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2002-11-08
East Greenbush, NY. Historic House Demolished to Create Target Parking Spaces

The Albany Times Union reports that the 164-year-old Defreest-Church House was demolished this week to make way for a Target parking lot in East Greenbush, New York. On November 5th, police had to hold back demonstrators as they tried to block a heavy equipment operator from demolishing the building. The brick Greek Revival church played a role in the county's anti-rent rebellion. The developer, John Nigro, sold the property to the Target for $3.8 million. Protestors tried to get Rensselaer County lawmakers the night before demolition to halt the action, to no avail. They then held a vigil in front of the house before the sun rose on November 5th. The Greenbush Historical Society attempted to get an injunction to halt the demolition, but couldn't locate a judge willing to sign it. It took only 15 minutes to raze the pre-Civil War-era house, but 15 minutes after the loss, Nigro faxed a message to the media saying his company had done all it could to save the building. Don Rittner, columnist for the Troy Record, toured the site days before it was torn down. "I walked away not only angry but disgusted at clearly what is a crime against the citizens of East Greenbush," Rittner wrote in his column. "Not only is the homestead in excellent overall condition, but the interior woodwork, beautifully crafted fireplaces, and integrity of the architectural style of the house is intact. There is simply no other reason than pure unadulterated greed that is bringing this house down. As one protester remarked, it is 'government supported vandalism.'" According to Rittner, the Defreest-Church House was the scene of events of the infamous Anti-Rent Wars of the 19th century. Rittner said the destruction was accomplished solely to create a few more parking spaces for Target, "spaces that may be needed once a year at Christmas if they are lucky," Rittner wrote. East Greenbush Town supervisor Robert Angelini and Developer John Nigro said they wanted to save the structure, but Rittner notes: "The bottom line is these folks had no intention of addressing the needs of this building in the first place." The fact is, the Target process took place over a year and a half time period, and no effort on the part of local or state public officials, the developer, or Target was made to save the house. There were alternatives posed by citizens, but they were ignored. "Can you blame the citizens," Rittner wrote, " if they want their town not to look like the current sea of poorly designed, row after row of national chain eye sores that are making their 'main' street look like every other similarly sprawled part of the USA? This is a classic example of big corporate bully tactics. Nigro and Target can bully their way into anywhere they want because they have the money and the influence to do it - simple as that - and the public be damned if it gets in the way."


What you can do: The mindless demolition of East Greenbush history left many observers in tears. Rittner's conclusion? "We can only hope that the citizens of East Greenbush wake up before they find themselves declaring Wal-Mart's as their only historic site. And yet, I have realized two things from this fiasco. I would never live in East Greenbush, nor will Target ever see any of my hard earned money. " The account also clearly shows that New York state's Environmental Qualilty Review Act (SEQRA) is a political tool more than a land use tool.Despite this law which requires an environmental assessment of impact on the site area, no one flagged the Defreest-Church house as a problem. SEQRA is no better or worse than the people who administer it. For more information on this "Targeting of history" for destruction, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
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