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FORCE Is Here To Stay

By Daniel Van Riper

Carl Letson and Donald Csaposs of Guilderland, two of the principle organizers of Friends Organized to Resist Crossgates Expansion (FORCE) spoke to the January Save the Pine Bush vegetarian lasagna dinner at 1st Presbyterian Church in Albany, and neither had anything good to say about the Pyramid Corporation or about the Crossgates expansion.

“Pyramid wants to destroy the quality of life in Guilderland and wreak havoc economically,” said Mr. Letson, a registered Democrat. About Pyramid, Mr. Csaposs, a registered Republican, said, “I’ve been in the shopping business for 30 years and they were not nice then. Over the years they’ve gotten worse.”

Mr. Letson became involved in opposition to the expansion when several arrogant Pyramid lackeys tried to buy the McKownville Church, of which he is an active member. During their fluid and oily presentation to the congregation, they treated the members with condescension and “looked at the older members as if they had one foot in the grave and didn’t matter. They kept using the phrase, ‘When we buy your church,’ as if it were a done deal,” said Mr. Letson. When the congregation met again, 96% voted not to sell. “Pyramid has been scrambling since then,” he said.

At the first public meeting to discuss the expansion, some 400 people showed up, and 70 people signed up as volunteers. “This is not an up-rising,” he said, “but a rising up, a grass roots rising up.” FORCE reflects a wide variety of viewpoints, is “here for the long run,” and is already looking beyond the Crossgates war. “We are thinking of changing our name to Friends Organized for Responsible Community Expansion,” Mr. Letson said, “but we’re still discussing that.”

Donald Csaposs, known for non-stop letter writing to area publications about local issues, called himself “a numbers guy.” He told us that Crossgates currently occupies 171 acres, which is less than one half of one percent of the town land, yet represents 11 and a half percent of the town’s economic base. ” When you’ve got that,” he said, “you’ve got juice, and they intend to use juice for their own benefit.” If the expansion proposal is carried out, Crossgates will represent 16 percent of the town’s economy. “They basically run the town now,” he said. “Imagine what will happen.”

Crossgates had a staggering $324 million in sales in 1997, and generated $3.5 million in sales tax. But Albany County is probably going to repeal the sales tax, so the shortfall will probably have to be made up in property taxes, Mr. Csaposs pointed out. “This will probably cost [City of Albany mayor] Jerry Jennings somewhere too. We can all look forward to a 4.5% – 5% increase in property taxes.”

In answer to a question, Mr. Letson believes that Pyramid may be planning to turn Crossgates into a giant casino if the current governor gets his way and legalizes gambling. “There’s a definite possibility of gambling,” he said. “Casino gambling is the only thing that makes sense about the expansion. They’ve already held a ‘gambling day’ for the Elk’s Club in a tent in the parking lot of Crossgates, and they’ve sponsored bus trips to the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. The plan seems to be to get people used to the idea.”

Mr. Letson said, “We want to make Pyramid and the town play our game, we don’t want to play their game. We want everything to be in the light of day. We want to have public officials show where they are by their public behavior.” Mr Csaposs added, “If we can return power to the people, we can build something new.”

JOIN FORCE! Send your name, street address, e-mail and (if you want) phone number to: FORCE P.O. Box 286, Guilderland, NY 12084 Contributions are always needed, please make checks out to FORCE. Visit their website.

published Feb/Mar 1999 Newsletter
Last updated 2/13/98

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