Helderberg Neighborhood Association

November 15th, 2006

Meeting Minutes



Craig Waltz started meeting by laying out the Agenda.  We will have hear from Michael Yevoli, City Planning Director; a representative from the Albany Public Library and from Dennis Gaffney who will talk about the efforts to save our branch library. 


Michael Yevoli, City Planning Director

Michael explained that he is new to a position that the City has not had in over 3 years.  The Planning Agency is part of the Dept. of Economic Development and Planning.  This department oversees the Planning Board, the Zoning Board, the Albany Land Development Commission (ALDC), the Historic Resources Commission (HRC) and the Master Commission of the Comprehensive Plan. 


Michael has hired an additional planner to focus on building a database to prepare for the comprehensive plan. CANA (Coalition of Albany Neighborhood Associations – HNA is a member organization) and the City government determined together that there was a need for a comprehensive plan. The past planning efforts in the city have been task or area focused, not city-wide.


The Comp. Plan’s main goal is to recommend specific land uses and how best to use existing resources. Michael realizes that the Re-Capitalize Albany Commission was felt to be a slight to the neighborhoods – but in its defense it was intended to focus on economic development.  In no way is it going to take the place of the Comp. Plan and the need for neighborhood revitalization.


Quality of life issues will be a big focus of the Comp. Plan and will not be dealt with by the Re-Capitalize Albany Commission.


Questions and Answers:


Q:        How will people be chosen to serve on the master committee for the Comp. Plan?

A:         Politics will certainly have a role in this.  There will be 20-50 people serving and they will be appointed by the Common Council with the Mayor having a significant say on who get appointed.  There is hope that neighborhoods will have a good representation.  For ReCap. Comm.. they merged some of the neighborhood association areas to create 12 strategy areas.  This is likely to be how the Comp. Plan committee will be formed as well.


Q:        Often the middle-class homeowners are not represented in these efforts, yet they are the ones most affected.  Why so?

A:         That is the reason for the public meeting and the Common Council members are meant to represent the people in their wards.  It is recommended that we discuss our concerns with our CC member.  There only needs to be 2 public meetings, however it is hoped that there will be more.

Q:        Will the Comp. Plan follow the State law and definition of a Comprehensive Plan?

A:         Yes, it will create recommendations for a land use plan to later be adopted by the Common Council.


Q:        What is the status of the Walgreens Project on Holland Avenue?

A:         The site plan has been reviewed and approved with conditions.  Developer has not addressed conditions and he will need to meet specific deadlines to move forward.


Q:        Does Planning review traffic safety issues?

A:         Not existing issues, only new traffic issues created by new development.  These issues are reviewed by many departments and then there is a conditional approval issued.


Q:        Is there a plan to create an accessible database for tracking ZBA decisions?

A:         the Planning Dept. does was to create a publicly accessible database – still hashing out what info is useful to include.


Q:        When are Planning Board meetings held? And is there a way to create a more open process where the public’s opinion is heard and heeded?

A:            Planning board meets on Thursdays at 9am.


Q:        How could we as a neighborhood begin talking about design guidelines, improvement plans, quality of life issues, etc.?

A:         We can address these things independently of the Comp. Plan by meeting with the Planning staff.


New Scotland Branch Library Update

Jeff Cannell, the Director of Albany Public Library and Melissa our branch librarian were in attendance to give an update on the status of our New Scotland Avenue branch library. Jeff and Melissa bought good tidings and good news.  While it has been a tough battle to get something to replace the NSA Branch, after many public meetings, the board has decided to work to put out a public referendum in February for the facilities improvements for the branches only – the main library will be held off on. 


For our branch they are planning for the lot adjacent to the New Scotland Firehouse.  There had been some opposition, which got the Mayor involved.  Our Neighborhood Assoc. pushed for support and we finally got the green light with a slightly scaled back building, but with all the planned programming. 


Jeff and Melissa will be back in January when they have all the numbers figures and the tax impacts figured out.


Q:        If the library referendum goes through, when would our branch open?

A:         They would need a year to bid projects, then will start with the Neighborhoods that are currently without a library (which will include HNA area, because the School 19 library will be closing end of June 2007)


Q:        How much smaller is the new building plan?

A:         It will be 7,000 square feet instead of 9,000 sf


Q:        Is it the Library Board’s plan to have separate funds fo separate libraries?

A:  No, they will fund all from the same sources, including applying for alternate funding sources.


Q:        Will there be any additional fundraising for individual libraries such as a “buy a brick” campaign for the terrace of a “friends” of the branch library group?

A:         This has not been thought about, but certainly could be considered.


Q:        How many employees will there be at the library branch?

A:         There are 2-3 currently, and there will be an increase of one  -- there will only be 3 parking spots behind the building.


A big THANK YOU to Dennis Gaffney for getting the word out that our branch was threatened and for mobilizing people to get out and sigh the petition.  Dennis noted that the fight is not necessarily over – we will need to lobby for this referendum to pass.  The library board cannot lobby for their own sake.


Joe Isgro – Investigator and liaison to the Albany Fire Dept.

Joe works in the arson bureau and has been a firefighter for over 20 years.  His primary job is as liaison for Codes, Fire and Building Hazards with a focus on the upkeep of neighborhoods, revitalization issues, and general appearance of neighborhoods.


He is a people person and at upcoming meetings he would like to go over fire prevention and smoke alarm education.  Would like to show a video. 


In the meantime, anyone can contact Joe with any issue:

462-8665 – direct number and email is:  BISGRO@albany-ny.org


Kathy Rissberger re: Recent neighborhood crime

Kathy spoke to the members about recent crimes.  There were a couple robberies at the Mobil – Quail and New Scotland. (while two other Mobil station were also hit)   The Police are giving this area a great deal of attention and talked with all the merchants recently.


ON Nov. 1 on Grove Avenue at about 12am, there were two kids (about 15 yrs old) arrested for breaking into cars.  They were in possession of a burglar tool kit.  A resident called them in.  They are local kids, but not from the neighborhood.


There have also been 2 men posing as water and power company men hitting on Senior Citizens.


If you see something out of the ordinary, call 438-4000 – this is the non-emergency police number.  You can also email Kathy at krissberger@albany-ny.org or her number is 458-5669


Other Business

Deb Schramek and Susan  announced that there is a rel need for newsletter deliverers.  The newsletter committee of four also needs help.  Looking for writers of articles.


Update on membership:  We have 95 household members, 2 association members and 22 business members for a total of 119 members.  Membership dues cover a term of Jan to Dec.

Dues go to support events, newsletter and causes.


June Price reported on the Treasury.  We have abouot $4000 in the bank.  In January, she will give a more in depth update.


Craig reported on a great picnic in September.  Served over 200 people.  It was inquired whether we can make it earlier in September next year??


There is a new Neighborhood Association in the Whitehall Neighborhood.  They’ve met twice so far.  We hope to work with them in the future.


Nominations of Board Members

All current Board members were nominated to re-serve, again.

Susan is happy to have someone else step up to serve as membership chair.  We also need 2 members to be delegates to CANA – Don Dugan and Craig Waltz re-nominated.



Meeting closed at approx. 9:05pm.