Two pairs of Democrats face off in Guilderland’s first primary for town board

Enterprise file photo — Elizabeth Floyd Mair
Chairman Jacob Crawford, in 2020, counts hands among Guilderland Democrats voting on whether to primary.

GUILDERLAND — Democrats next month will be voting in Guilderland’s first primary for town board candidates.

Early voting starts June 12; Primary Day is June 22.

The central issue in this Democrat-dominated, growing suburban town is development. The candidates — two of them endorsed by the Democratic Committee and two of them running together as challengers — are sharply divided on the issue.

The town is currently in the midst of appealing an Albany County Supreme Court decision that halted Pyramid’s plans to build a Costco Wholesale store and a 222-unit apartment complex.

One of the candidates endorsed by the Democratic Committee, incumbent Paul Pastore, voted in favor of the appeal. The other committee-backed candidate, Amanda Beedle, is on the planning board that approved the projects.

The two challengers oppose the Pyramid projects. One of them, Kevin McDonald, a newcomer to politics, is among the Westmere residents who brought the suit stopping the projects.

The other challenger, Christine Napierski, helped push for the change from a caucus system to a primary system to select Democratic candidates. After Napierski had filled a vacancy for town justice, the Democratic Committee chose someone else to back in the next election.

Napierski then unsuccessfully challenged the caucus process in court, lost at the caucus by 21 votes, and pushed for a change to a primary system, which the Democratic Committee ultimately adopted last year.

Democrat Patricia Slavick, who has served on the town board since 2020, is not seeking re-election.

It is likely that, if the challengers are elected, Councilwoman Laurel Bohl — a Democrat who defeated the board’s sole Republican in 2019 — would not be the only dissenter on planning issues.

Bohl had cast the sole dissenting vote on the town board’s motion to appeal the decision that halted Pyramid’s progress.

Prior to her election, Bohl had headed the Guilderland Citizens (now Coalition) for Responsible Growth, a citizens’ watchdog group, and had often been critical of Guilderland’s boards as being too lenient toward developers.

Bohl was also the lone dissenter on the all-Democratic board in January in reappointing the long-time chairman of the planning board; she cited “an extremely harsh rebuke” from the judge in the Pyramid case.

The town board posts are for four years with a salary of $26,449 in 2021.

Not quite half of Guilderland’s roughly 23,000 registered voters are enrolled as Democrats while about a quarter are enrolled as Republicans and more than a quarter are not enrolled or belong to small parties.

 

 

 

Amanda Beedle

 

GUILDERLAND — Amanda Beedle says Altamont is in her blood. The community has given a lot to her, she says, and she wants to give back so is making her first run for elective office, for a seat on the town board, with the backing of the Democratic Committee.

Beedle has worked at Guilderland Town Hall in many capacities and notes her familiarity with day-to-day operations. She has worked as deputy receiver of taxes, deputy town clerk, registrar, and marriage officer, and was appointed to the planning board in 2020, filling a vacancy with a term that ends with 2021.

She currently works for the Capital Region BOCES, providing fixed asset management services.

One of her biggest goals, Beedle said, is to keep moving forward, coming out of the pandemic. She noted that Guilderland has been increasing in its diversity for years and she wants to keep the town open to all.

“Coming back and choosing to re-establish my life as a single mom, as a domestic violence survivor in Altamont, it was the community that helped me and my children thrive,” said Beedle who has five sons.

She said she wants to keep Guilderland “on track to allow lower socio-economic backgrounds to come in.” Beedle is one of nine children raised in a single-income, working-class family who appreciated community support, she said.

Beedle also wants to have a place for the elderly in Guilderland. “So that we have a melting pot of residents in the town of Guilderland where people can be happy and continue to live safely and really enjoy the amenities that the town has provided over many years,” she said.

Beedle would also like to see more sidewalks, and specifically mentioned the need for one along Gun Club Road, stating her research showed that a sidewalk there to Route 146 would cost a million dollars. She said it is important to find “creative ways” to pay for sidewalks as the town has with grants.

Beedle noted a study on connectivity in Guilderland undertaken by graduate students at the University at Albany and said, “COVID put the kibosh on that.” But the town will use the study, Beedle said, to apply for grants.

On planning, Beedle said the planning board needs to do its due diligence to understand concerns. She said that she is not pro-development or anti-development.

“I’m for development that makes sense,” she said. “I’m for development that includes the residents.”

Beedle said she understands the concerns of Westmere Terrace residents with the Pyramid proposal and would gladly have listened to all their concerns. She noted that she was appointed to the planning board in January 2020, which she called late in the process.

“I understand a lot of residents were angry; anger comes from a place of passion,” said Beedle, stating she would look for remedies.

On the board’s decision to appeal, she said, “I do believe that the town should do its due diligence in fighting the appeal, to represent all.” The town board has to look out for the town in its entirety, Beedle said, so it was right to appeal “because it was just one judge’s decision.”

Beedle said the initiative to rewrite Guilderland’s comprehensive plan was properly put on pause due to the pandemic, so that residents could fully participate in the process later.

A comprehensive plan is a living, breathing document, Beedle said, and it has to change. The pandemic has made us all evolve, she said, and neighborhoods change, too.

Beedle said she has met with various neighborhood groups and that “a broad-brush approach” is not the best at times. Guilderland needs a “fresh set of eyes,” she said.

On police reform, Beedle praised the committee members developing Guilderland’s reform plan as diverse and educated.

She likes the recommendation of having a social worker or counselor involved on some police calls. Beedle said she has friends in law enforcement and worries about their safety.

With the pandemic causing spikes in mental-health, suicide, and violence issues, she said, someone with professional training could help de-escalate those situations.

The Guilderland Police Department has taken a hard look at itself in many ways, Beedle said, adding that we need to make sure that both the community and the officers feel safe. “We are all human beings,” she said.

Beedle was enthusiastic about the idea of curbside pick-up of food scraps and of a compost center for the town. She is an avid no-pesticide gardener and composts her family’s food scraps.

“There is a no-waste policy in my house,” she said.

She also would like to see community gardens in other parts of town besides the ones near Tawasentha Park. Community gardens, she said, bring people together, help with food insecurity, and can allow children to work with and learn from their elders.

On revaluation, Beedle said that she realizes from her work at Town Hall that revaluation is time-consuming and very, very expensive, costing over a million dollars. She thought perhaps every seven years would be a good schedule for town-wide revelation.

Her own home’s assessment went up $77,000 with the 2019 revelation, Beedle said, which she thinks is fair. When she worked in the tax office, Beedle said, she would tell residents distressed with their assessments that it would be tricky to one day sell their homes for what they are worth if they were under-assessed.

Homeowners as well as commercial-property owners have the right to challenge their assessments, Beedle said. The process may seem arduous, she said, but is definitely worth the fight.

She noted that the Guilderland Public Library offered courses on how to grieve assessments.

Beedle concluded that she has a lifelong love of public service. She has set up a Facebook page, Amanda Beedle for Guilderland Town Board, that she says portrays “a positive, happy outlook on running for office in the town I love so much.”

She concluded, “I know there are people out there that want change; I’m also a force for change.”

 

 

 

 

Christine Napierski

 

GUILDERLAND — “I think it’s time for a change,” says Christine Napierski, who is one of two candidates challenging the Democratic Committee’s choices for town board.

“The voice of the residents is drowned out by developers,” said Napierski, a lawyer who was raised in Guilderland.

As she has campaigned, Napierski said, she has heard concerns from residents about dilapidated properties, traffic and infrastructure issues, and projects being approved that don’t fit neighborhoods.

Napierski described how she was chosen by the Guilderland Town Board to serve as a town justice after Richard Sherwood resigned in disgrace in 2018. She assumed she’d have the support of the board’s four Democrats, she said, but the Democratic Committee picked Bryan Clenahan instead. She then unsuccessfully challenged the caucus process in court and pushed for a change to a primary system, which the Democratic Committee ultimately adopted.

The caucus process, Napierski said, had disenfranchised Guilderland Democrats while the primary process is more inclusive.

On planning, she said that the town should not have appealed Supreme Court Justice Peter Lynch’s decision, which showed that a Guilderland’s planning process had failed to follow the law substantively or procedurally.

Napierski termed it “a black eye to the town.”

“They should have learned to follow the SEQR law,” she said of the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

“The town should have been advocating for the residents,” Napierski said. She mentioned both the Westmere residents who would have a large apartment complex built near them as well as the residents of the historic Black neighborhood on Rapp Road, settled during the Great MIgration.

The town’s master plan needs to be enforced, Napierski said, stating that too much spot zoning is going on.

She advocated for a town-wide survey on what future development should look like. “We need a mix,” she said.

On police reform, Napierski said the Guilderland committee did a good job. 

Disclosing police records is very important, she said; body cameras as well.

Her favorite part of the reform plan is including mental-health professionals on police calls. When she served as a town judge, she noted some “glaring” problems, Napierski said. It will be great, she said, to have social workers on calls where they are needed.

On the environment, Napierski noted that the neighboring town of Bethlehem has curbside pick-up for food scraps and said it was “a great idea.”

She also said more public transportation is needed and that the town has to preserve green space. She recommended reusing developed space rather than clearing new space.

On revaluation, Napierski said the town should go through the process on a regular basis rather than waiting 12 years.

“The elephant in the room is Crossgates,” she said. Crossgates Mall was assessed to pay its fair share, she said, but now it is suing to cut what it pays in taxes by 50 percent.

“The rest of us are picking up the difference,” she said. Napierski also said, “We should be allowed to see what Crossgates is charging their tenants.”

Napierski concluded by summing up some of the concerns she has heard from residents, to which the town board should be responsive, she said.  Traffic needs to be controlled and residents would like a community center, playgrounds, and parks, to which she believes developers should contribute.

She concluded that she would remain independent of developers.

 

 

 

 

Paul Pastore

 

GUILDERLAND — Paul Pastore says he feels blessed, honored, and privileged to serve the residents of Guilderland.

He has been a councilman since 2006 and is seeking a fifth four-year term with backing from the Democratic Committee.

Before that, Pastore, an attorney, served as counsel for the town’s planning board for six years.

Guilderland reminds him of the town where he grew up in central New York. He came to the area for law school and purchased his Guilderland home about 30 years ago.

Pastore says he values civil discourse and is good at listening to people, hearing all sides without a preconceived notion about how issues should be resolved. 

One of the things he’s proudest of during his long tenure on the board is how “very open and transparent” the town government is.

 He notes that the town board, planning board, and zoning board meetings are all televised, that the town budget is posted on Guilderland’s website, and that the supervisor has written daily updates on COVID-19 throughout the pandemic.

“We’ve done a remarkable job holding the line on taxes,” said Pastore, while still providing needed services.

He credited the town for recently taking over Emergency Medical Services, which he said turned out to be a good thing in the midst of the pandemic, helping with response time and vaccination.

The town has acquired parkland and the Western Turnpike Golf Course, which Pastore called “a jewel,” and has helped McKownville with “stormwater issues,” he said.

Pastore said he is especially proud of the board having hired Guilderland’s first female police chief — Carol Lawlor, who has since retired — which he termed “absolutely seminal” in a view of how jobs should be open to all who are qualified. He called it “phenomenal” that the majority of current town board members — three out of five — are women.

Asked about his goals if elected for another  term, Pastore said the most important is to help improve the quality of life for town residents. He praised town hall employees as being accessible and attentive, and called the highway workers “just incredible.”

His other goals include expanding the town’s parks and trail system, and promoting vital senior programs while providing affordable housing so both seniors and young people can live in Guilderland.

Pastore also named a goal of managing smart growth to balance development, which expands the tax base, with concerns about too much development.

Pastore, who voted in favor of the town appealing Supreme Court Judge Peter Lynch’s decision that halted Pyramis’s plans to build a Costco and a 222-unit apartment complex, said he was limited in what he could say because the matter is currently being litigated.

He noted that town board members were not part of the planning board decision that okayed the projects, and said the town board acted on the recommendation of the town attorney that there was sufficient merit to appeal Lynch’s decision.

The decision to appeal, Pastore said, doesn’t mean the town board is pro-development or pro-Costco or pro-apartment complex; rather, it means there was merit to the appeal.

Pastore believes that the town’s boards follow the comprehensive plan and neighborhood plans when making decisions. He said both Costco and the apartment complex proposed by Pyramid are allowed under the plans.

“You have to have a process and you have to abide by that process,” Pastore said.

“That’s not to say the comprehensive plan shouldn’t be updated ….,” he said. “Planning is dynamic. It changes over time.”

Pastore said that, 16 months ago, Guilderland was gearing up to review its comprehensive plan but was wise to put the review on hold during the pandemic because public input is essential. He said he imagines the update will continue and code will be revised when necessary.

On the Guilderland Police, Pastore said, the most important reform is continued communication and community policing. He cited the National Night Out and the good communication that Guilderland Police have with town residents.

Pastore said that residents should be proud of the department and that candidates to fill openings come from neighboring communities because the department has such a good reputation.

On the environment, Pastore said that the town holds days for document shredding and for disposing of hazardous waste and could expand that beyond twice a year.

He said he’d like to explore composting and ways to remove more from the waste stream.

On revaluation, Pastore said, “I think all the residents are paying their fair share.”

A resident or commercial property owner who believes their assessment is unfair can state their grievance to the Board of Assessment Review, he said, and also can appeal that board’s decision.

“We rely on those independent members to make those decisions,” he said, adding, “Commercial properties often become a battle of experts.”

The process, he said, can be expensive and extensive. The town board has to rely upon those who are well versed, said Pastore, naming the town’s assessor and attorney.

Pastore concluded that he brings “a wealth of experience and knowledge” to the town board. “We’ve done some tremendous things for the residents,” he said.

“You need a commitment to excellence …,” he said. “I treat people with a great deal of respect and courtesy and civility.”


 

 

 

Kevin McDonald

 

GUILDERLAND — Kevin McDonald believes the Guilderland Town Board needs to have some independent voices to inspire “good dialogue” on issues.

He is making his first run for elective office, teaming up with Christine Napierski to challenge the Democratic Committee’s choices.

McDonald, who works with the City of Albany Police Department as a fleet coordinator, has been a union leader for 20 years. He said he is good at listening, mediating, and negotiating.

His goal, if elected, first and foremost, is to “make sure we represent residents of this town,” said McDonald. The residents he’s talked to are concerned with increased traffic and “exploding” development, he said.

He’d like to make sure the building and zoning codes are not trumped and that the character of the town is maintained, McDonald said. He also said that residents are concerned about vacant and dilapidated buildings and that Western Avenue, Guilderland’s major thoroughfare, “looks a little sloppy.”

A resident of Westmere Terrace, McDonald said he found out about Pyramid’s plans to build a massive apartment complex nearby “not by any town officials” but by reading about it in The Altamont Enterprise. The article made him spring into action along with 31 neighbors on his street who signed a petition, he said.

McDonald and his wife, Sarah, along with other Westmere residents Lisa and Thomas Hart, and gas-station owner Jonathan Kaplan in October 2020 filed a lawsuit against both the town of Guilderland and Pyramid Management Group after the town’s planning board approved the company’s proposal for a 222-unit apartment complex on Rapp Road as well as a Costco Wholesale store.

McDonald said that he and his wife and the Harts were the faces “for the entire neighborhood,” which felt their quality of life would be threatened if a five-story apartment building loomed near their single-family homes.

Of Albany County Supreme Court Judge Peter Lynch’s decision, which halted the Pyramid projects, McDonald said the town should have read the decision and taken it to heart and made changes in its approach.

He also said that neighbors don’t recall studies being done. McDonald would like to see the community in the immediate area of a proposed project be engaged before the project is brought to the planning board rather than have the project “sliding” through the process.

On Guilderland’s comprehensive land-use plan, McDonald said it should be a living document and reviewed every five to 10 years. Society changes, he said, as do the needs of people

“It’s definitely time,” he said of the need to review and update the town’s master plan.

Community input is essential, he said, noting that people are busy with their lives and often not aware of or paying attention to what’s going on.

On police reform, McDonald said the Guilderland Police and the reform committee did “a fairly great job.”

Mental-health issues definitely have to be addressed, McDonald said, and training for that is needed. He suggested teaming up with law enforcement or emergency medical services.

McDonald said that a lot of the suggested initiatives require funding and suggested partnerships throughout the county.

On the environment, McDonald said he thinks the town’s program for mulching wood and leaves is great and he would have to look at the financial costs for a town service that would do curb-side pick-up of food scraps for composting.

Recommending another way to help the environment, McDonald said the town could encourage sustainable building with new projects and use of renewable energy. He commended Rosenblum Development for the apartment complex it is planning for its Great Oaks campus in Guilderland, which was awarded $1 million through the state’s Buildings of Excellence competition. The project has a net-zero energy goal.

McDonald said he’d like to see more projects like that.

On revaluation, McDonald said there can be extremely large legal costs for some assessment fights. “The one that sticks out is Crossgates … The town keeps a lot of eggs in that basket and I think it hurts,” he said.

McDonald concluded of his run for office, “I’m a big proponent of making sure the people in this town … run the show.”

He reiterated his concerns about the traffic on Route 20 being “out of control” and said that the city of Albany had dropped the speed limit on Washington Avenue Extension “due to tragedies” and said Guilderland had experienced tragedies, too.

McDonald would like to make sure town residents have safe places to walk and bicycle and he’d like to see more green space being saved.

In some parts of town, McDonald said, there’s not much for residents to do “except look at traffic.”

 

 

Tags:

More Guilderland News

  • The plaintiff, a 1974 Guilderland graduate, claims she was sexually abused as a sixth-grader by her teacher, Roderick Buckley. She told The Enterprise it made her lose her trust in teachers. “This action alleges physical, psychological, and emotional injuries suffered as a result of conduct which would constitute a sexual offense on a minor …,” state the papers filed with Albany County Supreme Court.

  • GUILDERLAND — Next Tuesday, July 27, the school board here will vote on a

  •  In return for a $70.8 million project, Hiawatha Land Development is seeking from the Guilderland IDA about $4.1 million in sales-tax exemptions, about $664,000 in mortgage-recording tax exemptions, and $1.06 million in property-tax exemptions.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.