Sunday, September 29, 2019

September Update

Recently, the Evangelical Protestant Church Cemetery was mowed and weed whacked, again, by three volunteers over a period of a few days. The grounds look great, again. Most of the work was done by one individual, Mike, with his push mower. The grass will continue to grow until early November. The cemetery will need to be mowed at least once more this year. Until a permanent solution is found for the upkeep of the cemetery, if you notice that the grass is in need of attention, empower yourself, volunteer, and help with the upkeep. When the grass is at a reasonable length, it is much easier to maintain. Please do not forget that the grass was over three feet tall in July when Travis took on the task of mowing the lawn. Permission is not needed to do the right thing. Be careful, have fun, and feel good afterward because you just did a great thing! Let's all try to keep the cemetery in great shape. Thank you

Monday, August 5, 2019

August Update


August Update

The ongoing saga of the Evangelical Protestant Church Cemetery is a long and winding road. And still there is no resolution to the grass dilemma at the cemetery. To recap the past events of this sad scenario please follow the timeline:

- The Evangelical Protestant Church was established in 1850 by German immigrants residing in Albany's South End. Land was purchased in 1853 for use as a cemetery.

- Many years ago the Evangelical Protestant church merged with a religious body which is now know as the United Church of Christ (UCC).

- The last Pastor at the South End church was Reverend John U. Miller. After Miller died in 2012, the church board decided to close and disband the church. Stewardship of both the church and the cemetery reverted to the UCC. Since 2012, the UCC desperately wanted to sell both properties.

-  In early August 2018, we noticed that the cemetery grass was getting very long.  The UCC was notified about the length of the grass. The UCC stated that it sold both the former Evangelical Protestant Church building and its accompanying cemetery to a religious based fellowship operated by Pastor Ronald Myles Jr. For a number of years Myles longed to buy the church and he finally purchased it.

- Within days of contacting the UCC about the length of the cemetery grass, we went to the cemetery to take photographs to document how tall the grass was. The intent was to make a complaint to the city about the lawn not being mowed. However when we arrived at the cemetery, the former landscaping contractor who had been hired by the UCC for a number of years to mow the property monthly was present and mowing the lawn. I asked, "what's going on?" The contractor responded that the UCC contacted him and asked him to mow the grass "one last time." We believe that the UCC did this to make sure that the lawn was in good shape even after the property was sold and now that the property was in the hands of another organization, the UCC is off the hook from a possible negligence claim. At this point, the grass issue was now a moot issue.

- In late August, a friend who has numerous ancestors buried in the cemetery contacted Pastor Myles and asked him what his plans were for the upkeep of the cemetery. Myles responded, absolutely none. The Pastor mentioned that he had to take possession of the cemetery if he wanted to purchase the church building. Both properties were sold as a package deal. The purchase was rumored to have been extremely inexpensive also.

- Throughout the remaining Summer and Fall of 2018, certain sections of the cemetery were weed whacked and mowed a few times by a couple of volunteers. But the vast majority of the cemetery remained un-mowed.



- Fast forward to June 2019. The grass is now waist high. Pastor Myles certainly kept his word that he has no intention for caring for the cemetery. Neighbors and other city residents are beginning to notice of the conditions at the cemetery. Complaints now started to pop  up on various venues of social media. Meanwhile, on June 10th, I took it upon myself to write an email to certain elected individuals and city officials about the worsening conditions at the cemetery.  The email is below.

Dear xx

This note is to inform all public and elected officials of the shameful condition of the grounds at the Evangelical Protestant Cemetery located in Albany on Krumkill Road and Bender Lane. The grass in the cemetery has not been mowed since August 2018. The grass in most areas of the cemetery is approaching three feet in height. This is unacceptable. The cemetery grounds are presently unkempt and uninviting. Numerous lot owners and families of loved ones whom are buried there are taking it upon themselves to mow and clear pathways to their family plots. 

The Evangelical Protestant burial grounds is likely the oldest cemetery within city limits with the land being purchased for use as a cemetery in 1853. Aside from thousands of former Albany citizens, the cemetery is the final resting place for numerous Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Korean War veterans. These former soldiers and their families deserve much more than this.

The deplorable condition of the cemetery grounds is dangerous. Low spots and rabbit holes in the ground are unseen due to the height of the grass. Low lying gravestones are also a tripping hazard. With the cemetery grounds appearing to be abandoned, this is inviting for vandals, illegal dumping, which has occurred there in the past, and other undesirable activities. 

The church building of the former Evangelical Protestant Church, located at 82 Clinton Street, in Albany and its accompanying cemetery, on Krumkill Road were both sold in July 2018 to Pastor Ronald Myles Jr. of the Healing from Heaven Friends Fellowship. Myles was contacted last year in the Fall about the height of the grass. He indicated that he has no plan to care for the cemetery whatsoever. Under City Code Regulation # 313-51.1, can the present owner of the cemetery be mandated to mow and keep the grounds in a more desirable condition? It is hoped that this dilemma can be rectified as soon as possible before conditions deteriorate further or an unfortunate incident occurs. 

Below are three avenues for contacting me on this matter. I shall be awaiting a response and for notice of what actions are unfolding on this situation.

- The email was sent to Jack Flynn, the Common Council seat for the 8th Ward. Flynn responded that he was passing this information on to Code Enforcement and the Department of General Services (DGS). Gary W. Domalowicz of the 10th Legislative District was sent the email. He did not respond. We are thinking that he was not interested in the cemetery. Please remember him and his lack of initiative when he is seeking your support. Joshua Gold, Senior Code Enforcement Officer, never responded to his email. And Molly McGuire, the Community Relations Coordinator in the Department of General Services also failed to respond. Does there appear to be to be a pattern of no action here?

- After a few days of no response from the Department of General Services, Ms McGuire was contacted and asked what is the status of the complaint. I was told that it was under review and that the property owner will need to be contacted and after five days of failing to comply with an order to get the grass mowed, the city would come in, mow the lawn, and charge and fine the property owner. I said fair enough. I will contact you in two weeks on this matter.

- Two weeks pass and instead of calling the DGS office I visited its office in person on July 2nd. I spoke with Ms McGuire and was told that the grass will be cut by the city. Excellent, I said. OK, now when will this occur? I asked. Not quite sure, but it will be scheduled and then done. Many people were extremely happy that the grass was finally going to be cut.

- On July 11th, Ms McGuire was called again and asked "when is the grass scheduled to be cut at the cemetery?" Now, her response was a volte-face. A complete turnaround. Now, I am told that the city may not be legally allowed to mow the lawn at the cemetery. However, do not think for one moment that they would not mow your unkempt lawn, charge you, and fine you. What probably happened is a DGS supervisor or foreman went out to the site and saw what they had on their hands. A complete disaster. Lots of work. Not an easy fix. Hmm, we need to back pedal on this. And the grass continues to grow. At this point the grass is so tall that it cannot support itself. It is beginning to fall over. Most of the grave markers are now completely hidden and obscured by the grass.

Where are the gravestones?
Hidden in three feet tall grass

-  On July 16th, I was contacted by reporter Anya Tucker from Channel 10 news and asked if I will do an interview at the cemetery on its present condition. Absolutely, yes! It is unknown to me where she got my contact information because I am not the person who contacted the news station. When I arrived at the cemetery Dan Levy from  Channel 13 news was already present. That day I gave interviews to both news reporters which were aired numerous times.

- Thankfully, a man from Corinth, Travis and his girlfriend Billie, either saw or heard of the conditions at the cemetery. On Monday July 22nd, he took it upon himself to drive over 50 miles to the cemetery and begin mowing the lawn. This was done in the pouring rain! Fortunately, Channel 13's Dan Levy stopped by the cemetery and did a story on Travis. Many saw this story and were touched by the kindness and big heart that Travis has. The next day at least six more people showed up to help Travis. The following day approximately 20 to 25 people showed up to help. Those being relatives of those buried there, people from Greene County, and Claverack in Columbia County. Two coaches and numerous football players from UAlbany team helped for a few hours.

- Travis got the ball rolling on the mowing project. Along with Travis others including Dan and Mike have been present almost every day since July 23rd either mowing, raking, and dragging cut grass. The media has brought this sad story to light and the those who follow the same mantra as myself as in "Do the Right Thing" have made extreme progress in reclaiming the cemetery from neglect. There is still quite a bit of work necessary. More weed whacking, mowing, raking, and grass removing is necessary. Travis and the others are going to see this through until it is finished.

- However, all who are following these developments need to remember that was has been accomplished so far is just temporary. The grass will continue to grow until early November. The grass can easily reach the same heights that it was two weeks ago if further maintenance is not done. Those who have volunteered and helped bring the cemetery back need to know that many people are extremely happy with your extreme dedication and generosity that has been exhibited during this process.

- More importantly; how can someone especially one who is supposed to be a Pastor allow the sacred and final resting spot of these former Albanians to be neglected to this extreme. You should be ashamed of yourself. Within the grounds of the cemetery there are hundreds of veterans buried there and the majority of them fought in the Civil War. Please explain to me Ronald, why can you not be contacted? Keep hiding, inside you know that you are wrong. Do the Right Thing!

- Regarding the city, we will wait and see what your "action plan" is. The volunteers have not let anyone "off the hook" from their responsibilities here. Below is a photo that if the grass reaches this height hopefully the so called action plan will be invoked.






Wednesday, July 10, 2019

July 2019 Update : Grass Situation

It is impossible not to notice the height of the grass at the Evangelical Protestant Cemetery on Krumkill Road. This is an ongoing saga which will hopefully come to an end soon. As mentioned in the June 2019 post, the new owner of the cemetery, Pastor Ronald Myles Jr. of the Healing from Heaven Friends Fellowship, stated last Fall that he has no intention of caring for or maintaining the cemetery. As of today, Myles speaks the truth. The grass is over three feet tall and he has done nothing to maintain the property. The pictures below were taken two weeks ago. The grass is presently much higher. Matter of fact, the grass is so high that it is now falling over.




Many people including lot owners, families of those buried there, and neighborhood residents are taking notice of the grass predicament. Numerous venues of social media have postings where people are fed up with the grass situation. In mid June, a letter was written to two elected officials and also two city officials about the grass quandary. On July 2nd, after a visit to the offices of the Department of General Services was undertaken, we were told that the city was going to mow the grass, charge and fine the owner. As of yesterday, July 9th, the grass is still three feet tall. After another reasonable amount of time has passed, if the grass is not mowed, another campaign with a different approach is set to begin.

Regarding Myles, for a man who is supposed to be a Pastor, in my humble opinion he has a serious lack of character. How does one think or believe that he can own a cemetery and not care for it? Pastor Myles please explain this to me. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

June 2019 Update

Two more gravestones completed today. The weather is beautiful; almost too hot at times. The restoration of leaning, broken, and fallen gravestones began back in April with approximately one hundred stones needing attention. Today that number is now down to fifty-nine and that number will continue to drop as this project progresses.

All is going well with the cemetery project; however, there is a new dilemma unfolding presently. A question for you: have you driven through the cemetery lately? If you have, then you know the situation regarding the grass, if not, well, the grass is now about three feet high in length. Yes, that number is correct. The lawn has not been mowed since early August 2018. This is obviously putting a damper on the speed of the project. It is also forcing people to bring in their own mowers and weed whackers to knock down and remove the grass from their family plots. Do I need to say, "this is unacceptable!" Families should not have to do this, period!

A bit of background history on the Evangelical Protestant Church. In the 1920s, the Evangelical churches merged with another religious body that is now known as the United Church of Christ. When Reverend John U. Miller of Albany's South End Evangelical Protestant Church died in 2010; it was decided that the church would close. After this decision was made, the United Church of Christ desired to sell the former church building, the pastoral building, and its cemetery as a package deal.

Fast forward to July 2018. The United Church of Christ found a buyer for the properties in Pastor Ronald Myles Jr. and his Healing from Heaven Friends Fellowship. In September 2018, Pastor Myles was contacted regarding the height of the grass at the cemetery. Myles indicated that he only wanted to purchase the church building and not the cemetery; but, a contingency for the sale stated that he had to take all of the properties, including the cemetery. Myles then said that he has no plans to do anything with the cemetery including the care for it.

So, there we have it. An individual or a Fellowship church/congregation that intends to let the cemetery decay.

There is a plan in motion that will hopefully get Myles to at the least get the lawn mowed. Stay tuned...


Thursday, March 28, 2019

March 2019 Update

Just a couple of days ago I took a ride through the Evangelical Protestant Cemetery. Unfortunately some gravestones have sustained some damage over the Winter. This adds a few more gravestones to the list that need attention. One such additional stone is that for the Civil War veteran that someone knocked over when his or her car was driven over the curb and into the cemetery. Plastic pieces of the car still remain at the site.

If all goes well, work will begin in the cemetery within two weeks. There are no set days for when the work will begin. Everything is weather, family, and work commitment dependent. We mentioned once before; there are approximately one hundred gravestones that need attention. Most are small and medium stones. However there are enough larger ones to keep us busy. Obviously we can upright more smaller stones in one day than the larger ones.

It is our desire to have the cemetery restoration project completed by the Fall of this year. If you are in the neighborhood of the cemetery, stop in to say hello, or to roll up your sleeves and join in with the project. Help will never be turned down.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

January 2019 Update

Yes, this blog is still alive and the cemetery restoration continues! It has been a while since the last post. Many items of interest have occurred since the August article.

  • Numerous gravestones were rehabbed during the 2018 season. Including three obelisks that were in danger of toppling over. We can think of three more that need attention this Spring.
  • Approximately ninety more stones, most of them smaller in size, are still in need of attention at the cemetery. When Spring and warmer weather arrive work will begin at a fast pace. The plan is to complete the gravestone restoration in 2019. 
  • More topsoil, stone dust, D2 (the go-to cleaning product), and bagged cement for fabricating new bases for certain gravestones will need to be purchased.
  • Very soon a plan will be devised to reclaim the perimeter of the cemetery, again. This needs to be done, again, before the encroaching growth gets outrageous. Hopefully this work will begin in the Winter as soon as some of the snow melts. The plan is to have the perimeter cleaned up before the stone work begins.
  • It appears that the littering and dumping has slowed down at the cemetery but violators are still sneaking in. Isn't it easier to just to put your garbage in front of your house?
  • Recently, someone,perhaps a fool speeder, lost control of his/her car while driving around the bend. The car hopped the curb and drove into the cemetery. A stone of a Civil War veteran that was in the process of being restored was knocked over. Fortunately the stone was not completely restored otherwise a second repair would be even more difficult. Luckily the stone did not break further.
  • Last year an attempt to replace the roof on the old cemetery vault building was moving forward but abruptly stopped. The roof is completely missing on one side due to tree branches rubbing the asphalt shingles over the years. The roof desperately needs to be replaced soon. The roof may even collapse this Winter. The reason for the halting of the roof replacement is next.
  • In July, a congregation bought the former Evangelical Protestant Church building in the South End for its services. A requirement for the sale of the church building stated that the cemetery had to be included in the transaction. When the grass was getting "knee-high" a concerned individual whom has numerous ancestors buried in the cemetery contacted the new property owner and asked what are the future plans for upkeep of the cemetery? The response was "absolutely none... I didn't want the cemetery but I had to take it to get the church... I have no plans for doing anything with it"
  • To be continued...

Saturday, August 18, 2018

August 2018 Update

What a wet and rainy season this Summer has been. We uprighted two and a half stones earlier today. We should have had three completed but a monsoon blew in and half drowned us this morning. Unlike the wicked witch of the west, we won't melt.

A thank you goes out to M-A C for her donation to this project. Thank you again!

Since the restoration season has begun over 35 gravestones have been uprighted and secured. Two of which were severely leaning obelisks and one obelisk that had already toppled over. Our goal is to correct the dangerous stones before they fall or possibly injure someone. Numerous Civil War veterans whose tablet style stones were broken were cleaned and uprighted by casting new cement bases for the stones of these former soldiers. One of which was Colonel Frederick Andes. He is once again standing at attention.

Does anyone remember his obelisk that had tipped over? The remaining pieces were disassembled, a new level stone dust base installed, and then the obelisk reassembled. The cross for the top of this obelisk will be replaced on top of the cap after it is re-pinned and re-mortared for safety.



The same was done with this severely leaning obelisk which is a little over 7 feet tall.

Before

After


New developments have surfaced where a new owner has purchased the properties of the former Evangelical Protestant Church, including the cemetery. We will see how this progresses. The lawn is very high at this point and desperately needs mowing. The former lawn contractor was told to cease mowing. We will keep you posted on this.

My plans to attempt a new roof for the vault building are now on hold because of the sale of the properties. Perhaps something can be worked out. Below are pictures of the outside of the right side of the roof and another from inside the building. If left like this it will not be long before the roof completely collapses. Left as is, I predict three years maybe less before it is gone.

Exterior View


Interior View