Monday, February 13, 2012

Free Tax Help Available

Does the phrase “Tax Preparation” cause you anxiety and make you question your ability to add Lines A-D and then subtract that sum from Line E?  Well, take a deep breath—help is available.

FREE tax preparation programs around the Capital Region are currently being co-sponsored by non-profits to offer help to individuals and families with annual incomes below $50,000. Numerous agencies and community groups are hosting these services. Dial 2-1-1 to find a site close to you. Also, to check your availability for Earned Income Tax Credit and other savings visit

Benefits of these tax preparation services:
  • FREE tax preparation services from IRS-certified volunteer preparers
  • 10 day turn-around on refunds with direct deposit
  • Savings bonds available
  • Convenient locations with flexible hours
To bring with you to an appointment:
  • Photo identification for the person filing the tax return
  • W-2, 1099 and other IRS forms where appropriate
  • Bank account information and routing numbers for direct deposit
  • 2010 tax return (if available)
  • 2008 and 2010 tax returns if you received the 2008 first-time homebuyer credit
  • Social Security card for each person listed on your tax form
  • Childcare documentation
  • Unemployment forms

Troy Vacant Properties Workgroup Update

The Troy Vacant Properties Workgroup -- created at a TNAC (Troy Neighborhoods Action Council) meeting two years ago -- met on February 8th to share updates of recent activities and agree upon this year’s priorities. One of our goals has been to intervene in a vacant building’s “death march to demolition” through early attention and enhanced marketing. We believe that a modest investment in a building can result in a higher purchase price and increased owner-occupancy than the auction process has. Consequently, the Workgroup recently testified at a CDBG hearing, urging the city to consider implementing our Pilot Stabilization Project.  This involves selecting five recently vacant buildings, buttoning them up, and marketing them in conjunction with the area’s neighborhood group. 

Steps to improve the marketing of vacant properties is already improving. City Council President Lynn Kopka (and member of the VP Workgroup) and the city have taken the initiative to clean out some of the city-owned vacant buildings with help from the sheriff’s work crew. Furthermore, to ensure that prospective purchasers know the condition of the buildings before bidding on them, the city will show buildings upon request from interested buyers.

The Workgroup looks forward to working on other proposed activities such as:
  • Researching Land Banks, a new concept in NYS due to recent legislation, to learn about the benefits to Troy. New to the idea of landbanking? Aren’t familiar with the term? Visit to learn more.
  • Analyzing Troy’s vacant property data in order to develop a variety of strategies to address this complicated issue.
  • Searching for solutions to theft (especially of copper) from vacant properties.
  • Increasing owner compliance with the city’s Vacant Property Registry through more  promotion of it
  • Seeking best practices and innovative solutions in effect elsewhere
It will be a busy and productive year for the Workgroup! If you’re interested or concerned about any of the issues facing us, please feel free to join us at our next meeting. It will be held at the TRIP building (415 River St) on March 7th at 6pm. For more information, contact Claire

TNAC Update

The Troy Neighborhoods Action Council (TNAC) met on February 1st to discuss and learn about neighborhood successes, new ideas, news from the city, and how to get involved in projects that other neighborhood leaders are working on. The group was joined by Mayor Rosamilia, several city council members, Police Chief Tedesco, and fellow policemen.

Some highlights from the meeting include:
  • Davia Collington shared information about the Drug Free Communities grant. There was also a follow-up meeting on February 7th. At this meeting, the grant application process began. The next planning meeting with be held on February 21st at 6:30 PM at the Bethel Baptist Church.
  • Rocco DeFazio told about his plans for a statewide neighborhood conference in September. He has already secured author James Kuntsler as the keynote speaker. A planning meeting for the conference will be held at the Hill Street Inn on February 22nd at 7pm.
  • The new crime analyst for the city, Tyler Gothmann, was introduced. Tyler will be regularly posting updated crime maps online so Troy citizens will be able to find information quicker when they need it.
  • Tips were shared by both Neighborhood Watch groups and the police about making our streets, homes, and businesses safer.
Members of neighborhood groups also shared recent success stories including:
  • The Osgood neighborhood talked about their Alley Action and Alley Addresses projects, where they beautify alleys in one and make plates for addresses in alleyways to help first responders in the other. They also mentioned a letter they’ve started sending out to landlords to encourage both a sense of belonging and responsibility to their community.
  • A resident of 5th Avenue talked about the steps she is taking to make sure a row of vacant buildings on her block are being properly taken care of.
  • Hillside North shared about their Cleaner and Greener Community Campaign, their partnership with School 2, and the grants for which they have applied.
  • Little Italy is calling on artists to paint frescoes in the neighborhood for a voting process in the spring and summer. After the voting has finished, the frescoes will be auctioned off at the Italian Community Center’s annual festival.
  • The Burden Iron Works group is combining three neighborhoods under the title “The United Neighborhoods of South Troy.”
  • The Christie Street group is starting a new neighborhood group and Beman Park is strengthening theirs, changing the name to be more inclusive (tentatively the “Campus Neighborhood Coalition”), and creating leadership positions.
Additionally, TNAC now has a new page on the TRIP website!  Take a look here:

Faces at TRIP: Gabe Marruso

Everyday, TRIP/RCHR staff work to improve the lives of Troy residents, but how well do you really know the people who make up that staff? Beginning this month, we will put the spotlight on a member of the TRIP/RCHR team in a regular series, “Faces at TRIP”.

Gabe Marruso is a Rental Manager who has worked at TRIP since August 2010. He is an avid fisherman and member of the Kayaderosseras Fish and Game Club. Gabe also enjoys tinkering around on his car in his free time. When the game is on, you can find Gabe cheering on his favorite teams: the New York Yankees and the Buffalo Bills!

This year, as with every year, Gabe is striving to maintain the goals of TRIP. Working as a Rental Manager, he always puts in the extra effort for our tenants. Gabe often helps people beyond the parameters of his job description. Whether it means helping someone type a letter or just being a willing ear, Gabe lives by the belief that TRIP tenants needn’t sacrifice comfort for affordability. He says, “I really want to make sure people are happy.”

69 Middleburgh Plans and Progress

As we reported in December, TRIP’s rehab project for 2012 is 69 Middleburgh St. in Troy. Architectural drawings for a 3-unit building (one 1-bedroom and two 2-bedrooms) have been done up, and TRIP is going to bid with contractors this month.

Numerous Middleburgh residents have made a point to thank the people working at the site. They, like us, understand that this rehab is more than a single building—it helps to set a standard of living and serves as an example that people care about where they live.

69 Middleburgh prior to any renovations

Artist Randy Rumpf’s rendering of the completed rehab

Friday, February 10, 2012

Housing Programs Not Funded in State Budget

We Need Your Urgent Help!

Call: (518) 474-8390
 or write: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Capitol, Albany, NY 12224 

TRIP and Rensselaer County Housing Resources (RCHR) help hundreds of people each year through homeownership opportunities, foreclosure prevention counseling, community programs, and lots more. NOW WE NEED YOUR HELP.  Stunningly, the governor’s proposed State budget will eliminate three key housing programs that provide key operating funding, enabling us to provide a myriad of housing and community services.

Here is the story and how you can help.

The governor has eliminated all funding for the Neighborhood Preservation Program and the Rural Preservation Program. The relatively small amounts of funding that TRIP and RCHR got under these programs in past years is seed money that allows us to cover portions of basic operating costs so that we can secure funding to deliver specific programs like Homebuyer Education, financial counseling, Mini-Repair services and Landlord Training, among others. The small State investment is leveraged many times over, providing a great “bang for the buck.” In 2010, for example, TRIP paid $192,924 in local property taxes, assisted 87 families facing foreclosure, repaired 278 homes, counseled 436 families in homeownership issues, and assisted 78 families become homeowners. The result: more than $10.1 million in mortgages, $2 million in local business, small contractors had work, and more.

Additionally, the governor eliminated all funding for the State’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program. Predictions are that foreclosures will increase this year as the robo-signing issue that slowed down foreclosures last year are now resolved. However, with zero funding to the State’s Foreclosure Prevention Program, housing counselors skilled in complex foreclosure negotiations and legal service attorneys assisting homeowners in court will be laid off around the state. Homeowners often are unable to navigate through the foreclosure process on their own; foreclosure counseling nearly doubles a homeowner’s chance of getting her mortgage modified. Analysis shows that foreclosures cost communities quite a bit through decreased taxes, lowered property values, and safety issues. Without funding through the State’s foreclosure program, TRIP will no longer be able to assist families facing foreclosures, as we did with 87 families last year.

If you care about TRIP and RCHR’s housing services and the impact on Troy and Rensselaer County, we ask that you contact the governor’s office today at (518) 474-8390 or Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Capitol, Albany, NY 12224 urging him to restore funding to the Neighborhood and Rural Preservation Programs and the Foreclosure Prevention Program.

Please call today because the deadline for him to add funding to his budget is very soon.

Thank you so much for your help.

Your friends at TRIP & RCHR