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Niskayuna Holocaust Memorial Redesigned; Public Meetings Scheduled

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Town of Niskayuna
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Artist's rendering overview of proposed Holocaust Memorial.

A controversial Holocaust memorial planned for the Schenectady County Town of Niskayuna is set for a public meeting this week.

Dr. Michael Lozman put forth the original $1.4 million Capital District Jewish Holocaust Memorial proposal in November 2017, envisioning a boxcar and rails, representing the trains that transported Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II. It would be built on two acres of land donated by a Roman Catholic cemetery. Opposition to the project soon followed, and a decision was delayed.

Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed:   "At this point we have two community forums that are being held at the Niskayuna High School Little Theatre. The first forum is going to be this Wednesday, May 15th, at 7 p.m. The next forum is going to be Wednesday, May 22nd, also at 7 p.m. And the purpose of those meetings is to have the developer, Dr. Lozman, in conjunction with Neil Golub and the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York present a revised site plan. So, the memorial as we saw it before has changed almost entirely in its design. So that's the intent of the meeting. To have, in a public forum, the revealing of the new design and also have an opportunity for input and questions from the public."

In April 2018, Niskayuna residents packed a public hearing. Some felt the project wouldn't be a good fit for the residential area. Others worried about traffic problems. Anthony Lombardi, an Iraq War veteran, said he didn’t want a reminder of death and destruction when driving by.    “You wouldn’t have this town if wasn’t for World War II, if you know your history of this town. That’s why it’s in the center of this town. It’s because of how many people escaped the persecution of Jews. I get why it’s in the center of this town. I know my history.”

The box car and railroad tracks was a particularly thorny issue. Syed says that part of the plan has been scrapped.   "There are railroad tracks. They're not as obviously placed as they were before, it's more of a suggestion of railroad tracks that they lead you through the memorial. It was interesting to see the change and I'm eager to hear what the residents of Niskayuna have to say about the revised design."

The Town Planning Board approved the project in March 2018. Tweaks to be revealed are expected to address main concerns raised about the memorial, including traffic, the view of the memorial from the road, and the design of the memorial itself.  Because the land is zoned for residential use, the town board must grant a special-use permit before any work begins. That permit has yet to be voted on.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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