Niskayuna leaders promise ‘new beginnings’


By Zachary Matson

Daily Gazette

Yasmine Syed, Niskayuna’s new Republican town supervisor, struck a tone of unity Monday as she was formally sworn into office, promising “new beginnings” and “fresh starts” after a contentious election.

Syed, 34, who defeated 10-year incumbent Joe Landry in November, promised to work with the Democrat-controlled town board as she pursued budget savings, government efficiency and looked to top last year’s 2 percent property tax cut.

“Niskayuna can only stay the wonderful place it has always been to live and work if its elected officials work together to accomplish the will of the residents — and that we will do,” Syed said in brief remarks after she was sworn in by state Sen. Jim Tedisco.

Emphasizing New Year’s Day as a time for reflection on lessons learned and goals ahead, Syed called for a “renewed spirit of bipartisanship” in Niskayuna town government.

“It’s fitting then for us to be here today, on this day of fresh starts, with the hope that these ideals are more than just cliches,” she said.

In her speech, Syed highlighted the constant drive to improve the town’s schools, modernize water treatment systems, improve government’s energy efficiency and equip the town’s police.

She also said she planned to seek a tax cut in the town’s upcoming budget, adding that she hoped to be able to top last budget’s year-to-year property tax cut of 2 percent.

A budget analyst with Albany Medical Center, Syed said she plans to “rein in the spending and get the budget under control” and find ways to offer residents the property tax relief she said was an overriding priority of town residents she met during the election. She wants to study the impact the minimization of deductability for local taxes would have on the average Niskayuna resident and attempt to alleviate that impact with local tax relief.

“To really try to lower taxes to make sure those SALT (state and local tax) deductions aren’t going to affect anyone in a negative way,” she said.

Niskayuna’s other elected officials also offered words of unity as they were sworn in to new terms on the job.

Denise Murphy McGraw, Democratic town board member and deputy supervisor, called Monday’s ceremony “a new beginning for our town” and likewise promised to work with Syed.

“We all love this community very, very much, and we are working toward it being as good as it can be,” Murphy said.

John Della Ratta was sworn in for another term as town councilman; Diane Percy started her ninth year as receiver of taxes; and Peter Scagnelli entered a new term as town justice. Listing recent developments and projects in town, Della Ratta said he looked forward to hearing Syed’s ideas as they begin their work together.

Imam Genghis Kahn, who opened the ceremonies with invocation, called on all of the town’s leaders to work together and to treat one another with respect.

“We ask that you strengthen us to not be defined by labels and affiliation but who we truly are,” he said.