ALBANY, N.Y. -- Corruption in Albany is nothing new, but shedding light on it certainly is, and one Albany man has a dream of educating and entertaining using the city’s corrupt history.
How? The Albany Museum of Political Corruption.
Yes, a museum exposing acts of political corruption. There isn’t another like it in the world.
Museum founder Bruce Roter came up with the idea last July while musing with a prominent local politician. "Albany could lighten up a bit," they agreed in the conversation.
"We have corruption here, why not use it as a resource?" he said.
From there, Roter developed the idea for the museum and told some friends. "More and more people really seemed to like it," he said.
In time, support for the museum grew, along with local and national media attention.
A year later, the man with the plan said it’s all about money. Finding developers and interested benefactors is the task at hand.
"Ideally, I would love to have a great deal of local support in the sense that we could build this together here in Albany for our own sake," he said, adding that fundraising events are currently in the works.
Determination is key, and Roter knows it.
"It’s necessary. It’s needed. It’s a good idea and it must be pursued," he said.
Roter’s last big campaign was to get a Trader Joe’s in the Capital Region, and he succeeded.
"I plan on pursuing this to a successful ending also," he said about the museum. "I don’t have any illusions that it’s going to be a cakewalk, because it obviously has some controversial overtones."
Surprisingly, however, the idea hasn’t been met with much criticism.
"Most people seem to get it," Roter said. When he tell his plans, many laugh. "Once they stop laughing, they say it’s a good idea," he said.
To rehabilitate the city’s image and name, "Albany ought to take leadership in this regard, because it’s Albany’s name that has been dragged through the mud," he said. "No one else is going to clean up Albany’s name except Albany. It wasn’t our mess, but it’s our mess to clean up."
Oh, there’s one more thing.
"It would be a money maker," Roter claims, saying he sees the museum as a profitable endeavor.
A portion of those profits would be donated to the city to help with beautification. In Roter’s head, the museum fits in perfectly with a new, reinvigorated downtown area.
"Let’s use that money to put a fountain or a playground or help continue the development of downtown Albany," he said. "Albany will benefit and profit and make money from state corruption. We deserve it."
Originally from Long Island, Roter said it was his stint living on the West Coast that sparked his flame for social irreverence, that he is now bringing to Albany. Roter has lived in the city for more than 17 years and works as a music professor at The College of Saint Rose.
"We’re a very hardworking class of people," Roter said of the Albany culture, "but we don’t know how to poke fun at ourselves."
Roter thinks Albany needs to start recognizing its flaws in a way that might rid the city of its negative political stereotype.
The Albany Museum of Political Corruption is meant to be an institution that can entertain and inform the public, and meanwhile bring revenue for the city.
"The museum is not going to be used as a lynch mob against any single politician or any political party," Roter said. "The museum is not intended to demonize anyone."
Rather, he hopes it will alter the discussion about corruption and perhaps even stem the tide of corruption culture in the Capital City.
The museum will detail the history of corruption from the beginning of New York to the present, complete with a "Hall of Shame," where politicians will be inducted.
When things are in full swing at the museum, Roter envisions starting up a lecture series, where fallen politicians might speak freely, and perhaps educate a newer class of state politicians on how to avoid the same pitfalls.
Roter has the whole idea pretty fleshed out, but he plans to enroll historians and other professionals to bring together exhibits and help the museum come alive.
While a time line is largely dependent on funds, Roter believes the museum should be up and running within the next five years. Meanwhile, he’s been casually looking at downtown real estate and speaking with developers. Roter hopes to build the museum in downtown Albany, within a stone’s throw of the Capitol.
As much as the idea has a humorous tone, the museum is not a joke.
"It’s a serious effort," Roter said. "It is a serious campaign and it is good for Albany."
For more information or to donate, visit www.albanymuseumofpoliticalcorruption.org.