[Return to Home Page] [Subscriptions] [Newsstands] [Contact Us] [Archives]

New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 11, 2005

"We were bored" : 30 to 50 cars vandalized

By Holly Grosch

FEURA BUSH — The Bethlehem police have arrested a Feura Bush man for vandalizing dozens of cars and more arrests are expected at the end of this week.

Russell A. Babin, 19, of 2341 Indian Fields Road, was arrested Monday morning for third-degree criminal mischief, a felony, said Bethlehem’s detective supervisor, Michael McMillen.

Babin confessed to police he participated in the vandalism of 30 to 50 cars in Bethlehem, and then named his accomplices, McMillen said.

"We did it," Babin told The Enterprise on Wednesday.

"The only reason we did it was because we were bored and had nothing else to do," Babin said.

There are four more teenagers whom the Bethlehem police plan to arrest by the end of the week — it’s just a matter of paperwork, and getting the warrants signed, McMillen said. The suspects range in age from 15 to 19, and all live in the same area, McMillen said.

It is believed they are responsible for a stint of car vandalism in Bethlehem, Coeymans, and "a handful" in New Scotland, which started July 15 with the most recent incidents occurring over the weekend, McMillen said on Tuesday.

Babin and his friends damaged 20 cars just this Sunday, McMillen said. Babin was the driver for Sunday’s criminal escapade, McMillen said.

Information from Bethlehem’s investigation has been passed on to the Albany County Sheriff’s Department and the town of Coeymans police for their own investigations, he said.

Feura Bush, a hamlet in New Scotland, presses up against the town of Bethlehem’s border, and is also close to the Coeymans town line to the south.

McMillen said what ties the numerous acts of vandalism together is the way the suspects did the crimes.

The car’s windows were all smashed out with pieces of concrete, and the teenagers consistently poured orange soda into the gas tanks, McMillen said.

They also used Sharpies, permanent markers, when they wrote and drew on the vehicles, McMillen said. Two of their derogatory phrases were "Pay up N-gg-r" and "F--k the police," McMillen said. They also drew swastikas on a couple of the cars and drew penises, said McMillen.

The crimes don’t constitute a hate crime, though, McMillen said, because the victims weren’t African-American or Jewish.

Ninety-nine percent of the victims were strangers to Babin and his accomplices, McMillen said. They were random acts, he said.

When asked what the motive was, McMillen reported the same thing that Babin later told The Enterprise: "He said it was just something to do," McMillen said.

What led police to Babin was an interview with one of the victims, who was asked if there were anyone who might be angry at him.

This victim was going to buy an iPod, a portable digital music player, from one of the other suspects, McMillen said. The victim didn’t want to pay the suspect’s asking price so, in retaliation, the teenagers targeted his car, McMillen said.

Interviewing the teenager who was trying to sell the iPod is what led Bethlehem detectives to Babin. The teenager selling the iPod, has not yet been arrested, but will be, McMillen said.

While interviewing Babin, he denied involvement for a long time, McMillen said, but, after an hour, he confessed.

McMillen said that there really wasn’t one specific leader of the group.

While criminal mischief is currently the only charge against Babin, McMillen said Bethlehem Police plan to press further charges, including conspiracy, which makes it more severe of a crime, McMillen said, and reckless endangerment to property.

The cash value of the damage done is in the thousands of dollars, McMillen said, and the police are still interviewing all the victims and getting documentation of the repair costs to get a more exact figure.

Babin’s view

When The Enterprise asked Babin if they knew the people who’s cars they where damaging, he said, "No, just people."

"People who were just at the wrong place at that wrong time," he said.

Babin said he only participated in the vandalism twice — once last month and then a few days ago. It was his friends’ idea and he said, "I just went along with it."

When he was interviewed and interrogated by police, Babin said, "I felt really nervous." He added that he knew if he didn’t tell the police who else was there and involved, he would be taking all the blame. "I didn’t want to do that," Babin said.

"It was not really that fun — mostly for the thrill — doing something and getting away with it, or trying to," Babin told The Enterprise.

Asked his thoughts now after being caught, Babin said, "I know I’m not going to be doing it again."

"I’m sorry to all the people we did it to," Babin said. He said he knows they never deserved it.

When asked why swastikas were used and what they meant to him, Babin’s said, "I don’t know about that, I had heard about that as well, the swastikas...I don’t know why they wrote that, I was driving."

Then asked about using the word "N-gg-r," Babin said, "I guess they’re racist," he said of his friends. He said he didn’t write that word.

"I don’t know why because I sat in the car and waited," Babin said.

Babin asked The Enterprise what happened to the other teens.

After responding, The Enterprise asked if they were friends of his. Babin said, "We were," but, "I won’t be talking to them" anymore.

Judge’s race

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — Incumbent town Judge Thomas Dolin, a Democrat, is running for the fifth time, but this will be only the third time that he has an opponent.

"A number of people have not been happy with the behavior and actions of Judge Dolin," said Lance Luther the chairman of New Scotland’s GOP. A number of people have come before Judge Dolin and were unhappy with the results, Luther said. And, Dolin has gotten involved in politics on the side of the Democrats, Luther said, "When judges should really act independently."

Luther said he was referring to last year when Dolin chose to keep Democrat Deborah Baron on as an unpaid court clerk although she was a council member.

After some town board members objected to a conflict of interest, Baron declined a paycheck, but continued filling Dolin’s court clerk duties until September.

"We’re happy to present an alternative," Luther said on behalf of the Republican committee.

Susan Aron-DeFronzo will run on the Republican ticket this fall. She has lived in Voorheesville since 1999.

"I’ve been in public service since I came out of law school...This seems like the next natural step," Aron-DeFronzo said of her desire to become a town judge.

In response to Luther’s comments about Baron, Dolin said he saw it as an opportunity for someone to work for nothing, to save the town some tax dollars. He said Baron had worked for three different judges over 12 years and that she never received any criticism as a court clerk, so he saw no reason not to accept Baron’s offer to work for free.

Dolin said that he did ultimately choose her replacement in September of 2004. But, he said, during the nine-month period from when Baron took office as a town board member on Jan. 1, 2004, until the new paid clerk began work, "There wasn’t a clerk."

The town judge can perform the duties of a clerk and it is not uncommon for a town judge to be without one, Dolin said. He said Baron, however, was very helpful on the clerical aspects as a volunteer.


Aron-DeFronzo currently works part-time as chief counsel to State Senator Serphin R. Maltese, R.-Queens. Except for a two-year stint as assistant district attorney for Nassau County, she has worked for Maltese since graduating from Cardozo School of Law in New York City in 1989. She also handles Appellate cases for indigent defendants, she said.

Aron-DeFronzo said her diverse background "lends itself to being impartial and fair."

Connie Burns, who chairs the New Scotland Democratic Committee, said that Democrats have endorsed Dolin again this year because "he’s been a judge for awhile now and he’s a very good person."

"He’s a very smart man and well-qualified," Burns said. He’s extremely qualified, because what could make someone more qualified than already being a judge", she said, adding, "He’s been a judge before — he knows what he’s doing."

Dolin said he has been one of New Scotland’s two Judges for 12 years, he said, and now that he’s semi-retired, he has even more time to give the position all the effort it needs. He used to work as a court attorney for Albany County Surrogate’s Court.

He now runs a private practice out of his home on Swift Road, he said. He has lived in Voorheesville since 1968.

Dolin wants to run again because he has an interest in protecting the community, and the laws need to be enforced in order to provide protection, he said.

What he enjoys about court at the local level is the diversity in cases, he said. He handles cases involving illegal dogs, zoning violations, traffic violations, small claims with the jurisdiction now up to $3,000, and murder arraignment.

Dolin said he has always participated in New Scotland’s town government; he has served as town attorney, village attorney, planning board and zoning board attorney. Experience in these municipal positions has "helped me to grasp issues quickly," Dolin said.

New Scotland, he pointed out, is served by three police forces — the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, the State Police, and the park police at Thacher. Dolin will and does wake up in the middle of the night to do arraignments, because they need to be done, he said.

Besides being on the Democratic line, Dolin also has the backing of the Conservative Party, and he has petitioned to be on the Independence primary ballot.

Aron-DeFronzo, running on the Republican line, has petitioned to be on the Independence primary ballot as well. She said that she was too late in requesting the Conservative endorsement, so she has petitioned for the opportunity to ballot in the Conservative Party primary, and will be pursuing a write-in campaign for that Sept. 13 vote.

O’Connor takes printmaking, the art of transference, into the future

By Matt Cook

VOORHEESVILLE — Thom O’Connor, a printmaker, is ready for the future.

"I think art students, as printmakers, should understand and experience the fundamental things. It’s hard and true," O’Connor said. "But, if that’s all they know, then I feel sorry for them, because things are going to change."

In a career that has spanned five decades, O’Connor has ridden the crest of the wave of change in the art world. His technique has gone from etching, to chemical-based lithography, to photo-polymer. Now, his operation is digital.

O’Connor speaks excitedly about the future. Among other things, he envisions high-definition TV’s standing in for canvas on collectors’ walls and artists selling CD’s of their work like musicians.

"I think it’s a useful and interesting thing that has happened," O’Connor said of the computer revolution of the past two decades. "It gives you the opportunity to work with things in a way that is now. It’s about now."

O’Connor spoke to The Enterprise from his home in Voorheesville. He and his wife built the modern building in the woods in the sixties, after O’Connor came to the area to teach art at the University at Albany. Now retired from teaching, O’Connor splits his year between Voorheesville and Florida.

His print, "The Faucet," joins 70 other works by local artists at the Albany Institute of History and Art’s exhibit, Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region, through Sept. 4. O’Connor’s piece won the University at Albany’s University Art Museum Purchase Prize.

The Albany exhibit, however, is hardly the apex of his career. O’Connor has had prints shown at galleries and exhibitions on five continents, and has work in the collections of several major American art museums, including the Smithsonian, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, the San Diego Art Museum, and the Library of Congress.

O’Connor, however, claims very little connection to his pieces in far-flung corners of the world. He’s already thinking about his next work.

"When you finish something, that dictates the possibility of a number of different possibilities," O’Connor said. "What can develop from the ideas that exist in that image that can evolve into other images""

From Detroit to Albany

O’Connor, born in Detroit in 1937, took art classes as a child twice a week at the Detroit Art Institute, but, when he started college at the University of Michigan, he didn’t think of making it a career.

"I thought, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ It sort of came on like an ambush," O’Connor said.

He was pre-med at first, he said, learning chemistry skills that would come in handy later on in his art.

After transferring to Florida State University, O’Connor gained a mentor: Karl Zerbe, the authority on the oldest form of painting, encaustic painting, which uses hot wax. It does not escape O’Connor that he and his mentor have spent their careers moving towards the opposite ends of history.

At that time, O’Connor said, if Florida State art students wanted to go to graduate school, they didn’t have much of a choice; Zerbe would send them to Yale, the California School of Fine Art in San Francisco, or Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit. Though he was hoping for somewhere else, O’Connor headed back to his depressed home city, to Cranbrook.

"It was like going home," O’Connor said. "I was a little reluctant."

After earning a master of fine arts degree from Cranbrook, O’Connor came to teach at the University at Albany, which was changing from a teachers’ college to a full-fledged university. Altamont’s Ed Cowley was head of the art department then.

O’Connor admires Cowley and remembers how Cowley let him spend six months at a lithography workshop in Los Angeles in only his second year of teaching.

"Ed was the kind of guy who realized that there was good stuff for the university people around the world," he said.

"Lush and seductive"

To O’Connor, art is more than a process.

"I’m interested in the image. How you get there, who cares"" he said.

O’Connor became interested in printmaking, the art of transference, in graduate school. He claims Eastern Europe as the source of much of his technique.

In printmaking, an image is taken from one surface and moved to another. The final product, the print, is considered a work of art in its own right, not just a copy.

Older forms involve wood, ink, metal, acid, and toxic chemicals. More recently, artists have been using photo-polymer plates, pioneered in Denmark, which involve projecting an image onto a light-sensitive compound.

Though O’Connor has used all these techniques in his career, and still does, he talks mostly of digital printmaking. His computer monitors replace wood and metal plates, and, instead of spreading ink by hand, he prints images with high-quality inkjet printers. Instead of altering images with toxic chemicals or through photographic tricks, O’Connor uses a computer program.

And with the computer, O’Connor has returned the focus of his art to objects after a long period of abstraction.

"It was really always about an object or a landscape, but I just abstracted them," O’Connor said. "I often wonder what happened to all those objects in the seventies and eighties. Where did they go""

First, O’Connor takes a picture of an object with a digital camera, usually just something around the house: a rug, a rose, a faucet. Then, he manipulates the picture with Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop plugins provided by a California company that does effects for movies.

The resulting prints range from tiny to very large, and, in his basement studio, O’Connor has all sizes spread over the tables and workbenches. He’s intrigued by how size changes an image, especially a digital one.

He points out a print of a slice of cake. As the image gets larger, it breaks down into points of color, giving it a kinetic, filmic quality up close, while retaining its shape like an impressionistic painting far away.

"It was really quite beautiful when it fell apart," O’Connor said. "When it didn’t fall apart, when it was quite small, it was a different type of thing."

O’Connor uses high-end Epson inkjet printers to print his images. The smaller pieces he can print himself, while the larger ones he sends out to a couple in Connecticut to be printed on huge machines, but still inkjets.

Subtleties between the inks allow him to experiment with different shades of color. In one print, a red rose emerges from a dense field of black, a recurring theme in O’Connor’s work. Another, of dishes, is all shades of gray, with no white.

For a period in his career, O’Connor did everything in black and white.

"It has the most lush, seductive quality that I have found," he said.

Now, the color is back, but lush and seductive is still the goal.

O’Connor realizes that some purists don’t approve of his computerized methods.

"For somebody that draws, they’re all pissed off about that. They think that’s too easy a way," he said.

But, he said, it will pass.

"It’s a tool, just like I use tools when I draw," O’Connor said.

[Return to Home Page]