Joseph Levy on the Bike Path Controversy

[JK:Another great story by Joseph Levy]

Even Bike Trails Can Be Paved With Good Intentions (Or Not)

By Joseph Levy

What may (or not) be this election season’s latest issue is officially known as the Geyser Road – Spa State Park Bicycle Pedestrian Trail. As currently proposed, the paved path would follow a route parallel to Geyser Road from the Milton town line, just east of Rowland Street, to the Avenue of Pines. At the western end, this would connect trails in the town of Milton, and beyond, to trails in the Saratoga Spa State Park at the eastern end. In turn, the latter would link to the existing and proposed Greenbelt trails encircling the city. The Spa Park trails were recently extended to the Railroad Run trail that begins in downtown Saratoga Springs, so that ultimately one would be able to travel by bike or foot between the outer districts and downtown on a safe byway, isolated from motor vehicle traffic.

At a hearing before the City Council on August 1st, residents spoke for and against the existing proposal, which has been in the works in various forms since 2005. Adding to the mix was a recent offer from the Slack Chemical Co. and its neighbor, beverage distributor Saratoga Eagle, both owners of wooded lands roughly three-quarters of a mile west of Geyser Road. They offered to donate land to the city for free so that the trail could wind through this otherwise vacant parcel, saving the city from acquiring land along the currently proposed right-of-away.

Although some conceptual maps were on display as part of project engineer Peter Faith’s opening presentation, one of the problems I had in evaluating the pros and cons was the absence of published maps delineating the various schemes. So, based on the presentation, I came up with the map below. The city’s current proposal is the Red Route and one concepts for the Slack/Eagle alternative is the Green Route.

BikePath1

The Red Route has been under consideration since 2005 and has a total budget of about $3 million, mostly funded by state and federal grants. In addition to the trail, these funds would improve the intersection of Geyser Road and Route 50, which the trail would cross to join the existing path, which continues parallel to the Avenue of the Pines. The nationwide financial crisis of 2008-2009 put this and many other infrastructure projects on the back burner for a few years, so along with the economic recovery, came the incentive to finish this trail, with a target of 2018.

In his presentation, Mr. Faith pointed out that the Slack/Eagle Green Route had numerous problems and was impractical for a number of reasons, including:

1. The Geyser Road bridge over the railway was recently rebuilt to include accommodation for pedestrians and bicycles on the north side. The alternate Green Route would require a new bridge, not only over the rail line, but over Geyser Creek, as well, pushing costs up another $1 million or so. This is to say nothing of the need for new engineering and environmental impact studies, especially since it’s been reported that the Karner Blue butterfly lives in these woods and that there’s a wide swath of wetlands in those lands, to boot.

2. The alternate proposal would still fail accomplish the primary goal of a continuous path from the Milton town line to the Spa State Park. Let me add that at twice the length of the Red Trail along Geyser Road, the cost of the Green Trail, including additional grading, paving, and a bridge or tunnel, would turn this into a $6 million project and push it back another three to five years.

While the hearing was specifically called to discuss the issue of eminent domain in pursuit of an unbroken right-of-way, many residents and one business owner from the Geyser Road area spoke in favor of the project. Currently, there is no continuous sidewalk along the road and the paved shoulder is too narrow for even a vehicle to pull over. Most speakers favored the major objective of providing a direct, safe pathway for biking and walking from the local neighborhoods to and from the Geyser Road Elementary School, the adjacent local park, the Spa State Park and, ultimately, downtown Saratoga. One resident pointed out that even if the alternate route were to be built, kids would still walk or bike down the much shorter (and much more dangerous) Geyser Road shoulder.

Although residents on the south side of Geyser Road generally favored the plan, Jack Pompay, one of the opponents who spoke at the hearing, lives on the north side of the road and, as shown on a chart presented by Mr. Faith, is one of four private  property owners whose land would be needed to complete the project. Mayor John Romano of Ballston Spa, which owns a nearby reservoir situated on a parcel with frontage on Geyser Road, raised several objections, as well.

To be perfectly clear, the city’s claim would be limited to frontage along the road, perhaps 8 or 10 feet deep, and not target entire properties. Most of the parcels subject to this action include structures set far enough back from the road as to be be unaffected. The net change has more to do with relocating landscaping features, such as the scrubs and fencing, than relocating or displacing families.

Mr. Pompay lives at 111 Geyser Road and, as you can see from photos excerpted from Google Earth, the right-of-way would necessitate removing or moving the mature shrubbery that borders his front yard. As a point of fact, Mr. Pompay would stand to loose 0.09 acres of a parcel that totals 7.83 acres. That’s less than 1/10th of an acre.

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The other private property owners are Munter Land Holdings LLC (they would loose 0.04 acres out of 45.83 acres of vacant land), Van Hall Holdings LLC (0.07 acres out of 3.58 acres of vacant land), and the Saratoga Springwater Co. (0.6 acres out of 46.6 acres).  Thomas Harrington, Jr, who owns 159 Geyser Road, had concerns about how much of his property, if any, would be taken, but he was not on the list presented by Mr. Faith. Neither was the property at 119 Geyser Road, right next to Mr. Pompay’s, though it would seem that strips of both parcels would be necessary to complete the trail.

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In 2005, the principle of property owner’s absolute right to their land was struck down by the US Supreme Court in a Connecticut case known as Kelo v. City of New London. Like it or not, a claim of eminent domain in the furtherance of development is perfectly legal. Despite this, Amanda Jackson, an attorney with the law firm of Harris Beach announced that she was representing both Mr. Pompay and the Saratoga Springwater Co. and would oppose any attempt to claim eminent domain over their respective properties in court.

Dave Morris, a commentator well known to readers of this blog, also came forward to denounce the process and served notice that two Geyser Road property owners, whom he did not name, also planned to sue the city over eminent domain. He took a very aggressive stance and claimed that two of the city council members, also unnamed, had privately admitted to him that they thought the Red Trail had safety concerns due to its proximity to the very busy thoroughfare, an argument used by everyone who spoke against it. Although he did not mention his exact residence before addressing the council, there is a David Morris who lives on Tamarack Trail in the Geyser Crest development, off the south side of Geyser Road. His property would be unaffected.

The figures, noted above, show that the actual amount of eminent domain-related  property under discussion is fairly minuscule, so what’s the big brew-ha-ha all about? What’s missing from the public view? To find out, a mutual friend put me in touch with someone who has closely followed this project from the beginning and who is familiar with many of the principals. This individual, who preferred to remain anonymous (let’s call him Deep Woods) mentioned a number of points, to which I will add a couple based on my own observations:

1. The appraiser, who was hired to evaluate the proposed parcel buy-outs, apparently lacked certain diplomatic skills and offended land owners with both his manners and his math. To illustrate this point, Mayor Romano mentioned that Ballston Spa was offered a mere $1,800 for about 1/4 of an acre of prime road frontage. This, after being threatened with an eminent domain action before there was even an opportunity to negotiate, among other insults.

2. We know from his posts elsewhere on this blog that Dave Morris despises Mayor Yepsen, who backs the trail, as proposed, along Geyser Road.

3. Deep Woods alleged that Adam Madkour, the CEO of the Saratoga Springwater Co., is an extreme conservative who also despises Mayor Yepsen and is also thought to be the financial backer of the proposed lawsuits against the city’s eminent domain actions, including one by Mr. Pompay (Ms. Jackson pretty much confirmed this).

4. Saratoga Springs Republican supervisor candidate John Safford spoke up, as well, and urged the city to delay action until it had more thoroughly considered the proposal by Saratoga Eagle and Slack Chemical. He was defeated for mayor by Yepsen in 2015 and was also the recipient of campaign donations from Jeff Vukelic, the president of Saratoga Eagle.

Frankly, it looks like the principal objections are coming from individuals who are out to embarrass the mayor over a project that she’s promoted and worked to advance for the past several years. But what’s the point? She’s not running for re-election, the Geyser Road Trail was initiated by her predecessor and will be certainly by inaugurated by her successor, so why gang up on her now? I’m not a big believer in conspiracies, but there seems to be some sort of political mischief at work here, if only by coincidence.

If I may further editorialize, the safety objections are superfluous. Mayor Romano suggested that increased foot traffic would lead kids to stray from the path, go into the woods and then into the reservoir, where they might drown. Of course, they could do that now and what would stop them? The whole point of the path is to increase safety for bikers and hikers, as attested to by many of the speakers. If there is a genuine need for additional safety measures, then put a low fence or bollards between the path and the road. Should conditions call for it, this can always be done retroactively.

Rather than waste money on a legal dispute that it’s likely to win, anyway, the city should negotiate a reasonable price with Ballston Spa, put a fence around the reservoir to limit their liability (why isn’t it there now?), and apologize for the appraiser’s ill-mannered treatment of the mayor. It should take the same action with the property owners. Offer them a generous settlement, relocate their fences and shrubs, and agree to a year’s worth of maintenance in order to guarantee restoration of the landscaping to its original appearance.

The next hearing will be this Tuesday, August 15, and the public is invited to submit additional comments, after which the comment period will end. If you’re really passionate about this, don’t just comment here — tell it to the City Council where the vote to proceed, modify, or delay will take place.

For additional insight, a LookTV video of the August 1st City Council meeting can be viewed on YouTube http://www.looktvonline.com/saratoga-council-meeting-8-1-17/. This particular discussion begins at marker 8:08:00. If you’re curious to see and hear Dave Morris in action, he comes in at marker 1:27:25.

22 thoughts on “Joseph Levy on the Bike Path Controversy”

  1. Mr. Levy,

    First, you do NOT know or can even begin to understand the complexity of this issue – HOW it all happened, WHY it happened, or anything of the like. To assume you do, well…. you know what happens when people ‘assume’….

    I will offer you the same exact thing I did to the city council and the SWNA members: meet me on Geyser Rd and I will show EXACTLY where that trail goes and what it does to people’s property. And I will let you talk to others within the crest as well as on the road itself that agree this trail is NOT safe.

    Let me assure of this: the city will probably be looking at at LEAST SEVEN lawsuits over this. And they will NOT win them – and NO ONE is backing off either.

    Now, please do NOT speak for me. Here is my contact info if anyone actually what to know the TRUTH about this fiasco (and it should be noted I asked Mr. Kaufmann to get the REAL story about this out – and he basically ignored me – so please, bring John along with you as well – and I’ll bring someone along we all know as well to verify the TRUTH about what happened.

    But I’ll promise you this: you will NOT believe what you will see – or hear. And I’ll back it all up too.

    So – the ball’s in YOUR court gentlemen.

    Dave Morris
    10 Tamarack Trail
    Saratoga Springs, NY
    518-583-0459
    dmorris1@nycap.rr.com

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  2. Joe, John,

    I need to make one other important point here: not one person to my knowledge that is against this plan is against a bike trail. In fact, we all think it’s a great idea that is long overdue. The problem is within the plan itself, how it was handled (12 YEARS without anyone being directly impacted – including a neighboring village hat is vehemently against this), the cost and most importantly – the SAFETY, because no one understands that part of it more than the Geyser Rd. residents themselves.

    There was also some false “reporting in the Times Union concerning this project. One thing from it I will point out here is that it said that the town of Milton ‘had already constructed it’s side of trail”.

    This is absolutely, positively FALSE. The town of Milton put in sidewalks that has an expressed ordinance that bikes are NOT allowed on the sidewalks. The ONLY place for bikes to ride at that point is in the street itself: Geyser Rd. – which has over 12,000 cars a day on it – and many of which are tractor trailers, buses and heavy delivery vehicles. To my knowledge, neither the current town supervisor OR the two candidates for his position are in favor of the bike trail either.

    A quick note on eminent domain here as well. Eminent domain should be used as an absolute last resort ONLY. That is NOT the case here. The mayor is trying to force this with 30 days, which is ridiculously impossible for anyone to get a study completed – and then to have someone else pay for it as well. Had this all be open and transparent in the past 12 years, then she might have a legitimate argument, but it was NOT. People are STILL finding out about it now, 12 years after the fact. It was all done within the SWNA, which unless you are a paid member, you have no idea what was going on in there. It isn’t even a ‘real’ neighborhood association, because the vast majority of the neighborhood isn’t even included in it! That in effect makes it a special interest group, and NOT a neighborhood association.

    And concerning how ‘believe’ the trail will or could go: there are MANY different ways to do this – many of which are not even a part of the alternative proposal the mayor refused to look at at the last council meeting (btw – Joanne scheduled a 10 minute HEARING for eminent domain, then put forth over 40 mins. worth of presentations that were all for this plan, while shutting everyone down to 3 mins. when it was SUPPOSED to be open to talk as long as needed. By hey! That’s being open, fair and transparent, right?). Here’s a simple suggestion off of Joe’s thoughts that makes perfect sense: go one b;lock into Geyser Crest where there is a LOT less traffic, no large vehicles and it’s certainly more quiet and scenic. We’d safe a bundle in retaining walls alone – and save a LOT of lawsuits in the process – but the mayor refuses to discuss it.

    I want to be fair and transparent here too. I was – was! – a member of the SWNA. The last meeting I attended I walked out because the SWNA refused to let residents from Geyser Rd. itself speak on the trail. I had politely requested time for this THREE TIMES in ‘writing’ (ok – emails) to Molly Gagne, who refused all three times stating it was ‘not a neighborhood issue’. I had to interrupt the meeting just so these people could be heard (and they certainly WERE heard when Molly stated she had personally talked to everyone on the road about the trail – because she hadn’t. And these were people that lived RIGHT behind her on the same block between Eureka Dr. and Hayes Dr. too. I would be MORE than happy to forward you those emails, as well as get you in touch with those people that did try to be heard that evening.

    As for my disgust of Joanne Yepsen? YES – and she’s earned that because of her political maneuverings behind closed doors like this (open and transparent she positively is NOT). And I will NEVER apologize for calling out the truth, be it about her or anyone or anything else. Her track record speaks for itself however. And folks? I’m a registered democrat. But it’s people like Joanne that make me stand up when I see something wrong – and I will continue to do that so long as I can still draw a breath. AND – you will see it again tomorrow, guaranteed.

    So again – the ball is in your court. You can either learn the truth and report about this fairly, or continue to make assumptions and ignore the truth and facts about all of this. I certainly hope you choose the former, and become truly informed before making a decision on this issue.

    Hopefully, you will do the right thing here. get BOTH sides of this story. THAT is how you can discern the facts from the fiction.

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  3. One thing I forgot to note: the picture of the home you show on 159 Geyser Rd. is owned by Tom Harrington. He was the gentlemen who spoke right after me. As you can tell by his own words, no one said a word to him in 12 years (and yes, that is me yelling back at the council that I was the one that told him about it all). If you bothered to actually measure like we did, the trail will remove the light, flag pole and trees. You do NOT show the garage on the other side of the driveway that will probably have to come down as well. That home was built in 1952 when there was all of 5 homes on the street.

    And I DID say what family was suing, and it’s NOT E.D. – it’s right of way, which has changed on that road dramatically throughout the years. Keep this in mind: when some of those homes were built that was a single lane dirt road (many called it ‘Airport Rd. then). When it was widen for two lanes, land was taken from these homes to do it. More was taken when it was paved, even more when they repaved and added drainage. Now things you see now – and people’s wells too – are in the ‘right of way’.

    There is another where the bike trail is smack dab in the middle of a family’s driveway. Do they park in the middle of the bike trail?

    As to that family I handed the letters of intent from? That’s is MY family. My cousins. My grandfather owned the land between the strip mall and the watershed since 1933, and it was parceled out to his children throughout the years. That car garage and bus company are ‘family’ as well (the bus garage was sold when my uncle passed away). I now reside two short blocks from my childhood home. I am MORE educated in the land of that area – and the people that have long resided there as not only my family, but friends and neighbors too. I hide that from no one.

    And we ALL find it unfathomable that in 12 years, no one could be bothered to speak to anyone about the possibility of taking their property from them. I feel pretty confidant in saying that you and Joe would have done the same thing (in fact – it wasn’t that long ago when you fought the Moore Hall project, was it?).

    You see, there is SOOOO much more to this than you can possibly know – even MUCH more than I have shown you all here. That’s why we stand united, and will fight this plan with everything we have. We KNOW the truth about it all, and will make sure it comes out so people can then make a fair assessment about it all.

    Hopefully you will both do the right thing and join me on Geyser Rd. to learn the REAL story behind it all.

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  4. Thr village of Ballston.Spa has been ignored. Belittled and berated by Yepsen and Meg Kelly. The city has proven it can’t be trusted by its own residents, Town of Milton and the Village of Ballston Spa. The fallacy of eminent domain based on safety is a false premise fore there are real safe alternatives to this death race bike path

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    1. I find it sickening that they push this trail as being ‘safe’. Safe would be guardrails and/or curbing, none of which this plan contains. One brief glance at your phone and….. There is NOTHING to stop it from happening either.

      The ‘claim’ is 12 years in the making make this ‘safe’. The ‘claim’ is DOT did a study (beg to differ here, but DOT is about vehicles, NOT pedestrians, which fall under public safety from my understand. In which case, why is Chris Mathiesen mum on this? Why did he call this trail ‘safe’ at a recent council meeting – when he told me IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CITY COUNCIL ROOM directly it was not safe, and it was on the wrong side of the road when his deputy pulled him over to talk to me about it after I sent her a note concerning it? (so note to Mr. Kaufmann – there’s one for you). In fact, the commission chuckled and noted it was ‘another one of Joanne’s follies’ or something to that effect and agreed with me COMPLETELY that this was not safe (and by ALL means Chris when you read this, please refute that if you can).

      And as a Public Safety commissioner, what did you do about Chris? When I directly – and a LOT more than once – asked you to meet me on Geyser Rd. to see the issues and talk to the people yourself?

      NOTHING. Not a damn thing.

      In case anyone – and especially Chris – is wondering, THAT is why I said you should be ashamed of yourself Commissioner at the last council meeting.

      Perhaps you would like to talk to a crossing guard that worked at the Geyser School until she quit because she didn’t want to see another child get killed on that road – and is petrified of the city actually pushing for this trail that would encourage even more kids to cross that busy and unsafe street?

      But I want to own up here too. I’m adult enough to admit I made a mistake. And here’s one I made:

      I supported Chris Mathiesen over Sarah Burger.

      It’s a mistake I will NOT make again. Sarah? This is a public apology to you for what I said and did to you. I was wrong, and I apologize to you for what I did. I am truly sorry. I know that if you were the commissioner of Public Safety there is no way you would stand for this fiasco – and that we would also have a firehouse that we have needed for wayyyy too long now as well (not to mention a few less lawsuits in the process).

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  5. “…many residents and one business owner from the Geyser Road area spoke in favor of the project. ”

    Be clear here Joe! Those ‘residents’ were all paying members of the SWNA or from the greenbelt trail. There were also quite a few people that lived on Geyser Rd. but did NOT speak out (you can ask them why they did not yourself if you like should you garner the courage to take me up on my offer to meet on Geyser Rd).

    And one business owner. One – of how many Joe? NONE in the tech park are for it (many won’t state it publicly for obvious reasons). Clarkies is against it. Upstate Transit is against it. Why don’t you mention that? Btw? That ‘one business owner’ and I met. He was concerned about people walking from his brewery/distillery to SPAC where he let these people park cars. And buy beverages from him. Alcoholic ones I might add. And then he told me he was angry at Saratoga Water because they should be concerned about liability issues too from allowing people to park there.

    Except they don’t serve alcohol and send people out to walk on a busy street with a bunch of concert goers who might have already been drinking and such themselves.

    There’s a bit of hypocrisy there, isn’t there? He also stated – and this is public record – that he looks forward to ‘serving’ people along that bike trail.

    OH! And the city GAVE HIM A LOAN for that business too!!!

    Think about that all you like. Really. Take your time…..

    He also told me that he didn’t understand what was happening on the OTHER end of the road. When I explained it to him he understood – and stated “I have no idea why they didn’t put that trail on the other side of the road either”.

    But hey! What do I know? I’m only the ONLY PERSON that bothered to actually talk to people on that road. Did YOU?

    Nope. Didn’t think so.

    But I’m giving you a chance Joe (and John!) Again – 518-583-0459. I’m easy to find!

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  6. And look at the beautiful bike/walking trails in Glens Falls/Queensbury and Malta, and Ballston Spa. Not to mention the taking of land, back in the 1960s, to build our Northway (I-87).
    But, unfortunately, Saratoga Springs and Town of Milton can’t get it done. What a shame.

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    1. Henry37: All they had to do was work WITH the residents and businesses of Geyser Rd. They refused to do that (and still do). Shouldn’t people be asking “why” by now???

      Right now we are all looking at YEARS of lawsuits. I can assure that NO ONE on this side of the fence is folding their hand. EVERYONE is united. The best and fastest way to get this trail built is for everyone involved to meet and work it out – and the city refuses.

      Simply? They blew it. And they KNOW they blew it.

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    2. Henry37 – I missed this last night somehow…

      The town of Milton is not losing any land here – the village of Ballston Spa is. Milton however is NOT happy with the trail ‘dumping’ people in the middle of the busiest road within their township because it’s a VERY obvious safety hazard. As for Ballston Spa? They are fighting this to the bitter end just as the rest of us are.

      And this is NOT the northway – it’s a flippin’ bike trail with a LOT of different options that can be used. In fact, the ORIGINAL concept for this was to connect to the Y to make it faster to get closer to town – and that was through the Pitney farms. It changed when the Pitney’s nixed it because they were renting out the land to farmer’s. THAT is when it moved to Geyser Rd. – on the OTHER side of the road. Damn those pesky facts, eh?

      I want to stress this again: no one that is against this plan is against a bike trail. This isn’t even a ‘NIMBY’ issue. It’s about doing the right thing – and the SWNA and the city BOTH failed miserably in that aspect. And both will pay dearly for their mistakes (and unfortunately, so will the taxpayers given the amount of lawsuits on this now).

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  7. Things that happen when people do NOT do their homework:

    Re:
    “Frankly, it looks like the principal objections are coming from individuals who are out to embarrass the mayor over a project that she’s promoted and worked to advance for the past several years. But what’s the point? She’s not running for re-election, the Geyser Road Trail was initiated by her predecessor and will be certainly by inaugurated by her successor, so why gang up on her now? I’m not a big believer in conspiracies, but there seems to be some sort of political mischief at work here, if only by coincidence.”

    It has NOTHING to do with embarrassing Joanne (quite frankly, she does enough of that herself). What is has to do with first is safety, cost (this can be done MUCH cheaper without a doubt and without having to take property, build large retaining walls – and btw? you claim of a million dollars for a bridge over that ‘creek’ is laughable. Apparently you’ve never been back in those woods – let understand a small pedestrian bridge built over a small creek is not only cheaper but a hell of a lot safer than a bridge with an ‘addition’ that is so safe you can stand on it and reach the ‘safety screen’ – and the passing bus as it blows you into the screen. Try it sometime – THEN you’ll understand it).

    And then there is thing small little thing about ‘doing it right’.

    If you consider ‘doing it right’ is not telling your neighbors and constituents that you plan on stealing their land from them after you’ve planned doing so for 12 years? “Here’s your sign!”

    If you believe this is done for ‘political reasons’? “Here’s your sign!” What’s to gain by ‘going after’ her at this point? Seriously – she’s already hurt herself anyway. She doesn’t need any help in the department. Quite frankly, I’m glad to see her go. There’s no need to ‘gain’ anything ‘politically’ here, and especially by me. In fact, if I am doing anything here I am alienating myself FROM the city council for calling them out on the carpet for it all. I’m certainly not gaining any ‘brownie points’ for it, that’s for sure. But let me tell you why *I* am fighting this battle:

    Because they got it wrong.

    They didn’t do this right, and it WAS all done behind closed doors. I KNOW how it all went down. You know full well how politically active I am. You know where I live. You know I personally know those people on Geyser Rd – and I grew up on Geyser Rd. as well. I know the people, and I know the area. I grew up being told NOT to ride my bike on the street, as did every other kid that grew up there. We rode through Geyser Crest because it was safer (and STILL is). In fact, there are already trails that go to the state park. I used them a lot as a kid to go to concerts and such (did you ever bother to explore that for this fantastic ‘investigative reporting?). I KNOW everything about this was wrong. How can you fathom not even talking to these people over 12 YEARS time? I was a member of the SWNA and even I had NO idea where that trail was going to go. What does that tell you? These aren’t ‘NIMBY’s either gentlemen. Remember they are FOR a bike trail, but not for something that isn’t safe, cost effective, or takes away their property when the city refuses to look at other VERY viable options first.

    I brought all of this to every council member well over a year ago as well when I first became aware of it (want to see the emails?). Or perhaps you can go back and look at the other meetings when I spoke publicly about this? I gave every council member ‘due diligence’ and spoke with them one on one. I know what they said to me, just as they know what I said to them. And they all said ‘it’s too late now!” I won’t buy that because of how it was done (no one that this REALLY impacts had time to respond to it), and more than anything because it is NOT SAFE.

    AND THEY DIDN’T DO A THING.

    In fact John – they gave the PERFECT example FOR charter change. Truth be told, watching them handle this issue has flipped me on it because of how poorly they handled it.

    And I got it RIGHT too. I’m NOT against a bike trail at all, but I will NEVER be for something that is OBVIOUSLY not safe, cost effective and takes people’s property without exhausting all possibilities first.

    And this plan fails in every aspect.

    Gentlemen? You can insinuate I am ‘nUtS’ all you like. It doesn’t bother me. I did my homework and I got it right. What DOES bother me however, is when people do not do the right thing and it ends up killing an innocent person. Like a child. That I can not live with. And this only encourages that to happen. I will speak up and fight this issue until the city gets it right.

    Hopefully, you will as well. A child’s LIFE could very well depend on it.

    Again, 583-0459. You know the name. Now let’s see if you both can ‘man up’ and learn about and see this boondoggle for yourself. I would think you would do it to at LEAST try to prove your story. And if you don’t, what does that say about YOU???

    583-0459 (and it’s NOT Jenny).

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  8. Time for more de-bunking….

    “In 2005, the principle of property owner’s absolute right to their land was struck down by the US Supreme Court in a Connecticut case known as Kelo v. City of New London. Like it or not, a claim of eminent domain in the furtherance of development is perfectly legal. Despite this, Amanda Jackson, an attorney with the law firm of Harris Beach announced that she was representing both Mr. Pompay and the Saratoga Springwater Co. and would oppose any attempt to claim eminent domain over their respective properties in court.”

    Not all of these suits are or will be eminent domain. And this is NOT just one lawsuit either – it’s multiple ones, and not just from residents but from businesses too. And for the record, Karl Sleight is the attorney (Amanda was filling in for Karl because he couldn’t make the meeting that night).

    We all stand firm and unbending Joe and John. This is NOT going away anytime soon. Everyone is in for the long haul, no matter how long it takes. Prepare accordingly. 🙂

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  9. Love your style dmorris12014, but your vocabulary has too many words in it. Tweedle U. is now offering a course called How to Reduce Your Vocabulary and Influence People. Perfect for promoting the #Alt-Trail movement. Fabulous!

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  10. Josh,

    Your logic and sarcastic remark of Dave Morris having any complaint about the trail because he doesn’t live on geyser road is about as logical as Molly Gagne (Head of the SWNA) who lives on Vichy Drive running her mouth about the trail. Funny how you do not mention that or how none of the S.W.N.A. “”PAY TO PLAY”” members who DO NOT live on Geyser road,Nor own any of the properties affected are gaagaa for this trail
    How about the fact that it looks like you Joseph A Levy lives on Vermont Street on the other side of town and also would not be affected by the city stealing your property either.

    Funny how hypocrites complain about others doing something , Especially when they do it themselves

    And why are you kissing Joanne’s (much less any politicians) hind side? You forget that she (and they) work for and answer to “We the People” and not just a certain segment of the population who thinks they and only they know what is best for the rest of us.

    And lets get this straight , I am no friend of Dave Morris and never will be. Nor do I or will I ever kiss the back side of any politician for any reason ,
    BUT I am against the government stealing peoples property without even ever notifying them to what is going on . 12 years and people who are affected are just finding out? You don’t see something wrong with that? Bet if they included the people eit affected they woudln’t be having all these problems 12 YEARS LATER….SMMFH

    Tim

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    1. Tim – thank you. But I’m really not that bad of a guy. Quite4 honestly I despise BOTH parties equally (and am NOT a fan of the green party either). I’m a true indy at heart. All I want is to see the right things get done in this city and world – and especially when it is common sense things like how this entire bike trail fiasco was handled.

      Here’s one other point to ponder (I’m not sure if I touched upon this earlier, but it bears repeating again).

      Most of these lawsuits will be “right-of-way” lawsuits against the city, that won’t happen UNTIL the eminent domain lawsuits are handled one way or the other. If you look at the picture of Mr. Harringtons’ home that Joe posted in his article (159 Geyser), you’ll see a lamp post, flagpole and a tree, and behind that tree is a well cap that you can’t see where the city attached a flag to mark where the trail will go. All of those things will be paved over. And another thing you can’t see is the garage on the other side of the driveway that will have to come down as the bike trail will go straight through it. These things have been there almost as long as that home has been there (1952). NOTHING was placed in the right of way by them, but the city and county has widened the road through the years (at least three times to my knowledge).

      And understand this: these people will receive NO COMPENSATION from the city. In fact, none of these people have yet even heard from the SWNA or the city! That’s unfathomable to me. If I were an elected official the VERY first thing I would have done is to inform these people to make sure they were OK with and compensated fairly. If not, you look and find alternative solutions. What REALLY happened was this: original plan was through Pitney Farms. Pitney wouldn’t allow it, which then moved to the SOUTHside of Geyser, and I was told the Whitney’s didn’t want it. This was at the same time they needed to repair the overpass. It was then decided to go on the northside (and I was told by a city official that it was because ‘there would be less lawsuits on that (northside) of the road’. Quite honestly, if that was true, it’s a pretty weak argument since there is already infrastructure in place for it to happen on that side of the road, NO business traffic to deal with, ect. It would also remove a LOT of the current lawsuits – even more if it went through Geyser Crest which many suggested (one block in – Hathorn to Quevic/Coesa/Vichy to Hayes back to Geyser). That of course, would then take land away from Matt Veitch (he resides on the corner of Geyser and Casino Dr.) and right past the home of Molly Gagne – the two people who are more responsible for this mess next to the mayor who jumped aboard the photo op train for this as she ALWAYS does.

      These people did NOTHING wrong at all – but the SWNA certainly did, as did the city (and I will say this for the record: I will NOT support ANYONE that votes in favor of taking these good people’s property from them without them doing the right thing first: explore EVERY possibility FIRST (and that includes other options such as utilizing the pedestrian bridge at SPAC and going through to perhaps what is commonly known as ‘Winchester’s Path”, or utilizing the SOUTHside of Geyser Rd. – and working WITH these people as well. If they do not, then they are NOT doing their duties as elected officials and they should NOT be sitting behind that railing in the city council room.

      Like

    2. Tim,

      If you’re going to insult me, at least get your facts straight. I went to City Hall today and spoke with Brad Birge, the Administrator of Planning who’s overseeing the trail project, and he made it clear that the city has no need or intention to acquire any of your land. The existing right of way that extends beyond the Geyser Road pavement is already wide enough to accommodate the trail. That’s why you never received a notice. Somebody set you up and caused you a lot of anguish over nothing. What you may not realize is that you’ve actually been using the county’s property as if it were your own. So, there will be a trail in front of your house, but it won’t be on your personal property.

      Next, I’m not kissing Joanne Yepsen’s butt and why would I? We’re not even in the same political party. I simply pointed out that most of the criticism appears to be politically motivated by people who have a personal dislike for her. Unlike certain critics, I have no strong feelings about her tenure one way or another and, in a comment on this blog, called her out for completely mishandling her conflict of interest situation.

      Mentioning that Dave Morris does not live on Geyser Road is not sarcasm, it’s a statement of fact, just as pointing out the legal basis for eminent domain is a statement of fact, not an endorsement of that policy (which I don’t endorse). Sarcasm would be be if I suggested that you might get some relief from your misguided anguish by watching a Steve Bannon yoga vodeo.

      As for my being a hypocrite, you really don’t know what you’re talking about, do you? In 2000, I spoke before the City Council, just like you did, to oppose a major development that was planned immediately adjacent to my property, along with other members of the Northside Neighborhood Association. We lost the vote, we didn’t sue, we moved on, and we learned to live with the consequences.

      JL

      PS. Who’s Josh?

      Like

      1. Ummmm….. Joe? I don’t think Tim lives on Geyser Rd.

        And Brad Birge is WRONG. Tell him to meet me on Geyser Rd. too and I’ll prove it to him – and you, should you have the courage.

        But then again- your picture proved that, didn’t it? 😉

        I loooove ‘politicians’……

        583-0459.

        Like

  11. Please allow me to explain the SWNA….

    First a link to read to understand this:

    http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/article/Association/How_To_Start_Association

    And from that link you will find:

    “Core Group Determines the Issues, Concerns, and Needs

    After you have researched any requirements mandated by your local city government, create a small core group of neighbors and friends and inventory the neighborhood to identify and determine what are the primary issues that people care about.

    Every neighborhood association is different—Some start in response to one particular issue or crisis such as a redevelopment or an increase in crime. Others are more general in nature and are structured around many different issues.

    In either case, you will want to represent all of the people in your neighborhood.”

    They actually highlight the last part of that paragraph: “all of the people in your neighborhood.”

    Now, here is a LOT of homes in Geyser Crest without including the surrounding developments here now. I can’t give you an exact number but I’ve heard 1300 homes. I believe (keyword there, so pl;ease don’t quote me on that) the SWNA ‘represents’ around 300-350 PEOPLE. Even if it were 30 homes it’s not even close to representing just Geyser Crest itself.

    That is not even close to “all of the people in your neighborhood.”

    When I joined app. 3 years ago, it was a CLOSED group – members only (and yes, paid members at that) – and that included reading the minutes and such (truthfully, most of the time their website was inactive because of hackers, no one within the group knowing how to code HTML, ect. ). They would give out meeting info to MEMBERS ONLY. There was absolutely NO WAY anyone that wasn’t a member of that group would know what they were doing. They had just started a Facebook page, and that was locked so only members could view the contents and post. It went even further: they decided to start a SWNA-only garage sale in the Crest area – which was pretty laughable really if you start and think about it. They wanted ONLY members to have a garage sale on that weekend.

    The history of this group is full of things like this. Folks? this is NOT a neighborhood association by ANY means. It’s private members-only club – a special interest group. It is EXclusive, not INclusive.

    I was probably the first person to bring up things like “Hey! We need to include the ENTIRE area – every home – because that’s what a neighborhood association is SUPPOSED to do.” I was pretty much looked upon as a leper from that point on. I DID get some things opened however, like the garage sale and the Facebook page (anyone can read it now, but not post). My last ‘days’ as a member was when I requested three times in writing (email) for permission to have actual Geyser Rd. residents speak on the trail issue because no one had bothered to talk to them (the last email was Sept 6, 2016). Again I was refused as it ‘was no longer a neighborhood concern’ (and I am MORE than willing to post these emails btw). I then had to interrupt the meeting so these people – their neighbors that literally live in Molly’s own backyard! – could be heard. How sad is that?

    There is also a VERY long history of what they have done to MANY neighbors. They have already cost one business over one MILLION dollars (in fact, Molly recent proclaimed at a recent Village of Ballston Spa meeting that this business that has been around since 1938 has been dumping toxic chemicals in the watershed for years now:

    (https://theballstonjournal.com/2017/03/28/village-may-block-geyser-road-trail/

    The idiocy of her statement on the public record still astounds me, because first off, that is the home I grew up in next door to the garage, and it is my family, so I know firsthand that isn’t even close to true – and so does EnCon who is there every 2-3 months now taking soil samples and such because the Gagne’s were so ‘neighborly’ to them to have a wall of tires removed from the property because it was a ‘mosquito hazard’ – even though there are two large bodies around the property that are watersheds and some wetlands. The cost to remove those tires was $750,000. And the city had told them they could build that wall as a theft deterrent too. And that’s just for starters. The neighbors right across the street from the garage have watched them NUMEROUS times going up to the fence and taking pictures, going up the roadway for the bus garage to do the same, picking for the smallest of violations.

    After I (literally) tore the Gagne’s apart at a SWNA meeting when they brought up how bad the garage looks (they actually had on their agenda to discuss finding a way to get the garage closed and torn down), I met with the mayor concerning it. We made a deal that he would clean up the lot and building and the city would leave him alone. He then put up a fence, put some flowers around it and bought siding for the garage, and we discussed turning the garage into a green recycling center, which is something the city truly needs and the mayor encouraged. Then he received ANOTHER letter from the city for another ridiculous ‘violation’ for cars ‘being able to be seen from the road’ or something. It ended there – the siding is STILL sitting the boxes. There is no way he will side tat building now. And can you blame him? This nonsense has already cost him over a million dollars that he does not have.

    And to make this perfectly clear on how I know the Gagne’s were behind all of this, the answer is astoundingly simple: Raoul told me what they did directly. He didn’t realize at the time that it was my family he was talking about. He was BRAGGING about it in fact!

    Other residents have had the same problem with the Gagne’s and SWNA. They went around counting how many homes had widened driveways into the city right of way, and many of those people were cited – even though the driveways were already in place when they bought their homes. Or because their boats or RV’s weren’t buried in their backyard.

    What kind of neighborhood association – or neighbors – do this???

    That my friends (or foes) is what we are dealing with here. It’s beyond wrong. This is NOT what a neighborhood association is for, or is supposed to be doing. I became the ‘bad guy’ for standing up to them for these things. And if there is one thing I am absolutely certain of it’s this: I will fight them toe to toe, and will expose them for what they have done to the good people in this community they have the gall to call ‘neighbors’. There is NOTHING ‘neighborly’ about them whatsoever.

    And I want to mention something that happened last night as well that was not seen on the camera. Last night after I spoke at public comment (which was a farce in itself since I STILL haven’t had the right to say what I want to say), I went back to my seat, which was the row behind Molly and two of her SWNA friends who were there to speak in favor of the trail (and who told lies as well, but…). As I went to my seat I leaned over and let Molly know another business will probably be joing into the lawsuit frenzy over the trail – quietly. She then jumped up and yelled ‘DON’T YOU TALK TO ME!!’ bringing an officer over to me like I was going to attacker her or something. I then went out in the hallway to speak with John Safford, who had just arrived and wanted to know what happened. Molly and her friends left soon after – complete with a police escort to the door. Mr. Safford, my wife and I just looked on in amazement because it was so ridiculous.

    But I guess things like that happen when you try to bring forth the truth. I expect a citation soon for me to stay away from them, as that is ‘how they roll’.. That should make the next city council meeting quite interesting…..

    And if Molly or Raoul are reading this? By ALL means, PLEASE try to refute me. You know what happened that last few times you have tried. You can’t possibly win when the truth and facts are not on your side.

    And again Mr. Levy: 583-0459. I’m still waiting to hear from you 🙂

    Like

  12. Now that I can view the webpage mention above. Molly Gagne’s comment was:

    “Asked about Gagne’s claim that a property adjoining the watershed has “hundreds of illegal junk cars that may be leaching contaminants next to your emergency water supply,”

    Mayor Romano now knows this is NOT true. And there is NOTHING illegal about the cars either. He has all licenses necessary to dismantle and sell used auto parts and collect scrap for recycling – no matter how hard the Gagne’s have tried to stop that from happening.

    Like

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