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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 03, 2008

Changing the face of suburbia

 By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Three townhouse developments, the latest suburban vogue, are in various stages of approval here.

Glass Works Village, planned for Western Avenue near the library; Dutchman Acres, proposed between Depot and School roads near the high school; and Lynnwood Court, planned for the Stutz farm on West Old State Road — were all before the town board on Tuesday night.

After detailed review of the “Findings of Fact for Glass Works,” the final step in the State Environmental Quality Review process for the largest of the three developments, the board voted unanimously to accept it.  The $100 million project would develop the last large piece of vacant land along Guilderland’s busy Route 20.

The developers describe it as a New Urbanist project, combining residential and business space.  The plan is for 327 residential units and about 190,000 square feet of business space.  The findings’ document covers the expected impacts on traffic, environment, and infrastructure in the area.

At the request of Councilman Warren Redlich, the board discussed the document at length with Glass Works representative Jim Schultz and a cadre of the development’s planners, including the architect and the engineer. 

Redlich had suggested several changes to the document as it was presented by Schultz, and, while the majority of the typically adversarial board was at first hesitant to delve into the details of the plan, board members from both parties ended up suggesting various changes and agreeing to an amended version by the end of the over-four-hour meeting.

Earlier in the evening, the board scheduled a public hearing for April 15 on Dutchman Acres.  Chris Meyer, one of three owners of the School Road property, was before the board with rough plans for the development.  It is the have 12 apartments for senior citizens, four two-family houses, and 25 single-family houses.  The developers want to change the current Rural Agriculture 3 zoning to Country Hamlet.  They plan to emulate the architecture of a hamlet, clustering the houses in one corner of the 41-acre parcel.

A public hearing was held, and then continued until the next meeting, for the Lynnwood Court development.  Several neighbors of the site came before the board to express concern over water management in the area — it floods several times a year, they say. 

“You can take a look at it now or you can take a look at it later,” Todd Gifford, the town’s highway superintendent, told the board when asked for his opinion on the water drainage issues.  He agreed that there is a flooding problem in the area, which requires his attention every year.

“We’re all aware that the property is going to be developed,” said Angelo Serafini, a local developer who owns land adjacent to the West Old State Road property. 

Serafini was the first to approach the board about the drainage problems on Tuesday and reiterated that he wasn’t against construction on the land.  He stands to gain a .65-acre plot if the development is approved.  This would require a change of zoning from Residential 30 to Townhouse for most of the land and business non-retail professional, for his partial acre.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Voted unanimously to have Joseph E. Mastrianni, Inc. administer the town’s Section 8 housing program.  The federal Housing and Urban Development program helps low-income families;

— Decided to hold off on voting on the Northeastern Industrial Park’s finding of facts until the next meeting;

— Voted unanimously to award a bid for gravel to Carver Sand & Gravel, a bid for manhole riser rings went to East Jordan Ironworks, and a bid for cold planning went to Hudson River Construction Co.;

— Voted unanimously to award a bid for granulated activated carbon to Calgon Corp.; and

— Voted unanimously to spend $20,000 of surplus funds for improvement to an existing sewer line along Johnston Road while the county is doing work in the area.

Planners approve SEFCU site plan
Thomas envisions Victorian gateway to village

 By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — Jeff Thomas wants to put in a 2,550-square-foot State Employees Federal Credit Union at the northern entrance to the village of Altamont at the corner of Gun Club Road and Route 146. The town planning board approved the site plan for the SEFCU branch last week.

The proposed building would have a setback similar to the Altamont Rescue Squad building next door, said architect Dominick Ranieri. The one-acre site would have 42 parking spaces, and a sidewalk installed along Gun Club Road. The proposal includes a 24-hour automated teller machine, which would require lighting that Ranieri said would be kept on the site.

Town Planner Jan Weston and several board members said that 42 parking spaces were “excessive,” but real-estate consultant Charles Carrow said that SEFCU would have up to 20 employees there at one time.

“We feel we need the extra parking,” Carrow said.

The building would be one story and would have an aesthetic Victorian tower, Ranieri said. The main entrance would improve an existing driveway on Gun Club Road, he said.

The plan would need a space variance from the zoning board of appeals, and Thomas must submit storm-water management and lighting plans, the planning board said.

Thomas will maintain ownership of the corner, while SEFCU rents from him, he told The Enterprise.

“SEFCU is a really good client,” Thomas said. He said that SEFCU has worked with him to keep the branch “more in character with the architectural styles in the village of Altamont, to create a quality impression as the gateway to the village of Altamont.”

Plans include coach lighting and pole lights that match those found in Central Park in New York City, Thomas said.

“There’s a beautiful design element in the tower…with a finial on the top. As you drive into Altamont, it’ll look residential,” Thomas said. “Normally, SEFCU would come in and do their own thing. They’ve been very open working with me…to give it that quality impression. They’ve been very receptive to my design ideas.”

At the meeting, Carrow suggested that Rotterdam and Hilltown residents would use the Altamont branch. Thomas later said that the branch would not increase village traffic.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to drive to Altamont to go to SEFCU. They’ll pick up the traffic that’s normally going through,” he said.

Thomas owns the Gun Club Road property and the lot across the street on Route 146, where the Penguin Diner used to stand. He said that he marketed the Gun Club Road corner for three years before a quality tenant was found. He said that, having a SEFCU at the gateway to the village, before the village proper, would help business along and encourage businesses in Altamont.

“They provide tax incentives,” Thomas said. If architectural submissions grant the proper permits, Thomas said, construction could begin soon.

“Maybe [there could be] a SEFCU branch there in less than a year’s time,” he said. “It’ll be one of the more attractive SEFCU branches, if not the most attractive. I was very pleased with that.”

Thomas plans to place a feature on the bank property noting the entrance to the village. On the site of the former diner, he hopes to put a similar feature, to create a gateway of sorts. He is currently marketing the diner property, but has not yet found a client.

“I’m being picky,” he said.

Over neighbors’ protests
Planners OK 4-lot subdivision on McKown Road

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — Neighbors came out, again, to oppose the four-lot subdivision of 1.13 acres on McKown Road, but the planning board approved the request. Residents decried both the engineering work proposed and that already done, while the daughter of the ailing applicant scolded the neighbors for their harsh criticism and delaying tactics.

Town Planner Jan Weston told the board that the biggest issue with the application was water drainage, but that the proposed swale and improvements to the present drainage system had been approved by the town-designated engineer.

Board Chairman Stephen Feeney said that TDE Barton & Loguidice sent a letter recommending final approval of the subdivision.

The proposal has been before the board for more than a year as drainage issues and possible oil tank leaks were examined.

Engineer Zareh Altounian said that one lot has an existing house, and that the three new lots meet town standards. A 12-inch pipe will be installed for drainage along one side of the road, and an existing 8-inch pipe on the other side will be improved to a 12-inch pipe to prevent flooding. Altounian’s plan calls for a swale, but neighbors insisted that a swale is the same as a ditch and would clog with debris.

“These are calculations based on unknowns,” said neighbor Henry Tedeschi.

“Based on engineering,” said Feeney and board member Thomas Robert.

Tedeschi said that the applicant should build the proposed drainage system, and, if it works without affecting homes with habitually wet basements, houses could be added to the property.

“That would be putting the cart before the horse,” said engineer Nadine Medina of Barton and Loguidice.

“They don’t build a bridge and put a car on it,” said Robert, who is an architect. “They use engineering principles.”

“This may, in fact, make it better. It can’t make it worse,” Feeney said.

One resident asked for a pool of money to be set aside for neighboring homeowners who might have legal issues if their homes flood after the subdivision is approved. She said that the residents want a one-year moratorium on building on the lots. She also said that the proposed swale would “cheapen the look of the neighborhood.”

Robert said that the swale system is better than catch basins because of its small slope.

“This system has been very carefully looked at,” Robert said. “What is there now, we can’t fix. What is being created, the developer is required [by town standards] to make it better than it is now.”

Medina said that a closed-drainage system would be less efficient than a swale at the site.

“It’s going to be a very subtle slope,” Medina said. She said that a person can walk across the swale and mow it easily.

Sue Brown, of nearby Westlyn Place, asked if the engineering records were available for inspection.

“It is available,” Feeney said. Plans submitted to the board can be viewed by the public, he said. Brown asked if she could see the actual work calculations. The board explained that the work done by the applicant’s engineer was reviewed by an engineering firm hired by the town to oversee the work.

Weston said that the town also hires an independent engineering firm to oversee construction as it takes place.

“Barton and Loguidice is a very good firm,” said board member Paul Caputo. “We’ve had very good success with them.”

Carol Doolittle, of Ithaca, scolded the roomful of neighbors. Her mother, Mary Strassburg, needs to sell her property to pay for her nursing home, Doolittle said.

She said that the plan had been “nit-picked,” even though two engineering firms had been employed over 18 months.

“This is an environmentally-friendly plan,” she said. “It’s beautiful, not a ditch. I kind of resent people talking like this.”

She said that her nephew hopes to restore the Strassburg house to “bring back beauty to an original” home in the town. Doolittle said that her mother’s health has deteriorated further.

“She needs the money now to continue her care,” she said.

“This wasn’t just casually done,” Robert said. “It was carefully looked at. We’re not pro-developer. We’re pro-Guilderland. I think this was done very thoughtfully.”

Board member James Cohen asked if the town could create an enforcement process for new homeowners to prevent the swale from being filled in.

“The town has the authority to go in and remedy a situation if the swale is not being maintained,” Feeney said.

The board approved the application. The storm water management system must be installed before building permits can be issued, the board said.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Recommended a proposal to rezone 22 acres on Old State Road from single-family residential with 30,000 feet to townhouse zoning. Amedore Homes wants to build 42 town homes on the property at the intersection of Carman Road. A public hearing was held Tuesday. (See related story); and

— Approved James Besha and Susan Thomas’s request to cut a 12-acre portion from 29 acres at 4770 Western Turnpike. The board also recommended that the rear 12 acres be rezoned from industrial to residential.

“Tweaking” $84M spending plan
Supervisors and block schedule at issue

 By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — School-board members are supportive of the $84 million budget presented by the superintendent and reviewed by a citizens’ committee but offered recommendations last week on fine-tuning the spending plan for next year.

“I absolutely support the budget in its current form but I think it could be tweaked,” said board member Colleen O’Connell, making a statement typical of the other eight board members.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders explained at the start of the meeting that the proposed budget represents a 2.2-percent increase over this year’s budget and would bring an estimated 1.54-percent increase in taxes. About three-quarters of the budget is for instruction and benefits, he said, and the bulk of the revenues — 68 percent — will come from taxes while the state will chip in an estimated 27 percent.

Board member Gloria Towle-Hilt praised the plan for its “fiscal restraint” and for maintaining “excellence in education.”

“The baby boomer mini-bulge is passing through,” said board President Richard Weisz of what is sometimes called the echo boom, created by children of post-World War II baby boomers. Guilderland’s enrollment next year is projected at 5,256, a decline of 109 students. Weisz said he applauded the district’s recognition that the community expects, as student numbers drop, so should the staff.

The board will adopt the final plan at its next meeting, on April 8, and the public will vote on the budget May 20.

Two issues emerged as topics the board would like to pursue further — the role of supervisors and the constraints of block scheduling at the high school.


The budget calls for a full-time supervisor for the district’s 11 guidance counselors at a cost of $104,255 for salary and benefits.

Board member Cathy Barber recommended cutting that to a half-time post, which several other board members supported.

“The guidance counselors we’ve heard, again and again, are overwhelmed,” countered board member Denise Eisele. A supervisor, she said, would evaluate and coordinate the department.

“We’re doing things the old way,” said Eisele. “It’s not working for a lot of kids.” The supervisor, she said, would “provide outreach” to the community, facilitate distance learning, work with social workers, and place kids with jobs after school in school-to-work programs.

She said that guidance counselors need to reach all the students, not just those going to college.

“I can’t support adding $140,000 for 11 people,” said Barbara Fraterrigo, commenting on the number of counselors to be supervised. She said she had heard “year after year” guidance counselors saying they need another body to interact with students. She suggested they could get clerical help without paying for someone who has a degree in counseling.

Fraterrigo pointed out that, last year, the board combined the supervisor’s posts for English and social studies at the high school. Members of both departments had strenuously objected to this.

Several board members last week said they had been promised feedback on how the combined post was working, but none has been forthcoming.

The social-studies department chair had retired, so the English chair, Patricia Hansbury-Zuendt, was named to head both departments this year.

Asked if the faculty is satisfied with the change, Hansbury Zuendt told The Enterprise, “I have not had any loud, vociferous complaints.”

Citing math and science at both the middle school and the high school, she went on, “Supervisors have been doing this for many years...It’s a model that works well.”

Asked about difficulties, Hansbury-Zuendt said, “Forty-four is a lot of people” to supervise. She went on, “It’s a large job, but I’m enjoying it and learning as I go.”

Asked about advantages, she said, “We’re able to make some connections between reading, writing, and research. Those will grow.”

Board member Hy Dubowsky said he was in favor of restoring the social-studies supervisor and said the board should also consider creating a post for science supervisor. “We are moving at light speed,” said Dubowsky, stating  science and math are different fields, both “moving so fast.”

Superintendent John McGuire said a comprehensive analysis of the supervisory model will be done in the coming year.

“Block on the block”

The board was divided on starting Project Lead the Way, a program to introduce engineering to high-school students next year at a cost of $57,000.

Board member Colleen O’Connell said she was “on the fence” since hearing comments from Walter Jones, an engineer and a member of the citizens’ budget committee.

“He believes it would create technicians, not engineers,” said O’Connell.

“We need technicians and we need engineers to be competitive in the world we live in,” said Fraterrigo, who supports the program.

Dubowsky said he also supports Project Lead the Way. “Students collaborate in a real-time, real-life way,” he said, calling it “an important first step” for the district.

While Vice President John Dornbush supported Project Lead the Way, he said modification must be made to the high school’s block schedule. “They have no electives,” said Dornbush.

When the board first heard a presentation on the project (see www.altamontenterprise.com under “archives” for Feb. 7, 2008), both Weisz and Dornbush pointed out that students have few chances to take electives like the pre-engineering courses. They currently have to choose between music and art.

The program is set up for failure because of block scheduling, said O’Connell, calling it “a great big pink elephant.”

Alluding to a series of short-term principals at the high school, O’Connell said one of the reasons block scheduling has not been looked at is “lack of continuity in leadership.”

She recommended the board look at a modified block schedule next year.

Weisz said that the block schedule, which has long periods, has “a lot of substantive and educational benefits,” and that it’s easy to take the benefits for granted and focus on just the problems.

 Dubowsky said he supported putting “the block on the block.”

The block schedule is not perfect, said Superintendent McGuire. “We don’t plan to throw it out,” he said, but will work to improve it.

FLES support

All of the board members supported the Foreign Language Early Start program, which introduced Spanish to students in kindergarten, first, and second grades this year. Next year, third-graders will study Spanish as well.

The budget called for just two-tenths of a teacher for this, at a cost of $12,400, but most board members favored a half-time teacher as the foreign-language department had requested. The added three-tenths would cost $18,600, Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders told The Enterprise.

Some board members wanted to add a full-time teacher but conceded to the curriculum director’s views that jumping ahead to teach fourth- or fifth-graders wasn’t warranted.

Two board members — John Dornbush and Hy Dubowsky — said they’d like the district to consider adding Chinese to the European foreign languages currently offered.

Class sizes

Board members were divided on the size for the fifth-grade classes next year.

It had historically been “20-plus,” said Barber, so the current proposal doesn’t seem unreasonable, she said.

O’Connell said new staffing was needed at Westmere and Guilderland elementary schools so that the number of students stays below 20 in fifth-grade classes.

Dornbush said it was “acceptable” to have 22 or 23 students in third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade classes.

The no-cost proposal to lower class sizes at the middle school by having students change houses got mixed reviews as well.

Farnsworth Middle School is divided into four houses, each a school within the larger school. Towle-Hilt, who used to teach at Farnsworth, said that “house and team structure have been the heart and soul” of the middle-school experience. The purpose, she said, is to offer students a “small-school experience” where they are known well by caring adults.

Fraterrigo said there have been many times in the past where the model has been adjusted as needed. “Kids do survive,” she said.

Towle-Hilt also lamented the loss of the New Start program, which taught middle-school students who didn’t do well in traditional programs. Towle-Hilt termed the cut “short-term savings with long-term cost.”

She said the district has “a tremendous obligation to care for the most vulnerable.”

Tech Valley High

Several board members voiced support for sending a second student next year to Tech Valley High School. Tuition for the new regional school is $18,000, of which 41 percent is reimbursed through state aid.

Last year, Guilderland sent one student, as each participating school is allowed to do, although a few board members had balked at the cost.

O’Connell said the board doesn’t vote on other BOCES services, like culinary courses or the New Visions program, and doing so could set it up for failure.

Dornbush said supporting Tech Valley High “isn’t about sending one student but supporting an enterprise that is the model we hope to follow in the future.” He also said, “We’d be hypocritical not to support Tech Valley High.”

Reading teacher

While Fraterrigo said she could support the new reading teacher post at the high school — which would cost $62,000 for salary and benefits — she said it was “sad” to have the added staff at the high-school level rather than earlier.

Eisele said it made sense at the high school. Some kids will have problems reading for the rest of their lives, she said, and they can learn about technology that will assist them.

“The middle school is like the middle child,” said board member Peter Golden, terming it “a terribly difficult age.” He said the new reading teacher should go to the middle school.

Dubowsky agreed, saying he opposed the new reading teacher in the high school and would rather see it in the middle school. “All the research is, that’s where the bottom seems to hit,” he said.

One for every fifth-grader
Laptops lead to a new world of learning

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The eight students in Cynthia Villeneuve’s fifth-grade class, their desks arranged in a semi-circle, sat in matching navy-blue V-neck sweaters before eight matching laptop computers Monday morning intently working on an assignment about habitat.

“My place can get to negative 93 degrees,” Robert John Hayes announced with excitement in his voice as he looked up from his keyboard.

This is the first year each fifth-grader at Christ the King School in Westmere has had a laptop. The program has been so successful, it will be expanded to the middle school next year, so that all the students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades will have laptops, too.

“They keep them, take care of them, personalize them” — for example, putting their own designs on the computer as a screen-saver, said Villeneuve.

It’s her first year teaching at Christ the King. “I love it,” she said. “You really get to know the kids.”

She’s enjoyed finding ways to incorporate the laptops into assignments for all subjects.

For math assignments, she might direct them to manipulative sites where there are interactive math games or where they can have “more real-life experiences,” she said. Last week, for example, they visited store sites, adding food prices and then dividing to find average cost.

For English, the fifth-graders will do web quests, where they use writing skills to answer online questions.

They have also visited a scholastic site where they can ask an author questions directly.

And they can learn by seeing others’ writing and posting their own. “When I taught about descriptive writing, they saw examples and then did their own and put it right online,” said Villeneuve.

In science, studying ecosystems, they took “virtual tours” to see, for example, what the Arctic looks like, what the animals there look like and the foods they eat.

In any subject, Villeneuve said, “With online assessment, they get immediate feedback. They can see if something’s wrong and why.”

 She also said, “We set up a classroom blog they can connect with at home.”

Computer literacy

Villeneuve, who is 26, grew up with computers and is at home with them, but was not as immersed as some of her students are. “Some of this stuff, these kids are teaching me,” she said.

The Internet came in when Villeneuve was at Albany High School. She went on to earn an associate’s degree at Hudson Valley Community College and then a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education at The College of Saint Rose, and finally a master’s degree in elementary education, at the University at Albany, specializing in literacy.

“Computer literacy is a whole new thing,” said Villeneuve. Her students learn how to write e-mails, how to do research online, distinguishing among websites for the most reliable. For instance, she pointed out that website addresses ending in “.com” are run by companies, while those that end in “.edu” or “.gov” are “more secure.”

“We cross-reference to see two or three sites on the same thing,” said Villeneuve. “We see who they’re funded by and if they’ve been updated recently.”

Her students will learn how to make their own PowerPoint presentations, a skill she didn’t acquire until college.

The computers are also useful for “differentiated instruction,” said Villeneuve, explaining that students at different levels with different needs can be taught at the same time.

Students of varying levels in math, for example, can all work on division problems that challenge and develop their skills for problem-solving, said Villeneuve.

One of her students, a Korean boy, came in November with limited knowledge of English but great proficiency on the computer. Villeneuve doesn’t speak Korean. “I get stuff and translate into Korean,” using computer programs for translation, she said. In this way, she can provide him with worksheets in his native language. There are also websites in Korean that he can use.

“It’s time-consuming, finding the most appropriate things,” Villeneuve conceded. “There’s so much out there.”

She’s attended workshops and is helped by the technology teacher, Tammy Crasto.

She’s eager to share what she knows with other teachers.

Her students are always enthused, she said, when it’s time to use their laptops.

Nelligan named to Top 40
Irish roots lead to blossoming interests

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Matthew Nelligan is proud of his Irish heritage and active in promoting it.

At age 35, he has been named one of Irish America’s “Top 40 under 40” by The Irish Echo, the country’s largest circulation Irish-American weekly newspaper.

“Matt’s the type of guy who keeps our paper going; he’s active in the community,” said the Echo’s editor-in-chief, Ray O’Hanlon yesterday.

Nelligan has been active in preserving the history and promoting the culture of Ireland.

A government teacher at Guilderland High School, he led a team soon after he came to the district in 1998 that developed teaching guidelines on the “Great Hunger,” the 19th-Century famine that was commonly called the Potato Famine.

“We want ‘potato’ out of this because it makes people write it off as a natural cause,” said Nelligan. While it’s true the potatoes were diseased, he said, “There was enough food shipped out of Ireland to feed everyone in the country.”

He went on to pose this question: “If a government can save people and doesn’t, isn’t that almost the same as a policy to kill them?”

He also said there were laws, much like Jim Crow laws in America after the Civil War, enacted against the Irish Catholics.

“The famine is at the heart of the animosity between the English and the Irish,” said Nelligan.

Beyond the Holocaust and slavery, Nelligan said, history classes don’t often teach how genocide has affected other ethnic groups.

He said prejudice against the Irish continues today in everything from ads for Lucky Charms “that make fun of Irish people” to the portrayal of them as chimps.

“At the time of the famine, the image of an Irish person as a chimpanzee was used to dehumanize,” he said.

Tiny place, rich history

Nelligan traces his Irish roots through his father’s side of the family. His grandmother, Ann Fox, was born in Ballysidare in County Sligo.

“It’s a tiny, tiny place,” Nelligan said. “My brothers and I brought my father back there...The church was a small hedge church where they said mass just once a week.”

He had to research family records at another church and was impressed with how they were all computerized.

His Irish heritage “played a huge role” in his life, Nelligan said. “My dad was a collector of Irish music and history.” Growing up, he heard Irish songs and read Irish stories.

He joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians at age 19.

“It’s the largest and oldest Irish-Catholic organization in the United States,” he said. “It was founded in 1836 in New York City for the defense of the church against know-nothing immigrant mobs. The Hibernians lobbied for immigrant rights and fair treatment for Irish people in business and labor. Now, they’re heavily involved in lobbying for the Irish peace process and the rights of Catholics in Belfast.”

The Hibernians, he said, were also instrumental in lobbying the state legislature to require  the Great Hunger be taught as the Holocaust is.  “The Hibernians have developed a DVD of lesson plans with video to give to every school district in the state,” he said.

Nelligan is currently serving the first of his two-year term as president of the New York State Ancient Order of Hibernians; he is the youngest person to be elected to the presidency.

Like many fraternal organizations, the Hibernians, in the late 20th Century, saw a decline in the number of young members. “We joke that the Ancient Order of Hibernians meant the members were ancient,” said Nelligan. “After the backslide in the ’80s and ’90s, we developed a statewide recruitment plan,” he said.

“We run the Irish festival at the fairgrounds to highlight our culture and music,” he said. Nelligan is president of the Irish Music and Arts Festival, held at the Altamont fairgrounds. Now in its 12th year, the festival is one of the largest celebrations of Irish culture in the country. The not-for-profit festival has raised more than $350,000 for local Irish charities.

“Through rock and punk music like Flogging Molly, we’ve been able to attract a lot more young people,” said Nelligan.

“We certainly support the faith, too,” he said, citing the Catholic Conference lobbying day and an upcoming April prayer rally at the capitol.

Top 40

O’Hanlon, the Echo’s editor, said this is the second time his newspaper has run the “Top 40 Under 40” program. The first time, a decade ago, he said, “We went for movie stars and prominent people.” He continued, “This year’s selection was quite different. The people were more accessible, more community-based.”

The weekly, which has a circulation of 25,000, its readers spanning the country and abroad, plans to make the event an annual one, said O’Hanlon. The paper, founded in 1928, is based in New York City. The editor joked about how The Irish Echo is known for its classified ads, from as far away as Hong Kong, seeking “nannies and child-minders.”

 “The New York Times refers to us as The Nanny Times,” said O’Hanlon with a bit of a brogue.

He called this year’s “Top 40” program “a big success.”

Each honoree was presented with a Cavan crystal vase at a party at Rosie O’Grady’s in midtown Manhattan, co-hosted by the Consulate General of Ireland.

O’Hanlon said there were over 100 nominations and the winners appeared in a special section of the paper.

A posthumous award was presented to the father of Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land elite Special Operations forces) Lieutenant Michael Murphy who was killed in Afghanistan and presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Daniel Murphy, a veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart, accepted the crystal vase for his son. He brought his son’s Medal of Honor with him.

“People were in tears,” said O’Hanlon.

All in all, Nelligan said, he considers it “a huge honor” to be named to the “Top 40 under 40” along with standouts ranging from a well-known boxer to a local news anchor.

“You never really expect recognition,” he said. “It’s just nice when it happens.”

Heaps of help
Community rallies behind Devon   

By David S. Lewis

ALTAMONT-Leukemia has not benched 5-year-old Devon Purzycki, but it has energized a community to support him. 

Three hundred tickets were sold for a benefit dinner at the American Legion Hall in Altamont on Saturday.  The line ran out the door, causing the harried volunteers serving the meal to wonder whether there would be enough food for everyone.

Purzycki, diagnosed with leukemia in January, was in high spirits despite the treatments he had received the day before, including platelet transfusion and chemotherapy. 

“It’s a miracle,” said his grandmother, Penny Purzycki. “The doctors just couldn’t believe it.  He has so much energy that I have to sit him down on the couch when he’s with me.” 

Devon is on medicine that prevents his blood from clotting and even small injuries could become serious.  His grandmother said she is not about to let that happen.

“Not on my watch,” she said firmly while she helped clear a table.  Her husband, Robert Purzycki, is the President of the Altamont American Legion and Devon’s grandfather.

The Legion Hall was completely full, and Vicki Van Aucken, the organizer and the president of the American Legion Auxiliary and a good friend of the family, said her first reaction when Devon was diagnosed was to prepare for the expenses of treatment.

“We had to start raising money; we had to get right on this, because it was going to be expensive,” said Van Aucken.

Dinner was served to 336 people and the benefit generated over $11,000; volunteers for the event included members of the Colonie fire department and Boy Scout Troop 264.

  Devon’s mother, Beth Purzycki, looked weary but hopeful as Devon energetically snapped the orange cancer-awareness bracelet on her wrist.

“He’s doing well, and we’re so happy about that.  He’s on the third month of a 30-month treatment plan, so he’s got a long way to go, but he’s doing so well.”

Donations for Devon’s treatment may be made at the Altamont American Legion or the Citizen’s Bank located at the 20 Mall in Guilderland.

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