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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 26, 2006

New focus: Date rape
Unacceptable, Ualbany says

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — In the wake of an alleged gang rape at the University at Albany’s uptown campus, university officials have admitted they were at first slow in responding, but said this week that "unacceptable behavior" will not be tolerated on campus.

The three university football players charged rape — Julius Harris, Lorenzo Ashbourne, and Charles Guadagno — were all freshmen and subsequently suspended from both the university and the athletic program pending the cases outcome.

Harris, Ashbourne, and Guadagno, who were arraigned in Guilderland Town Court are now out of Albany County’s jail, each on $50,000 bail. Each has pleaded not guilty to a charge of non-forcible first-degree rape, a felony.

However, even if the men are found not guilty, they may not be allowed back in the university, according to Susan Herbst, who has been leading the campus since the August death of President Kermit Hall, and was given the title of officer-in-charge on Tuesday.

"We’d have to review that," Herbst said, adding that the three men will not automatically be allowed to come back if they are found not guilty. "The criminal charges are left to the district attorney," she said.

Herbst sat down with The Enterprise on Tuesday to talk about the alleged rape.

"It is completely unacceptable behavior," said Herbst. "Whenever it is reported, our university police do a full investigation." But, added Herbst, "Only the victims can press criminal charges if they wish, or they can choose to drop it."

Rape charges and other serious criminal activities can be investigated by the university police, or by other outside agencies such as local police, county sheriffs, or State Police.

There is also a university judicial system that can investigate students who have broken campus rules dictated by the students’ code of conduct which is signed by every student.

When it comes to rape though, Herbst said, the university investigation is "partly police and partly counseling." There are counselors as well as various programs available on-campus for both victims and perpetrators of sexual assault, she said.

"We try preventative measures," said Herbst. "Obviously, due to our recent incident, we need to do better."

What next"

On Monday the university, which has 17,000 students, announced the formation of a Task Force on Acquaintance Rape. The task force convened immediately, to target preventing rape by an acquaintance rather than by a stranger.

The task force will be led by the vice president for student success, James A. Anderson, and by the dean of the School of Social Welfare, Katharine Briar-Lawson, and will include students, faculty, and staff from throughout the university.

According to statistics distributed by the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 80 percent of all sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim. Also, for every 1,000 college women, about 35 are raped each year, although few are reported to police, the coalition states.

The coalition is a non-profit organization working to provide support for assault victims, to raise public awareness, and to increase prevention programming.

The university’s task-force announcement came on the same day as a student protest that criticized the university for putting the responsibility of rape prevention on female victims and failing to properly address acquaintance rape. The university had earlier sent out a mass e-mail to students giving them tips such as never to walk alone and to only leave a bar or party with friends.

"The safety tips are important for stranger rape, but more needs to be done for acquaintance rape," said Hebst. "We hope to do better on this."

Other resources are available to students, said Herbst, including a peer-to-peer program to address sexual assault, and a program called Men for Relationship Education and Change, Men REACH, available only to men, where male students are taught to respect women and are educated on what sexual assault is.

Herbst said a campus-wide survey was conducted following the alleged Oct. 15 rape in an Indian Quad dorm room, and faculty are talking with students to try to get a better understanding of the student culture on campus. She added that a more open dialogue between students and faculty needs to facilitated.

"The administrators and faculty members live off-campus, but the students live here," said Herbst. "I think the administrators and faculty have a lot to learn."

The University at Albany held two "open microphone" meetings yesterday for students to speak out on issues surrounding the alleged rape, and a "voice of the student" panel will held today (Thursday) at the campus center.

When it comes to recruitment, Herbst said the recent media coverage of the alleged rape wouldn’t affect the public school’s recruitment of new students.

"When it comes to parents’ reactions, we’ll answer all of their questions. I will sit down with parents and answer each one," Herbst said. "I don’t think it will hurt recruitment."

Herbst added that during last weekend’s homecoming, which she said had a very large turnout, there was a special section in the football stadium as well as special events for parents. Herbst said parents are invited to get involved with the university and its events.

Awaiting indictment

Harris and Ashbourne were arrested by the University Police Department on Oct. 16, and Guadagno was arrested on Oct. 18. The alleged rape took place during the early morning hours of Oct. 15.

Herbst said these are the first arrests on "these types of charges" at the university.

In 2004, the body of a 20-year-old suspect in a campus rape was found hanging in a tree near the university; police said he killed himself.

And, attorney Paul DerOhannesian, told The Enterprise last week that in 1990, when he worked for the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, he prosecuted and convicted a man from the university of non-forcible first-degree rape, the same charges that are pending in this case.

DerOhannesian said the man had walked into the dorm room of his victim at the university and raped her while she was asleep in her bed.

The crime carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

As it stands now, Ashbourne, Harris, and Guadagno, all from the South, are out on bail and are allowed to return home.

District Attorney David Soares’s spokeswoman, Rachel McEneny, said that the men are not required to stay in New York State while they are out on bail, but said she could not comment further on the case.

"It’s still ongoing," said McEneny. "We don’t comment on ongoing investigations." She did say that the three men are not allowed to go on campus and they are not allowed to contact the alleged victim.

Guilderland Town Court issued orders of protection against all three men last week. Town Judge Denise Randall explicitly told a scared-looking Harris during his bail hearing last Thursday night that the order means he cannot make any contact whatsoever with the alleged victim.

It is still unclear whether the men will be tried separately or together on the felony rape charges. McEneny said the district attorney’s office will not make a decision until after an indictment is handed down.

Ashbourne is represented by John Casey and Guadagno is represented by Hank Bower — both attorneys are in private practice. Harris is being represented by public defender James Millstein.

Millstein and Casey could not be reached for comment.

Bower said that he has no comment "at this stage."

"Guadagno was bailed out on Monday and a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf," said Bower. He added that Guadagno would not be willing be talk to The Enterprise at this time.

No dates have been set for a trial.

Neighbors show signs of peace

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Since July, the Guilderland Neighbors for Peace have been making their presence known along busy Western Avenue every Monday night during rush hour.

Between 5 and 6 p.m., members of the group stand on the corner of routes 20 and 155, holding up signs to protest the war in Iraq. As cars whiz past Guilderland’s major four-corner intersection, many drivers honk their horns, as they watch the peace vigil in any weather — sunshine, wind, or rain, and, soon enough, even snow.

How long will they stand on the corner and protest"

Until the war ends, the group says.

Guilderland Neighbors for Peace was founded by Patti Schardt, Chris Lapinski, and Liz Allen, three woman who think America has no business in Iraq.

"It started with just the three of us standing here," said Schardt during Monday’s vigil. "Now our mailing list has grown to 43"We talked about how upset we were about the war, and then we started doing this."

The women say they were inspired by other local peace groups like the Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, Veterans for Peace, and Women Against War.

"We were driving around in a car one day and talking about the state of the world"and we realized we had no voice in Guilderland," Lapinski told The Enterprise. "There are some things going on in Albany, but nothing out here."

Allen was unable to attend last Monday night’s vigil due to family obligations.

The group has growth by attracting other peace protesters who drive by the vigil each week.

"My husband passed by and saw them one day and we started coming here every week," said Barbara Wickham about herself and her husband, Steve. Previously, Wickham said, they participated in Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace functions.

Steve Wickham said the group has grown considerably in the past month.

John Baideme said he’s a commuter and that he "hopped off the bus" once he saw the vigil. Baideme is now active with the group, too.

"We’ve had a very positive response," said Lapinski.

During one 60-second period on Monday, The Enterprise counted 14 drivers honking as they passed. Some gave a quick timid beep, others held onto the horn and let out several long, wailing beeps, while still others, simply gave a few salutatory beeps in rapid succession.

Every car honk incited smiles and cheers from the peace protesters who were holding up signs calling for the war to end, urging the return of American troops, entreating "Honk for Peace."

In addition to the weekly Monday-night peace vigil, the Neighbors for Peace have a monthly meeting at the Guilderland Public Library. Those interested can find out more about the peace group at www.guilderland.neighbors4peace.org.

Other peace vigils are also being held regularly in the area. The Altamont peace vigil is held every second Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. on Route 146 in front of Orsini Park in the village, and a Bethlehem peace vigil is held every Monday evening from 5 to 6 p.m. on the corner of Kenwood Avenue and Delaware Avenue in Delmar.

"Now people know we’re out here and expect to see us with our signs," said Schardt.

Archambault’s rhythms rock and rivet Westmere kids

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — John Archambault got a rock star’s greeting at Westmere Elementary School last week. The kids had read many of his books. They cheered for him, and sang with him. They clapped along with his rhythms and occasionally jumped up and down when they could no longer contain themselves.

Archambault’s library presentations ranged from the rollicking to the serious.

Asked about his favorite book, he did not name his most popular book — Chicka Chicka Boom Boom — or his most recent book — Boom Chicka Rock. The first features letters and the last features numbers, both with rocking rhythms, scintillating stories, and riveting rhymes.

No, the book he chose was a serious one, Knots on a Counting Rope, where the rhymes and rhythms offer reassurance and a way of remembering as Grandfather and Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses reminisce about the blind boy’s birth, his first horse, and horse race.

Archambault held the book in his hand, but recited rather than read it to the spellbound Westmere second-graders.

"I imagined what it was like not to see," he told them as he recited the passage about the color blue where Grandfather describes it as the feeling of a spring day.

As the boy hears the stories about himself, prompting his grandfather in their telling, knots are tied in a rope, so that he may remember and one day tell them himself.

Archambault spoke the boy’s part in a high, reedy voice; the grandfather’s part in a low, somber tone.

"I was afraid, Grandfather, until you called to me. Tell me again, what you said," says the boy.

"I said, ‘Don’t be afraid, boy! Trust your darkness. Go like the wind...You have faced darkness and won. You now can see with your heart, feel part of all that surrounds you; your courage lights the way,’" says Grandfather.

He also tells his grandson, "You’ll never be alone, boy. My love like the strength of Blue Horse will always surround you."

In his own voice, Archambault told the Westmere students how he fought and fought with his editor for one little word — "more." The editor had thought "as" was proper. But Archambault won the battle and the grandfather says to the boy, "Your dreams are more beautiful than rainbows and sunsets."

As Archambault told the story, a teacher, sitting at his side, interpreted the words for the hearing-impaired students sitting at his feet.

Archambault started using the sign language, too, with gestures that looked enthusiastic but a bit awkward next to the fluid motions of the interpreter. Archambault spotted a little girl in the front row, gracefully making the signs and he shouted, "You know this! Do it with me!"

Her eyes glowed and she flashed a bright smile as she shaped the words with her hands.

"Metaphors be with you"

Westmere librarian Micki Nevett said kindergarten teacher Debra Wing had discovered Archambault at a conference she had attended. Nevett said she was grateful the school’s PTA raised the funds to bring him to Westmere, for the annual author’s visit.

Archambault, who lives in California, has worked as a journalist and teacher as well as a poet and children’s author. He has also produced a half-dozen albums that complement his books.

Archambault told the Westmere students that one of his best-known books, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, which he co-authored with Bill Martin Jr. as he did Knots on a Counting Rope, came about because of "a fifth-grader who, in order to learn to read, had to rely on the rhythm."

Martin and Archambault have produced a supplemental reading program calledSounds of Language, influenced by brain research on the power of music in learning.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
was dedicated to his son, Arie Alexander Archambault, when he was the "new baby boom boom." His son is now grown up — at 18, he’s 6 feet, 7 inches tall. Archibald is working on a new book for him called My Pet Giant.

"My son is so tall, sometimes he feels kind of goofy," said the author. "I’m going to write this book and dedicate it to him."

Archambault told the kids to use their imagination and help create a story about a pet giant.

He started with a couplet about the giant:

"One day, just for fun, he tried to touch the...," said Archambault, reaching high with his left hand.

"Ceiling!" screamed the children.

Archambault repeated the couplet, this time stressing the word "fun." The kids got it and chorused back, "Sun!"

"If you found a giant, would you keep it a secret"" asked Archambault. Almost every hand went up, indicating the secret would be kept.

"Where would you put him" asked Archambault.

"Under the bed," answered one boy.

"But his feet would stick out. Your mom would say, ‘Size 42!’" exclaimed Archambault in a falsetto voice as the kids howled.

"Paint him like a tree," offered another boy.

"Good imagination," responded the author.

He encouraged the kids by saying an idea is "like a dog with a bone, kind of let it alone."

And so the story unfolded as the kids and Archambault constructed the tale of George the Giant, painted like a tree and hidden in the woods by a boy named Julian, who sings him to sleep with a lullaby and returns home. But the giant is discovered by a nosy neighbor who calls 911, which brings on police cars, and sirens, and a helicopter, and TV cameras. Finally, Julian sees his giant on TV.

"What are they going to do to George"" asked Archambault.

"Kill him!" shout several kids.

"You guys watch too much TV," says Archambault. "Mrs. Nevett, I’ll send you a manuscript."

"Guess how many times I re-wrote it"" he asks the kids; they guess three times.

"Three dozen," says Archambault.

"You’re second-graders; metaphors be with you," he tells the Westmere students, riffing on the Star Wars phrase like a Jedi knight.

The author concludes, "There’s a giant in you and a giant in me, taller than the tallest..."

This time the kids complete the couplet perfectly, shouting as one, "Tree!"

Envisioning the future of Guilderland: Residents view Route 20 as gateways and hamlets

By Rachel Dutil

GUILDERLAND – Sidewalks along Route 20" Smooth-flowing traffic" A roundabout"

As part of the town’s master-planning process, the vision for the hamlet of Guilderland will be drafted into a final plan that will be brought before the town board.

Residents, on Thursday, filed in to the cafeteria at the Guilderland Elementary School, where they sat at short tables designed for children, looked at colorful maps, and listened to a presentation depicting a Guilderland of the future.

"Why are we here"" asked Michael Buser, a planner with Behan Associates. "Because places change," he answered himself.

The town of Guilderland hired Behan Planning Associates LLC of Saratoga Springs to design a plan to help turn the hamlet into a "community center for the town."

The design encompasses the length of Route 20 from the junction with Route 146 to the 20 Mall and stretches from Tawasentha Park to the Pine Bush Preserve.

The plan suggests installing sidewalks along sections of Western Avenue, Route 146, Winding Brook Road, and Willow Street.

The plan also calls for a number of biking and hiking trails that would connect the parks with neighborhoods and surrounding areas. A footpath along the Normanskill would connect Nott Road Park to Tawasentha Park.

"The plan, it’s a guide," said Buser at last Thursday night’s meeting. It was the last public meeting where residents were given the opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions.

The roundabout, a small traffic circle, is being proposed at the junction of routes 20 and 146.

The state’s Department of Transportation favors a roundabout over a traffic light, Buser said. "You never, ever have a head-on collision in a roundabout," he said.

Four sections

Buser described the hamlet as having four sections – each centered on Western Avenue.

The western gateway is located at the junction with Route 146, where the roundabout is being considered. The deserted Bumblebee Diner poses a challenge to developers with a large amount of asphalt surrounding it, and an undesirable appearance. The plan calls for adding new landscaping to this area.

"The more vegetation in the western gateway, the better," Buser said.

The historic hamlet section is located at the corner of Willow Street. Located within the historic section is the John Schoolcraft house. Sidewalks and crosswalks will be added to this intersection, to ensure the safety of pedestrians.

The central hamlet is located at the intersection with Winding Brook Road and includes the area with the Guilderland Elementary School and the Guilderland Public Library. This intersection will address traffic safety concerns, adding a left-turn lane off of Winding Brook Road.

The eastern gateway is located at the intersection with Route 155. It will have sidewalks on both sides of the road and new landscaping will be put in to sharpen the appearance.

Pedestrian friendly

One main goal of the design is to ensure that the "Guilderland character remains," said Buser. Safe roads and pedestrian walkways are also a large concern both to the residents and the designer.

In addition to the sidewalks, plans call for about six miles of new trails, creating an interconnected green-space network.

Accessing businesses along Route 20 is an issue, Buser announced; he was not met with any responses of surprise from the crowd.

Installing a turning lane the entire length of the highway would defeat the purpose, he said. The focus will be on the key intersections, he said, citing the intersection with Willow Street as an example.

Another alternative, he said, is to suggest that businesses along Route 20 share access to parking areas.

Questions and suggestions

Residents supported the proposed plan to "celebrate and enhance" the identity of the Guilderland Hamlet Neighborhood.

Some concerns were raised, though. Most of the questions had to do with sidewalks. With areas where houses are very close to the road, people wondered where the sidewalks will go.

One man asked if there was any way that the Schoolcraft building could be repainted a different color. The gothic revival mansion has been painted a historically accurate brown as part of its restoration. His response was applause and laughter.

Another man suggested that speed bumps be installed on some of the side streets to ensure the safety of area children.

A resident from Nott Road asked if anything in the plan helps prevent washout. She said that her home has been flooded a few times, and she worries that increasing development may increase her risk of flooding.

Buser said that the current storm-water management regulations do not allow additional runoff, so she should not be at any additional risk.

Buser concluded the presentation by thanking residents for their concerns and input.

"As we move forward, I hope you feel that this is your plan," he said.

APD to follow operating manual

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — The police department here is small, but that doesn’t mean that it should be without standard operating procedures, say Public Safety Commissioner Anthony Salerno and Mayor James Gaughan.

The department, which has one full-time and eight part-time employees, has been operating under a guide since Oct. 3, when the village board accepted the document on a provisional basis.

The mayor and commissioner reviewed the manual with The Enterprise yesterday. The mayor said that he had counted the unnumbered pages of the document to be 223.

"Throughout the country, every department has a guide," Salerno said. The manual that he put together for Altamont is a result of researching similar guides in other municipalities, including the town of Guilderland, he said. The discs that he used to come up with the final document were part of a national set of guidelines, he said.

Although Altamont doesn’t have a sergeant, lieutenant, or investigator, the duties assigned to those positions are laid out in detail in the manual and referred to regularly throughout it.

"All positions below chief refer to him," Gaughan said, pointing his thumb at Salerno; nowhere in the document is this stated, though. Leaving those job titles and descriptions in the manual allows for future growth, Salerno said, if the village hires someone to fill one of those positions, the duties will already be set out.

"You have to think about future growth," he said.

The manual specifies that officers should be courteous and respectful towards the public. It also says, "They will so conduct their private lives that the public will regard them as an example of stability, fidelity, and morality." The eight part-time officers have greeted the manual with praise, Salerno said. Most of them work in other law-enforcement agencies and have a similar code to follow at those departments, he said.

Of stipulating morality in officers’ private lives, Salerno said, "There’s higher expectation for officers within the State of New York."

In the section on compensation and benefits, the guide says, "Non-sworn personnel, radio communications and clerical, because of their sedentary job tasks, will maintain a level of general health and fitness necessary to perform their assigned duties." The manual doesn’t give any definitions for what an acceptable level would be.

Although Altamont’s police department doesn’t currently have any employees in this category, Gaughan said, should there be non-sworn employees in the future, "I don’t think that non-sworn personnel should have to do push-ups."

In another section the manual reads, "An annual performance evaluation will be given to each employee." The evaluation is to be done by the employee’s immediate supervisor and handed up through the chain of command to be signed by the public safety commissioner. Since there is no chain of command in the Altamont Police Department the commissioner will be writing all of the employees’ evaluations.

"Contested performance evaluations will be reviewed by the Commissioner of Public Safety/Chief," the manual says. "In this review process the Commissioner’s decision is final."

When asked if this portion of the document was a problem for the Altamont Police Department because it lacks the infrastructure that is necessary, Gaughan replied that, if the document needs clarification, he would do so after discussion with the village board. Although it isn’t stated in the manual, Gaughan said that any employee who has a concern can go to him.

"Disagreement comes to me, period," he said.

Among the 66 procedures described in the manual are those for civilian complaints, bicycle operation, missing persons, hostage/barricaded subject incident, traffic enforcement, and infectious materials and disease control.

Some things, like the use of unmarked police cars and Tasers, which are discussed in the handbook, don’t apply to the Altamont Police Department because it doesn’t have them, Salerno said.

Other things, like the ability for the public safety commissioner to conduct a survey of residents’ impressions of the department haven’t been used yet, Salerno said.

"We’re done with the phase of reducing the workforce down to the critical few," Gaughan said of the department, which has been paired down to nine officers, but the department might need some structural changes.

‘I do’ at 80: Poet and Carpenter tie the knot

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — Nils Mockler is 80 years old. He fought in the second World War. He organized a union. He got married this month.

He in a fedora and she with flapper’s pearls, Mary Karen Burke and Nils Edward Mockler were wed at the Altamont Manor on Oct. 8.

At 68, Mockler said, with a wink, his bride is "just a child." A poet from Westchester County, Burke wrote of their engagement, "The night was August warm, moon bright and still, and you knelt — no one had done that before — and asked the question."

"I had not planned it at all," said Mockler. He bent his knee in the parking lot of his synagogue, wearing dry-clean-only pants.

The bride’s poem goes on: "‘Yes. Yes, I will marry you.’ An expression held your face hostage – so disbelieving, I sought to set you free. I said, ‘It’s Ok. You can take it back.’ While in my belly, fire turned to cold ash."

Mockler was surprised by her answer and remembered saying, "Holy shit."

"You became twelve again," the poem says, "sixty years shed in an instant, as you stuttered, ‘No, no, I don’t take it back."

Mockler, a long-time Altamont resident who taught carpentry for most of his career, praised his bride’s poetry in earnest: "These young 40-, 50-, 60- somethings were impressed," he said.

The Catholic bride and Jewish groom were wed by the town clerk; having a priest and a rabbi would have been too much, Mockler said. "Just being male and female is difficult enough," he said.

The newlyweds haven’t yet settled on where they’ll live as a married couple. "Come April," when they return from their honeymoon, said Mockler, "we’ll have to decide." Traveling from Venice to Greece, they’re getting "the honeymoon at the senior rate," said Mockler.

"I used to think that 60 would be the end of everything," he said. "But it’s not."

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