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Pyramid Goes To Court

Sprawl Malls Need Lawyers, Too

By Daniel W. Van Riper

Economic Racism When the Pyramid Corporation built the Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga, a suburb of Buffalo, NY, they told prospective tenants "you'll never see an inner city bus stop here," meaning, of course, that they would never see any low income black people in their clean white sprawl mall. As a result, busses from downtown Buffalo had to stop 800 yards away on an eight lane highway. In December of 1995 the inevitable result of Pyramid's behavior happened. Seventeen year-old single mother Cynthia Wiggins, on her way to a low-paying mall job (because all the retail jobs in downtown Buffalo have been destroyed by mall jobs) was struck and killed by a truck. We are delighted to report that Ms. Wiggins' family filed a lawsuit for $150 million at the end of June, rightly holding Pyramid responsible for her murder. Pyramid mouthpiece Robert Watkins demonstrated the irresponsible attitude of his corporation when he claimed that Ms. Wiggins was jaywalking. "She made a choice," Watkins arrogantly sputtered. "That was her decision to try to get to the mall the way she did. Wiggins' own conduct was the sole cause of this accident." Money will not bring Cynthia back, but perhaps the child orphaned by Pyramid will face a better future if the suit is successful. We hope justice prevails for Ms. Wiggins' family.

Tax Deadbeats For the seventh straight year, Pyramid is challenging the Town of Guilderland tax assessment of Pyramid Sprawl Mall. While indeed they have been paying their taxes, these challenges could turn into a multi-million dollar windfall for Pyramid that could impoverish both Guilderland and Albany County. The sprawl mall is assessed at $198 million, but Pyramid claims it is only worth $120 million (about 40% less), which is just a little more than what it was assessed at when it was half the size it is now. Clearly there is little merit to Pyramid's claims, but assessment challenges usually yield results so it is worthwhile to them to be irresponsible. The biggest argument is over the recently expanded 18 screen movie theater, which Save the Pine Bush unsuccessfully tried to stop. Guilderland values it at $9 million but Pyramid claims it worth a mere $328,000.

They Hate Democracy No one was surprised that billionaire corporation Pyramid has filed suit in early June against the people of the Town of Guilderland for attempting to exercise their rights. In March, the town declared a moratorium on building projects greater than 20,000 square feet, and in May of last year enacted zoning changes that made high-rise building untenable. These measures effectively put a halt to Pyramid's grand plan to turn Crossgates into the second largest super-sprawl mall in the country, and possibly a gambling casino. What does Pyramid's suit contend? 1) The Town did not follow the State Environmental Quality Review Act 2) Proper legal notice was not filed in one case 3) There's a conspiracy against Pyramid 4) The Town had no legal right to hold public information meetings. Guilderland Supervisor told the Hearst-owned Times Union that Pyramid is "grasping at straws, in an attempt to get around the law."

published July/August 1999 Newsletter
Last Updated 7/18/99


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