in the Marring?
meets new: A development plan in Niskayuna will transform
the Ingersoll Residence.
PHOTO: Chris Shields
go to court to save historic property and put the brakes on
a Niskayuna strip-mall project
years, the town of Niskayuna will celebrate the bicentennial
anniversary of its founding. Some local preservationists,
however, question whether there’ll be much history left to
celebrate after town officials gave the thumbs-up for a project
that will radically alter one of the town’s most historic
are you going to have to show for [the 200 years of history]?”
asked John Wolcott, one of several people involved in fighting
the commercial-development project that’s planned for the
State Street and Balltown Road area.
put forward by Highbridge Development of Schenectady would
surround the historic Stanford Home (which today is an adult-care
facility called Ingersoll Residence) with retail, restaurants
and parking spaces while clear-cutting and paving the bordering
trees and open space. As for the home, it would be partially
deconstructed and converted into a restaurant, an idea that
makes some preservationists, such as Linda Champagne, cringe.
president of the Friends of Stanford Home and former Niskayuna
town historian, has been a major player in the fight to protect
the Stanford building and its surrounding scenery. Having
come away with few results from their efforts at the town
level, on Friday she was among several petitioners who argued
the matter in the state Supreme Court.
of the legal challenge, Champagne explained, is the town board’s
decision not to require a full environmental-impact statement
for the commercial-development project, called Stanford Crossings.
of this significance, historically and environmentally, deserves
the same thorough treatment that an environmental-impact statement
would provide,” Champagne said. “We have never picked out
something so significant, and smaller places have had a full
environmental-impact statement. So why did we rush this?”
the town board voted 3-2 that the Stanford Crossings did not
have significant environmental impacts and therefore did not
require a full EIS, a process that can take about a year.
The decision came despite a conflicting recommendation from
the town’s Conservation Advisory Council, which as far back
as November 2006 had voted unanimously to recommend that the
town board require the thorough environmental review.
recommendation stated that “the proposed action would cause
an adverse change to the existing environment; impair the
character and quality of an important historic, archaeological
and aesthetic resource; and adversely impact the existing
community and neighborhood character.”
would have forced studies into factors such traffic issues,
the historical significance of the plot, alternative scenarios,
among the three-person majority that rejected the need for
environmental review was Luke Smith, town supervisor, who
said he has been painted incorrectly by many of those seeking
to preserve the Stanford plot.
people who have said Luke Smith is pushing this,” he said.
“No. What I’ve done is I’ve followed the state laws and rules
and regulations. The property is zoned commercial. It has
been for about 40 years.”
commercial designation shouldn’t exempt the need for an EIS,
however, said those fighting against Stanford Crossings, and
that perhaps the plot should never have been zoned commercial
in the first place.
and Wolcott both expressed concern about adding more commercial
development to an area that they said has seen enough suburban
when I was in the co-op store in Niskayuna, somebody said
to me, ‘I see they haven’t done anything on State Street yet,’
and they said, ‘That’s all we need is another store,’ ” Champagne
said. It’s a sentiment she said she’s heard from many others.
have expressed concern about how Stanford Crossings, which
would be located along the border with Schenectady, could
affect business there, especially after the city’s work to
attract business to the downtown.
responded to that concern by pointing to the support that’s
been expressed by Ray Gillen, chair of the Schenectady Metroplex
Development Authority, with whom Smith has had discussions.
Smith said the county planning department also has indicated
no problems with the project.
sit at home dreaming about creating malls and stuff like that,”
Smith said. “I do take my oath very seriously as far as following
the codes and the laws, and that’s what we did and that’s
why the majority of the board voted the way they did.”
decision also had nothing to do with a disregard for historical
preservation, added Smith, who said he is concerned about
protecting historic properties. “That’s why we worked with
the developer to make sure that the historic Ingersoll home
would be used,” he said. “We convinced him [the developer]
to keep the historic building from the early 1800s, and they’re
going to convert it into a restaurant, so I’m very pleased
said she’d like to see the building be used for other, more
educational purposes that could incorporate the telling of
the plot’s long history.
the original Stanford House (additions were later added to
expand the structure) dates back only to the early 1800s,
when the Stanford family resided there, the history of the
land’s previous owners dates back to the 1700s.
Capable of Emotion
Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff
Lewis “Scooter” Libby was sentenced to 30 months
in prison on Tuesday for lying to investigators,
Cheney felt it necessary to release a statement.
In the statement Cheney said that he was “deeply
saddened” by Libby’s conviction. Last year Cheney
did not feel the need to publicly apologize or
show regret when he accidentally shot his 78-year-old
hunting partner, Harry Whittington, in the face,
which in turn led to the man having a non-fatal
RecCapitalize Albany Committee (the committee
of local business people who took that lovely
trolley ride through Albany last year [“When a
City Closes Its Eyes,” Sept. 14, 2006]) weighed
in this week with recommendations for ways to
improve the city. The commission recommended that
Albany should take a cue from Schenectady and
form an authority for economic development, as
Schenectady has done with the Metroplex.
Tuesday, the United Nations’ refugee agency reported
that 4.2 million Iraqis have been displaced by
the violence in their home country and that the
figure will only continue to rise. Of that number,
2.2 million is the number of Iraqis who have fled
the country as refugees. Another 2 million have
been driven from their homes but remain elsewhere
in the country, mainly in “impoverished shanty
towns,” according to U.N. agency spokeswoman Jennifer
Pagonis. The largest number of Iraqi refugees
is in Syria, where about 30,000 flee to each month.
For a little perspective, that number is roughly
half the population of Schenectady.
Geneva-based Center on Housing Rights and Evictions
reports that 1.5 million Chinese residents recently
were groundlessly evicted from their homes as
the country prepares for the 2008 Beijing Olympic
Games. The Chinese government promptly rejected
COHRE’s figures and said that 6,000 families had
been relocated but were properly compensated and
resettled. “Our research shows that little has
changed since 1988 when 720,000 people were forcibly
displaced in Seoul, South Korea, in preparation
for the Summer Olympic Games,” said the organization’s
executive director, Jean du Plessis.
man’s crusade for a proper police memorial for his friend
raises another question: How has law enforcement changed since
Ask people who knew Charlie Mills and they will tell you,
in no uncertain terms, that he was a good cop. Ask Schenectady
Mayor Brian Stratton, and he will tell you that the things
Mills accomplished during his time as police commissioner
for Schenectady may never be eclipsed.
really compare everyone to Charlie Mills,” said Stratton.
“He is the standard. He was a great man, and he did some very
During his time as commissioner, Mills was known for being
involved in the community and for traveling incognito to make
sure all was well with the city. Mills eventually left the
region and returned to New York City, where he had begun his
career as a police officer years before.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Mills was working as the chief of the revenue-crimes
investigation unit of the New York State Department of Taxation
and Finance. He died while helping to evacuate employees from
the World Trade Center. And since that time, his friend Terry
O’Neil, a lawyer and public-affairs consultant, has been trying
to secure Mills (and the investigators who died with him on
that day) a place on the New York State Police Officers’ Memorial
at the Empire State Plaza.
At the time of his death, investigators in Mills’ unit were
looking into revenues generated from the sale of alcohol and
While no one questions that Mills was a good police officer,
there is the question of whether Mills was acting as a cop
when he died. And O’Neil says that even though New York state
law generally recognizes investigators such as Mills as peace
officers, they are given police-officer status when performing
O’Neil unsuccessfully argued his opinion to both agencies
responsible for the memorial, the Division of Criminal Justice
Service and the Office of General Services. O’Neil said he
was told that resistance to his proposal came from police
groups on the monument committee said they are not going to
have this,” he said. “That is the attitude of the police groups.
But we need to look at this in a larger perspective and not
just because Charlie is my friend.”
O’Neil said that the state has to recognize that since 9/11,
law enforcement has changed. According to O’Neil, since the
start of the “war on terror,” the federal government has spent
less time on the kinds of crime it once aggressively monitored.
And as a result, investigators like Mills are playing a crucial
role in ensuring that the crimes the federal government no
longer has time to prosecute aren’t allowed to slip through
In a letter to New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly,
who was friends with Mills,
made his case that Mills should be honored in the spirit of
recognizing that police work involves cooperation between
many agencies. O’Neil wrote: “White collar crime, tax evasion,
smuggling, identity theft, insurance fraud, official corruption
and many others are now very much our local responsibility.
Organized crime and terrorist networks are heavily involved
in these forms of crime. We must augment the forces we have
at our disposal to deal with this unarguable fact.”
Kelly has a terrible manpower problem,” O’Neil said. “He says
it’s the contract and the starting pay. I happen to know it’s
going on all over the country. It is a consequence of the
war on terror that has created this Homeland Security industry.
There are all kinds of alternative careers for people that
would otherwise go into police work. You won’t see it here
in Albany, but all over the country the same thing is happening.”
O’Neil has made his case to the office of State Assemblywoman
RoAnn Destito (D-Oneita), chair of the Government and Services
Committee, who oversaw the hearings on the state police’s
five-month pursuit of fugitive Bucky Phillips. O’Neil said
that he is unsure how concentrating so much manpower in the
rural areas where Phillips was hiding affected policing in
the rest of the state, but he would like Destito to consider
putting together a commission to assess how the state police
force has been affected by the new Homeland Security industry,
and how the state has adapted.
O’Neil said it is past time for New York to consider exactly
how to patch the holes left in law enforcement left by the
war on terror.
FBI is not doing white-collar crime, civil-rights violations,”
he said. “So who is doing it? No one. The municipal agencies
will have to step in and take over. When [Albany County district
attorney] Dave Soares did the steroids thing, he did it because
the DEA considered it a very low-priority problem. We have
created a situation where I see everything in flux, and we
have to consider how to address it.”
loose ends this week-