However, it was safety concerns in terms of emergency response times that ignited vocal support to re-open the bridge over 20 years ago. The Jericho Road bridge was re-named in 1993 in honor of Ben Giovannetti, a South Albany Road resident, who started a grass-roots campaign to save and repair the bridge. He died in the summer of 1987 before seeing the bridge re-open.
In January of 1989, Robert H. Rienow, a nationally renowned environmentalist and founder of the state's Audubon Society, died inside of his home on Rarick Road after embers from a woodstove set a showcase ablaze. His property is now a large environmental preserve.
Former Selkirk fire commissioner Charles Fritts told The Spotlight then that, although it may not have changed the outcome of Rienow's death, an open Jericho Road bridge may have helped save some of the structure that burned down.
Fritts said a fire hydrant on the other side of the closed bridge reduced water reloading time by five to 10 minutes.
The first responder on the scene was former Selkirk assistant fire chief Craig Apple, now the Albany County undersheriff.
Apple said on Wednesday, July 8, he "remembers the incident well," and that the fire was fully active when he arrived and little could be done for Rienow. He directed another firefighter with the proper gear to Rienow's whereabouts after making two attempts to locate him without any fire equipment. Apple was given a citation of appreciation from then Albany County Executive James Coyne and former Albany County Sheriff George Infante.
Coyne told The Spotlight on Wednesday, July 8, that he remembers the controversy over the bridge closure.
"I remember that same question came up back then," Coyne said. "As I recall, there was a pretty good outpouring of people who were concerned over their emergency response times.