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Let’s make them count: Members of the New York State Citizen’s Coalition on HAVA Implementation. Photo by: Rick Marshall

Back to the Planning Board

Gay nude beach, fishin’ hole, peaceful green spot: Whatever your fancy, the popular recreation spot along the Poestenkill is back on its road to development this week. The conceptual plan for 28 two-unit condominiums on the undeveloped land will come before the Troy Planning Board for a hearing tonight (Thursday).

Though the land has been in private hands for decades, the public has used the spot for all kinds of activities and many remain agitated about the prospect of condos on this adopted hideaway [“Who Will Speak for Bare Ass Beach?,” May 20].

The proposal came before the Troy Planning Commission in May, but since then Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian replaced the commission with an all-new city Planning Board composed of different members. According to planning director Tim Mattice, the same proposal that was heard by the commission in May will be presented again as a matter of courtesy to the new board.

Russell Ziemba of the Mt. Ida Preservation Foundation, a neighborhood association near the area slated for development, says he’ll be at the hearing to let the board know he thinks that “there are more appropriate places to build on in the city of Troy.” Ziemba lives close by and wants the green space to remain as undeveloped as possible. He hopes the plan will be revised to allow some public access to the Poestenkill.

—Ashley Hahn

Florida on the Hudson

A coalition of voters’ rights groups recently called upon state officials to reach an agreement on state election standards—or risk disenfranchising thousands of New York voters.

“Instead of learning from the mistakes that occurred in the 2000 elections in Florida, [state officials] seem intent upon replicating that experience here in New York,” said Neal Rosenstein, government reform coordinator for New York Public Interest Research Group.

The New York State Citizen’s Coalition on HAVA Implementation blamed the Republican-led Senate and Gov. George E. Pataki—also a Republican—for the government’s failure to reach agreement on the Help America Vote Act, a system of federally mandated election standards created in the aftermath of the 2000 election. The mandates allow state access to federal funds once certain statewide voting standards are established.

However, the task force created to determine these standards accomplished little [“Reform at a Crippling Pace,” Newsfront, May 20]. In order for the state to receive the federal funds set aside by HAVA, a system of standards must be enacted by 2006.

“[The task force] was a fake process,” explained Brad Williams, executive director of the New York State Independent Living Council and a member of the HAVA task force. Williams criticized the operation of the task force, echoing other critics’ claims that partisan politics hindered significant negotiation.

The coalition commended the state Assembly, however, for issuing bills that would allow a wide variety of forms of identification to be used by voters, which also is one of the most prominent obstacles to agreement. According to the coalition, the Senate is pushing for a more restricted list of acceptable identification—in many cases, limiting access for voters without photo identification. This, said coalition members, amounts to compliance with only the bare essentials of HAVA compliance.

This week, the Assembly issued a bill that included a dramatically scaled-down version of voter-identification standards. Rachel Leon, executive director of Common Cause New York, commended the Assembly for attempting to meet the Senate halfway, but indicated that there were aspects of the legislation that the coalition found unacceptable. While the coalition urged state officials to find agreement, several members noted that a lack of agreement might be better than hastily approved long-term standards.

“We might be better off with no legislation at all rather than bad legislation that we’re stuck with for 10 years,” explained Rosenstein.

—Rick Marshall

Caught in a Trap
Photo by: Joe Putrock

Yassin Aref, imam of the Masjid As-Salam mosque on Central Avenue in Albany, and Mohammed Hossain (above) were led from federal court in Albany on Tuesday (Aug. 10) after Federal Magistrate Judge David Homer ordered the men to remain jailed while their trial is pending. The pair were arrested Thursday (Aug. 5) after an FBI sting operation. The plot was a trap set by the FBI in which the men allegedly agreed to launder the money used for a shoulder-fired missile they were told would be used to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat.

They were indicted by a federal grand jury last Friday (Aug. 10), including 19 counts of money laundering and for providing “material support” for terrorists. Attorneys for the defendants wanted them released on bail, and Hossain’s attorney decried the sting as racial profiling.

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