The timing couldn't have been any better.
Days before Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) held its commencement exercises for the Class of 2012, renovation work was finally completed on the Chasan Building (misspelled as Chasen in The Record's articles the other day), which was rededicated a couple of days later. For several months, RPI-hired crews worked on the outer facades of the building, closing off the sidewalk at the corner of Broadway and Fourth Street, but, as with many construction projects, it dragged on for months for a number of reasons, not including weather.
What might've prompted the hasty conclusion of the renovations might've been not just a need to have it ready in time for graduation day, but also to open up the sidewalk in time for Troy's annual Flag Day parade on June 10, sparing citizens and tourists alike from a potential safety hazard. Throughout the last several months, a larger than needed barricade had been erected, forcing pedestrians to detour to the roadside, or across the road, when walking up Fourth Street, en route to, for example the post office. CDTA had to relocate a bus stop back down to State & Fourth Streets, a stop that had been discontinued months before, to accomodate the renovation process.
What RPI intends to do with the Chasan Building, reportedly, is use it for office space to make up for the state workers leaving for Albany. The usual detractors will complain that the building, which has previously housed a supermarket, a bank, and a sporting goods store, will be taken off the tax rolls. RPI has purchased a number of properties in recent years, expanding its campus community into downtown, to the point where there are more than a few people who think that eventually, the school's current president, Dr. Shirley Jackson, might be persuaded to make a run for the mayor's office. It has been under her watch that RPI has become more like a corporate land baron collective. Indeed, the Approach serves as a gateway from the campus directly into downtown, and has for years, but it might be in the school's best interests to create more of a interactive relationship with the rest of the city, rather than buying up and privatizing various properties for their own use. Dr. Jackson needs to be aware that as long as RPI maintains a dominant presence in the city proper, it needs to do its part to help the city's less fortunate.
To do that, RPI needs to reach out to the city's homeless and offer them the means to better themselves. Housing & jobs would be a good start toward rehabilitating the able-bodied-but-physically-unwilling and setting them on a path toward a better life. A step in that direction might be to put some of those homeless to work, even if it's menial labor, to help maintain the Chasan. We'll just see how it all plays out.