A Niskayuna couple believes a Holocaust memorial proposed for Route 7 should not be located in a residential part of town.
Bob and Sheila DiSarro, who live on Old Troy Road off Route 7, have offered other reasons why they oppose the memorial — which would be built across the road from their home of more than 30 years.
Their list of reasons includes quality of life change for residents, the potential for traffic and vandalism problems and fears property values will decrease.
Initial plans for the Capital District Jewish Holocaust Memorial first were discussed during a November session of the Niskayuna Planning Board. The project has been proposed by Latham-based orthodontist Dr. Michael Lozman — who has defended the merits of the memorial.
The memorial is scheduled for discussion at Monday’s session of the Planning Board. Discussions for variances, site-plan approval and building permits are still ahead.
If the project wins town approval, the memorial will be built on about two acres of land situated just east of Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery on Route 7. The land is part of the cemetery — owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany — and would be donated for construction of the memorial.
Memorial components would include a replica of the double-gated entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp; a railroad box car that would symbolize the methods Jews were transported to the camps; a wall 80 feet long and 20 feet tall that would symbolize camp gas chambers that were used to kill millions; and fencing that would replicate post-and-cable fencing common in the European camps during the World War II years.
The plans also say the memorial will be self-guided. If approved, it will be open from dawn to dusk.
Bob DiSarro said the memorial will be designed to simulate the feelings one must have felt inside one of the camps.
“It will be right in front of us forever,” he said during a Sunday afternoon interview at his home. “There will be no getting away from looking at that from anywhere we go in our house.”
The DiSarros understand that a row of trees would be planted to block the view of the memorial from Route 7. They do not believe such a plan will succeed.
“I’m still going to see it when I go up to my bedroom,” Sheila DiSarro said. “When I go up to my sitting room, I’m going to see it. So will all the neighbors.”
Sheila DiSarro also said, “They want to instill when you’re there the feeling of hopelessness and despair, to remember the Holocaust. Somebody comes and visits, and they leave. I’m not leaving.”
Bob DiSarro said he has nothing against memorials. But he also said memorials and businesses are not allowed in sections of the town zoned residential. He worries if the Holocaust memorial wins approval, other memorials could also be proposed for the area.
The DiSarros also believe Route 7 has an abundance of traffic — with more cars and trucks on the road now that an Albany Med EmUrgentCare center has opened on Union Street.
As the memorial is designed to be an open-air facility, the DiSarros are also worried about vandals sneaking in after hours.
“I’m concerned about our surrounding property values,” Sheila DiSarro said. “They’ll definitely decline. And if it does go through, I will be grieving my assessment.”
The DiSarros say they learned about the project in February, and have attended sessions of the Planning Board. They say they have circulated a petition against the project, and have talked to neighbors in the Route 7 area.
“There hasn’t been a person I’ve talked to yet who has been for it,” Bob DiSarro said. “My simple question to anybody I talk with is, ‘Would you want it directly in front of your home for the rest of your life?’ Would you want to wake up every morning and look at the gates to Auschwitz?”
Lozman has been involved with historical projects before. Since 2001, he has taken groups of students to Eastern Europe to restore Jewish cemeteries destroyed by Nazi troops during World War II.
Late Sunday afternoon, he said he would be meeting with some Route 7 neighbors during the evening. For Monday’s Planning Board meeting, he said his group would present a study that details the impact traffic would have with the memorial in place.
Lozman also believes evergreens will be enough to provide a border between the memorial and Route 7.
“They will not be seeing it from their houses,” he said. “In fact, you won’t be seeing it from the road.”
Lozman hopes to win over neighbors who are opposed to the memorial.
“We are very concerned about the neighbors,” he said. “We will do anything we can to make sure they are comfortable with the project.”
Lozman believes education will be served with the memorial in place.
“I think the thing about the memorial is the understanding the memorial serves to educate people and schoolchildren and visitors about the effects of hatred and what can occur if one doesn’t have an awareness of the prejudices and what it can do in a society,” he said.
“It is our feeling the memorial will be an important landmark in Niskayuna as times goes by and it will represent a community that is caring, and knowledgeable and concerned about education,” Lozman added. “We’re very positive about it.”
Planning Board meeting
The Niskayuna Planning Board tonight will discuss a resolution for making a recommendation to the Town Board for a special use permit sought by proponents of the Capital District Jewish Holocaust Memorial.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. The board meets at Niskayuna Town Hall, 1 Niskayuna Circle.
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected].