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Niskayuna pushes back vote on Holocaust memorial

Niskayuna pushes back vote on Holocaust memorial

Project backers requested more time
Niskayuna pushes back vote on Holocaust memorial
A rendering of the proposed Capital District Jewish Holocaust Memorial to be located at 2501 Troy Schenectady Road in Niskayuna.
Photographer: Courtesy of Dan Dembling

NISKAYUNA -- The Town Board has postponed a vote on whether to approve a Holocaust Museum proposed for a parcel off Route 7.

The town had been scheduled to vote on a special use permit necessary for the construction of the memorial at its May 22 meeting. It has moved that vote to June 26.

Town officials said Tuesday the delay was requested by Dr. Michael Lozman, the Latham orthodontist who hopes to build the controversial $1.4 million memorial on 2 acres of land donated by Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery.

According to a letter from Lozman's attorney, Daniel T. Hubbell, delivered to the town on Monday, the Capital District Jewish Holocaust Memorial (CDJHM) group has won project support from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York.

Those groups plan to gather professionals in Holocaust education, Hubbell said, to provide a "world class" educational experience connected with the memorial.

A joint statement from the groups is expected within the week. Hubbell wrote in his letter that the pending announcement would have been close to the May 22 meeting -- the reason CDJHM requested adjournment on the vote until June 26.

"The additional time will also grant CDJHM and the federation the opportunity to further establish this partnership, as well as the respective roles and responsibilities in developing the memorial," Hubbell wrote in the letter.

Lozman first proposed the memorial in the fall. On April 10, about 120 people packed the boardroom at Niskayuna Town Hall for a public hearing on the project, with dozens of people speaking for and against the memorial over the course of more than two hours.

The project, if approved, would include a rail car meant to symbolize the way Jews and others were transported to concentration camps during World War II. A dark wall on the grounds would remind visitors of the gas chambers used in those camps.

Lozman did not return calls placed Monday and Tuesday.

For Robert Kovach, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation, consensus has been a key word as the federation works with Lozman on the project.

"We're in the consensus-building business," he said Tuesday afternoon. "We are working to get consensus from the Jewish community on some issues like design and the educational model. That's what we're working on -- on what the design of a memorial could or should look like."

During the April 10 public hearing, Neil Golub -- executive chairman of the board of the Golub Corp. and a leader in the Jewish community -- said Lozman did not communicate with the Jewish community before he put forth his vision of the memorial.

Things have changed.

"The key news is we're working together, and we're going to figure out a way to solve the problems," Golub said Tuesday. "The Jewish Federation agrees with the concept. They support the concept, but the details have to be worked out. There are a lot of detail questions that need answering."

Bob and Sheila DiSarro, who live across the street from the property on which the would be built, said they did not want to see the town vote postponed.

"It's sort of like, out of sight, out of mind. People forget about it," Bob DiSarro said. "All of a sudden, it will come up just before the date, and if there aren't a lot of people there ...

"The only way to stop something like this happening in this small community is to go after the people who take the vote, who will vote for it," DiSarro added. "They have to understand they represent the town of Niskayuna, and a lot of people in the town of Niskayuna are not for this.

"We are a small town. This is too big for a small town."

The DiSarros remain concerned property values will be affected by the memorial, that vandals could visit the site, which would be shielded by trees and bushes, and that driving on Route 7 could become dangerous. They also said they are not opposed to a memorial, but they are opposed to the location -- in a residential zone.

The DiSarros also said that if Lozman has more time to push for the memorials, they have more time to spread their views. Bob DiSarro said lawn signs are possible; the couple is also asking neighbors and residents to E-mail Niskayuna board members.

Bob DiSarro believes the June 26 meeting could attract more people than attended the April 10 meeting. He said neighbors also have discussed the possibility of pushing for a townwide vote on the project.

"Maybe that's what should happen; let the people of Niskayuna vote on it," DiSarro said. "Then, you're getting the opinion of all the people of Niskayuna. One way or another, I'm either going to live with it there or without it. I'm not going to move."

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]




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