Closure of the Sanctuary for Independent Media

To the Folks who Manage the Sancturary:

That the City of Troy should take this action tells enough about the persons spearheading this move.
Bobby Mirch, its Public Works Commissioner, who reportedly spearheaded a Sanctuary protest and apparently sees himself as arbiter of City politics and artistic and civic freedoms according to his comments, has appeared in a local media photo holding a sign stating ‘No Terrorism,’ even though no person of sufficient rationality or exposure who has read about the presentation would have associated either the artist (an American) or his work (around for some time but possibly less-vetted than would be palatable in these times) with an actual or potential act of national or local terrorism.

To then follow this up with abrupt and associated closure of a building (that had never been shut down before, and) that has served the local community (Albany, Troy, Schenectady, RPI, the schools, professors, writers, musicians, and filmmakers) with opportunity, and has in its short term has provided enlightening and informative discussions of progressive issues from human rights to environmental and food and scarcity issues; smacks of a species of poorly considered and narrow understanding of the City’s civic responsibility to its residents, and a possible vulnerability to ill-considered or self-interested political hysteria.

In terms of civic responsibility to all City residents, regardless of economic or social ‘class’, the recent past has added another example of this – the renovation of the old Stanley building to pricey apartments and expectations of ‘up-scale’ tenants – which has resulted in the fencing in (essentially closure) of the tiny public park across the street from this building.  

Residents of the City do not know of the origin of this action, but know that for several years, people sitting in on one or two park benches during the day were most often a few middle-aged minorites talking and observing passers-by, or occasional street persons; who have little public record of accosting or harming other City residents.

The only City analogy to this action is the rare private Washington Park originating from the 1800s, where non-owners of formerly upscale buildings are legally excluded from use of the park, however there is no indication this little plot ever changed from public to private, and today such a change would be seen for what it is.

Residents can however only conclude that the originators of this idea had considered people likely to use the tiny park across from the old Stanley Building a blight to their senses and potentially offensive to the (future) upscale residents (who so far have not turned up in droves, and are hardly likely to make a dent in the city’s development needs).  The leaders, as far as I know as a resident, have made no effort or public utterance explaining this action, which is a kind of pernicious civic neglect including of the right of residents and tenants to have a say in matters affecting all residents.

There is no argument that such actions and attitudes coming from somewhere inside the City’s leadership could hinder the civic growth and community’s attractiveness for future residents, who could well be people representing a broad spectrum of interests beneficial to the City’s future.

Rather than shutting down a public, voluntary venue because of one event or a few people unlikely to have seen or grasped what the artist or his work is about, the City might do much better to show its residents that while it will not tolerate artistic or political expression that causes or incites public harm, its actions will not be such that they can be interpreted as short-sighted, intolerant, or insensitive.


Troy, NY


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