NISKAYUNA: Activist strategy session planned

Critics of a new shopping mall that's proposed just across the street from Mohawk Commons are asking Niska-yuna residents to come up with alternative uses for the highly visible 12.5-acre site. The solicitation is happening as things are coming down to the wire on an expected Tuesday, Feb. 27 town board vote regarding the future of the property.

Preservationists, led by Linda Champagne, are digging in their heels in an attempt to protect the wooded land and the historic Ingersoll Home from being disturbed by construction of a strip mall. Located at the corner of State Street and Balltown Road, the building has long served as a nursing home for dozens of senior citizens. Also, its proximity to a busy intersection means it is seen by thousands of motorists every day making it the most visible historic site in the upscale suburban community.

Known as the Friends of Stanford Home, the activists are gathering at 7 p.m. on Sunday at Niskayuna Reformed Church to plan their strategy for the next several weeks.

Champagne said she would like to see the five-member town board require the project's real estate developers, Highland Development LLC, prepare a detailed environmental impact statement before deciding whether to grant a special use permit. The town board must approve the permit before a new mall can be built.

However, Champagne said the weekend meeting should have a broader focus than that.

We are looking into the possibility of supporting a moratorium, maybe for three months or six months, that would protect all of Niskayuna's historic resources until we have time to develop a detailed policy for them, Champagne said. "We are also looking at whether we can require a public referendum before this type of development goes forward.

"We've even had some people ask about whether the town can buy the site and preserve it for future generations," said Champagne, Niskayuna's former town historian. "We are open to all kinds of ideas and people should bring their suggestions to the meeting at the church."

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