Pyramid is Back! Hoblock Makes A Deal

by Daniel W. Van Riper, July/Aug. 92

Pyramid Corporation, hiding behind an entity called Albany Commons Associates, wants to buy prime Pine Bush from Albany County and build strip malls. The acreage threatened with destruction, located along Washington Ave. Extension, is supposedly part of the 2000 acre Pine Bush Preserve that the State has ordered the city of Albany to set aside.

In a sleazy backroom deal between Republican county executive Michael Hoblock and Pyramid advance man Robert Ungerer, 45 acres of county owned Pine Bush will be sold to Pyramid for approx. $850,000. About 40 acres will then be given to the City of Albany as a reward for bending the City's zoning laws so that Pyramid can build their strip malls.

Documents filed in various courts by the City of Albany have repeatedly included this land as already set aside for preserve. Awarding the permit for expanding the City Dump was partly dependent upon this acreage being protected. It turns out the City has no control over the use of this land, and may be a case of perjury on their part.

Pyramid, builder and operator of Crossgates Mall, is under indictment for bribery in the town of Poughkeepsie. The erection of Crossgates destroyed 180 acres of Pine Bush, and was accomplished by numerous threats of local citizens, and by strategic "campaign contributions" to state and local officials. Their most recent accomplishment was the creation of the Carousel Mall in Syracuse on top of a toxic waste dump. Workers who asked for protective clothing before working in the hazardous material were simply fired and replaced by others with less sense.
According to articles in the Daily Gazette and the Hearst-owned Times Union, County officials are welcoming the deal as a partial solution to the County's fiscal crisis. Pyramid approached the county with their proposed arrangement after reading newspaper articles about how officials were hoping that someone would buy the land.

Commentary

by Daniel W. Van Riper, July/Aug. 92

On the shores of beautiful Lake Skaneateles in the Finger Lakes region, the rewards of corporate irresponsibility and criminal behavior can be found. Much of the lakefront property is owned by Pyramid Corporation and doled out as rewards to their executives, minions and allies. The nearest Pyramid mall is quite a distance away, in Syracuse.

For this sort of payoff, the folks at Pyramid will do literally anything to get their way. Back in the late 70's, when SPB was just being organized, Concerned Citizens Against Crossgates fought valiantly to stop the unneeded mall. The chief organizers of the group received numerous telephone threats, including a threat to bomb the building where the hearings were being held. Construction workers were actually being paid to testify in favor of the mall, $25 to show up, $40 to speak and $50 to stay until the end. These fellows probably expected preferential treatment when Pyramid was hiring.

Yet Pyramid has a dismal, if not downright disgraceful record of labor relations, and is known for not paying local contractors and suppliers on time, or at all. Local contractors still remember how Pyramid hired a bulldozer to knock down the scaffolds around the outside of Crossgates, and buried them in what is now the parking lot. It seems that the folks at Pyramid wanted to meet a deadline, and couldn't wait for the owners to dismantle the scaffolds. No compensation was ever paid.

Given Pyramid's track record of bribery, bad faith and dirty tricks, there is no reason to suppose that they will actually hand over the 40 acres of preserve to the City of Albany, even if the sale is contingent upon transfer of the land. Since when has Pyramid ever respected state and local ordinances? If a permit to build is denied, they will probably just keep the land and do as they please with it.

What can a solidly non-violent group like SPB do against such a monster? We can challenge the approval. We can raise public awareness, and tell county and city officials that we will remember how they all sucked up to Pyramid come November. Perhaps we can ask the state to withdraw the permit for the Albany Dump.
Maybe we can take a day trip to beautiful downtown Skaneateles, find a crowded public spot and talk loudly about what a bunch of scum-eaters the folks at Pyramid are. Maybe ruin a few holidays that way.


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