June 12, 2018
For Immediate Release
Contact: Andrew Bigness (518) 386-4516
Denise Murphy McGraw (518) 339-4535
Town of Niskayuna Postpones Vote on Jewish Holocaust Memorial Until September
Move, Designed to Allow Time for Consensus-Building, Made at the Request of the Sponsor
After a meeting called by Niskayuna Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed and Town Board Member Denise Murphy McGraw to express the concerns of neighbors along the Route 7 corridor and discuss the lack of consensus within the Jewish community about the vision for the project, Dr. Michael Lozman, sponsor of the proposed Jewish Holocaust Memorial, has agreed to request a delay of a vote of the Town Board on the Special Use Permit required to move forward with the project. The vote will now be held on September 25, 2018.
"It is deeply meaningful to me to have the support of the Albany Diocese, the Jewish Federation, the Town of Niskayuna and so many other stakeholders in collaborating on this incredibly important project. I look forward to working together in the months to come to ensure this memorial is a lasting and important symbol for the Capital District Community," said Dr. Michael Lozman, President of the Capital District Jewish Holocaust Memorial. "This site gives us the opportunity to educate current and future generations, fight hate and discrimination in all its forms and offer hope for our future. We must never cease in that work."
The Niskayuna Town Code allows a religious education facility to be located in an R-1 (low density residential) zone if the Town Board grants a special use permit. In accordance with the procedure set forth in our Code, the applicant has applied to the Town Board for a special use permit. After conducting a public hearing, the Planning Board issued a recommendation for approval with conditions. However, following the April 10 public hearing of the Town Board on the project, it was clear to the Supervisor and Town Board Members that the project, as presented, still had many unanswered questions.
“Today’s announcement is good news,” said Niskayuna Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed. “Throughout this process, my goal has been to allow for a civil discussion between those who support the Jewish Holocaust Memorial and those with various concerns about the project. By delaying the Town Board vote on the application until September, the members of the memorial committee have allowed residents to continue to voice their concerns in a structured way. I want to thank the staff at Town Hall, particularly our Town Planner, Laura Robertson, the Planning Board, and my colleagues on the Town Board for their hard work on this project. I also want to thank the residents of Niskayuna for their patience and civility. A memorial dedicated to the memory of those Jews murdered in the Holocaust is a noble thing, and I am proud to live in a Town so dedicated to Holocaust education. However, I believe our residents deserve to be heard on aspects related to the memorial design, location, and especially the educational components.”
The plan moving forward is to allow Dr. Lozman and members of the Jewish Federation the next two months to revisit aspects of the project including design elements, educational components and perhaps even the site itself. Following a committee-based process, the group will reconvene with Syed and McGraw to discuss their progress and spend another six weeks presenting to the community and neighboring homeowners in small focus groups designed to elicit further input from Town residents.
“As a rabbi, I believe that preservation of the memory of the atrocities done during the Holocaust must be preserved; never again should racism, hatred and bigotry be left unchecked,” said Congregation Gates of Heaven Rabbi Matthew Cutler. “As a Niskayuna resident, our community must partner together to ensure it is done with dignity and intentionality within the scope of the vision for our town.”
Lozman, a Latham orthodontist who has restored Jewish cemeteries throughout Eastern Europe, proposed the project for Niskayuna almost a year ago after a receiving a grant of land adjacent to Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery from Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
“Niskayuna has a rich culturally history as well as one that respects and values all residents,” said Niskayuna Town Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw. “My hope in bringing together all parties is to allow for greater communication and consensus building.”
When the Town Board addresses the application, it will apply the criteria set forth in Niskayuna Town Code Section 220-60, which reads:
Special use permits may be authorized by the Town Board only upon satisfaction of each instance of such conditions as to the general character, height and use of land, buildings or structures; as to the provision of surrounding open space and the treatment of grounds; as to the general fitness of the structure or use to its proposed location; as to the provision for automobile parking or storage; and as to street capacity and use; that, in the opinion of the Board, may be necessary to safeguard public health and convenience and as may be required for the preservation of the general character of the neighborhood in which such use, buildings or structures is to be placed or such use is to be conducted.
If the Town Board grants the special use permit or grants the special use permit with conditions, the applicant would return to the Planning Board for site plan approval.
Interested parties may continue to submit written comments to the Town of Niskayuna Planning Department at firstname.lastname@example.org