An elected official should have some obligation to the whole of his constituency

To the Editor:

Color me dumbfounded. In all of the unabashed displays of disregard for resident concerns in the face of development interests, this has to reign supreme. 

I am speaking with regard to Sean Mulkerrin’s article of Feb. 11, “Guilderland and Pyramid appeal to move ahead with Costco, 222 apartment units,” and the revelation that town Supervisor Peter Barber has deemed it necessary to help write the appeal to mount “the best defense that we can” to undo “the decision from a State Supreme Court judge that we think was wrong.”

Let me elucidate what Supervisor Barber thinks requires nullification. A 77-page decision replete with case law that upheld that among other things: “…the proposed project does not adequately protect the character of historical and non-historical adjacent neighborhoods.” And “…that the Board failed to account for the fact that the project flies directly in the face of the TOD [Transit Oriented district] requirement that existing neighborhoods be protected, that intense development be kept away from those neighborhoods, and that development which utilizes non-automobile modes of transportation be encouraged.”

You would like to have thought that a take-away by a town supervisor, elected by residents and entrusted with representing their best interests, might have been to process what was handed down in these 77 pages and adopted some perspective for what should have been done differently.

Instead, we got a commitment to moonlight as an additional town attorney, to try to recoup a pittance of what could be lost in town revenue, should Pyramid win its $139 million tax-assessment appeal. And right the wrong of prioritizing the quality of life of the constituency.

The determination around the arguments being put forward by the appellants, along with those of the plaintiffs, will of course be the business of the court. While I would not presume to upstage that role, there were a few points made in the article that compel me to comment.

A premier contention seems to be the issue/standard of “hard look” in making a proper analysis of environmental impact. It is contended that the town’s two-year hard look was improperly annulled.

To this I can say that, indeed, the very first public hearings to discuss the original proposal of just the 222-unit apartment complex date back that far. I was at those meetings.

Following one, as an informal conversation with the planning board chairman continued, what was iterated was that objections didn’t matter and that the project was going to go through. It is through that lens that the town was observing when it came to its two-year hard look.

Also stated, was the extensive outreach between Pyramid and neighborhood residents. Yes, there were about four or five meetings with Westmere Terrace; I was at all of them.

While agreements were established for what could be done to try to ameliorate the undeniable impact that was going to ensue, in reality what was offered was little more than what would have been required to satisfy the conditions of an environmental impact study. But what was made abundantly clear, despite vigorous imploring, Pyramid would consider nothing other than a five-story, maximum-build scenario. 

Then there were the assurances. That Westmere Terrace would not become an access to Rapp Road as part of the proposed development. Yet in the Environmental Impact Statement there it was, the only mitigation strategy to offset the documented worsening traffic conditions that would befall the street.

And the granddaddy of them all, no plans for any further development other than the apartment project. In reality, the site plan for Costco existed in 2017. The rest is history. And the irony of it all, Supervisor Barber was in attendance at several of these meetings.

Justice Peter Lynch stated with regard to standing, “The Petitioners are residents of the Westmere Terrace neighborhood which is contiguous to Site 1. That neighborhood is to be protected under TOD, and their injury claim is within the zone of interest to be protected.

“The record establishes that the 5-story buildings on site 1 will have a visual impact affecting Petitioner’s quality of life, including but not limited to loss of privacy. With respect to site 2, the record establishes visual and noise impacts which also directly affect Petitioners quality of life. Petitioners clearly have established that they will suffer direct injury, distinct from the public at large community.” 

An elected official should have some obligation to the whole of his constituency, even those with whom there is disagreement. At the very least, propriety demanded that Supervisor Barber stand back from this proceeding. To be leading the charge, is the understatement of insulting. 

Iris Broyde


Editor’s note: Iris Broyde lives on Westmere Terrace.

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