Save the Pine Bush uses video, raising funds to fight development proposals

— Video “Stop Overdevelopment of Rapp Road by Pyramid” 

Traffic at peak times is significantly backed up, says Save the Pine Bush volunteer Dana Brady in a fundraising video, as headlights from nighttime traffic shine behind her.

GUILDERLAND — They’re not just holding up signs on the street corner any more. 

The decades-old activist group Save the Pine Bush has gone high-tech in its latest protest against Pyramid Management, owner of Crossgates Mall, and its plans for ongoing development within the Pine Bush, a globally rare inland pine barrens.

Two groups — Save the Pine Bush and the Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth — have made a GoFundMe drive, with an embedded video, called “Stop Overdevelopment of Rapp Road by Pyramid.” 

The groups hope to raise $100,000 to hire their own scientists and legal experts to evaluate whatever studies Pyramid may offer about the effect of development on, for instance, the environment or traffic. 

“Times change,” said long-time Save the Pine Bush member Lynne Jackson of the new approach to reaching the public. 

The town is requiring Pyramid to do an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, outlining all potential future development around the mall; data from the EIS will then be used to calculate the cumulative impact on traffic patterns and sewer infrastructure. 

The EIS forces Pyramid, which is not normally forthcoming about its plans, to show its hand. But approval of the EIS would mean that Pyramid does not need to complete a State Environmental Quality Review Act application for each new project within the study area, as long as development remains within the approved parameters. 

In its draft scope, Pyramid outlines its plans to create: 

— 222 apartments and townhouses, as well as 3,900 square feet of commercial space, on 19 acres at Rapp and Gipp roads. Pyramid has already applied to the town to build this project

— 90 more apartments at that same site, which Pyramid says it has no plans to build at this time;

— A 160,000-square-foot building — to become a Costco — on 15 acres at the corner of Crossgates Mall Road and Western Avenue. This site would also have fuel pumps; Pyramid has submitted this site-plan application to the town;

— 115,000 square feet of retail space, 50,000 square feet of office space, and 48 apartments on a third development site of 11.34 acres that Pyramid says it has no current plans to develop. The site is between Costco and the hotel that Pyramid built on Western Avenue and opened a year ago.

All of the parking associated with the total 278,900 square feet of commercial and office space and 360 multi-family units would also be taken into account in the EIS. 

Pyramid received over a million dollars in tax breaks from the Guilderland Industrial Development Agency for the hotel on Western Avenue. It applied, early on in the proposal process, to the IDA for $1.2 million in tax breaks for the Rapp Road apartment project, but asked for a decision to be tabled at the last minute when it seemed certain to go against the company. 


As of Dec. 11, the fund had collected $1,370. 

Is $100,000 a tall order? 

“How much do you think Pyramid is spending on its experts?” asked Jackson rhetorically. “Probably way more than that.” 

The group needs “expert scientists who know their subject matter and can analyze Pyramid’s detailed, complex reports,” she said. 

The four-minute video, “Stop Overdevelopment of Rapp Road by Pyramid,” features Save the Pine Bush volunteer Dana Brady, 29, discussing Pyramid’s plans while standing at sites where the company proposes development on Rapp Road and Western Avenue. 

Brady earned a master’s degree this summer from Green Mountain College in environmental science, she said. Her main area of study was pollinators, which she listed as “bees, bats, and butterflies.”

The text of the video was written mainly by Steven Wickham of the Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth, Brady said, with input from many others, which Wickham confirmed. 

Save the Pine Bush is concerned about the effect that further development within the ecologically rare pine barrens will have on the Karner blue butterfly as well as other species. The butterfly is on the federal and state endangered species lists and lives in pine barrens.

The Rapp Road Historical Association, which supports a neighborhood built by African Americans who came north from Mississippi during the Great Migration, is concerned about development encroaching on the community. The neighborhood, with some of the hand-built houses occupied by descendants of the original settlers, is now on both the state and national registers for historic preservation.

Although the historical association is not part of the GoFundMe drive, it is accepting donations on its own.

In addition to new builds, Pyramid is currently applying to the town’s zoning board of appeals for an area variance to increase the height of an existing theater at Crossgates Mall to 70 feet, making it 25 feet taller than it is now. Save the Pine Bush is concerned about the shadow this may cast on the Butterfly Hill near the theater where wild blue lupine, essential to the life cycle of the Karner blue butterfly, grows.


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