Monday, August 10, 2009

Capital District Gets $hot in the Arm

Developers, preservationists get an injection of tax credits

By CHRIS CHURCHILL, Business writer
Sunday, August 9, 2009

$100,000 and $1 million.

The first number is the state historic preservation tax credit a developer received for converting Troy's downtown Stanley's building to apartments.

The second number is the state tax credit the very same project would receive next year, under legislation signed recently by Gov. David Paterson.

Those numbers help explain why developers and historic preservationists are giddy over the new law, and why they predict it will bring a wave of redevelopment and renovation to upstate's urban centers.

"It just opens up a whole new world for historic property owners," said Susan Holland, executive director of Historic Albany Foundation.

The program already seems to be pushing projects forward -- including the renovation of downtown Albany's Dewitt Clinton building into a Hilton hotel.

The enhanced tax credit "gave the project a shot in the arm," said Scott Townsend, owner of the architecture firm that's working on the redevelopment. "It definitely increases its feasibility."

The State Rehabilitation Tax Credit makes commercial redevelopment projects eligible for up to $5 million in tax benefits, applied against construction costs. Homeowners, meanwhile, can receive credits for as much as $50,000 for their renovation projects.

That means that if a homeowner spends $150,000 to renovate a building, one-third of that cost would be rebated. Likewise, if a developer spends $25 million on a commercial building, that work essentially receives a $5 million discount, above and beyond available federal tax credits.

There are caveats: Projects are eligible only if they're on the National Register of Historic Places, or located in a National Historic district. And they must be within a census tract where annual household incomes are below the region's median.

Still, thousands of properties in the Capital Region qualify for the help. They include most downtown Albany buildings, due to the Downtown Albany Historic District, and much of the Troy and Schenectady downtowns.

They also include residential areas -- like Clinton Avenue in Albany, The Stockade in Schenectady, and the Washington Park neighborhood in Troy.

In fact, the Preservation League of New York State estimates 2,000 homes in Albany alone are eligible for the tax breaks.

Jay DiLorenzo, president of the preservation league, predicted the program "will prove one of the most effective economic and community development programs in the state."

New York has had a historic tax credit since the start of 2007. But developers and preservationists complained that the program wasn't effective, leading to a push for an upgrade.

"It came with conflicting regulations that made it a paper program," said Joe Fama, executive director of TAP Inc., a nonprofit architecture firm in Troy. "It wasn't usable."

An enhanced preservation tax credit almost became law last year. But Paterson vetoed the legislation, citing the budget crisis. This year, he signed the bill, calling it an important program for economic development.

Among other changes, the bill increases the credit available for commercial projects from $100,000 to $5 million and boosts the help for homeowners from $25,000 to $50,000.

"We finally have an effective tool on the books," said Daniel Mackay, director of public policy for the preservation league, which pushed hard for the enhanced credits.

For homeowners, the credit is applied to the state income tax and can be rolled over to future tax returns if the amount exceeds the income tax paid. Homeowners with annual income below $60,000 can receive the amount beyond income tax as a rebate, according to Mackay.

That essentially makes it a grant program for low-income homeowners.

The state estimates the program will cost it $58 million over five years; some observers, though, believe that number is conservative by a long shot.

But proponents argue the program will ultimately return much more to taxpayers, because it will return abandoned properties to tax rolls and increase the taxable value of dilapidated structures.

Proponents also say the timing of the program is apt, as it comes during a credit crunch that has made banks reluctant to lend to renovation and redevelopment projects. Knowing the work will be backed by tax credits could lead banks to open their checkbooks.

The money could also put projects that haven't been economically feasible over the hump. Historic properties, after all, can be far more expensive to renovate than newer properties.

The credits apply to construction work that occurs after Jan. 1, which means some firms may delay starting projects this year to ensure they qualify.

It also means that the 2007 redevelopment of the Stanley's building in Troy occurred three years too early for what could have been its $1 million tax credit.

"That's going to be quite an incentive," said Jeff Pfeil, whose eponymous firm turned the building into The Conservatory apartments. "Can we apply retroactively?"

Chris Churchill can be reached at 454-5442 or by e-mail at

Harmony Mills

Developer Uri Kaufman used federal tax credit programs to develop part of the Harmony Mills complex in Cohoes into upscale apartments. The state's enhanced program could hasten redevelopment of the remaining part of the complex.

New York began offering historic renovation tax credits in 2007, but an enhanced version of the program will take effect at the start of 2010.

The program:

increases the credits available for residential projects to $50,000

increases the credit cap for commercial projects to $5 million, although it will not pay for more than 20 percent of all costs

targets "distressed areas," defined as neighborhoods where annual income is below the regional median.

makes credits transferrable within business partnerships to allow for greater investor flexibility.

can provide a rebate to homeowners who pay too litte in state income tax to benefit from a credit.

Source: Office of Gov. David Paterson

Clinton Avenue

Homeowners along Clinton Avenue in Albany are eligable for a credit of up to $50,000 under the enhanced Rehabilitation Tax Credit program, because the street is a National Historic District.

Stanley Building

The former Stanley's Department Store building in downtown Troy received $100,000 in state tax credits when it was rehabbed in 2007. Under the new program, it would have received $1 million.

Abandoned churches

Preservationists say the tax credits bring new hope to buildings like the former St. John's Church in Albany's South End. Many such buildings across the Capital Region are abandoned and falling into disrepair, but could be renovated for new uses.

Downtown Albany

The Art Deco skyscraper at 11 N. Pearl St. is among the many downtown Albany buildings that could receive the expanded tax break, if its owners decided to renovate, because it is considered part of Downtown Albany Historic District, which also includes Broadway and State Street.

Dewitt Clinton

The architect working on a plan to develop the Albany building, which is across from the Capitol, said the historic tax credit program greatly increased the projects feasibility. "It's a great boost for the building," Scott Townsend said. "It's a great boost for all downtowns."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

High Speed Rail Wrong Road for America

In the face of high energy prices and concerns about global warming, environmentalists and planners offer high-speed rail as an environmentally friendly alternative to driving and air travel. California, Florida, the Midwest, and other parts of the country are actively considering specific high-speed rail plans.

Close scrutiny of these plans reveals that they do not live up to the hype. As attractive as 110-to 220-mile-per-hour trains might sound, even the most optimistic forecasts predict they will take few cars off the road. At best, they will replace for profit private commuter airlines with heavily subsidized public rail systems that are likely to require continued subsidies far into the future.

Nor are high-speed rail lines particularly environmentally friendly. Planners have predicted that a proposed line in Florida would use more energy and emit more of some pollutants than all of the cars it would take off the road. California planners forecast that high-speed rail would reduce pollutionand greenhouse gas emissions by amere 0.7 to 1.5 percent—but only if ridership reached the high end of projected levels. Lower ridership would nullify energy savings and pollution reductions.

Randal O’Toole is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of The Best-Laid Plans:How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future.

More by Randal O'Toole

These assessments are confirmed by the actual experience of high-speed rail lines in Japan and Europe. Since Japan introduced high-speed bullet trains, passenger rail has lost more than half its market share to the automobile. Since Italy, France, and other European countries opened their high-speed rail lines, rail's market share in Europe has dwindled from 8.2 to 5.8 percent of travel. If high-speed rail doesn't work in Japan and Europe, how can it work in the United States?

As megaprojects—the California high-speed rail is projected to cost $33 to $37 billion—high-speed rail plans pose serious risks for taxpayers. Costs of recent rail projects in Denver and Seattle are running 60 to 100 percent above projections. Once construction begins, politicians will feel obligated to throw good taxpayers' money after bad. Once projects are completed , most plans call for them to be turned over to private companies that will keep any operational profits,while taxpayers will remain vulnerable if the trains lose money.

In short, high-speed rail proposals are high cost, high-risk megaprojects that promise little or no congestion relief, energy savings, or other environmental benefits. Taxpayers and politicians should be wary of any transportation projects that cannot be paid for out of user fees.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

NY growth besieges Revolutionary patriots' graves

Local News;

July 3, 2009

By CHRIS CAROLA Associated Press Writer
Ed Spaeth was researching his family tree when he discovered an 18th-century ancestor likely was buried in the woods just down the hill from his Hudson Valley home.

Although he can't pinpoint Francois Martin-Pelland's grave, historical evidence has led Spaeth to the nearby grove believed to be the final resting place of hundreds of other Revolutionary War soldiers posted here when Fishkill was the main supply source for Gen. George Washington's northern army.

Today, commercial development has whittled the wooded parcel down to about 12 acres hemmed in by roads, a shopping mall, a gas station and a Mexican restaurant. A group of preservationists, history buffs and civic leaders has mustered in this Dutchess County town to try to save what could be the nation's single largest-known burial site of Revolutionary War soldiers.

"They didn't fight and die for this cause just to have a mall built on top of them," said Spaeth, a 64-year-old retired school librarian.

From 1776 until 1783, the Fishkill Encampment and Supply Depot was a bustling military post. Several thousand Continental Army regulars and militiamen toiled year-round, carrying out the logistical tasks that allowed America's first army to fight. Many, perhaps more than 1,000, died and were buried in the depot's cemetery, 60 miles north of New York City.

The Fishkill depot's complex of huts, barracks, storehouses and workshops was known to have included a cemetery during the war. But its exact location wasn't confirmed until the fall of 2007, when an archaeological survey conducted for the property's owner found several old graves in a wooded area across from the Dutchess Mall, built in the 1970s.

At the recommendation of state archaeologists, another study was done last year. Ground-penetrating radar indicated several hundred grave sites in the southern tip of the property.

"We really don't know how many are there," said Douglas Mackey, an archaeologist for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites.

Backed by the latest findings, town officials and preservationists are seeking government funding to buy the land and protect it from development. One idea is to turn the site into the first national Revolutionary War cemetery. Some have taken to calling the Fishkill site "New York's Valley Forge."

"This is the founding of our country," said Mara Farrell of Fishkill Historical Focus. "There's so much about this site that needs to be revealed."

Retired Army Col. James Johnson , a 1969 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and a former military history professor there, notes that the closest the Fishkill depot came to fighting was when a British force ventured up the Hudson River from Manhattan and burned a nearby village. Nevertheless, the food, clothing and armaments the depot provided to Washington's soldiers helped them keep the redcoats from gaining control of the strategic Hudson Highlands.

Historians say disease and starvation claimed most of the soldiers who died here, although some died from wounds suffered in battles fought elsewhere.

Few major battlegrounds from the war, including Yorktown and Saratoga, have sizable marked cemeteries. After Yorktown in 1781, the 156 Americans who died were buried in a mass grave in nearby Williamsburg, Va. Americans killed during two battles at Saratoga, N.Y., in 1777 were buried in unmarked mass graves or simply covered with thin layers of dirt, leaving the remains susceptible to scavengers.

"These burials were done pretty darn quick," said Joe Craig, a ranger at Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater. "In garrison areas, they'd have a little more time."

Even at Valley Forge, Pa., there's no single marked cemetery for the estimated 1,700 soldiers Washington lost to disease and illness while his army was encamped outside Philadelphia during the winter and spring of 1777-1778. Ranger Bill Troppman at Valley Forge National Historical Park said stricken soldiers were transported to field hospitals in nearby communities, where the dead were buried singly or in small groups.

"It surprises people that the death rate was so high here and that there's no mass burial area," he said.

The only other remnant from Fishkill's supply depot days is the old Dutch homestead American officers used as a headquarters. Washington was a frequent visitor when his army encamped at nearby New Windsor.

In June, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., proposed legislation to make the Fishkill cemetery site eligible for federal preservation funds currently used only for Civil War battlefields.

Fishkill Town Supervisor Joan Pagones, whose Army captain son has served in Iraq, said officials hope funds will be made available to buy the site from the developers.

"I certainly, as the mother of a soldier, realize that this is sacred ground and something has to be done to preserve it," she said. "There's also the side of the people who own it and they've been paying taxes on it."

Property co-owner Scott Jerutis said his company will sell the whole parcel for at least $6 million and would sell just the section where the graves are located.

The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, is also working with all the parties to help reach an agreement.

"We've done it in a lot of Southern states with Civil War sites and this would be a great addition,"said Matthew Shurtleff, project manager for the trust's New York office.

Other Revolutionary War sites also face development pressures.

Land adjacent to the Princeton, N.J., battlefield where Washington's army won a key victory on Jan. 3, 1777, was recently named one of New Jersey's most endangered sites.

At Valley Forge, a conservation group successfully battled a proposed American Revolution museum planned for 78 acres of private land nearly surrounded by the national park. Museum officials announced last week they would locate instead in downtown Philadelphia, about 25 miles away. In 2003, Congress earmarked $2.5 million to buy private land in the park from a developer who was planning a neighborhood of luxury homes.

For Spaeth, a Yonkers native who moved upstate more than 30 years ago, settling just uphill from his ancestor was pure happenstance. A genealogy buff since his teens, he found out in the 1980s that Martin-Pelland, a Quebecois who fought for the Americans, had died of smallpox while at Fishkill in October 1778.

When Spaeth moved into a house built near a natural spring where soldiers from the Depot fetched their water, he had no idea his ancestor was buried in an unmarked grave nearby.

"The stars must have been aligned just right," said Spaeth, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran. "One truly feels that one is walking on the hallowed grounds of one's ancestors."


On the Net:

Map locates Revolutionary War cemetary in Fishkill, N.Y. ADVANCE FOR SUN 7/05.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Albany's bungling politicians might learn from state Senate coup chaos

Updated Tuesday, June 16th 2009, 9:23 AM

We go from three men in a room to 62 buffoons in a chamber, from the country's most dysfunctional state Legislature to a Legislature that does not function at all.

"It's gone from dysfunctional to laughable," said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice. "It's embarrassing."

The Brennan Center conducted an authoritative study of the Legislature five years ago and found it the most dysfunctional in the nation.

"Since that time, I think particularly in the last couple weeks, it looks worse that it ever has," Norden said.

He does see one glint of hope in the two freshman senators, Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate, having thrown the established order into chaos, however questionable their motives, however influenced their actions were spurred by bumpkin billionaire Tom Golisano.

"These two guys have shown what a couple of rank and file members can do," Norden said.

Monserrate then threw the new order into chaos by deciding to rejoin the Democrats, putting doubly to lie an excuse Norden has long heard from legislators, who whine that the leadership has all the power. The whole senate was upended twice by a newcomer who left the police department after putting in for a psychiatric disability.

"Members can cause a lot of havoc and do have more power than some of these legislators have said," Norden noted.

Maybe legislators who are truly reform-minded should be a little more nutty.

"I'd like to see members start taking some risks," Norden said. "Everybody talks the talk about how much they want reform, but can't do it. Now is an opportunity to push the envelope a little."

The lesson is this:

"They can do it if they want."

Not that Norden or anybody else in their right mind would endorse the present chaos that has the 62 buffoons unable to determine who exactly is the leader. A ray of hope is not necessarily cause for optimism in the New York State Legislature.

"It's hard to be Pollyannaish when you're talking about Albany," Norden said.

There remains a remarkable fact that has people buzzing at the dinner table and on the corner and in the subway - the worst state Legislature in America has actually gotten even worse.

"We're at a complete standstill," Norden said. "It was bad enough when the leadership controlled everything and there wasn't much of a leadership process. Now, we don't even have that."

He added, "I don't think, by the way, we would be happy if we go back to ironfisted control on behalf of one person in the Senate. I'm not pining for that."

What makes this travesty all the more a tragedy is that good government advocates started the year almost optimistic.

"Whoever assumes the Senate leadership has the opportunity, the tools and the public support to enact real reform in 2009," Norden said back in January.

Malcolm Smith had introduced numerous reform resolutions when he was in the minority, but when he became the new Senate majority leader, he did next to nothing to implement them.

A rare sign of progress did materialize in May, when the Cities Committee chaired by Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn) held a "mark up session," actually allowing open discussion and amendment of a bill, just like in a real democracy.

"In every other state legislature in the country that would have been a common, everyday occurrence," Norden said. "As far as I know it's the first time it's been done in Albany. Because of that, they had to figure out the rules for doing it."

The Brennan Center was seeking others to follow Squadron's example when the coup made the worst even worse, a banana peel republic that fell right on its behind. The once dysfunctional legislature was still not functioning at all as of last night.

"I can't say that surprises me all that much," Norden said.

Even so, by the very act of bringing the Senate to a standstill, the odious Espada and the whackadoo Monserrate have proven that legislators cannot just whine that the leaders have all the power. We should bombard each and every one of these buffoons with a simple message:

"No excuses! You can do it!"

Friday, June 12, 2009

Latest Stimulus Funds Include 23.6M for Capital Region

June 11, 2009 at 4:49 pm by Casey Seiler
Or: “At last, a blog post that isn’t related to the state Senate!”

The latest round of releases certifying projects available for federal stimulus dollars includes a number of projects in the region — including one project of great interests to anyone who has ever tried to ride a bike to the Times Union. Namely:

$5.9 million in ARRA funding to relocate the intersection of Maxwell Road and Albany Shaker Road in the town of Colonie, Albany County, 800 feet East. The existing intersection will remain, but only for right turns to and from Albany Shaker and Maxwell roads. The move will improve safety and reduce traffic congestion on Albany Shaker Road, Wolf Road and ramps accessing Interstate 87, the Adirondack Northway. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.

Here are the rest of today’s regional certifications:

$1.4 million in ARRA funding to replace the bridge carrying Caretaker Road over the Walloomsac River in the town of Hoosick, Rensselaer County. This bridge, built in 1900, accesses a historic site, the Bennington Battlefield. Without this work, the bridge would be closed, causing inconvenience to motorists who would have to travel a lengthy detour. A bridge closure also would cause an increase in response times for local emergency service providers. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.
$4.6 million in ARRA funding to replace the bridge carrying Clinton Street, Saunders Street and Division Street over the Delaware and Hudson Railroad in the village of Whitehall, Washington County. The increasingly deteriorating bridge, built in 1932, does not provide enough clearance for tall rail cars. Construction is expected to be completed in winter 2010.
$11 million in ARRA funding to resurface Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties. Locations include:
State Route 9 in Halfmoon, Clifton Park and Malta between State Route 146 and Crescent Avenue.
State Route 20 in Guilderland between State Route 146 and west of Johnston Road
State Route 155 in Colonie between Shaker High School and east of State Route 9; nine miles of State Route 4 in North and East Greenbush between State Routes 43 and 151
State Route 50 in Ballston and Ballston Spa, between the southern and northern intersections with State Route 67
State Route 914D, Broadway, in Schenectady in the vicinity of Interstate 890 Exit 5.
Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2010.
$880,000 in ARRA funding for a project to resurface County Route 145, Oakwood Avenue, in the city of Troy, Rensselaer County. Project will address continuing pavement deterioration between the north and south city lines. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.
Check out the complete press release after the jump.

Governor David A. Paterson today announced the certification of an additional $23.6 million for transportation projects in the Capital Region through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). These investments will provide for essential highway and bridge repairs and other long-term improvements that will create an estimated 566 jobs. The area is expected to receive $98.1 million in economic recovery funding for road and bridge projects in Albany, Essex, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Washington and Warren counties.

“From the bridge over Caretaker Road to the resurfacing of highways in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties, these projects mean real improvement and real opportunities for the Capital Region,” Governor Paterson said. “We will continue to meet the goals that President Obama and the New York Congressional Delegation set when they allocated these funds to our State. The investments made will create jobs and help get New York back onto the road to recovery.”

The certifications include the following projects in the Capital Region:
$1.4 million in ARRA funding to replace the bridge carrying Caretaker Road over the Walloomsac River in the town of Hoosick, Rensselaer County. This bridge, built in 1900, accesses a historic site, the Bennington Battlefield. Without this work, the bridge would be closed, causing inconvenience to motorists who would have to travel a lengthy detour. A bridge closure also would cause an increase in response times for local emergency service providers. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.
$5.9 million in ARRA funding to relocate the intersection of Maxwell Road and Albany Shaker Road in the town of Colonie, Albany County, 800 feet East. The existing intersection will remain, but only for right turns to and from Albany Shaker and Maxwell roads. The move will improve safety and reduce traffic congestion on Albany Shaker Road, Wolf Road and ramps accessing Interstate 87, the Adirondack Northway. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.
$4.6 million in ARRA funding to replace the bridge carrying Clinton Street, Saunders Street and Division Street over the Delaware and Hudson Railroad in the village of Whitehall, Washington County. The increasingly deteriorating bridge, built in 1932, does not provide enough clearance for tall rail cars. Construction is expected to be completed in winter 2010.
$11 million in ARRA funding to resurface Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties. Locations include:
State Route 9 in Halfmoon, Clifton Park and Malta between State Route 146 and Crescent Avenue.
State Route 20 in Guilderland between State Route 146 and west of Johnston Road
State Route 155 in Colonie between Shaker High School and east of State Route 9; nine miles of State Route 4 in North and East Greenbush between State Routes 43 and 151
State Route 50 in Ballston and Ballston Spa, between the southern and northern intersections with State Route 67
State Route 914D, Broadway, in Schenectady in the vicinity of Interstate 890 Exit 5.
Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2010.
$880,000 in ARRA funding for a project to resurface County Route 145, Oakwood Avenue, in the city of Troy, Rensselaer County. Project will address continuing pavement deterioration between the north and south city lines. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

Earlier this month, Governor Paterson announced that in addition to the ARRA funding, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) will award the Capital Region $87 million in highway and bridge contracts this fiscal year. The area also will receive approximately $31 million in Consolidated Highway Improvement Program funding. In total, Capital Region communities will receive more than $216.1 million in highway and bridge funding in State Fiscal Year 2009-10.

The economic recovery funds New York will receive for transportation projects must follow the same process required for distributing all federal transportation funds. The money is allocated to projects that are selected by the 13 regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) across the State, which are comprised of local elected officials, local transit operators and NYSDOT representatives. MPOs vote unanimously on projects for their Transportation Improvement Program, and the projects are then eligible to receive economic recovery funds.

Similarly, regions of New York State without MPOs are served by the NYSDOT, which consults with local elected officials and selects projects for the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program. NYSDOT is working with local officials and the Governor’s Economic Recovery Cabinet to identify priority shovel-ready projects eligible for recovery funds. For more information, please visit: .

The following quotes were provided in support of the Capital Region infrastructure projects:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said: “This funding from the economic recovery package is much-needed and a wise investment in our transportation infrastructure. These projects will help jumpstart the economy by creating and retaining jobs, and make critical upgrades to our decaying roads and bridges to make travel safer and easier. This is the best way to put federal dollars to work for our local economy because it will modernize infrastructure, create jobs and promote economic development across the region.”

U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand said: “Today’s announcement by Governor Paterson that stimulus funds we passed in Congress will be used to upgrade the Capital Region’s roads and bridges is great news for the safety of our residents and for continued economic recovery in the region. More than just making needed upgrades to the Capital Region’s transportation infrastructure, the investment of these critical federal dollars will create hundreds of good paying jobs. I will continue to work with Senator Schumer and our entire Congressional delegation to ensure that New York gets its fair share of federal dollars.”

NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee said: “The jobs retained and created by economic recovery funding are crucial to strengthening New York State’s economy, and it has been Governor Paterson’s dedication to using these essential federal funds that has both produced and secured steady paychecks for many New Yorkers. The lifespan of the Capital Region’s transportation infrastructure will be extended and the safety of many highways and bridges enhanced through these important State and local projects.”

Congressman Scott Murphy said: “This funding will provide critical improvements to our aging roads and bridges, putting shovels in the ground and people back to work while making our roads and bridges safer. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Paterson to implement the recovery funds to create jobs and turn our economy around.”

Congressman Paul Tonko said: “When we passed the Recovery Act in Congress we promised that the money would be put to work quickly to create jobs and repair our infrastructure – and that’s just what is happening. These newly certified projects will soon get underway, people will be put to work, and dollars will be spent in our local communities. In partnership with Governor Paterson and local officials, we are taking steps towards improving our roads and bridges and strengthening our economy.”

Assemblyman Ron Canestrari said: “Resurfacing roads throughout Albany County and the Capital District will be a great benefit for the people of this area. Not only is the work much needed in many areas but will hopefully provide employment during this economic recession. Governor Paterson and the New York Congressional delegation deserve our gratitude for their commitment to investing in our communities.”

Assemblyman John McEneny said: “Sections of Route 20 have been in long need of resurfacing that would enhance safety and improve the overall quality of the roadway. Thankfully, these federal stimulus funds will help to accomplish these improvements. It is my hope that this project, as well as others to improve Capital Region roadways will also be a source of much-needed employment during this period of heavy job losses.”

Assemblyman Bob Reilly said: “The Governor should be applauded for his judicious and expedient use of federal stimulus funding to improve our transportation infrastructure throughout the state. I live within one-half mile of the proposed Maxwell Road project and can attest that this improvement will be a major enhancement for one of the busiest intersections in the town of Colonie.”

Shen student has the swine flu virus

Middle school pupil is second in Saratoga County with the illness

First published in print: Friday, June 12, 2009

CLIFTON PARK -- A Shenendehowa middle school student has the swine flu, the New York Health Department confirmed Thursday.

Shenendehowa school officials announced that a student at Acadia Middle School had contracted the illness, also known as the H1N1 virus. They did not specify how long the student has been out sick or when the student would return to school. The school will not be closed.

The symptoms exhibited by the student were mild and typical of seasonal influenza, including fever, sore throat, cough and a stuffy or runny nose. School administrators are asking parents if they are showing the same symptoms to keep their children at home.

As of Thursday, there have been two cases of H1N1 in Saratoga County, five in Schenectady County, one in Albany County and four in Rensselaer County, the state Health Department said. Of those, Schenectady and Rensselaer counties both reported single cases who were students.

H1N1 caused a scare two months ago when health officials nationwide worried it could spread to pandemic levels after healthy adults who contracted it in Mexico died. Since then, there have been 1,291 cases in New York.

-- Humberto Martinez

11M in Stimulus for NYs County Roads

Highway projects to get $95 million in stimulus funds
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Associated Press - June 12, 2009 3:15 AM ET

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - An additional $95 million in federal stimulus money is coming to New York to allow 43 new projects to move forward.

Gov. David Paterson says the projects will create about 2,277 jobs across the state.

The stimulus funding announced on Thursday brings the number of projects funded by the program to 217. The federal stimulus package will provide $618 million of the total $777 million in project costs.

The $95 million announced Thursday includes $11 million for roads in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties; $7 million for bridges in the New York City area; and $6.5 million for Route 17 in Chemung County.

There's also $4 million for the Route 39 bridge in St. Lawrence County, and $3.6 million to replace two bridges on state Route 90 in Cayuga County.

Computer Viruses Knock Out Systems at Rensselaer County

Computers are being scanned at the office of Rensselaer County (New York, USA) to remove two viruses, which invaded the systems and collapsed 200 of the total 700 PCs along with 20 servers.

Vince Ruggiero, Information Services Director, stated that it had been rather strenuous as they had been spending long hours to clean the infection, as reported by News Channel 13 on June 5, 2009.

Ruggiero further stated that although they knew when the viruses came in, they were not aware of their source. Meanwhile, computer engineers are trying to locate the infected systems, cleaning them along with the servers.

Reportedly, a power supply disruption during the end week of May 2009 resulted in the infection of a server, allowing the virus to enter the network that disrupted back-office operations such as Budget and Finance, and Central Services. However, no urgent services like Motor Vehicles, Social Services, 911 operations and the Jail were compromised because of the worms.

County spokesman Chris Meyer stated the disruption in the computers started on June 2, 2009, as reported by timesunion on June 5, 2009. The county was expecting that all the PCs would be running by June 5, 2009.

Meyer further stated that they would be restoring the offices methodically to ensure that there wouldn't be any repetition of the infection.

Meanwhile, the problem with the power supply might not be the only reason for the infection, said a team of security researchers belonging to an Internet strategy firm that had been tied to the Rensselaer County under a contract. Moreover, although the specialists made no condemnation, they questioned the extent of protection on the County's network.

The security researchers said that although they couldn't figure out everything that actually happened, one thing that was evident was the existence of a connection between the deactivation of one provider in preference for another and a few security flaws that had been exposed from their previous status of protection.

Nevertheless, the County office stated that had there been any indication of security flaws or any failure, it wouldn't have switched to a different provider.

» SPAMfighter News - 11-06-2009

Capital Affairs: Whats Goin on in Albany?

Albany sure is amazing. It's a place where, within several weeks, State Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. (D-Bronx) can rocket from a position of censure - as a serial campaign-rules scofflaw and the target of a fraud investigation - to standing a heartbeat away from becoming governor.

It's a place where billionaire businessman Tom Golisano, having lost three legitimate elections for governor, can interfere with the State Senate to pursue his agenda instead. His backing - assuming this week's new leadership deal holds - turned the Senate into a different, unfamiliar animal overnight.

And it's a place where Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Dean Skelos (R- Rockville Centre), can grab power under the cloak of reform, which didn't much interest them in recent regimes when they held the majority. And in doing so, they can ally themselves with the likes of Espada and Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D- Jackson Heights), who faces domestic violence charges this month for slashing his girlfriend's face.

At the moment, New York is a place where hypocrisy thrives.

Related links
Chaos in Albany Photos
New GOP majority may be locked out of chamber
Billionaire businessman helped GOP take back Senate
Dan Janison: Bronx senator has led tumultuous career
New Senate leaders vow to work with Paterson
Stunning 'coup' throws state Senate back to GOP
LI would benefit from State Senate GOP takeover
Dan Janison: Lightning strikes in Albany parliamentary coup
New state Senate worker faces change on job's first day
GOP, 2 Dems flip power balance in NY senate
Albany coup confuses some Espada constituents in the Bronx
Vote: Change?
Do you expect things to improve in Albany if the Republicans can keep control of the Senate?

Yes, it was time for a change

Maybe, but it will definitely be better for Long Island

No, Albany's a circus and this is just one more example

View current results
This page said in January that if Senate leaders gave in to demands by rogue Democrats selling their votes for power and money, the rogues would rule the Senate indefinitely. We were right - and if he's not careful, Skelos will be judged by the company he keeps.

And what about the governing?

But let's assume for a moment that the new Espada-Skelos majority coalition means what it says about reform. The coalition wants term limits for committee chairs and equal resources - for Democrats and Republicans alike - in staff and member items. The coalition is pledging more power for individual members to bring bills to a floor vote. These reforms would be welcome, and carry on where the recently deposed Democratic majority led by Sen. Malcolm Smith (D- St. Albans) stopped short.

The coalition is also promising a new ideology that emphasizes jobs for New Yorkers, lower property taxes, restoration of STAR rebate checks, and an end to overspending and overtaxing. Well, that's great. But we'll believe it when we see it. In recent years at the helm, the Republican majority stood for big-spending budgets and end-of-session pension sweeteners for public employees. A return to GOP leadership should not also signal a relapse to the cheap posturing, one-house bills and favors for special interests that characterized the years of former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

What's important is that the coalition - or the Democrats, if they return to power - move a reform agenda forward more effectively. Burdened by the national economy, New York is in a crisis of too-high costs for residents and businesses, and nobody is leading the way out. The Senate is too immersed in internecine squabbles. Assemb. Speaker Sheldon Silver (D- Manhattan) plays defense instead of raising big ideas. And Gov. David Paterson, who launched a high-tech spending initiative on Monday that was largely ignored, is so weak that no one is listening.

Long Island may well be better off if the coalition stands. The cost-control issue is at a crescendo here, and most of our state senators are Republicans. But a change in control does not necessarily mean a change in performance. This group still has a lot to prove. hN

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NY State Assembly: No to Vested Rights

Tell the NYS Assembly to Vote "NO" on Vested Rights

Dear Christine Jubic,

Don’t let the State Assembly pass a law that would put developers’ rights ahead of those of ordinary New Yorkers.

With just two weeks left in this year’s Legislative Session, the New York State Assembly is considering a bill that would undercut the ability of cities, towns and villages to stop or even limit environmentally damaging development.

Bad idea, right? Tell your Assembly member to protect New York communities by voting “NO” on vested rights.

This bill, known as “vested rights,” would permit developers to freeze (or “vest”)—for six years—the municipal zoning, planning and environmental regulations that are in place in your community only six months after filing an application to develop land. Not after receiving a permit. Not after receiving local approval. After filing an application.

Because in most cases people don't know when development applications are filed, six months could easily pass without residents even knowing about it. And if those same residents want to re-zone to prevent a big box strip mall from going up next to a school, they'd only have six months to update their land use plans. That's not enough time.

Tell your representative in the Assembly to vote “NO” on vested rights for developers.

Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):
Your Assemblyperson (if you live in New York)

Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Protect New York Communities. Vote "NO" on Vested Rights (A.3353/S.1988)

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

As a member of Environmental Advocates of New York, I urge you to oppose A.3353/S.1988, Vested Rights for Land Developers. This bill will hamstring the ability of communities across the state to prevent environmentally harmful development in their own backyards.

Under this bill, municipal zoning and land use laws and rights that are on the books six months after the day that a project's application is filed would be frozen in time for six years--even if the city, town, or village adopts more protective measures.

Please vote "NO" on A.3353/S.1988 and protect New Yorkers from harmful development. Let local people decide what's best for their communities.


Christine Jubic

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Private Encroachment Upon Public Lands Or The Matter of the Old Town Road: A Need to Settle Right-of-Ways

What does it mean for a town to abandon a road? First of all it helps to understand that, pursuant to New York States Highway Laws, there are TWO kinds of abandonment; complete and constructive. Complete abandonment occurs when a town abandons the road that is no longer in use by anyone, and files a paper with the State Dept of Highways indicating that in fact, the town has totally abandoned the road. The right of ways then revert to the orginal plot from which they were taken from. This creates a reversionary Interest to rights to right-of-way (by property owners entitled to same.

Constructive abandonment;

(to be continued)

No Help from Authorities to Eradicate Communitys' Mosquito Breeding Ground

F.R.R.C. Project 2616 at the Johnsville (NY) Dam

Directly across from our house, just down from the public boat launch the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had installed for us by the Power Co who rents the dam, there is a stillwater inlet that is a breeding ground for insects, specifically mosquito's

Yesterday I reported this to Tom Uncher of Brookfield Power Co., who, in so many words, informed me that it was not his concern....he reasoned that since it was a "water quality" issue, he advised me to report it to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (EnCon) which I did.

The EnCon Representative I spoke with told me (I didnt get her name) that it was not their concern, reasoning that it was a "public health issue" and advising me to call the Rensselaer Co Health Dept. which I did.

Talk about the run-around. So I called the Rensselaer Co health Dept and spoke with Jennifer DeLorenzo who told me that there isnt anything they can do. She claimed a lack of funding. That is where we stand today. No help on this very important pubic health issue effecting our small little rural community. The bugs are so bad already, what with the bats being gone and all.....

Take a look at some of the pics of our Neighborhood Mosquito Breeding Grounds that I guess we are stuck living with;

Hard to tell in these pics, but the algae close to shore is sitting on muck, not floating in the water...there IS no water til you get half way out across the riverbed.

Guess my next call will be to FERC

and about the sandbags, ( a seperate issue with flood-control) these bags Brookfield Power Co put down last year cause of the flooding the "hole in the bank" they call a "launch" caused....they were supposed to come back and cover them with gravel or dirt;
now the fiberglass-weaved bags are disintegrating, breaking up and blowing all over the neighborhood. Isnt this nice?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

"To the Bat Cave," Robin! or "How U can Help our Bats"

NJ - Annual bat count takes on added significance
Posted by: "Maureen Koplow" share112943
Fri Jun 5, 2009 9:48 am (PDT)

Forwarded message - for info, please visit

NJ - Annual bat count takes on added significance

Friday, June 05, 2009
Star-Ledger Staff

Volunteers were called on yesterday to join an annual summer bat count
in New Jersey that could further determine how many have fallen to the
enigmatic "white-nose syndrome" responsible for devastating their
Northeastern populations.

As the Congressional Natural Resource Committee in Washington, D.C.,
began yesterday to review federal responses to the dilemma, the Conserve
Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey launched an effort to monitor roosting
spots where bats spend their summers in the state. From old buildings
and barns to dead trees, checking roosts may help state biologists confirm
their worst fears -- that as many as 95 percent of the state's bats died
over the winter.

"We ask our volunteers each year to go to a known bat roost at least twice
between now and early August and count them as the bats fly out in the
evening," said Maria Grace of Conserve Wildlife. "This year, we're telling
people that not seeing bats in those roosts is just as important to note.
We'll know then how significant the die-off is due to white-nose syndrome."

After mass die-offs of bats in 2006 and 2007 in New York, the phenomenon
was named after a strange white fungus found on their snouts and wings.
Since then, it has spread to nine states from Vermont to Virginia. Bats began
dying in New Jersey in January and a pre-spring inspection of the state's
largest hibernating spot, or hibernaculum, the Hibernia mine in Rockaway
Township, revealed a 95 percent population drop.

The syndrome prompts bats to wake from hibernation in the dead of
winter, even fly from their hibernaculum, and use up crucial fat reserves.

"The exact cause of mortality of affected bats is not yet fully understood,
but the newly identified fungus is considered a likely contributor," Marvin
Moriarty, northeast regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
told the natural resource committee yesterday.

The fungus invades the skin and underlying tissue, particularly at the bat's
wings, that help balance complex physiological processes such as body
temperature. All six bat species that hibernate in the Northeast have been
affected, and scientists fear the syndrome will spread to large bat
populations in the South and Southwest -- and that some species may
never recover even if a solution is found.

"Bats differ from most other small mammals in that they have long lives
and reproduce slowly," Moriarty said.

Bats are insect eaters and help human agriculture. The 1 million killed
would have consumed 8,000 pounds of insects in a single summer night,
scientists said.

Conserve Wildlife will assign a bat roost to volunteers who contact the
foundation at (609) 984-0621 or at

Brian T. Murray may be reached at (973) 392-4153 or

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More On the Hoosic Falls Animal Control Officer from Hell, or Should I say, "Moron"

Animal remains found at dog warden's farm
Updated: 05/30/2009 07:41 AM
By: Web Staff

HOOSICK, N.Y. -- An investigation into an animal control officer in Rensselaer County has led to the discovery of the remains of several animals at a farm in Hoosick.

Matthew Beck, 46, was arrested on March 22 in connection with an incident in which two dogs went missing from a home in Hoosick Falls.

A woman eventually found the dogs and turned them over to Beck, the dog warden for the Town of Hoosick, who told police he returned them to their "rightful owner." But a few weeks later, the woman who found the dogs saw posters up in the area saying the dogs were missing so she called the dog's owner, April Stevens, and told her she had turned them over to the dog warden.

Animal remains found at dog warden's farm
An investigation into an animal control officer in Rensselaer County has led to the discovery of the remains of several animals at a farm in Hoosick.

Beck told State Police he had returned the two dogs to a person who stated they were the owner.

Beck was arrested and charged with second-degree forgery of a public record, official misconduct of public servant, petit larceny and false written statement.

Then on May 27, State Police executed a search warrant at Beck's farm where they found remains of several animals, including dogs. The remains are being tested by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Beck is on an unpaid leave of absence.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Another Blight on the Capital District : Local Man Robs Indian School

SCCC Graduate Bilks American Indian School of $1.38 M!

Click on title above for article;

Mid-West States Warned, "Clean up Your Stagnet Water, Junkyards, etc...Deadly Mosquitos in Around

..and it aint just a "MidWest" concern. Mosquitos carrying deadly virus' are everywhere. Particularly hard-hit this summer will be the areas (like ours) where the bats have all died off (due to white nose syndrome) It is the bats that keep the bugs down!
Read more about that by clicking onto the title above;

-----------------------meanwhile, back to...
The Mosquitos

Virus-spreading mosquito expands its reach

State health officials said today that they have confirmed that the invasive species has now established itself in five counties -- two of them in the Twin Cities area --and could spread two virus types to humans.

By PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune

Last update: June 1, 2009 - 1:04 PM

for Pete's sake, people, just dump out the standing water
this is not rocket science. put bug pellets in the rain barrels, get rid of water catchers like old tires and junk, turn watering cans … read more upside down or use and dump the rest out every couple days. get on city hall to dose the storm drains.

Close comment

Minnesota State health officials said today that they have confirmed that an invasive mosquito species has now established itself in five counties -- two of them in the Twin Cities area -- and is well positioned to expand its turf farther and carry with it the potential to spread two virus types to humans.

The Japanese rock pool mosquito has been detected in the counties of Dakota, Goodhue, Houston, Scott and Wabasha, the state Health Department said.

With the concern that the mosquito "could potentially" transmit the LaCrosse encephalitis and West Nile viruses, health officials are urging Minnesotans to rid their property of water-holding containers that become breeding grounds for all types of mosquitoes.

"Spring is the perfect time to take simple steps to prevent mosquito-transmitted disease later this summer," said David Neitzel, a department epidemiologist who specializes in mosquito-borne diseases. "Several types of disease-carrying mosquitoes use water-holding containers, such as old tires, buckets, or cans, as breeding sites. If everyone dumps the water out of these containers and removes them during their spring yard work, we can reduce the number of mosquitoes that could transmit disease later this summer."

The Japanese rock pool mosquito, an Asian mosquito that was accidentally imported into this country, has been steadily moving across the United States since it was first found in New Jersey in 1998. It was first identified in Minnesota in Scott County in 2007 and then detected in the other four counties over the following year.

This spring, it was determined that these mosquitoes' eggs had survived the Minnesota winter. "We suspect that we will soon find this mosquito in other counties as well," Neitzel said.

LaCrosse encephalitis affects the brain and central nervous system. Severe cases occur primarily in children under 16 and are characterized by high fever, headache, confusion and seizures. Since 1985, 124 LaCrosse encephalitis cases have been reported to the state. One was fatal.

Most West Nile virus victims experience fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes a rash. Severe cases tend to occur in older people. Since 2002, 451 West Nile cases have been reported to the state. Fourteen have been fatal.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Little Known Museum in Troy Holds a Key to Capital Region's Place in the Labor Movement

Fergitaboutit! J'Ville was thee most important industrial town in all of Pittstown and most of Rensselaer Co. We want a Johnsonville Railroad & Industrial Museum! The old "moms" store on Rt. 67 would be a PERFECT location, and its for sale too!
Hello! Any of you historic pres railfan / industry & labor people listening? Here is a golden opportunity for you to champion a really good cause that would help the local economies. Give me a call and I will show you around and share with you some ideas.
(518) 753 7791

News from New York State Department of Labor

For more information contact: Leo Rosales, 518-457-5519

Media Advisory: Little Known Museum in Troy Holds a Key to Capital Region's Place in the Labor Movement
Governor Paterson Proclaims May Labor History Month in New York State

ALBANY, NY (05/27/2009; 1316)(readMedia)--

Question: What do the Liberty Bell, the Panama Canal, the USS Monitor, George Armstrong Custer and a local Iron Molders Union have in common?

Answer: The City of Troy, of course.

On Thursday, May 28, the Department of Labor will be holding a press event at the Burden Iron Works Museum in Troy to celebrate Labor History Month in New York State. Located in the former office of one of the most important firms in the history of iron and steel, the Burden Iron Works Museum promotes the City of Troy and its rightful place as the Silicon Valley of the 19th Century.

WHEN: Thursday, May 28, 2009 - 11 a.m.

WHERE: Burden Iron Works Museum

One East Industrial Parkway

Troy, NY 12180

Map available at the following link:

WHO: Executive Deputy Commissioner of Labor Mario Musolino

Congressman Paul Tonko

Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino

P. Thomas Carroll, Ph.D., Executive Director, Burden Iron Works Museum

Paul F. Cole, Executive Director, American Labor Studies Center

Guests in attendance to include State Historian Robert Weible; Jeffrey Stark, Secretary-Treasurer, Capital District Area Labor Federation; and Michael Barrett, Deputy Director and Tourism Coordinator for the Hudson-Mohawk Industrial Gateway.

Hoosic Valley CSD Raised to A+ by S&P

This is MY school district and I tell you, despite what the article says, we ARE NOT doing well economically in this district....only the schools are thriving, expanding and building new annexes as we speak. Its our ever-rising school TAXES paying for these expansions, NOT a "growing" economy! Everyone, and I mean everyone I know in this district is feeling the pinch, for real.

Hoosic Valley CSD Raised to A+ by S&P

Click on title above for article;

Monday, May 18, 2009

USDA Rural Development / Low-Income HomeOwner Loans for "Credit Qualified" Only

No help from Uncle Sam for the poor with bad or no credit history.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Tim Jones (315) 477-6436



SYRACUSE, N.Y., Feb. 11, 2009 - Interested in a home loan that requires no down payment, no private mortgage insurance and offers low, fixed interest rates?

If so, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency’s home loan program might be right for you.

Rural Development’s Single Family Housing Program

Rural Development serves as the USDA’s economic and community development arm and has the mission of improving economic conditions and the quality of life in rural America.

The agency’s Single Family Housing (SFH) Program supports this mission by offering direct and guaranteed home loans to help rural New Yorkers buy or build safe, decent and affordable homes. Home ownership is an economic cornerstone for individuals and communities and owning a home is an integral part of the American dream. The direct and indirect impacts of housing development also provides a stimulus for manufacturing, trade industries and related professional services, benefitting the larger economy.

Last year, Rural Development’s SFH program invested more than $97 million in New York, helping more 1,000 families and individuals buy, build or repair homes.

Direct Loan Program

The direct loan program provides government loans to low-income families or individuals. Borrowers must be able to afford mortgage payments, including taxes and homeowners insurance, and have a reasonable credit history. Direct loans are for 33 years, although 38-year terms are available in some cases. Payment assistance also is available for many qualifying borrowers.

Guaranteed Loan Program

The guaranteed loan program is administered in partnership with private lenders and is designed to assist low- and moderate-income borrowers. In the program, the loan is made by a bank, credit union or other financial institution, and Rural Development guarantees a large percentage of the loan on the borrower’s behalf. The guarantee enables lenders to offer more affordable mortgage terms. The loans have a two percent guarantee fee and this can often be rolled into the mortgage, enabling lenders to finance up to 102 percent of an appraised home’s value.

The First Step

Rural Development operates an extensive income and property eligibility web site at Potential applicants can find out if the home they’re interested in is in an eligible area - the loan programs are restricted to rural areas - and find income limits for their locations.

Prospective homebuyers and lenders interested in enrolling in the guaranteed program can also call the USDA Rural Development Service Center nearest them or call Rural Development’s state office at (315) 477-6416. A list of local offices with phone numbers and counties served is provided on the last page of this press release.

USDA Rural Development’s mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. In fiscal year 2008, the agency invested more than $273 million in rural New York, raising its total investment in the state to more than $1.75 billion since 2001. Additional information on Rural Development programs may also be found at


USDA Rural Development Service Centers in New York

Phone Number
Counties Served

(585) 343-9167, ext. 2200
Niagara, Erie, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming

(607) 776-7398, ext. 4
Schuyler, Chemung, Steuben, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua

(585) 394-0525, ext. 4
Seneca, Wayne, Ontario, Yates, Monroe, Livingston

(315) 386-2401, ext. 4
St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin

(607) 753-0851, ext. 4
Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Tompkins, Cortland, Cayuga, Onondaga

(518) 692-9940, ext. 4
Rensselaer, Washington, Saratoga, Warren, Essex, Hamilton

(518) 762-0077, ext. 4
Fulton, Montgomery, Otsego, Delaware, Schoharie, Schenectady, Albany, Greene

(315) 736-3316, ext. 4
Madison, Oneida, Herkimer

(845) 343-1872, ext. 4
Columbia, Ulster, Sullivan, Orange, Dutchess, Putnam, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland

(315) 782-7289, ext. 4
Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego

Friday, May 15, 2009

NY Man Dies from Deer Tick Virus

A ProMED-mail post

ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Wed 13 May 2009
Source:, HealthDay News report [edited]

Man dies of brain inflammation caused by deer tick virus
In what scientists say might be the 1st case of its kind, a new report
details the story of a 62 year old man in New York state who died last year
(2008) of meningoencephalitis, apparently after being bitten by a deer tick
infected with deer tick virus. This appears to be the 1st reported human
illness from the virus, although the organism was isolated in the brain of
a person in Ontario, Canada. In this instance, there was no description of
illness associated with that infection, said Norma P Tavakoli, lead author
of the paper appearing in the 14 May 2009 issue of the New England Journal
of Medicine [see reference in comment below. - Mod.CP]

"Deer tick virus encephalitis [inflammation of the brain] is rare, but
diagnostic testing is not routinely performed, so there could be cases out
there we're actually missing," said Tavakoli, who is a research scientist
with the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health in Albany.
"Certainly, during early spring to fall in areas where infected ticks have
been reported, testing should be done. It is quite a rare virus," said Dr
Geoffrey Weinberg, a professor of pediatrics in the division of pediatric
infectious diseases at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "I would
advise people not to be overly concerned. Ticks are less commonly infected
with this than with Lyme disease. Also, the odds are 300 to one that
someone infected with the virus will develop encephalitis. The vast
majority have no symptoms at all."

For the average outdoorsman, precautions already recommended to avoid
contracting Lyme disease -- also transmitted via deer ticks -- should
decrease the odds of getting the deer tick virus as well, according to the
study. "Whether or not this will become a real problem, I don't think
anybody knows. Obviously, there is no treatment for the virus so, really,
prevention is the only thing you can do," said Dr Peter Welch, an
infectious disease specialist with Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt
Kisco, NY. "We should always be cautious to do our best to not be bitten by
ticks. Check for ticks when you come out of the woods or anywhere there are
ticks. Wear insect repellant, which contains DEET." Wearing light-colored
clothing, removing any ticks as soon as they are found, and keeping pets
free of ticks can also reduce the risk, Tavakoli added.

Deer tick virus is closely related to Powassan virus, which can also cause
encephalitis and is also transmitted by way of the deer tick, according to
background information in the study. Both are flaviviruses, a group that
includes West Nile virus, St Louis encephalitis virus, dengue, and yellow
fever viruses, all of which are transmitted by mosquitoes. Infection with
one of these viruses sometimes causes severe illness, some combination of
milder symptoms, or no illness at all.

Deer ticks also transmit Lyme disease, which is now widespread in the
United States. In the New York case, a 62 year old man from Putnam County,
NY, arrived at a local hospital in spring of 2008 complaining of fatigue,
fever, rash, and muscle weakness. Doctors first suspected West Nile virus,
but analysis of tissue samples eventually came up positive for deer tick
virus only. The patient spent a good deal of time outdoors, owned horses,
and lived in a county with many reports of Lyme disease, indicating a large
tick population. Although the man had not reported any tick bites, the time
of the year was right for such an event, and many deer ticks are so small
as to remain undetected. Unfortunately, the man's condition continued to
deteriorate, life support was withdrawn, and the man, who also had leukemia
and therefore possibly a weakened immune system, died 17 days after he fell

In general, Welch said, encephalitis cases of any sort are few, and labs
are not usually able to identify the source, unless it is the herpes
simplex virus. "Since no one has been testing, we really don't know the
incidence of deer tick virus, but it can't be very high, because we don't
have many cases of encephalitis," he said. "What happens in the future will
depend on how many ticks get infected, how easy it is to transmit to
people, and what per cent of people infected get severe disease. It could
be that people with normal immune systems are relatively resistant."

communicated by:
ProMED-mail rapporteur Susan Baekeland

[The research described above was published in the 14 May issue of the New
England Journal of Medicine (Norma P Tavakoli, Heng Wang, Michelle Dupuis,
Rene Hull, Gregory D Ebel, Emily J Gilmore, et al. Fatal case of deer tick
virus encephalitis. N Engl J Med 2009; 360: 2099-107.

Summary: "Deer tick virus is related to Powassan virus, a tick-borne
encephalitis virus. A 62 year old man presented with a meningoencephalitis
syndrome and eventually died. Analyses of tissue samples obtained during
surgery and at autopsy revealed a widespread necrotizing
meningoencephalitis. Nucleic acid was extracted from formalin-fixed tissue,
and the presence of deer tick virus was verified on a flavivirus-specific
polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) assay, followed by sequence confirmation.
Immunohistochemical analysis with antisera specific for deer tick virus
identified numerous immunoreactive neurons, with prominent involvement of
large neurons in the brain stem, cerebellum, basal ganglia, thalamus, and
spinal cord. This case demonstrates that deer tick virus can be a cause of
fatal encephalitis."

Deer tick virus is a newly described member of the mammalian tickborne
virus group. The members of this group are classified as the virus species:
_Gadge Gully virus_, _Kyasanur Forest disease virus_, _Langat virus_,
_Louping ill virus_, _Omsk hemorrhagic fever virus_, _Powassan virus_,
_Royal Farm virus_, and _Tick-borne encephalitis virus_. Of these viruses
deer tick virus is most closely related to Powassan virus. - Mod.CP

A photograph of a deer tick (_Ixodes scapularis_) can be seen at
. New York State can be
located on the HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map at
. - CopyEd.MJ]


R Town News : Troy Sings in Commeration

Fr. Bedros Shetilian conducts Troy, N.Y., orchestra in Genocide commemoration
by D. Edward Kebabjian

Published: Thursday May 14, 2009

Fr. Bedros Shetilian, a graduate of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, conducts the Troy Orchestra.

Troy, N.Y. - On the evening of April 25, the New York Capital District Armenian Genocide Committee hosted the 94th Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. This year's event was one of music featuring the Troy Orchestra under the direction of Fr. Bedros Shetilian. Fr. Bedros graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia. He has worked with internationally known orchestras like the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra and has toured several countries including England, Sweden, and Finland. Fr. Bedros is serving at Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church in Troy, New York, and St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Also featured in the evening performance was opera singer Chakee Kazangian, who sang "Karoon" and "Kele, Kele," both by Gomidas, and "Ororotsayin" by Parsegh Ganachian. Ms. Kazangian started singing in the Armenian schools in Beirut. She moved to Australia and graduated from the Sydney Conservatory as an opera singer. As a member of the Sydney Opera Company, she sang several operas in the famous Sydney Opera House to both Armenian and American audiences. She has toured Armenia, Brazil, and Syria and has recorded two CDs. Ms. Kazangian presently resides in the Capital District and is choir director at Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church in Troy, where she is a dedicated volunteer.

A third feature was Melynda Matheke, an elementary music teacher in a local school district who is a flute virtuoso. Ms. Matheke performed J.S. Bach's Orchestra Suite No 2 in B minor, for solo flute and chamber orchestra. Ms. Matheke graduated from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.

All performers were extraordinary. The Troy Orchestra performed many songs including the five Armenian songs "Groong," "Yerginken Amber," "Keler Tsoler," "Dzirani Dzar," and "Etchmiadzin Dance."

Monday, May 11, 2009

County Democrats seek candidates

County Democrats seek candidates

First published in print: Saturday, May 9, 2009

TROY — The Rensselaer County Democratic Committee is seeking candidates for county office.

County Chairman Thomas W. Wade said the committee will interview candidates this month for county executive, county clerk and for county legislators.

County Court Judge Andrew Ceresia is the party's candidate for Family Court judge. Attorney Richard Hanft is the party candidate for Family Court judge.

The Republicans control the county Legislature. County Executive Kathleen Jimino and County Clerk Frank Merola are the Republican incumbents seeking re-election.

Anyone interested in running as a Democratic candidate for office should contact Wade at Rensselaer County Democratic Committee, P.O. Box 846, Troy, N.Y. 12181.

— Kenneth C. Crowe II

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Costly Superfund dredging set for Hudson River

By MICHAEL HILL – May 9, 2009

SARATOGA, N.Y. (AP) — People look funny at David Mathis when he takes a dip off his dock in the Hudson River. Health officials have long warned people not to eat fish caught from this slow-flowing stretch south of the Adirondacks and swimming here is unthinkable to many.

The reason: tons of oily PCBs — probable carcinogens — have been packed in with the river mud so heavily that the federal government named the river a Superfund site in 1984. Environmentalists and local residents like Mathis say the only way to rid the river of PCBs is to dredge out 1.8 million cubic yards of contaminated mud — a job that could take six years and cost far more than $100 million a year. Opponents along the river are just as adamant that the river is cleaning itself and that dredging will be a gigantic folly.

The argument has gone on for a generation.

Metal scoops are set to be lowered from barges this month and chomp out the first loads of river bottom in one of the largest and most complex federal Superfund cleanups ever. The dredging will be paid for and coordinated by General Electric Co.

A thin stretch of river around Fort Edward, 10 miles north of Mathis' dock, will be jammed with an armada of boats scraping away at the river bottom night and day, six days a week. A multimillion dollar, 114-acre treatment site built by GE will treat the contaminated mud and pump the clean water back into the river; the processed mud will be shipped to Texas for disposal.

"I've got a couple of kids. I don't have any grandkids yet," Mathis, 61, says as he pilots his 32-foot boat along the contaminated run of river. "But when I do, I want them to be able to swim in the river."

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were commonly used as coolants and lubricants in transformers before they were banned in 1977. Considered a probable carcinogen, they have been linked to immune, reproductive and nervous-system problems.

Over several decades before the ban, GE plants in Fort Edward and neighboring Hudson Falls discharged wastewater containing more than a million pounds of PCBs into the river. A dam at Fort Edward kept the PCBs largely bottled up. But when the dam was removed in 1973, the chemicals flowed all the way to river's mouth at New York City, concentrating along a 40-mile stretch down to Albany.

New York state environmental officials considered dredging in the mid '70s, but had trouble finding a spot to bury the contaminated mud. With the Superfund site listing in 1984, the federal Environmental Protection Agency acquired broad powers to force the cleanup on GE. The EPA initially decided against a cleanup, citing technical challenges, but reconsidered in the '90s.

What followed was a decade on the river that had the air of a political campaign. Neighbors in Fort Edward placed pro- or anti-dredging signs on their front laws. Heated arguments broke out at public meetings.

GE, on the hook for the massive cleanup cost, waged an aggressive media campaign against dredging. One typical newspaper ad said dredging would "disrupt life on the river for years, and there's no guarantee it will work."

Jack Welch, then GE's top executive, was especially outspoken. He even argued with a nun at a shareholders' meeting, telling her: "... there is no correlation between PCB levels and cancer, Sister."

While federal officials have stopped short of saying PCBs cause cancer, the Department of Health and Human Services says PCBs may reasonably be anticipated to be carcinogens.

GE found local allies. Many residents feared dredging would turn a quiet stretch of river into rumbling, klieg-lit construction site. Tim Haven, longtime president of the anti-dredging group CEASE, says he'll give the project "a fair shake," but still believes a full dredging could take more than 15 years and will kick up PCBs into the river.

"I have a suspicion, or a gut feeling, this baby not going to go as well as planned," Haven said.

The EPA called for dredging in 2002. The start date was pushed back several years as the sides haggled over details and legal issues. Under a GE and EPA agreement, 265,000 cubic yards of river bottom — or about 15 percent of the total — will be dredged this year under Phase 1. The results will be studied before the start of Phase 2, the final and much larger stage.

Still in federal court is a suit by down-river towns concerned about whether dredging will stir up the PCBs and contaminate their drinking water. But EPA spokeswoman Kristen Skopeck said the project is scheduled to start sometime mid- to late-May.

Twelve dredgers, using clamshell-like scoops, will scrape up to 5,000 cubic yards a day, a bite at a time. Operations manager Tim Kruppenbacher said every effort is being made to keep light and noise to a minimum, but acknowledges "you're going to hear us."

Toxic muck will be barged about a mile up the Champlain Canal to the sprawling cleanup facility. Muck will be offloaded, processed, piped and dewatered. Water will be filtered again and again until it can go back in the canal. The pressed and dried toxic sludge cake will be shipped by rail to a Texas burial ground.

There are bigger Superfund projects that are expected to cost more to clean. But GE spokesman Mark Behan said there is likely none so complex.

"What's different is the unprecedented logistics," said GE spokesman Mark Behan, "the scale of it."

The EPA estimates that the project will cost GE around $750 million. GE is not providing its own cost estimate.

Phase 1 of the work will continue through the fall.

Then comes the potential catch.

GE has yet to agree to perform Phase 2 — the vast majority of the cleanup over some 35 miles. GE reserved the right to review Phase 1 results before making a commitment. In a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing, GE noted blandly that after the peer review "we may be responsible for further costs."

Environmentalists — who have fought GE so bitterly for so long — remain suspicious that the company will find a rationale to stop dredging after this year. But even if GE bows out, EPA could continue with Phase 2 and seek to recoup triple costs from GE. "No matter what," said Skopeck, "we will complete this project."

On the Net:

Click on title above to see map of dredging areas

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Graduates Dilemma; To Shake or Not to Shake?

Here's a diploma and a wave?
Updated: 05/08/2009 06:04 AM
By: Britt Godshalk

TROY, N.Y. -- “I thought it was a great idea,” said Sage graduate Felicia Bishop.

“I think it's a little excessive,” said Sage graduate Stephanie Coppa.

Soon to be Sage graduates sounded off on the latest suggestion from their President. When accepting their diploma on Saturday, she says, forgo the familiar handshake. The reason? Germs.

“I felt like that was genius,” said Bishop. “It's better to be safe than sorry.”

“That's true and I think that's President Scrimshaw's motto. And because of her background in health, she just wants to be safe,” said Sage graduate Julia Killey.

“In the past, when we talked about bird flu, I didn't care, like, it'll never happen to me. And now swine flu, we have signs all over campus and gel dispensers outside, I guess it's a lot more serious than I thought. I've been using the gel dispensers like it's my job,” said Sage graduate Samantha Hall.

“So, should we all wear facemasks?” asked Coppa. “I mean, where is the line of being cautious and being overly cautious?”

The State Department of Health says as long as you wash your hands regularly and don't have flu like symptoms that could be H1N1, you can continue with life as usual. But as a local college prepares to hold its commencement this weekend, its administration is taking an extra precaution, just in case. Our Britt Godshalk explains.

Sage Colleges say both Tufts and MIT have decided to nix the handshake. St. Rose says that college considered it as well, but decided to keep the gesture, as will Union and UAlbany.

“It's tradition that we're breaking,” said Jen Resso.

Why do we even shake hands at all? Well, the President of the Colleges, who is not only a public health expert, but also an anthropologist, says it used to be that you were checking to see if your comrade was holding a sword. She says in this day and age, not only does that not apply, it's just not healthy. It caused us to wonder what will Sage graduates being doing instead of handshakes?

“It's kinda awkward if you just get the diploma. It's like, 'thanks, see ya later!'” Hall said.

“What can we do other than smile or do we just stand there?” asked Bishop.

“Maybe like the bump,” suggested Coppa. “Or maybe, oh wait, no handshaking, so no high five.”

“Probably a nod and a thank you will be it from me,” Killey said.

After all, a handshake is nice, but the diploma is really what they're after.

My suggestion: rubber gloves. Or, in the alternative, fake hands.

NY's Hudson Valley marks historic 1609 voyage

Friday, May 08, 2009

In this file image released by the Museum of the City of New York, an undated lithograph depicting a 17th century man who is purported to be Henry Hudson is shown. Four hundred years after Henry Hudson sailed his ship Half Moon up a river that would one day bear his name, historians are marking his role in the evolution of a tiny Dutch trading post into a world capital with a series of events and exhibits.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- When explorer Henry Hudson got as far north as he could go on the waterway that would later bear his name, he didn't stick around long or wander much beyond the riverbank.

"They did not venture far from shore," said William "Chip" Reynolds, captain of the Half Moon, a full-scale replica of the ship that Hudson, an Englishman, sailed for the Dutch during his 1609 voyage to the New World.

Hudson and his crew spent only four days at what would later become Albany, but others followed his route upriver, mainly Dutch merchants looking to trade for the fur of beavers trapped by local Indian tribes.

Those enterprising Dutchmen established Fort Orange (later renamed Beverwijck, or "District of the Beaver") 15 years after Hudson's voyage on "de Halve Maen." The English renamed the settlement Albany when they took control of Holland's New Netherlands colony in 1664, but the Dutch influence here and along the Hudson Valley lasted well into the 18th century, and plenty of remnants can still be found today.

Many communities between Westchester County and Albany are hosting festivals, concerts, exhibits and other events to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Hudson's voyage, along with a belated 200th anniversary celebration of Robert Fulton inaugural steamboat trip up the river in 1807.

Reynolds' Half Moon will figure prominently in several events, including a nearly monthlong cruise recreating the river voyage that Hudson took in September 1609.

Here are some of the signature events, along with listings for museums and historic sites hosting related exhibits. For a more extensive list, check the state's Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission Web site,, or the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau's site at

ALBANY INSTITUTE OF HISTORY AND ART, Albany -- Current exhibit: "Hudson River Panorama: 400 Years of History, Art, and Culture." Features hundreds of artworks, artifacts, interactive displays and rare documents from the institute's own collections. Through Jan. 3, 2010,

CHILDREN'S MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, Troy -- Current exhibit: "Horseshoes & Waterwheels: NY's Tech Valley 1800s." Explores river's importance to the development of the Hudson Valley and the nation, using photographs, historical objects and video displays. Through Dec. 31,

THOMAS COLE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, Catskill -- New exhibit featuring Hudson River views by the 19th century artist considered the founder of the Hudson River School, America's first art movement. May 2 through Oct. 11 at Cedar Grove, Cole's home and restored studio. A series of monthly guided hikes will be offered to the local scenes in the paintings beginning June 6 and ending Oct. 3,

TULIP FESTIVAL, Albany, May 8-10 -- A state capital tradition now in its 61st year, the festival celebrates Albany's deep Dutch roots. Events include the crowning of the Tulip Queen, live music, food vendors, children's activities, arts and crafts, and 200,000 tulips on display,

NEW NETHERLAND INSTITUTE, Albany -- Traveling exhibit: "Light on New Netherland." More than two dozen panels tell the story of the Dutch colony, with period artwork by contemporary artist Len Tantillo and video featuring interviews with Charles Gehring, who has spent decades translating the state's thousands of pages of 17th-century Dutch colonial documents for the institute's New Netherland Project. Exhibit will travel from Washington, D.C. to Grand Rapids, Mich., over the next year, with stops on Long Island and Dutchess County this summer and fall, respectively. Check for exact dates.

LAUNCHING OF THE ONRUST, Rotterdam Junction, mid-May -- The Onrust (Dutch for restless) is a full-scale replica of the first Dutch ship built in North America. Launched off Manhattan in 1614, the original ship explored the New York and New England coasts. The replica will be launched in the Mohawk River at the 300-year-old Dutch farm where it's being built. The Onrust's launching date and schedule for 2009 are to be announced.

OLD DUTCH CHURCH, Kingston, May 30-31 -- Celebration of the First Protestant Reformed Dutch Church's 350th anniversary. Presentation of plaque from U.S. Department of Interior designating site a National Historic Landmark, 11 a.m., May 30. Followed by Dutch celebration of Pinkster, or Pentecost, with re-enactors and church tours. Festival service with parishioners from 50 other Dutch Reformed churches and choir performance, 4 p.m. May 31,

HUDSON RIVER DAY, New York City-Albany, June 5-13 -- "Relay Flotilla" assembles June 5 in New York Harbor, then heads upriver the next day, arriving June 13 in Albany with hundreds of vessels expected to retrace Henry Hudson's voyage, including the Dutch replica ships Half Moon and Onrust, and the sloop Clearwater, a Poughkeepsie-based floating environmental education classroom,

NATIVE AMERICAN ENCAMPMENT, Cohoes, June 6 -- Held at the Van Schaick Mansion, named for the Dutch family that owned the island the home was built on in the mid-1700s. Located at the junction of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers just north of Albany, the site was a military headquarters in the 18th century. Activities include a living history program of Iroquois weapons, clothing and storytelling,

CEMETERY TOUR, Menands, June 13 -- Trolley tour of gravesites with stories told of the Albany area's first Dutch settlers. Starts 10 a.m. at Albany Rural Cemetery, final resting place of the Van Rensselaers, Schuylers, Bleekers, and other members of the area's prominent Dutch families dating back to the 17th century,

WEST POINT CONCERTS, West Point -- Continuing a tradition begun in 1817, the U.S. Military Academy Band performs alongside the Hudson. Two free concerts are scheduled, at 7:30 p.m. on June 21, and 8 p.m. on July 4, at Trophy Point Amphitheatre overlooking the river,

NEW YORK STATE MUSEUM, Albany -- Exhibit: "1609." July 3 through March 2010. Using artifacts from the state's collection and historical images created by local artist Len Tantillo, the exhibit will re-examine Hudson's voyage, the myths that surround it, and explore the legacies of his unexpected discovery. Also, an August-September tour from Vermont to Manhattan by the Day Peckinpaugh, the museum's 259-foot, 1921 canal boat. Public tours of onboard maritime history exhibit scheduled at 15 ports,

RIP VAN WINKLE'S WACKY RAFT RACE, Athens to Catskill, Aug. 16 -- 6-mile race involving about two dozen non-motorized, homemade rafts vying for prizes named after old Hudson steamships that raced against one another on the river. Starts at 11 a.m. at Riverfront Park, Athens and finishes at Dutchman's Landing, Catskill,

VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY, Albany, Sept. 14-Oct. 8 -- The replica Half Moon recreates Henry Hudson's voyage on the river, with 7th-grade students serving as the crew. Ship is open for public tours during Albany's "quad" festival Sept. 26, or

WALKWAY OVER THE HUDSON, Poughkeepsie-Highland, Oct. 2-4 -- A 1.2-mile-long, 212-foot-high former railroad bridge-turned-walkway for pedestrians, hikers, joggers and bicyclists. "Grand Illumination" of the Walkway, 7 p.m., Oct. 2., with fireworks display. Official opening, 10 a.m. Oct. 3, with rowing races, parade, fly-over by vintage aircraft from the Olde Rhinebeck Aerodrome,

STEAMBOAT BICENTENNIAL, Germantown, Oct. 10 -- Riverfront Trail grand opening and celebration at Clermont, estate of the prominent Livingston family whose members included a partner of steamboat inventor Robert Fulton. Activities include guided trail walks and re-enactments, or

BATTLE RE-ENACTMENT, Kingston, Oct. 16-18 -- Re-enactment of the burning of Kingston, the British attack on Oct. 16, 1777, during the Revolutionary War, when the old Dutch settlement (founded 1652) was the first capital of New York. Activities include redcoats landing in replica wooden boats, battle re-enactments, demonstrations of 18th century military camp life and colonial ball,