Your Kids’ Tractor
tractors, farm equipment and other gas and steam engines
were displayed in varying states of restoration at the
38th Annual Gas-Up and Old Time Equipment Show for the
past two weekends, June 12-13 and June 18-19. The event
was held in Gallupville and sponsored by the Hudson
Mohawk chapter of the Pioneer Gas Engine Association.
similar attacks have many thinking the same guy is behind
both; others aren’t so sure
Waking Up With the Wolf morning radio show on PYX 106.5
has raised nearly $20,000 in reward money to offer for information
leading to the arrest of the person responsible for the murder
of Gretchen Perham on May 13 and the attack on Stephanie Quackenbush
on June 9. That is assuming that’s it’s one person.
Both victims were 14-year-old girls, and were attacked with
a knife on the way to or from Albany’s Hackett Middle School,
probably on Myrtle Avenue. “There are too many similarities
here, the school, the street, the weapon,” said Mayor Jerry
Jennings. “It is a pretty good assumption we are looking at
one individual here.”
The attacks have also drawn national media attention. A recent
episode of America’s Most Wanted featured a reenactment
of the attack on Stephanie Quackenbush. Curtis Frazier and
Perry Smith, who witnessed the attack, were interviewed for
the segment along with Quackenbush herself.
While Mayor Jennings and the hosts of Waking Up With the
Wolf are willing to make the “leap of faith” that the
incidents are connected, Perham’s mother and the Albany Police
Department are not. “They haven’t made that connection at
this point because they don’t have conclusive evidence, and
until they do, they won’t,” said the mayor, speaking for the
Kim Perham, Gretchen’s mother, made it clear during the press
conference to announce the reward that she doesn’t feel one
person could be responsible for the horrific attack on her
daughter: “I’m not a detective, but since day one when we
found out about Gretchen . . . I just think it was more people
than one. The reason I say that is because of what they did
At the time of the murder, the Times Union reported
that Perham, who was new to the school district, was being
harassed by other classmates and was regularly excused 15
minutes early so that she could avoid after-school confrontations.
There has been a buzz in the community and on Capital Region
blogs that Gretchen’s murder might have been gang-related.
But the head of Albany’s gang- prevention program, Ron “Cook”
Barrett, thinks that’s unlikely. “I did what everyone did,”
he said. “I put my feelers out, and after going through it
all . . . I can honestly say I would lean away from it having
to do with gangs. Usually in the small community we live in,
word gets out there. Gang activity is bragatory; you know,
‘I heard this. I heard that,’ and you really haven’t gotten
[that] with [these attacks], and that’s why it perplexes me.”
Before finishing the press conference, Wolf asserted that
he would make sure there is a reward for information leading
to the arrest of a second attacker. “If in fact it turns out
to be two people,” he said, “I will raise the reward money
for the second person or I will match it myself.”
an Oily Exit
Phillip Cooney, chief of staff of the White House’s
Council on Environmental Quality, is headed to
a position with Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest
oil company. The announcement of Cooney’s departure
from the White House came two days after it was
revealed that he made several changes to reports
on environmental climate change in 2002 and 2003—changes
that downplayed scientific evidence that climate
change does indeed occur. Exxon Mobil executive
Lee Raymond has echoed a similar opinion, questioning
the validity of climate change and, more specifically,
the relationship between energy use and global
The Old College Try
Arnold Schwarzenegger struggled to be heard over
the shouting, catcalls and jeers during a recent
commencement address he gave at his alma mater,
Santa Monica State. Protestors filled the stadium
at the two-year community college that Schwarzenegger
attended during the ’70s. After the speech, the
governor was quickly evacuated via golf cart.
Much like his counterpart on the national level,
Schwarzenegger dismissed the nurses, teachers
and members of public-employee unions who protested
his appearance as “special interests.”
Where’s Bin Laden?
have an excellent idea where he is. What’s the
next question?” said CIA chief Porter Goss in
a recent interview with Time magazine.
Goss blamed Bin Laden’s elusiveness on “sanctuaries
in sovereign nations.” (Huh? Sovreignity never
stopped us before.) In any case, the next question
on many lips has been how exactly is it that we
can’t find and capture someone who is over 6’5”
and reportedly needs kidney dialysis three times
a week—especially if we know where he is.
Standing on Principle
According to the Times Union (June 17),
one of the compromises reached in order to get
New York its long-delayed Help America Vote Act
money was to create co-executive directors of
the Board of Elections, one Republican and one
Democrat, with no salary cap on the positions.
Apparently the board had been without a director
since 2003 because the deputy director wouldn’t
take a $13,000-a-year pay cut (from $122,581 to
$108,900) to move up. Poor baby.
you have burritos?”
white couple to the hostess of Thai Corner restaurant
in Amherst, Mass.
unknown: Brook Nichols with a sunfish at Tivoli Pond.
Hill’s Tivoli Preserve is an urban refuge, but when it comes
to protecting people who fish there, the lines of responsibility
are not always clear
day, my mom, my friend and I went to a pond,” wrote Brook
Nichols, a 12-year-old student at Albany’s School 19, in a
class assignment he penned last fall about a trip to Albany’s
were going fishing because we thought that the fish might
be contaminated,” continued the essay. They hoped to catch
a fish and have it tested, he wrote, because “people in the
neighborhood are eating the fish.”
And while it’s no secret among Tivoli’s regular visitors that
many of the sunfish and bass populating the little lake are
destined for local residents’ dinner plates, uncertainties
about the inner-city preserve’s current (and future) status
have some people wondering not only whether the fish are safe
to eat—but whose job it is to find out.
During a recent walk around the preserve, an 80-acre plot
in Albany’s Arbor Hill neighborhood, Grace Nichols, Brook’s
mother, stopped to point out a small stream of orange-tinted
water emerging from the ground. The stream cut a path through
pink honeysuckle and wild irises as it made its way toward
that?” she asked. “That’s why we want to know—because I’m
not sure whether that’s mud or rust, and we don’t know who
the 23 years I lived here, people were always fishing in the
lake and kids were always wading in the water,” remembered
Aaron Mair, founder of the W. Haywood Burns Environmental
Education Center, a nonprofit organization serving as Tivoli’s
informal steward. When Mair and other members of an Arbor
Hill neighborhood group won a 1998 lawsuit that shut down
a polluting incinerator located in their community, part of
the settlement funded the creation of the WHBEEC. The group
made the cleanup, preservation and protection of Tivoli, one
of the state’s only urban wildlife preserves, its primary
think that low-income communities are only concerned with
poverty, crime and violence, but knowledge is power when it
comes to learning about resources like this,” explained Mair.
“We wanted to make the preserve a living lab.”
In some ways, however, that’s exactly what the lake had already
become. Industrial pollutants, along with abandoned vehicles
and other garbage, had long mingled in Tivoli’s water and
soil. More than 70 years ago, slaughterhouse waste occasionally
turned the waters of the lake’s source, Patroon Creek, a deep
red. Today Patroon Creek runs down from the site of the old
National Lead facility, possibly bringing depleted uranium
The city acquired the land that is now Tivoli Preserve in
the mid-1800s for a drinking-water facility. Since the waterworks
were decommissioned in the early 20th century, plans and cleanup
efforts have come and gone, never quite bringing the land
out of limbo. Proposals to create swimming and boating facilities
were introduced, discussed and scrapped, as were plans to
drain the lake and build a stadium in its place, with pollution
a major issue for the plans. The city designated Tivoli a
nature sanctuary in 1957, but since that time it has still
been the subject of one discarded plan after another.
While lawmakers and community groups debated the potential
uses of the park, however, nature did what it does best—it
kept on growing. In addition to attracting gaggles of geese
and other common waterfowl, the preserve also plays host to
several species of birds rarely seen elsewhere in the region.
Recently, several chipped and felled trees have appeared around
a corner of the lake, indicating that a beaver now makes a
that just goes to show you,” said Nichols during a recent
pass by the beaver’s handiwork. “If you leave a piece of land
alone, nature will do its best to restore everything back
Now, with the creation of WHBEEC, the preserve sees regular
use by local schools and environmental groups, and there’s
a push to have the fruits of neighborhood cleanups that began
in the early 1990s protected. Mair said the next step is determining
the extent of Tivoli’s contamination and making its water
and soil clean again, and that could be as much a matter of
legislation as it is science.
got eight or nine years invested in the preserve, and we’re
ready to go to the city,” said Mair, adding that although
WHBEEC has received more than $2 million over the last decade
in state and federal support for its work with Tivoli and
the surrounding watershed, it still has no formal arrangement
with the city regarding the preserve. The ideal arrangement,
he said, would involve a public-private partnership between
the city and WHBEEC that would give the park the same legal
and financial attention as the city’s more official green
spaces, but still allow the same level of community involvement
in restoration and management as is happening now.
Mair added that although the city has been happy to provide
heavy equipment, rakes and all sorts of cleanup materials
to neighborhood groups and WHBEEC, without formal recognition
for both the park and their stewardship of it, the process
stewardship here has always been informal,” he explained.
One thing that could accompany that responsibility, said Mair,
is the ability to properly notify visitors to the preserve
about issues like water quality and wildlife interaction.
Mair said WHBEEC has posted signs around the lake in the past,
warning that Tivoli’s fish are probably not safe to eat, but
the signage—along with picnic benches—often end up as fuel
for bonfires. While some of these problems might be blamed
on local youth, Mair said he’s often had to chase off suburban
kids who weren’t able to exercise their destructive tendencies
in the region’s more regulated parks. Without any authority
from the city, he claimed there’s little he or anyone else
from WHBEEC can do to make sure the signs go up—and stay there.
Department of General Services Commissioner Willard Bruce
said that WHBEEC had encouraged the city to take a more hands-off
approach toward the preserve, allowing the community that
had already been managing it to continue doing so, but his
department was happy to provide support—usually in the form
of heavy machinery to remove junk cars, or rakes, shovels
and other cleaning equipment.
manage it on a day-to-day basis,” explained Bruce. “We provide
the kind of support they don’t have the internal resources
A park plan, passed through the Common Council and supported
by the mayor, would be necessary to move to the more official
arrangement Mair envisions. Calls to the mayor’s office were
Until such an agreement—and funding—can be arranged, said
Mair, educated guesses about the danger of eating Tivoli’s
fish are all that visitors will have to go on.
certainly a need for studies,” said Ward Stone, wildlife pathologist
for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,
of the uncertainty surrounding Tivoli. According to Stone,
the most recent data regarding the lake’s fish population
is more than a decade old.
Unfortunately, said Stone, the resources for this sort of
testing are stretched thin. With regional problems like chronic
wasting disease occupying state attention, there is little
funding—or staff—available for localized toxicology tests.
Stone is currently the state’s only DEC pathologist, and he
said he often hears from people “frustrated about not being
able to get tests done” in their neighborhoods.
For a small park like Tivoli, receiving formal recognition
from the city may help get the park the sort of government
attention that expensive toxicology tests require. Then again
it may not, as the responsibility for such testing doesn’t
seem to fall on any one agency’s shoulders.
not really any government agency you can just call and say,
‘Hey, we’re curious about this—can you test it?’” explained
Stone. “And independent contractors can cost you thousands
Nevertheless, Stone said he’d be willing to try to find time
to test a fish or two from Tivoli—provided Brook Nichols can
catch one that’s big enough. So far, the lake’s inhabitants
haven’t been very cooperative in that respect.
looked pretty small,” wrote Brook about his only catch during
last year’s fishing trip.
thought it was too small, so we let it go,” he continued.
“We’re going to keep trying to catch fish to go test.”
in the footsteps of activists at UAlbany [“Don’t
Ask, Don’t Recruit,” Newsfront, March 10, 2005],
nearly 100 Averill Park High School students protested
the presence of military recruiters on
June 8, and pleaded with the school board to forbid
their presence on school grounds. Last month the
board changed its policy to no longer allow recruiters
to pass out phamphlets and other items in the
cafeteria, but they are still permitted to hand
out information in other areas of the school.
The students feel that banning the military would
be within the provisions of the No Child Left
Behind Act because they would be being treated
the same as college recruiters and employers—not
allowed in if they discriminate, in this case