March 29, 2007

Dryden students gear up for art olympics


Bob Ellis/staff photographer   
Dryden High School students work on a project in preparation for the upcoming Olympics of the Visual Arts. From left are, Wendy Eliot, Whitney Lyon, Vicki Preble, Sam Gardner and Adam Keech. The artwork portrays cutout silhouettes of men walking across the shadow of a heavier woman to follow a more slender woman. Students from across the state will compete in the olympics Friday in Saratoga Springs.

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — Katie Bergletz, 16, shimmied into a purple paper dress with gold and green flowers, a wide green and purple jester’s hat atop her head.
Bergletz’s outfit was designed and constructed by members of the school’s art club for the 25th annual Olympics of the Visual Arts, which will be held Friday at the Saratoga Springs City Center.
On Wednesday afternoon most of the Dryden Middle and High School Art Club students were hard at work in art teacher Kathleen Hall’s room adding the finishing touches to their projects.
Hall said 21 students in the school district would compete in six of the eight categories in the olympics on Friday. Fourteen of the students are in high school and seven are in middle school. The students are participating in the fashion, sculpture, drawing, photography and graphic design categories.
The Dryden Youth Opportunity Grant program, which donated $500, and additional fundraisers by the art club sponsored the students. The club raised approximately $850, Hall said.
The Olympics of the Visual Arts was founded by the New York State Art Teachers Association and it is an extracurricular school program for students across New York state.
Last year more than 1,000 students participated in the event.
Bergletz and six other students were in the fashion design category. Amylynn Otis, Bergletz’s teammate, said the theme of the fashion design category was carnival.
The sculpture team included five high school students. Their design project is made of PVC pipes, cardboard and wood. They used their materials to depict how some women are viewed in society.
Although the project was a group effort, Adam Keech, 17, developed the concept. Keech and his team used the pipe to make two sculptures that represented two women, one of them representing the ideal woman.
The ideal woman was standing and the other woman who was a “little bit fuller,” lay on the floor and miniature men made out of foam cardboard stepped on her.
Originally, the group’s concept was based around the American family.
“We knew we wanted to do something with the ideal family and it sort of turned into this,” said Keech, referring to their sculpture.
Keech has worked on similar projects in the past. Last year his group took second place for a sculpture of another woman figure, “which was supposed to represent disease and we had these men destroying it.”
The district has been involved with the Olympics of the Visual Arts since 2000. Dryden has placed well in previous years. Hall said students won first place for a Sept. 11 memorial in the architecture category.
Each of the groups had to present a portfolio of research and their process at the olympics.
“The long-term design problem is immense,” Hall said. “It’s not just the project work and the solution, but the evidence of brainstorming, the research, how well they are really selling the design problem, critically thinking in a creative way in an original risk-taking way.”
Keech is not the only veteran participating in the olympics. The team of Kayla Conway and Hope Mead, both seniors, compose the graphic design team, and last year they took second place in the industrial design category, which is not part of the program this year.
The pair are designing a new logo for the Olympics of the Visual Arts, using the letters OVA. They designed the new logo, complete with business cards and letterheads.
Participants in the olympics have to tackle both a long-term and a spontaneous design problem. The long-term design is what the students have been working on, when they get to the venue students will be given an hour and a half to finish the spontaneous design process. Although Hall did not do any of the hands-on work, she busied herself giving advice to each of the groups.
The students have been working on their projects since December, during study hall and lunch periods, on weekends and after school.
“I’ve always liked art … so this is just another way to express myself,” Keech said.
Although Art Club President Nicholas Daniluk was not participating in the olympics, he was on hand to help his fellow classmates. He will also accompany the participants to the olympics and play the role of staff photographer.
The sculpture team said that Daniluk and Keech were the models for the foam cardboard men.
“I think I am loving conceptually watching each one of them,” Hall said of the students’ themes and projects. “They gain such a tremendous respect for the creative process and what goes into it. I think the projects have a great amount of depth.”



Homer weighs tax deal for housing project

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Village Board members say they are leaning toward granting a 30-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement for the 24-unit senior housing project under construction at the corner of Cortland Street and Orson Drive.
But they say they need more time to study the proposal and would not make a decision until sometime after May 1.
About 15 village residents attended a public hearing on the proposed agreement Wednesday night.
The residents were concerned with the land value used to determine the PILOT option, the tax rates used to determine an alternative to the agreement and the proposed PILOT amounts.
With a PILOT, project developer Two Plus Four Construction would pay $10,388 each year for five years, and then 10 percent more every five years, according to figures provided by the company.
Victor Siegle, a village resident, questioned the proposed PILOT amount, which is based on  set payments of $400 per apartment unit and a land tax, saying it highly underestimates the value of the land.
On paper, the developer put a value of $27,000, but it paid $184,000 for the land.
“The amount should be the price paid, not the amount it was assessed at many years ago,” he said.
Sue Kimmel, president of Two Plus Four Constructions, said she would update the proposed option by basing it on current land values. She said she would provide updated figures by next week.
William Clinquant, a village resident who is director of the county Real Property Tax Services Office, questioned the tax amount the developer provided for the alternative to the PILOT.
He noted it was based on old tax rates, meaning the tax bill figure provided is about $5,000 less than what it should be.
“It’s foolish if it’s not somehow based on the current year,” he said.
The alternative to the PILOT is based on the assessed value of the project. Normally the assessed value of the project would be millions of dollars, as the cost of the project is $3.5 million, but a new law for subsidized housing that went into effect Jan. 1 would bring down the assessment to a projected $334,579, according to numbers provided by Two Plus Four Construction.
Two Plus Four Construction would pay $9,922 in taxes in its first year without the PILOT under the alternative, according to numbers from the company. Before the law, it likely would have paid more than $100,000 in taxes without the PILOT.
Janet Stack, a village resident, wondered how Two Plus Four Construction came up with a figure of $400 paid per apartment unit under the PILOT. She said that seems like a low amount for a project that is already subsidized about $750,000 by the state and federal governments.
Kimmel said Two Plus Four Construction is asking the village for the $400 amount because the state sees it as a reasonable amount. She said it allows the company to make payments without raising tenant rents.
Board members said they would need updated numbers from Two Plus Four Construction to make a decision.
Trustee Mike Berry said not only does PILOT agreement give the village more control, such as the ability to look at Two Plus Four Construction’s finances and tour the building freely, but it would bring the village a greater share of taxes.
That is because with the PILOT the village negotiates the percentage of the payments each municipality — the village, the school district and the town/county — receives.
It is likely that under the PILOT, the village would seek the most of the payments, while without the PILOT the school district would receive most of the money, Berry said.
Kimmel said the housing project would be completed at the end of May, with tenants moving in June 1. She said 37 people have applied for housing and their applications are being reviewed.


Judge sets deadline for Riverside Plaza owner

Staff Reporter

The owner of Riverside Plaza was ordered Wednesday to turn over rents and deposits he received from tenants after a court turned control of the plaza over to a receiver on Jan. 31.
Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rumsey gave Pasquale Cipolla until April 15 to turn over at least $9,800 he collected in rents as well as tenant deposits to avoid being held in contempt of court.
Rumsey gave the order to Cipolla’s lawyer, Donald Summer, over a speaker phone from his chamber after Summer explained Cipolla’s bookkeeper had deposited the checks accidentally. Cipolla was not aware what happened, he said.
“If he knowingly did it, that would be one thing,” Summer said.
Cipolla is the principal partner of 81 and 13 Cortland Associates, a limited partnership that was set up by Buffalo-based Bella Vista Group.
The limited partnership has caused a stir in recent years, first with its inability to prove it has invested in the property, resulting in the county revoking its Empire Zone benefits, and then with its falling behind on mortgage payments, resulting in a foreclosure action and receivership order.
A contempt of court order, separate from the matter discussed Wednesday, is still pending before Rumsey. The judge will decided within the next two months whether Cipolla is already in contempt of court for not abiding by terms of the receivership order and ignoring letters detailing those violations.
Alleged violations include refusing to hand over rents, setting up another company to collect the rents and entering the property to meet with a prospective tenant that William Colucci, the receiver, had  arranged to meet.
The three men claiming Cipolla is in contempt of court — Colucci, of Syracuse-based Pyramid Brokerage Co.; Anthony Hanley, his lawyer; and Steve Newman, who is representing Chase Commercial Mortgage Securities Corp. — attended the hearing to show cause Wednesday, with the lawyers responding to Summer’s defenses.
“First, they do not say to the receiver, ‘How can I help you?’” Hanley said. “Now they try to blame it on a bookkeeper.”
On Wednesday, Rumsey ruled that the receivership order be clarified so it emphasizes that all tenants must directly pay all money owed to the receiver from that point on and that people working for 81 and 13 Associates cannot show prospective tenants the property.
Hanley would not comment on any elements of the case this morning. Newman and Colucci could not be reached this morning for comment.


6-year-old dies after long struggle with brain tumor

Staff Reporter

After four years of suffering from an ependymoma brain tumor, 6-year-old Mackenzie Updike died on Wednesday.
“She was the sweetest little girl,” said Mackenzie’s great-grandmother Betty Doscher. “She was our baby.”
Doscher said Mackenzie died at home “peacefully” surrounded by her mother and aunt Stacey. The death  was something they expected to happen, she said.
“No more operations, no more miracles,” Doscher said.
At the age of 20 months, Mackenzie was diagnosed with the brain tumor and during her life she had multiple surgeries, which included two brain surgeries, tracheotomy and gamma knife radiation procedures — which is ionized radiation targeted at the tumor through a helmet-like device.
Including suffering from the brain tumor, Mackenzie had bronchiectasis, which affected her lungs. Doscher said as recently as three to four months ago Mackenzie was also diagnosed with leukemia.
In December, Mackenzie’s grandfather Roger Updike said her brain tumor was not growing, but her lungs posed a problem. Mackenzie was placed on a multi-drug combination of chemotherapy  drugs that doctors hoped would inhibit the growth of the tumor cells.
“The lung is going to be the end,”  Updike said at the time. “It is not the cancer that kills (people), it is the secondary (infection) that kills them.”
Although Mackenzie was very ill her family tried to give her a normal life. In September 2006, Mackenzie started school for the first time at Randall Elementary School in the city. Her time as a student was short-lived. Two days after starting school she contracted pneumonia.
Mackenzie was placed on oxygen. She was given breathing treatments every four hours; she was administered five different medications per day, two in the morning, three at night.
“She was the only great grandchild that resembled me,”  Doscher said. “I felt really close to her. She had the same button nose and the attitude.”
Doscher said that the family is planning to have a private funeral.