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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 2, 2006

Harriman Plans

By Jarrett Carroll

ALBANY — After months of discussion, a $240 million quarter-century plan for the W. Averill Harriman State Office Campus was unveiled to mixed reactions Tuesday night.

With a long-term master plan that will take 25 to 30 years to complete, the 1960’s state campus is to be transformed into a modern, publicly-accessible, mixed-use development.

The new campus will include research and development facilities for private technology companies and academic programs, a collection of small shops, a hotel, and new residential housing.

As a result of the proposed mixed-use facilities, fewer parking spaces will be needed, planners say. The plans only call for 8,000 parking spaces, down from the current 11,000.

About 200 people, including local residents and state workers now at the campus, expressed both concern and delight with the new plans unveiled in building number three of the campus.

The purpose of the meeting was to let residents and state workers know what is being planned and to get feedback from the community, according to Harriman Research and Technology Development Corporation President F. Michael Tucker.

The campus is located off Western Avenue in Albany, near the Guilderland town line.

The plan represents Albany’s biggest development effort since the creation of the Empire State Plaza. It focuses on shifting the majority of state employees from the uptown Harriman campus to downtown Albany, and privatizing the campus with more technology, academic, retail, and residential development. Only about 1,000 state workers will be left at Harriman.

Much of the planning depends upon private investments, and is to create 8,000 new private sector jobs.

The tax-and-finance building, the power-plant building, and the Office of General Services warehouse are all slated to be torn down, as well as most of the outer road ring, which is over 250 feet wide, that surrounds the campus. However, connections to Interstate 90 and Route 85 are to remain intact, and be improved.

The police academy, labor department, and Harriman Campus buildings will all be salvaged and renovated. The state campus site is roughly twice the size of nearby Crossgates Mall in Guilderland.

The plans also call for an amphitheater in the center of the campus, which would be surrounded by open greenspace about half the size of Albany’s Washington Park.

Daniel Sitler, from Saratoga Associates, an architectural firm based in New York City, ran the main presentation for the evening, and said no plans were finalized. Suggestions from residents were needed, he said.

"What is our next step"" Sitler asked rhetorically. "We’re going to start listening to suggestions."

Residents react

The changes that take place in the Harriman campus could affect several different municipalities, including the residents of Albany, Guilderland, Colonie, and Bethlehem.

A long line of residents and state workers walked up to a microphone in the center of the room to talk about the plans for the Harriman campus. Questions were being shouted out by those in attendance even before the initial presentation was done.

About 40 minutes into the presentation, one resident stood up and asked if Sitler was being paid to give the presentation that night.

When Sitler replied that he was, the anxious questioner responded, saying, "We’re not being paid to be here tonight"We want a chance to be heard."

The man was concerned with walkways going from residential neighborhoods to the campus because he is afraid employees will start parking in his neighborhood and walk to work, rather than paying for parking on the campus.

"Everyone’s going to be parking on these streets and using these streets," he said.

Sitler called the campus plan a "muti-step plan" and said, "It’s a big process and can’t all be built at once." He continued, saying, that a master plan for the campus must be both comprehensive and flexible because of the nearly 30-year completion time.

Another resident asked those in attendance to be open-minded about the plan and its incorporated walkways and connection concepts, saying it is important for city residents to be connected.

One woman, a state worker in building eight on the campus, wanted to know what was going to happen to her building and said many of her co-workers were concerned. She said that over the years, her building has been renovated floor by floor, and, as a result, millions of dollars have been "dumped into the building."

Sitler and Dunn told her that, according to the current plan, her building has roughly 10 years left.

She responded, that, she could not believe someone could just tear down the building and added, "You talk about tax revenue; there’s your tax money going to waste."

An Albany resident, Roy Diehl, who recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, said he was delighted with the plans. Diehl said Americans are becoming more and more reliant on foreign oil as suburbs push further away from cities. Innovative plans for places like the Harriman campus, he said, are exactly what cities need to cut down on traffic and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

Other residents’ concerns included parking problems in downtown Albany being compounded by moving thousands of state workers there, traffic jams on both the Western and Washington avenue sides of the park, as well as public transportation problems.

"It’s not broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed"I would hate to see it destroyed," said another resident about the Harriman campus.

Don Reeb, president of the McKownville Neighborhood Association, was also there to voice his neighbors’ concerns.

Reeb said there was not enough involvement with surrounding communities like Guilderland, Colonie, and Bethlehem in the overall planning process. He said the people who are going to be impacted the most should be a part of the process, step by step.

The traffic concerns were also on the top of his list.

"What’s going to happen to Fuller Road"" asked Reeb.

An already congested traffic flow in McKownville along the Albany-Guilderland city line could be made even worse if careful planning is not done with local residents, Reeb said.

Reeb also said town supervisors need to be kept updated and more active in the planning process.

Dunn responded, saying that more public meetings will be held with individual communities around the campus, and that local town supervisors have been contacted during the planning phase, and will continue to be involved in the process.

The next public meetings on the Harriman campus development plans will be held on March 7, 8, and 15 at 6 p.m. at the Harriman Campus Building. To find out which night your neighborhood will be discussed or for more details, call 457-4444.

Lynnwood 50th

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Like Jesus, the Lynnwood Reformed Church began life in a humble stable. This month, it is celebrating its 50th anniversary in a grand, modern building.

"Celebrating God’s hand in our past. Seeking God’s hand in our future," is the theme of Lynnwood’s celebration. Several events are planned for the two-day celebration on March 4 and 5 at its 3417 Carman Rd. location. Organizer Carol Lynch said the focus of the celebration is looking back and looking foward.

"Being a church, you can look back on your history and see the work of God," Lynch said.

While the event’s organizers were modest about being quoted, they shared literature on the church’s history with The Enterprise.

The church began on the lot next to its current location, in an old desolate barn in a growing part of what is now suburban Guilderland. Twenty-six men and women, and five children, trudged through snow and mud on a cold Sunday in December in 1954, in order to worship God in a simple loft above several stables of horses. It was there that a church was born.

In a children’s story written about the church by Jane Davis, it says, "For on this cold raw Sunday in December a long time ago in the chilly upstairs loft of this weather-beaten, horse-smelling ordinary barn, the people sang, and they worshiped and they prayed.

"And they listened to the story of Mary and Joseph who traveled very far to find only room for them in a similar cold ordinary kind of barn. And it occurred to the people in the barn that they weren’t very different from Mary and Joseph at all. And the people felt the presence of God among them just like Mary and Joseph did on that cold winter night in Bethlehem." Davis presented this story to Lynnwood members at worship on Dec. 4, 2005.

The church’s sanctuary, where worship is now held, is an architecturally stunning room with a clerestory at its peak that allows light to beam down to the altar. The sanctuary’s beauty lies in a mix of tinted glass windows and wonderfully intricate woodwork.

A community center

The church in the barn was called the Lynnwood Chapel, but 50 years ago a church was built and it officially became the Lynnwood Reformed Church, a daughter church to the Helderberg Reformed Church in Altamont.

"We will always be grateful to the Helderberg Reformed Church," Lynch said, as she described how the church has become one of the centers of the community.

Many organizations use Lynnwood Reformed’s accommodating location including both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; Community Caregivers; the Guilderland food pantry; and the Schenectady Inner-City Mission.

Other events take place there, too, including elections, Hospice dinners, and the occasional Brooks barbecue, where money has been raised to help victims of disasters like last year’s Hurricane Katrina and 2001’s terrorists’ attacks on the World Trade Center. Lynnwood also helps support three missionary families in the Reformed Church of America.

While the Fort Hunter Fire Department was under reconstruction, firefighters used the church for all of their meetings and functions, which is just one example of many, says Lynch, that the Lynnwood church has been an open and willing member of the community.

The church started with 57 charter members, and now boasts a 499-member list.

"We’ve come a long way," Burt Robinson, who with his wife, Marion, became the church’s historians in January of 2004.

The church has gone through four major additions, with the last one being completed in 1995.

The original one-story church was transformed into a two-story building, which is now the education building, by raising the structure and pouring a basement underneath, all within the first five years. That addition was done by contractor Delbert Hallenbeck, and all the electrical, plumbing, and ceiling work was done by church members. The current sanctuary was completed in 1967.

"It’s a huge milestone; a lot has changed and grown since 1956. It’s quite remarkable," Lynch said.

Lynnwood’s members in 50 years have only had three. Starting in 1956, Rev. Gerard J. Van Heest served as pastor until 1968. Rev. Will de Forest started in 1969, and served as pastor until 2000. And Rev. Stanley Craig started in 2002, and is the current pastor of the Lynnwood Reformed Church.

In between the three long-term pastors three interim pastors led Sunday worship service: Rev. Theodore Thielpape, Rev. Sam Vander Schaaf, and Rev. Donald Pangburn,.

All three long-term pastors will be attending a banquet dinner on Saturday night, March 4, in honor of Lynnwood’s golden anniversary, at the Italian-American Community Center on Washington Avenue Extension in Albany.

In a newsletter sent to church members, all three pastors gave glowing praise for Lynnwood’s 50-year commemoration.

"Born in a stable, the Lynnwood Reformed Church, for half a century, has been a community of God’s people for many," wrote Van Heest, the first pastor. "Did we have the faith to dream this dream 50 years ago" I am proud to have been part of Lynnwood’s history."

"I considered it a privilege to be a Christian Minister at Lynnwood," wrote de Forest, the second long-term pastor. "When we moved into the community in 1969 we had a ready-made family there to welcome us, treat us with kindness and accept us as we were"Serving the same congregation for nearly 32 years became an opportunity to share deeply important life changing experiences with many people."

"Congratulations to you, sisters and brothers in Christ at Lynnwood Reformed Church, on the event of your 50th Anniversary," wrote the current pastor, Rev. Craig. As we stop to ponder this milestone, we give thanks for the many blessings of God that empowered your past, and enabled you to prayerfully pause here in the present."

Five active members remain from the founding charter members list in 1955: Robert Sr. and Bertha Hanna, Eugene Stutz, Dorothy Gralow, and Gordon Proskine.

The celebration

Fifty years ago The Enterprise wrote an article on the Lynnwood Reformed Church’s groundbreaking as construction began. On display in the narthex, below two large banners filled with colorfully-decorated patches of family names, are the original photo engravings used for the 1956 article printed in The Altamont Enterprise, given to Lynnwood church, courtesy of Howard Ogsbury, who was the publisher at the time.

On Saturday morning, March 4, the Men’s Brotherhood is having a breakfast at Lynnwood to start the celebration. Then, later that night, a banquet dinner is going to be held and Lynnwood’s three pastors will be the guests of honor. On Sunday morning, a special worship service will be held, marking Lynnwood’s 50th year. The church is planning another function in June to mark the occasion, and in September will hold an open event for the entire community to attend.

"It’s always important," Lynch said, "to remember your history."

Craig starts second career as pastor at Christ Lutheran

By Matt Cook

GUILDERLAND — For the past seven years, Russ Craig has been a busy man.

The newly-ordained associate pastor of Christ Lutheran Church juggles two congregations over 80 miles apart, a full-time state job, and his family.

"I’m not really that busy," said Craig, 52, who has been studying part-time to become a pastor since 1999. "I think God gave me the ability to balance these things."

In December, Craig was ordained and installed at Christ Lutheran, on Western Avenue. His was the first ordination in the church’s 75-year history.

In its anniversary year, the aging congregation, of about 60 to 70 members, is making a push to reach out to the surrounding community, Craig said. It’s a community that’s changed a lot in 75 years, as the city of Albany has crept past the Guilderland border.

"This used to be a suburban church," Craig said. "This was the suburbs. Neighborhoods change."

Craig, now of Voorheesville, grew up in Rotterdam and graduated from Mohonasen High School in 1971. After college and a few years’ working for the state, Craig began studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester in 1977.

During the summer of 1978, Craig was assigned by his seminary to St. Thomas’s Church in Delmar. To make money, he went back to work with the state. There, he met his future wife, Carole.

"I found her. We fell in love and that was it," for seminary, Craig said.

Craig had no regrets about Catholic seminary. "It was one of those watershed life experiences," he said.

Still, he never expected to return to the ministry.

Finding a home

In 1985, the Craigs, with two children, moved to Delmar and began attending Bethlehem Lutheran Church, part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, a denomination in which neither of the Craigs had grown up.

"We just found a home at BLC," Craig said. The large congregation in Bethlehem has many young families.

At Bethlehem, Craig gradually became more and more involved in ministry, first teaching Sunday school and Bible studies, and then spearheading the church’s Stephen Ministry lay care program. In 1997, he was commissioned as a deacon, Bethlehem’s first. In his duties as a deacon, he often helped out at churches that lacked a pastor, including Christ Lutheran Church and SonRise Lutheran Church, in Pottersville in the Adirondacks.

His training for the Stephen Ministry and to become a deacon "was just a lot of fun," Craig said. "Even before I finished it, it really wet my whistle and I wanted to learn more."

So, in 1999, Craig enrolled in a relatively new program offered by the synod, Distance Education Leading to Ordination (DELTO). For nearly seven years, Craig and his fellow students, whom he described as "experienced" men, met every other month at Concordia College in Westchester County. In between meetings, they completed courses on their own, guided by mentors.

In Craig’s case, his first mentor was Pastor Warren Winterhoff, now retired, of Bethlehem.

"He’ll always be ‘Pastor’ to me," Craig said.

The DELTO classes are exactly the same as those taken by full-time seminary students, Craig said.

"New ways"

Meanwhile, Craig continued his work as a policy data analyst with the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and his involvement with Christ Lutheran and SonRise Lutheran increased. He became an expert at time management, he said.

With encouragement from his wife, Craig stuck to the rigorous program.

"She’s an important part," he said. "I would never have gotten through this without her."

Currently, Craig does most of his ministering at SonRise. Christ Lutheran is loaning him out to the small congregation until a new pastor arrives fresh from seminary this summer. Craig doesn’t mind making the 87-mile drive north every Sunday.

"I learned a lot that I can bring here," he said. "It’s been a really good experience for me and I hope to bring it to Christ Lutheran."

Christ Lutheran has a full-time pastor now, Kenneth Curry, who served as Craig’s mentor in the final years of his classes. When Craig finishes at SonRise, he will join Curry in helping the church to connect to the community.

He’s already gotten started with visits to church members and a campus ministry program at the nearby university.

"We’re going to be looking at new ways, other ways of bringing out the Gospel," Craig said.

It’s the people that Craig likes the most about being a pastor.

"I love getting to meet people. I love sharing God’s word with them," he said.

All his life experiences have brought him to Christ Lutheran, said Craig, who plans to retire from his state job at 55.

"I find myself tied to this place," he said. "I feel that maybe this is where God intended me to help."

Pine Bush property a step closer to subdivision

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND -- Developer Philip Battaglino fought the steep slopes of his Brookview Drive property and won the planning board’s concept approval last week.

The property neighbors the Albany Pine Bush, and the Pine Bush commission has designated Battaglino’s 3.7 acres as needing full protection under its management plan. Battaglino wants to subdivide the area into two lots to build homes for his sister and for himself, he said.

Only planning board member Lindsay Childs voted against the concept. He told The Enterprise that he climbed a dune on the property with the local conservation committee. He said that the two proposed homes should be moved further back on the sites, away from the dune.

An environmental study found no evidence of the endangered Karner blue butterfly‘s food source, Battaglino said. The butterfly feeds and lives on blue lupine, and is protected in the Pine Bush.

In April of last year, Battaglino’s plan for a retaining wall that rose from one foot to 14, then receded to one foot again, was one of several of the board’s objections to concept approval.

Battaglino told the planning board last week that the revised plan causes very minimal disturbance to the site, with up to 85 percent left undisturbed. He reduced the driveway slope from 10 percent to 5 percent.

Town planner Jan Weston, who was not present, left written notes for the board. According to board member Terry Coburn, Weston requested that the board require that the grading on the site be examined by an independent engineer.

Planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney said that Battaglino needs a fence or a rail on top of the wall.

Board member Paul Caputo agreed. "I would like to see a fence on the wall, kids being kids," he said.

Neil Gifford, conservation director for the Albany Pine Bush Commission, said that the bare, exposed sand on the property was mined before. He said that the dune will be easy to restore to pitch pine trees and lupine plants, which are native to the pine bush.

"There is nothing growing on there at all, except"some weird-looking trees," said Battaglino. "If he wants to come out and plant flowers, he can."

Feeney said that Battaglino must submit a cross-section view of the proposed driveway before the board will grant final approval.

Tralongo delayed

The planning board continued a public hearing for Frank Tralongo’s proposal to subdivide 14.4 acres on Brookview Drive.

"I’m leery of granting preliminary"certainly of granting final," Feeney said. He said that one of the lots proposed is questionably unbuildable. Traditionally, the town does not create lots upon which houses cannot be built.

Joe Bianchine, an engineer with ABD Engineers and Surveyors, told the board that Tralongo proposed to restrict by deed 10 acres on the property because of water that is present or steep slopes. Of the remaining 4.4 acres, Bianchine said, 2.6 would be disturbed for homes.

"All those lots are contiguous and in common, potentially encumbered by the angle of repose," Feeney said. "Is that really a stable piece of property to put a house on""

The board asked ABD to submit its deed-restriction proposal before the next portion of the hearing, while the planning-board attorney researches the board’s legal position.

Gun Club Road hearing

The board continued a public hearing for Daniel Rucinski, who proposed to subdivide eight acres of agricultural land into four lots.

Because of the zoning, the lots must be at least two acres for consideration without a special-use permit. Feeney said that a 20-foot-wide strip was added to the plan to come up with the proper square footage.

"That is an awkward piece of land to add to a lot to come up with two acres," he said. "A lot should have some meaningful, reasonable shape to it."

"We wanted to maintain a right-of-way to that back property," Rucinski said.

Feeney said that he does not oppose four lots on the site. "I don’t like the way you’re going about getting the acreage," he said. He said that the wide strip creates an inaccessible piece of land. He suggested that Rucinski consider creating 1.75 acre lots with the proper permit for a variance.

"Is lead shot an issue out there" Lead shot on the ground"" Feeney asked.

"That’s nothing that’s ever been brought up," Rucinski said.

He said that two of the lots will be developed immediately, and that the others will be developed more slowly. The lots will use private wells, but connect to the Altamont village sewer.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Gave site-plan approval to Pastor Douglas Turner, who wants to move his Open Door Church from rented space on Washington Avenue Extension to a former teen center on Western Avenue. The building is next to the old Bumblebee Diner.

"It’s not an easy place to get in and out," Feeney said.

Coburn, reading from Weston’s notes, read, "A church seems to be a good fit." Weston wrote that church traffic comes at other low-traffic times.

Turner said that the church will buy the building "as-is," and have two full-time employees. He said that the property has a permanent easement to use the Bumblebee driveway.

"We wish you success," Feeney said; and

— Approved a site plan for Connie Ware, who wants to open a 70-seat restaurant at the former Phoebe’s Florist shop at the corner of Western Avenue and Cornell Avenue.

Ware wants to offer "elegant" Italian dining and valet parking at her restaurant, to be named MezzaNotte. She said that she has an agreement to use 36 parking spaces at a neighboring doctor’s office.

The approval came with a long list of conditions, including a long-term parking agreement, a direct pedestrian connection to the door from the sidewalk, landscaping and lighting plans, a more functional traffic plan, and the removal of the asphalt drive. The board also suggested that Ware consider modifying the entrance on Cornell Avenue.

Ware told The Enterprise that she hopes to be open for dinner by September. She plans to have 14 employees, she said.

Miller gets green light for senior housing

By Matt Cook

ALTAMONT—Developer Troy Miller has gotten the go-ahead from the planning board for an eight-unit senior housing complex in the middle of the village.

At a meeting, on Monday, after a site-plan review, the board approved the project.

"Any issues we had, we alleviated at the meeting," said Stephen Parachini, planning board chairman. "That’s not to say we had many issues"It was a pretty clean process."

Prior to submitting his plan, Miller worked with the village to ensure the project wouldn’t require any variances. He was trying to follow the rules to have a speedy approval, he told The Enterprise in February.

A village moratorium, adopted while a comprehensive land-use plan is being written, doesn’t affect the project because it applies only to subdivisions and Miller’s land is a single parcel.

Before Miller can begin construction, he still needs approval from the village board for a sidewalk.

About six months ago, Miller purchased, from Thomas and Sarah Ketchum, a 16,000 square-foot vacant lot on Park Street, across the road from the post office. In the early nineties, the village designated that land for senior housing, and it remains the only land zoned specifically for that purpose, Miller said.

His plans call for a two-story building made up of eight 800-square foot apartments, each with one bedroom. Elevators will be installed to accommodate the elderly.

Senior housing has been in high demand in Altamont for the past few years. Elderly residents hoping to stay in, or near, the village but not keep their houses, have said there is no place for them to go.

Another developer, Jeff Thomas, is planning a much larger complex than Miller’s—72 units—just outside of the village, on Brandle Road, called Brandle Meadows. Though there has been a lot of interest from area seniors hoping to move into Brandle Meadows, the project has gotten bogged down in litigation over drawing water from the village water system and a village well also planned for Brandle Road.

Miller said this week that construction on his project can begin when he gets approval for the sidewalk and the weather gets warmer.

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