever had." Corning, though opposed to the project, was responsible for negotiating the payment plan for the Empire State Plaza. Rockefeller did not want to be limited by the Legislature's power of the purse, so Corning devised a plan to have the county pay for the construction and have the state sign a lease-ownership agreement. The state would pay off the bonds until 2004. It was Rockefeller's only viable option, and he agreed. Due to the clout Corning gained from the situation, he was able to get the State Museum, a convention center, and a restaurant, back in the plans—ideas that Rockefeller had originally vetoed. The county gained $35 million in fees and the city received $13 million for lost tax revenue.

Another major project of the 1960s and 1970s was Interstate 787 and the South Mall Arterial. Construction began in the early 1960s. One of the project's main consequences was separating the city from the Hudson River. Corning is sometimes called shortsighted with respect to use of the waterfront, as he could have used his influence to change the location of I-787, which now cuts the city off from "its whole raison d'être". Much of the original plan never came to fruition, however: Rockefeller had wanted the South Mall Arterial to pass through the Empire State Plaza. The project would have required an underground trumpet interchange below Washington Park, connecting to the (eventually cancelled) Mid-Crosstown Arterial. To this day, evidence of the original plan is still visible. In 1967 the hamlet of Karlsfeld became the last annexation to be added to the city limits, having come from Bethlehem.

When Corning died in 1983, Thomas Whalen assumed the mayorship and was reelected twice. Albany saw a significant influx of federal dollars earmarked for restoring historic structures. What Corning had saved from destruction, Whalen refurbished. The Mayor's Office of Special Events was created in an effort to increase the number of festivals and artistic events in the city, including a year-long Dongan Charter tricentennial celebration in 1986. Whalen is credited for an "unparalleled cycle of commercial investment and development" in Albany due to his "aggressive business development programs".

Prior to the recession of the 1990s, Albany was home to two Fortune 500 companies: KeyBank and Fleet Bank; both have since moved or merged with other banks. Albany saw its political climate change after the death of Corning and the retirement of Congressman Sam Stratton. Long-term office holders became a thing of the past in the 1980s. Local media began following the drama surrounding county politics (specifically that of the newly created county executive position); the loss of Corning (and eventually the machine) led to a lack of interest in city politics. The 1990s brought about the surprise election of Gerald Jennings, who has been mayor since 1994. His tenure has essentially ended the political machine that had been in place since the 1920s. During the 1990s, the State Legislature approved the $234 million "Albany Plan", "a building and renovation project was the most ambitious building project to effect the area since the Rockefeller era." The Albany Plan saw the initiation of renovation and new building projects around the downtown area, and the move of many state workers from the Harriman State Office Campus to downtown. The late first decade of the 21st century saw a real possibility for a long-discussed and controversial Albany Convention Center; as of August 2010, the Albany Convention Center Authority had already purchased 75% of the land needed to build the downtown project.

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Other articles related to "corning, 1942":

Albany, New York - History - Corning Administration (1942) To Present Day
... Erastus Corning2nd, arguably Albany's most notable mayor (and great-grandson of the former mayor of the same name), was elected in 1941 ... mayor of any city in United States history (1942until his death in 1983), one historian describes Cornings tenure as "long on years, short on accomplishments," citing Cornings preference for maintaining the ... While Corningbrought stability to the office of mayor, it is said that even those that idolize him cannot come up with a sizable list of "major concrete Corningachievements." Corningis given credit for ...

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