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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 20, 2007

Planners approve Woodsfield plat

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — Despite opposition by town residents, the planning board here last week approved the preliminary plat for the Woodsfield Estates development on East Lydius Street.

The proposed subdivision would place 46 clustered lots on 107 acres that were once slated by the Albany Pine Bush Commission as needing full protection. The planning board accepted a statement of findings as part of its New York State Environmental Quality Review Act. The board found that adverse effects would be avoided or minimized on the plan.

"I do believe it was well-written. It covered everything that needed to be covered," said board member James Cohen.

Joe Bianchine, of ABD Engineers and Surveyors, represented applicant Traditional Builders. Bianchine said that one cul-de-sac on an earlier plan had been replaced by two keyhole lots.

About 80 contiguous acres will remain open space. Stormwater will recharge back into the ground from a retention basin, Bianchine said. A buffer of 100 feet of woods will be maintained, he said. He said that the developer will also install six-foot-wide sidewalks, at the request of town engineer Boswell Engineering.

A phase III archeological study will recover remains of a charcoal pit dating back 400 years, Bianchine said. A second archeological site will not be disturbed in the undeveloped parcel, he said.

Resident Andrew Brocci of Traber Road asked why this subdivision would be allowed when other nearby developments remain unfinished in a slumping housing market. He said that recently three deer approached his yard.

"I won’t have that again. There’s got to be an environmental impact. There’s wildlife. When will the building stop"" Brocci asked.

"I don’t have the right to tell them that," Chairman Stephen Feeney said.

"It was the same thing for your house. Wildlife was there," board member Michael Cleary said.

Brocci said that some of the construction had taken place on Pine Bush lands.

"There’s never been building on Pine Bush Preserve" lands, Feeney said. "To build on parklands would take an act of the state legislature."

Resident and sometime activist Carol Williams said that the proposal, while generally good, should be denied.

"It’s in the wrong place," Williams said. "This area is recommended for full protection."

She said that town, county, and state officials should meet with the developer to "save the area’s fragile ecosystem." She said that amphibians, which can be indicative of environmental health, do not relocate like larger mobile animals.

"This project will have a cumulative negative impact on the Hungerkill," Williams said of a nearby creek. "Leave it undeveloped."

"We’ve been in discussion with the conservancy," Feeney said. "Eighty-two acres of property gets added to the conservancy at no cost to the public. Money can be used elsewhere. This is about as strict a development as you could see anywhere.

"We work pretty hard in the town to preserve...contiguous open space. People have a right to develop their property. We tried to get the best development for the town. I think we achieved that. [The town] actually owns one of the lots in the subdivision," Feeney said.

"I think we have done the best we can in this situation," Cohen said.

Board member Lindsay Childs commended the developer for including the sidewalks, which will connect the Lone Pine 7 subdivision to De Caprio Park.

"Pretty much anything we asked, they were willing to provide," Feeney said.


The board continued an application by David Chainyk to subdivide nine acres on Vaughn Drive into two lots.

"The whole thing’s landlocked," Feeney said. "I thought there was frontage. There is no frontage."

An informal trail runs through Chainyk’s property to a small Bethlehem park.

"It doesn’t affect my property at all," Chainyk said.

Feeney suggested that Chainyk could maintain access to the park in lieu of a recreation fee for new homes built in the town.

"When I lived over there, I used to walk over there to the park," Feeney said.

"So does everybody," Chainyk said.

The property has an existing right-of-way and a perpetual easement with the nearby power company, from which Chainyk’s grandfather purchased part of the property, Chainyk said.

The board and Chainyk determined that all 40 feet of the frontage on the plan were due to an easement.

"We’re going to have to have a true surveyed map," town planner Jan Weston said.

Planning Board Attorney Linda Clark said that town regulations describe an acceptable easement as "existing...as opposed to an acquired one. An easement is loosely a common right of way."

She also said that the property could have been designed to be a landlocked piece.

"It’s a unique situation," Feeney said.

"We would deny a keyhole request if access was by easement," Clark said.

Other business

In other business, the planning board:

— Approved an application by Joe Cataldo to subdivide 2.9 acres on Johnston Road into two lots; and

— Approved a concept proposal for a two-lot subdivision of 11 acres by Dilip and Anna Das, who want to build a home on two of their 11 acres at 6030 Nott Road. The parcels are in a floodplain and require five to six feet of fill.

Weston twice said that she did not recommend building in a floodplain. She told the Dases’ attorney, Salvatore Rico, of the Proskin law firm, that he should call the chief building inspector to see what would be needed to build in a floodplain. Rico said that the Dases will hire an engineer once the site is approved as a building lot.

"This is the first one we’re doing. We really discourage building in a floodplain," Weston said. "I can’t see approving it if it’s not a buildable site."

GCSD combats 2

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland School District is breaking ground in drafting a policy to prevent cyberbullying and cyberthreats.

"We’re trying to be pro-active," said Cathy Barber, who heads the school board’s policy committee.

"Our goal is make our children feel or be as safe as possible," said school board President Richard Weisz, adding that parents need to be educated as well as children. He applauded the committee for going into this "brave, new, and scary world."

"It is out there," said board member Barbara Fraterrigo of cyberbullying. Speaking of the legal advantages of having a policy, she said, "Unless you have something in writing, you don’t have a leg to stand on."

The policy defines cyberbullying and cyberthreats; encourages victims to go to adults, like parents or teachers; and creates a process through which the victims can get help.

Currently, sixth-graders at Farnsworth Middle School learn about cyberbullying as part of a technology course, said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Andress, and the Safe Schools Committee is making plans on how to "reach out" to the community, perhaps on public-access television. Fraterrigo said a brochure would inform parents. "Parents have to take an interest because it can be devastating to their child," she said.

Superintendent John McGuire said it is commendable that Guilderland is "breaking new ground." He said the policy provides "down-to-earth" suggestions that can be put into action.

View from the trenches

Brian Forte, with the Guilderland Police, who has worked full-time at Guilderland High School for nine years, says that he typically deals with up to a dozen cases of cyberbullying or cyberthreats each year. One of the most dramatic, he said, was an e-mail that raced through the school several years ago, stating skinheads were going to do violence there, causing widespread concern and absenteeism.

"The normal stuff we get is [a message that says], ‘I’ll beat you up in school,’" said Forte. Or, he said, when a couple breaks up, the boy or girl "will say bad things in an instant message." He went on, "Recently, a guy said he was going to send inappropriate pictures around."

Often, victims of the bullying will talk to him or to a teacher or administrator, Forte said. "If we can identify the sender, we’ll have a conversation with them," he said; often, this is not possible.

"Sometimes, it could be two people who don’t get along, and we can resolve it with mediation," he said.

Forte said that the school resource officer in the middle school also handles problems with the sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders there. "The problem is going to grow as more kids and younger kids use the Internet," he said.

"Every case is different," Forte said, but few of them result in arrests. "It’s like telephone harassment," he said. "It’s hard, legally, to prove who sent the message. The burden of proof is on us."

His advice to parents is, "Pay attention to what your kids are doing on the computer." While it’s possible to buy a silent tracking program, which records keystrokes to de-code messages, Forte said, "The best advice is to be involved with your kids on the Internet. Know where they’re going. Have open discussions... Don’t stuff a computer in your kid’s room. Have it out in the open. Have all their passwords, so it’s open and free. It’s the World Wide Web; everyone’s watching...Parents that take those extra steps generally don’t have problems."

Forte, who reviewed an early draft of the current proposal, said the policy is "absolutely" a good idea. The more people you make aware of the problem, the easier it is to handle, he said.

Forte went on, "It’s great to have a policy. It will help the school deal with complaints when they come in, and it will let school administrators know how to deal with them.

"Education is the key to public safety," said Forte.

Proposed policy

"Anyone with a mobile phone or Internet connection can be a target for cyberbullying," states the policy draft, noting the messages are often anonymous. "In addition, there is even greater concern that bullies can reach a wider audience compared to conventional bullying..."

Cyberbullying is defined as using the Internet, cell phones, or other electronic communication "to engage in the mistreatment of others, use of derogatory language or being cruel to others by sending or posting harmful, hurtful, or derogatory material."

The policy defines cyberthreat as on-line material that threatens or raises concerns about violence against others, suicide, or other self-harm. It distinguishes between direct threats — actual threats to hurt another person, engage in self-harm, or to commit suicide — and distressing materials — on-line material indicating a person is emotionally upset, and contemplating hurting another person, himself, or committing suicide. Distressing material can also be interpreted as impersonating someone else or revealing very private information that could embarrass or humiliate the targeted person.

Any student or parent who believes a student has been subjected to cyberbullying, the policy says, "must report the bullying or threats to a teacher or an administrator immediately so that assistance and support can be provided." The policy says that the building principal will investigate the incident and "take the appropriate disciplinary actions."

The policy draft includes a set of regulations, which say cyberbullying and threats can occur on or off school property, both during and outside of school hours.

"Even if a student receives a threatening message at home, such message can directly impact the psychological and emotional well being of that individual," it says.

Students are advised not to send threatening messages, and those being threatened are encouraged to talk to an adult they trust.

Bullying messages should be kept and saved to help trace and identify the bully, and the victim should note the time and date the message was sent; victims should not reply to bullying messages and can use blocking software. Students are reminded not to give out personal details on-line and not to forward abusive texts.

"Cyberbullying and cyberthreats experienced by a child or young adult may not be immediately evident to a parent or teacher, but it is highly intrusive and the hurt being caused can be very severe..." it says. "Helping young people understand how actions can cause harm to others, especially when it occurs anonymously, is one of the many challenges that this policy regulation seeks to address."

Setting priorities

Gloria Towle-Hilt, the board’s newest member, said at the Nov. 27 school board meeting that another step is needed when board members tell administrators what they’d like to see in the next year’s school budget. Each board member had identified priorities at the Oct. 23 meeting. Towle-Hilt said the requests should be prioritized.

"We should do what we did last year," said board member Colleen O’Connell. With President Weisz’s guidance, the board set two priorities early — technology education and beginning foreign language instruction in elementary school — which were included in the budget.

Board Vice President John Dornbush disagreed with O’Connell and said he trusted the administration to interpret the board’s requests.

"It’s nice you will have confidence in the administration...Ultimately, it will come back to you anyway," said Superintendent McGuire.

Weisz said it was "premature" to have the discussion now.

"We’ll get the budget by stages in March," said Weisz, referring to the process where citizens volunteer for a committee that reviews the budget, presented by administrators.

"I’m seeing it flipped," said Towle-Hilt. "We should say it right up front."

Weisz likened that to going into a restaurant. "Don’t you want to see the menu first"" he asked.

"The question is, what is your favorite dinner"" countered board member Peter Golden. "It is backwards; it is flipped...The board should set some priorities that are narrow enough to be realistic." Golden said that would save everyone a lot of time and arguing in March.

Ultimately, the board members agreed to rank their priorities for McGuire. He requested at the Dec. 11 meeting that the board members rate the priorities as well, assigning each a number from 1 to 5. McGuire will tabulate the response and return it to the board members. He said this would "bring some consensus to your many ideas."

Other business

In other business at recent meetings, the school board:

— Heard the high school’s chamber choir, directed by Rae Jean Teeter, sing the national anthem. McGuire hook the hand of each singer;

— Heard from McGuire that he had met with the director of the Guilderland Public Library. Three board members volunteered to meet with members of the library board for their annual discussion on shared services;

— Agreed to inform all four local newspapers about special meetings. Golden had advised adding the two that are not the official papers, designated for legal notices. The board agreed but stopped short of informing television or radio stations.

"I’ve never seen local TV stations’ coverage of a board of education," said Golden. "The only time you see TV is for sports or when something horrible happens";

— Heard from O’Connell, in adopting an updated wellness policy, that PTAs are selling unhealthy foods for fund-raisers, which is not in keeping with the district’s policy.

Board member Denise Eisele also encouraged teachers to read the policy. "My kids are still coming home with Hershey candy bars as rewards for doing well on tests," she said;

— Heard praise from McGuire for the fall sports teams and their coaches. All the fall teams were given scholar-athlete status, said McGuire, which he termed "a tremendous accomplishment";

— Accepted the delinquent tax rolls for 2007-08, totaling $1.5 million. "We submit them to the county," said Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders. "By April 1st, we get all of that money back";

— Awarded a bid for copy paper to W.B. Mason, with the lower of two bids for $20,748 for 840 cases of white paper. Ricoh Corporation had bid $20,764.80;

— Extended its contract with independent auditors Dorfman Robbie, which was recommended by all five members of the board’s audit committee;

— Granted the maximum exemption allowed by law for property owners with disabilities on a limited income and for senior citizens;

— Appointed Edward Luban as a hearing officer for a special-education case. He will be paid $100 per hour;

— Heard congratulations for Jim Dillon, principal of Lynnwood Elementary School, whose book, The Peaceful School Bus, has been published by Hazeldon Publishing. Andress read excerpts from a favorable review of the book;

— Heard that Westmere Elementary School has been selected to submit a Blue Ribbon School application. The state’s education commissioner made the nomination to the United States Department of Education.

The school must complete an application by Feb. 15; winners will be announced next September. Altamont Elementary School won a Blue Ribbon award this year;

— Heard that Annette Sebuyira, Guilderland High School Science teacher, has been selected as a WNYT Channel 13 Educator of the Week. She has worked on respect and tolerance at the high school;

— Learned that Marie Eoff, school nurse at Westmere Elementary, was recognized by the New York State Association of School Nurses for her role as Zone 7 representative, bringing educational and legislative information relevant to school nursing to the school nurses in the Capital Region;

— Heard that a team of Guilderland High School students participated on their own in the iTEST, a national on-line math competition. The team finished 56 out of 329 teams, scoring 65.2 out of 100 points. The team was made up of seniors Nan Shan and Yifan Chen, and juniors Yipu Wang, Zagreb Mukerjee, and Elizabeth Simon;

— Learned that two Farnsworth Middle School language arts teachers, Molly Fanning and Brigid Schmidt, published an article, "Viva la Revolution: Transforming, Writing, and Assessing Student Writing through Collaborative Inquiry," in the November, 2007 issue of English Journal, for the National Council of Teachers of English.

Fanning was recognized by the NCTE as an Educator of Excellence; and

— Met in executive session to discuss a teacher performance review, student issues, and negotiations with the Guilderland Teachers’ Association.

Martin nabbed after making video appearance

GUILDERLAND — A night clerk at the Mobil station on Western Avenue recognized a man who was filmed stealing from another convenience store, Guilderland Police say.

They arrested John M. Martin Jr., 48, of Esperance, for burglary, grand larceny, and criminal mischief.

Martin had been filmed at 12:45 a.m. Friday by a surveillance camera at the Getty station on Route 146, stealing cigarettes and lottery tickets, according to a release from the Guilderland Police. Police circulated the tape to nearby stores, figuring Martin might try to cash in on his lottery tickets, the release said.

The night clerk at the Mobile store thought Martin looked like the man on the video and notified police.

Crash sends two to hospital

GUILDERLAND — Two Guilderland men went to the hospital after their vehicles collided on Saturday morning in Fort Hunter, according to Guilderland Police.

The crash took place at 9:04 a.m. at the intersection of Ronald Place and Carman Road, according to a release from the police.

Stanley Mavis, 80, had head injuries and was taken to Albany Medical Center; Robert Perham, 22, had neck and back injuries and was taken to St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady, police said.

Alcohol did not appear to be a contributing factor, the release said.

Police say
Woman forced by gunman to drive to Guilderland bank

A 22-year-old Albany woman was robbed at gunpoint last week outside her Manning Boulevard home then forced by the man to drive to the Bank of America in Guilderland to withdraw money, police say.

She was later able to jump out of her car when she stopped at a stoplight at the intersection of Western Avenue and Quail Street, and was not physically injured, police say.

It was about 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 when the woman was approached by a 6-foot tall black man, wearing a black sweatshirt and an earring, Albany Police said in a press release. Police told the story this way:

The man asked her for directions and, as she answered him, he pulled out a black handgun and demanded money. When she told him she didn’t have any, he forced her at gunpoint into her nearby car and made her drive to the Bank of America at 1450 Western Ave. and withdraw money from the automated teller machine there.

She gave him the money but he said it wasn’t enough so he demanded that she drive to another bank. As she drove down Western Avenue, she stopped at the intersection with Quail Street and jumped out of her car, running to a group of people standing on the sidewalk.

The man jumped out of her car, too, and ran south on Quail Street. Police, when they arrived at the scene, used a dog to track the man’s trail in the area of Jay and Quail streets; the trail came to an end in the back of the 250 block of Western Avenue.

Police found a black handgun on the ground near the intersection of Jay and Quail streets.

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