The Plattsburgh Citizens Coalition formed in July to oppose the current Downtown Revitalization Initiative development plan and advocate for an alternative that is closer to the one that was initially offered. The group held an informational meeting Wednesday to give a status report on the current development.
About 30 people showed up for the meeting that the coalition said would offer updated information on Plattsburgh’s downtown development plans. The meeting began with a timeline of the project followed by an outline of questions that that have arisen during the project’s evolution.
Coalition vice president Kevin Farrington was the Plattsburgh city engineer until the recreation, IT and engineering departments were abolished in 2017. He presented a scathing assessment of the city’s current DRI plan. “They’re putting Prime and Prime’s profits first and putting you second. They’re willing to give away your municipal parking lot for a dollar. They’re willing to give away $4.3 million out of our $10 million to this group and they’re willing to give a PILOT agreement that is so lucrative that it abates something in the neighborhood of 80 some-odd percent of their taxes over 20 years.”
A number of questions were asked. Luis Sierra‘s emerged as a key concern. “You have to follow the money. Somebody’s getting something somewhere and I don’t know who it is. I’m not saying that there’s corruption but clearly somebody’s got to benefit.”
Coalition member Sylvie Beaudreau: “Conflict of interest.”
Sierra: “Yes there’s a conflict and somebody’s benefitting and it’s clearly not the residents of this town and certainly not the businesses that are downtown.”
Coalition President Scott Allen responded that there is a web of questionable connections. He pointed to the sale of the downtown Glens Falls Bank branch in order to create space for parking. “Mayor Read of course I think everybody knows by now is on the board of Arrow Financial which is the parent company of Glens Falls Bank. He’s received about a million dollars in compensation from Arrow Financial since he became a board member in 2010. It doesn’t materially rise to a conflict of interest. But let’s face it, it doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Two city councilors observed from the back of the room except for a brief exchange with city resident Joan Jansen. “Councilor Kelly seemed aghast at the fact Prime might consider cut and run if they are not making a profit. And it seems to me that we have so many things here propping them up that….”
Kelly: “That’s not right. I never said that. I never said anything like that.”
Jansen: “I’m sorry. I heard it with my own ears.”
Ward 2 Democrat Mike Kelly said a lot of misinformation was disseminated during the meeting. “We intend to look at that list of misconceptions and make sure they’re corrected so that the public knows exactly what’s going on with the DRI. I think also there were a lot of unkind things said about the council and the Mayor. None of us are nefarious people. We try our best every single day to do what’s best for our city and we will continue to do that. And we believe that this is best for our city also.”
The coalition has retained a Lake George attorney and is working to raise funds so they can file a court action against the city.