Helderberg Neighborhood Association

Meeting Minutes of March 16, 2005


Notes prepared by Jennifer Viggiani, at the request of Secretary Kim Alvarez, who could not make the meeting.


City of Albany Presentation on Midtown Colleges Study and Update on Park South.


Craig Waltz introduced Rebecca Brownell, City of Albany Department of Development and Planning, and later joined by Georgette Steffens, Albany Home Store for their presentation on the City of Albany’s Midtown Colleges Study and also for an update on the City of Albany’s Park South Plan.


Midtown Colleges Study


Some big ideas from the Midtown presentation:


Extensive discussion followed the presentation.


Many questions were raised by HNA members and asked of the city staff including, but not limited to the ones noted below with additional highlights of the discussion:







-         City staff:  In the Midtown plan, city is looking for opportunities for college growth and expansion -- where it will work for the neighborhood.   Looking for a framework for the educational and academic institutional growth.

o       University Heights Association is a model for shared services.  May be an opportunity to expand on this model for the Midtown area. 

o       City is looking into shared opportunities for shared services.


Park South presentation.


Comments/questions/discussion of Park South plan: 


A few other wrap-up comments as the Park South and Midtown discussion came towards a close....






Announcements and Other HNA Business:


Capital Region Homebuyers Fair:  Saturday, April 16, at the new Albany Housing Authority building, 200 South Pearl Street, Albany, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Free admission.



Kathi Rissberger, police officer, City of Albany Police, discussed a slight rise in graffiti, city-wide, in addition to recent incidents in the neighborhood.  The city police have a special task force working on this latest issue -- which is graffiti by acid etched onto glass windows -- causing irreparable damages.  Shutter Speed Photo and Sheehey Opticians were present at the meeting -- they had been impacted with these damages within last 24 hours.  Matt Sheehey and Kathy of Shutter Speed Photo called for more police patrols.  Windows have to be replaced in these incidents -- so damage is costly.  Kathi Rissberger said they didn’t think the issue was gang-related, and that the police had some significant leads.  The key will be to catch this criminal activity “in the act.”   The police have a database of the number, location and amount of damage of these acid etching graffiti incidents.   Kathi R. will follow-up on how the acid is being sold.   If anyone in the neighborhood sees graffiti, call Department of General Services at 434-CITY -- to reach their graffiti-busters unit.  To report any suspicious activities or suspicious people in the neighborhood -- as always, please call the police.  


An Albany Law School student suggested that maybe students could get involved in a neighborhood watch -- because college students need things to do -- and maybe this a way to get them involved.  Kathi R. noted that the Pine Hills neighborhood used to have a “walk and watch.”


Identity Theft on the rise.


Kathi Rissberger also noted that there is a rise in identity theft for everyone to be aware of -- related to Internet scamming -- known as “phishing.”   She advised not to give out personal identification information over the Internet -- unless you are sure of the legitimacy of the website. 


Crime Victims Month and Take Back the Night.

Deb Schramek announced that “Take Back the Night” to honor victims of sexual assaults will be held on Thursday, April 14 at Washington Park, in Albany, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.


On April 16 at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, at 1 p.m. a vigil will be held at the Crime Victims Memorial at the ESP.


Common Council Member Jim Sano Street Tree Program

Jim Sano announced that he will help residents with their participation to have a street tree planted in front of their homes.


Spring Spree and Plant Swap

Jennifer Viggiani announced the “Spring Spree and Scavenger Hunt” -- sidewalk festival event to be sponsored by HNA in support of our neighborhood businesses.  Event is on Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. along New Scotland Avenue.  The idea is to bring people out to get to know our local businesses.  There will be activities for kids and adults, and directions on how to participate in the scavenger hunt.  A raffle will be held for the scavenger hunt participants. 


May agenda - preview

Olga announced that one topic for HNA’s May meeting will be a speaker about the topic of traffic.


Holland Avenue -- Proposal for Re-Zoning Commercial Office Parcel to C-2 Highway Commercial Zoning.


Shawn Morris announced this proposal for a site just north of the existing McDonald’s on Holland Avenue, and shared some concerns that this re-zoning would impact both the Helderberg Neighborhood as well as Delaware Avenue neighborhood.  The proposal is by developer Tom Burke (has developed in Pine Hills neighborhood) to develop a 14,000 s.f. Walgreen’s pharmacy with a drive thru as well as a commercial strip, potentially for a take out restaurant and a bank with a drive thru.  C-2 zoning is the same zoning that is allowed for Central Avenue.   The concern was raised about the impacts to the three closest pharmacies in the neighborhood, and a new one at Crestwood Plaza. Shawn Morris said she was against the re-zoning out of concerns for the neighborhood character and businesses.  Susan VanDeventer said she supported the idea of a new pharmacy that would be convenient to drive to.  Craig Waltz and Jennifer Viggiani each spoke and said they were against the re-zoning out of concerns for the neighborhoods.


Craig called for a motion to vote to write a letter to the City of Albany City Council against the re-zoning, to be presented to the City Council at its March 21, 2005 public hearing on the matter.  Motion was seconded.  Vote was carried, with one nay. 


Passing of Fire Captain Thomas Rankin of Engine 11 on New Scotland Avenue


Vote to make a contribution to the family’s selected fund for $100 to the Blessed Sacrament Church in memory of the Fire Captain.  Olga made the motion, Jim Sano seconded the motion.  Motion carried unanimously.