A year ago, the designers of a proposed Holocaust memorial in Niskayuna were asked to make it look less like an actual concentration camp, with its box car, gas chamber wall and barbed wire.
They’ve done that.
They were asked to consult with more members of the Jewish community and to consider other public viewpoints on the design.
They’ve done that, too.
They were asked to make the memorial less visible from the road and from neighbors.
They’ve done that.
They were asked to come back to the town for approvals when they had a design that would still convey a strong message against hate and bigotry, but that would fit more closely into what many people have in mind for a contemporary place of reflection, education and prayer.
They’ve succeeded on all counts.
The newly redesigned Capital District Jewish Holocaust Memorial proposed adjacent to the Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery on Route 7 is still stark.
It still has elements that leave no doubt about what went on during that horrible chapter of human history — the extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II.
It still has wire fences to reflect the imprisonment.
It still has visual metaphors for the box cars and rail lines used to transport millions of Jews to concentration camps and symbols for the gas chambers where so many people were murdered.
It still paints a dark picture of the time, and it still begins and ends with a plea for us all to make sure something like the Holocaust never happens again.
For neighbors and passersby who don’t want an in-your-face reminder of these events every day, designers have changed the original plan by leaving at least 40 feet of natural vegetation along Route 7 and adding evergreens toward the back near the parking area.
The entire project is more compact, and even the peaks of the walls will be difficult to see from around the site, designers say.
Traffic concerns on busy Route 7 have always been a bit overblown, considering the number of vehicles that will actually access the memorial compared to current traffic volume on the roadway.
Designers estimate that 20 vehicles per hour will visit the memorial every day. But the real number is very likely to be less than that, except maybe on Jewish holidays and on weekends, when Route 7 isn’t as busy as it is during the week.
School classes won’t be visiting during rush hour, so there won’t be additional traffic problems caused by buses.
And the memorial will be closed during the winter months when it’s more difficult for drivers on Route 7 to stop for cars pulling into traffic.
We’re still not sure why designers of the memorial couldn’t have made a path or road to the memorial from inside the cemetery to avoid adding another curb cut to Route 7. They say they can’t.
But they can, perhaps, restrict those leaving the memorial from making a left turn onto Route 7 to reduce the possibility of collisions.
Opponents of the memorial also might want to consider that the property is zoned for residential use, and that no zoning designation is ever permanent.
A developer could potentially come in sometime in the future with a housing project or apartments or some other venture that would put much more traffic onto Route 7 and disrupt the lives of neighbors far more than a modest memorial that closes at dusk and is only open for a portion of the year.
Would they want all that instead?
When residents show up to one of the two public meetings on the memorial scheduled for this Wednesday and next, we hope they’ll recognize the thought, cooperation and accommodation that went into this new design and that they will speak out in support of their community hosting this important place of remembrance to the victims of the Holocaust.