Murdered By Pyramid
It Could Happen Here
By Daniel Van Riper
Public officials and neighborhood activists are holding the notorious Pyramid Corporation responsible for the traffic death of a young mother outside Buffalo, NY. Pyramid operates the Walden Galleria Mall in the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga, and is responsible for Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, which destroyed a vast area of prime Pine Bush.
According to the February 19 issue of Time Magazine, the Pyramid Corporation had prohibited busses from downtown Buffalo from stopping on mall property. For over eight years, busses were forced to discharge the mostly black inner city passengers some 300 yards away from the edge of the parking lot on a seven lane highway with no sidewalks. Of course, busses from predominantly white areas could stop in front of the mall building.
Last December 14, 17 year old single mother Cynthia Wiggins, on her way to a typical low-wage mall job, was struck by a dump truck while exiting the bus. She died of her injuries on January 2.
Time Magazine, which usually caters to corporate interests, called this situation bus-route discrimination. Professor Henry L. Taylor of SUNY Buffalo called it "sanitized, guiltless racism". Pyramid media handlers have denied everything, despite a pile of public paperwork proving that the mall operators have repeatedly prevented the bus from stopping at the mall.
A former store owner told Time that when he first rented space at the mall, he was told by Pyramid salespersons, "you'll never see an inner-city bus on mall premises". Faced with public pressure and an imminent boycott, Pyramid has finally allowed inner city busses to pull up with the others.
What About Albany?
Long time Save the Pine Bush supporter Bert Schou, who holds a middle management position at the CDTA (Capital District Transportation Authority) told us while standing in line at a lasagna dinner that downtown Albany busses have always stopped at Crossgates Mall. "That was one of the concessions Pyramid made in order to get approval for building the mall," he said. "We made them let the busses stop there." Bert was quite passionate about this point, he offered to back up his statement with documentation.
CDTA, however, has been drastically cutting back on bus service, and much of the cutbacks in service are links between downtown cities and the suburbs. For example, it is no longer possible to go directly by bus from downtown Albany to Latham, effectively prohibiting people in Albany without cars from working or shopping at Latham Circle Mall or Latham Farms Mall. Could the top management of CDTA be engaging in racism and economic discrimination?
Bert doesn't think so. He pointed out the amount of federal money available for public transportation in the Capital District has been slashed by 49%. (This situation is a by-product of the yapping peabrains who currently control the US Congress.) He feels that CDTA is doing the best it can in a bad situation, and is actually improving service in some places.
It is worth noting that the local media failed to pick up on the story of Cynthia Wiggins' death at the hands of the Pyramid Corporation, probably afraid to criticize such a large purchaser of advertising space.
Why Should SPB Care?
Adequate mass transportation is vital to Pine Bush preservation. Downtown Albany, Schenectady and Troy are constantly under negative economic pressure by their own city administrators, who still follow the outmoded notion of encouraging suburbanization in order to stimulate growth. As a result, businesses flee the cities for the suburbs, taking jobs and tax revenue with them.
Lower income city residents thus cannot find jobs near their homes, and must commute to the suburbs. If public transportation is not available, most of these folks are forced into unemployment. Unemployment, most experts agree, is the root cause of urban decay. The more the cities disintegrate, the more businesses run to the suburbs, and want new offices in places like the Pine Bush.
Lack of mass transport forces more people to buy and operate automobiles. More cars means more demand for roadways. One major issue right now is the proposed widening of Rt. 155, which would be devastating for the Pine Bush ecosystem. At the present, daily traffic is light enough in the Pine Bush that widening 155 is not imperative. Decent mass transportation would go a long way toward alleviating traffic pressure on the Pine Bush.
Printed Mar/Apr 96