Saratoga County

Editorial: Shen missed big picture on park land

Thirty-four wooded acres behind Shenendehowa Central School District's Shatekon Elementary  is being sold
Thirty-four wooded acres behind Shenendehowa Central School District's Shatekon Elementary is being sold

Categories: Editorial

Take a look at a Google Map of Manhattan some time.

Amid the blocks of gray denoting roads and buildings and parking lots is a gargantuan green rectangle right in the middle that spans from West 59th Street north to West 110th and east-west from 5th Avenue to 8th.

You’re looking at 843 acres of potentially the primest prime real estate in the world.

But instead of towering skyscrapers, there are elm tree stands and birch and pine trees and millions of flowers.
Instead of subway stations, there are jungle gyms. Instead of traffic circles, there are lakes and streams and rock walls and bike paths.

Instead of Chevys and Fords, there are squirrels and raccoons and red-tailed hawks.

How on Earth could New York City government officials have missed this golden opportunity to generate billions of dollars in tax revenue and business income that is literally right in front of their eyes? 

Where are the backloaders digging foundations? Where are the massive cranes lifting steel girders onto towering walls of commerce? Fill in those ponds, we say! Taxpayers need a break.

You get the point, right?

Shenendehowa school board members could learn a lot from New York City and other urban and suburban areas that have made the conscious decision to make quality of life a priority over potential revenue sources.

When the school board on Tuesday night voted to open and accept a $2 million bid to develop a 34-acre parcel that many residents had wanted for a community park, it forgot that there’s more to good governing than selling your quality of life to the highest bidder.

Somehow, you have to believe deep down they knew the decision was wrong.

The vote in favor of accepting the bid was a split 4-3. And the board wasted no time voting on the bids upon opening them — giving stunned supporters of the park option no time to regroup and form a counter-attack.

The developer, BBL, says it only plans to develop about half the property. That sounds magnanimous.

But consider that a lot of the property is undevelopable anyway. And what’s left of the green space will be neighbors with whatever parking lots and office buildings or houses they plan to build there.

This was a chance for the school district to do something good for the community. Not for taxpayers. For the people.

We hope opponents will continue to pursue options to counter the deal. They still may have some recourse.
But if they’re ultimately unsuccessful, the land will become just one more development in an overdeveloped suburban landscape.

More importantly, the school board will have provided a strong lesson to the students of the district who might have been watching the decision: When you get the chance, pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

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