[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Commumity Links] [Contact Us]

Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 4, 2007

In second attempt, cigar theft snuffed out

By Rachel Dutil

GUILDERLAND – A man accused of stealing cigars – twice – from a tobacco store at Stuyvesant Plaza was arrested Tuesday for fleeing from police in his Acura on both the Northway and the Thruway.

Keith Wilkins, 51, of Colonie, was also charged with two counts of petit larceny and reckless driving.

On Oct. 22, Wilkins stole $175 worth of cigars from the Edleez tobacco store in Stuyvesant Plaza, according to James Murley, Guilderland’s chief of police.

Wilkins, a car salesman, was caught on a surveillance camera in October, but was not arrested, Murley said. Police were investigating the first robbery, and were able to "close the other case" following Tuesday’s arrest, Murley told The Enterprise.

The employees at Edleez "were waiting for him to come back," said Pam Kaltenbach, an owner. "We’ve all been watching for him," she said.

Wilkins entered the shop at 6:55 p.m. on Jan. 2, said Kaltenbach. Two employees were working and recognized Wilkins from the surveillance video; they alerted Stuyvesant Security and the Guilderland Police, she said.

When the police arrived, Wilkins had already left the store with nearly $125 worth of stolen cigars, and he drove off in his 2001 Acura, Murley said. Wilkins fled the scene in his vehicle, driving recklessly, Murley said.

"A pursuit followed," Kaltenbach said.

Wilkins, while evading police on both the Northway and the Thruway, threw evidence out of the vehicle, Murley told The Enterprise.

He was arrested for breaking a law, named after the late State Trooper Craig Todeschini, which went into effect on Nov. 1, 2006, making fleeing a police officer a class A misdemeanor.

Trooper Todeschini, at age 25 was killed in April of 2006, while pursuing a motorcycle traveling more than 100 miles per hour in Onondaga County, when his SUV hit a tree. The motorcycle driver was later caught, and charged with aggravated manslaughter and aggravated negligent homicide.

Before the new law went into effect, it was not illegal in New York State to flee from police.

Wilkins was charged with third-degree unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle.

Wilkins is scheduled to appear in Guilderland Town Court on Feb. 1 at 5:30 p.m. He could not be reached for comment.

Murley said that Wilkins is "probably the first one" to be arrested by Guilderland Police for fleeing a police officer, since the law passed in November.

Kaltenbach said that Edleez has an excellent security system that has paid for itself, because, she said of theft, "Unfortunately, it does happen."

She said that Wilkins, on both occasions he stole cigars from her store, "always pays for one cigar when he leaves."

Kaltenbach told The Enterprise that she was very pleased with the outstanding job done by her two employees, the Stuyvesant Security and the Guilderland Police Department.

Computers to India
Mukerjee’s giving an awakening

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Jagriti means "awakening" in Sanskrit.

It is the name of a school system set up in India to teach children whose families earn a dollar a day or less; students learn basic arithmetic, language, and computer skills.

"This will enable them to find higher-paying jobs and break out of the cycle of poverty," said Zagreb Mukerjee.

Mukerjee, himself, is an outstanding student; he is a sophomore at Guilderland High School. Last year, his deeply researched and carefully-written paper on Mohandas Gandhi earned him first place in the senior category at the New York State History Day finals and a chance at national competition in Washington, D.C.

Also last year, Mukerjee traveled with two friends to India where his father lives and works. He brought with him a half-dozen old laptop computers, and gave them to Jagriti students.

"It’s a grassroots kind of thing for people of college age who don’t have the money to go to college," said Mukerjee. "Six or seven laptops go a long way."

Mukerjee collected the laptops after writing a letter to the Enterprise editor. He also collected over 50 solar-powered calculators. He said he is especially grateful to Alex Metzger and his family for their donations.

Mukerjee, who is 15, will return to India over the February break from school to attend his cousin’s wedding in Calcutta. The celebration for the arranged marriage will last a week, he said.

He is hoping to collect more computers from Guilderland to bring with him. People who have a laptop to donate can call him at his home: 452-3006.

"It doesn’t need to be a new computer; an ancient computer is fine — as long as it works," Mukerjee said. "It can be the source of several people’s livelihood."

The contribution is tax-deductible, said Mukerjee.

"Asha will give receipts for laptops people donate," he said. Asha means "hope." Asha for Education, a secular organization dedicated to change in India by focusing on basic education, is a United States-based charity.

Laptops are needed because electrical service is so poor in Kanpur, east of Delhi, where the school is located, Mukerjee said. There are power outages for 18 to 20 hours a day. The laptops are run from a car battery in the corner of the schoolroom.

"Laptops use so much less juice" than desktop computers, said Mukerjee.

"A little computer education goes a long way to help the students get vocational training," said Mukerjee. "They reach a higher social station by the value of a job."

He went on, "It can also help them get money for a college education."

"Giving back"

The Jagriti schools were started by Dr. Mahendra Verma, a colleague of Mukerjee’s father. Verma is a professor of physics at the Indian Institution of Technology where Amitabha Mukerjee is a professor of computer science, specializing in robotics.

The Jagriti schools are staffed largely by volunteers from the college campus, professors and students, said Mukerjee.

"We dream of a just society free from economic, social, and gender inequalities," says the Jagriti mission statement. "We provide underprivileged children a very enjoyable education in formal subjects as well as give them a humanist perspective of their surroundings, so that they can understand it and shape it."

"Dr. Verma believes, even if a school is run on charity, it shouldn’t just have the bare minimum; it should have access to the best resources," said Rita Biswas, Zagreb Mukerjee’s mother.

Biswas teaches international finance at the University at Albany. "We have a global commuter marriage," she said.

Mukerjee described the Jagriti students he met on his visit as "excited." He said, though, that there was "a bit of a language barrier." Mukerjee speaks Bengali as well as English; the Jagriti students speak Hindi.

"My mother spoke with them," said Mukerjee.

Biswas described talking to girls between the ages of 15 and 17. One girl, she said, was going to school part-time to learn to be a keyboard specialist. She had learned the Windows Operating System and Microsoft Office and was looking forward to learning PowerPoint and Excel.

"She felt she could supplement her family’s income and pay for college expenses" with her new skills, said Biswas. College costs "very little compared to here," Biswas explained.

She went on, "I was so touched that a laptop that had been discarded could bring such change."

Each of the students work for two four-hour sessions a week on the laptops, Biswas said.

"I was focusing more on the women, I’m always trying to inspire them," said Biswas. "They said they had read in the papers about the world IT force," she said of information technology. "They were very excited to be part of it."

Her own family is in the midst of it. "My husband teaches robotics," Biswas said, and he predicts that in our lifetime 80 percent of our bodies will be supplemented with artificial parts. Robots are now learning "natural languages" as opposed to being simply programmed, she said.

"We have heated family arguments" on futuristic topics, Biswas said.

Zagreb Mukerjee envisions a long-term charity relationship between Guilderland and the Jagriti schools.

"I think that here a lot of people have really old laptops that are sitting around and doing nothing," he said. "Here in America, we take so much for granted like computers and going to college. I feel so ungrateful sometimes. This is my small way of giving back."

Scouts honor: Hillenbrand helps with Ford’s funeral

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — Frederick Hillenbrand got a call on Thursday afternoon asking that he put together an Eagle Scout honor guard for President Gerald Ford’s funeral.

Hillenbrand has been involved with the Scouts since "day one," said his father, also Frederick Hillenbrand. Ford, himself, was an Eagle Scout and the only United States president who attained the highest rank in the Boy Scouts — Eagle.

The younger Hillenbrand, a Guilderland High School graduate, who now lives in the Washington, D.C. area, was a member of Troop 264 and became an Eagle Scout in 1973. His Leadership Service Project, which qualifies a young man to be an Eagle Scout, was in Tawasentha Park, he remembered. He put in a campsite that had a permanent fire pit.

"It affects an awful lot," Hillenbrand said of his scouting experience on his life. "It gives you a code, a set of core values."

As president, Ford exhibited some of those values, Hillenbrand said. "He did the right thing; doing the right thing isn’t always the popular thing," he said. "It takes courage." He added, "Those are some of the things that are very consistent with the Scouts."

The group of 12 Eagle Scouts that Hillenbrand gathered stood by the World War II memorial for the funeral procession on Saturday, said Hillenbrand. He wanted to get an ethnically and religiously diverse group. "Then it became a matter of logistics, who’s around," he said.

His father, watching coverage of the Ford funeral in his Brandle Road home, caught a glimpse on television of the scouts his son had organized.

Hillenbrand is a volunteer, serving as an assistant council commissioner, in the National Capitol Area Council. A few years ago, Hillenbrand was honored with the Silver Beaver award, which is one of the highest volunteer awards available, his father said. The highest honor given by the Boy Scouts is the Silver Buffalo award, which was given to Ford in 1970.

Of his son’s Silver Beaver, Hillenbrand said, "It’s like getting to wear the Congressional Medal of Honor around your neck. He gets to wear the Silver Beaver award around his neck."

CM Fox realty open
Office is home sweet home for Miller

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — Having lived in Altamont his whole life, Troy Miller has opened up shop here, too.

CM Fox, the real estate business named for his two children, Christian and Madison, opened two months ago on Maple Avenue; Fox is a family name. The building that he owns at 106 Maple Ave. was once home to Stevens and Darling, a sandwich shop and ice cream parlor. He sold most of the equipment to the Pollards, who own the Home Front Café, and turned the building into offices for his realty business.

Miller has been in real estate for 12 years, he said. Out of high school, he got into construction. Five years ago his business was split 50/50 between construction and realty, he said; now he’s focused entirely on the real estate end.

"I’ve always had a passion for real estate," he said.

Right now he’s wrapping up Creekside, the senior housing complex on Park Street and gearing up to start on Severson Manor, a senior housing project that he just got the plans for in Voorheesville. He’d like to start as early as April or May for that project. It’s important "to allow the seniors to stay in the same community that they’ve always been in," he said.

Creekside will be finished by the middle of February, he expects. Half of the eight condominiums available in the complex have already been sold, he said, and he’ll be holding an open house on Sunday from noon to 2 p.m., he said. The going rate is $165,000 for each one-bedroom condominium.

He will still keep his office in Star Plaza open, Miller said, but he doesn’t plan to become much bigger. He plans to cater to Altamont, Voorheesville, and Guilderland. "It’s about being large locally, not geographically," he said.

He’s also trying to hire local people, he said. Right now there are eight agents working at CM Fox, and they’re all solid people, said Miller. "Last night, one of my agents was moving a client in at 10 o’clock at night," he said.

While he’s thinking about more senior housing in small towns, Miller says he’ll leave the large-scale senior centers to the big developers. The Duansburg and Delanson area is one that he mentioned as a possible place for senior housing. He is "trying to pinpoint the communities that don’t have options," he said.

[Return to Home Page]