There are two ways to look at the decision by the owner of the Upper Union Street McDonald’s in Schenectady to table its expansion because of neighborhood concerns.
You could look at it as a bunch of NIMBYs hurting and potentially driving away a legitimate, existing business at a time when the city needs all the profitable businesses and sales tax revenue it can get in the wake of the covid economic collapse.
It’s not like the neighbors didn’t know they were living near a busy business district, with traffic and lights and noise.
They couldn’t even claim they didn’t know the property was going to be used for a McDonald’s. The fast-food restaurant in its present form has been there for many years, and no one could ever mistake it for a Vermont B&B.
And it’s not like the buildings that are being torn down to make room for the expansion have much great historic or aesthetic value or would displace operating businesses. Both are vacant or soon to be vacant.
You could look at it that way.
And then you’d be angry at the neighbors for making such a fuss that it caused an area business owner to delay their plans for boosting the local economy.
Or you could look at this situation as your fellow citizens fighting to retain and gain some character for their city.
You could view their opposition as capitalizing on an opportunity to make their community a little nicer and safer for pedestrians.
You could look at it as a victory for traditional neighborhoods and their quality of life, which are increasingly under assault due to encroachment of corporate interests.
If these neighbors can be successful in molding their little area of the city to their liking, maybe it will empower and encourage other citizens to stand up and demand what they want from businesses in terms of appearance and fit with the surrounding area.
Maybe it will make businesses give more consideration to their impact on the surrounding neighborhoods when introducing new projects or upgrading their properties.
To their credit, the franchise owners, John and Kathie Reeher, have been responsive to neighborhood concerns about the project over the past year and have amended their plans multiple times.
Let’s hope they see that this was not opposition to their business, but as their customers expressing their view. And let’s hope they’re willing to stick it out and come up with a project that all will find acceptable.
Maybe government officials will use this project to look more critically at projects in consideration of what their constituents might want. And maybe the end result is that our communities become nicer, safer and more attractive places to live.
We said there were two ways to look at this.
But if you think about the kind of community you’d like to live in, there’s really only one.