I enjoyed the Troy Candidates’ Forum last Wednesday. It was interesting to hear them describe what Troy was like and what it could become. Speaking about our school, presumably to an audience from RPI, many of the candidates were very candid about making statements like “We need to take advantage of RPI’s wealth,” or “Maybe RPI can help us with funding.” They talked about being from Troy, how college students could support Troy’s economy, and emphasized that the city’s much safer than it seems. It made me wonder if they said the same things to the women at Russell Sage College, or the commuting students at Hudson Valley Community College.
Recently, I was walking from Blitman Commons to a bus stop downtown with a friend. We stood across from the Dunkin’ Donuts, it was maybe 9:30 pm on a weekday. Most stores were closed. As we waited, we watched someone try to sleep in the bus shelter. A few older men stood around outside a convenience store, talking quietly. Three little girls came down the block, swinging their hips, wearing clothes that were much too tight and short for girls who couldn’t be more than 11 years old; they were walking each other home.
A man was out walking his dog, dressed in a baggy shirt, baggy pants, and loose jacket. The dog was large, maybe a pitbull. It had a fraying rope tied around his neck, and that was what the man was using as a leash. The girls saw the man, saw the dog, and crossed the street to the other side. The dog-walker saw a friend, said hello, and bumped fists with him. The men hanging around the convenience store turned away from them, occasionally turning to give a suspicious, slow glance.
A homeless woman tottered past them on the side. The dog must have made a sound because as she passed, she suddenly shrank back, afraid, and wouldn’t move. She was stuck cowering in the middle of the street, holding shopping bags in her hands. The man and his friend laughed at her.
The little girls noticed, and one of them began to taunt him, cursing, calling him names. “Can’t you see she afraid of your dog?” she said. “You think you so big?”
The man didn’t say anything; he yanked at the rope and made the dog sit. The woman eventually made her way past, shuffling slowly. The man and his dog slowly began to follow her. The little girls separated, giggling; still cursing. The bus came, and my friend and I went back up the hill to campus.
You see, I couldn’t recognize any of those people from Troy in the smiling faces that could become the city council. Would they hang out by that bus stop late at night? Would they tell the girls not to use language like that, or help the woman who was afraid of the dog?
As students, I think we all know that RPI doesn’t have huge sums of money to give away, even to help Troy. They do their best to be involved, don’t get me wrong; but we’re not a big rich school of rich kids on the hill. And I have a suspicion that many of the problems that exist in Troy can’t be fixed by anyone just writing a check.