O Little town of Bethlehem, how sprawled we see thee lie. The Albany Times Union brought the bad news this week that not only is the small community of Bethlehemm, New York going to have a new Wal-Mart supercenter squeezed into the manger, but Lowe’s is joining the 75 acre project as well. This gift to the community is courtesy of hyperactive developer John Nigro, who is simultaneously developing Wal-Marts in Catskill and East Greenbush, N.Y. Ironically called the “Bethlehem Town Center” (it will replace the real town center), the 360,000 s.f. shopping center will also feature such unique establishments as Wendy’s and Applebee’s. This project has survived two year’s of opposition from local residents, who say the project is way out of scale with the existing built environment. “I think 10 to 20 years down the road the residents of Bethlehem will view this as a mistake,” said opponent Michael Trout. Three other Lowe’s stores are going up in the Albany region, as Home Depot and Lowe’s go head to head to saturate the area. In fact, at one point Home Depot was in the line up, but negotiations stalled, and Lowe’s jumped in. Residents don’t like the location across the street from an elementary school, and the enormous traffic volume two big box stores will generate. To make matters worse, Wal-Mart has gotten possession over two leases near Albany from the bankrupt Ames department store chain. Wal-Mart is moving into dead Ames stores in Queensbury and Catskill. The latter was part of a deal with the Nigro Companies. The Ames store in Catskill will be razed. The Queensbury Ames was located right next door to a Wal-Mart discount store, so its likely that Wal-Mart will expand it into a larger supercenter. The town of Bethlehem had apparently asked Nigro to pay for sidewalks in the development, but Nigro walked on that idea, until he signed Lowe’s onto the project. Now the developer has offered to chip in for sidewalks, but the City Council did not even ask how much that commitment was worth. This is the same John Nigro that bulldozed an historic home in East Greenbush, NY that played a key role in the mid-1800s in the Albany County Rent Wars. Both the house, and a very old tree in front of the house were destroyed, even as preservationists were trying to save the structure and tree. Nigo had the tree cut down at 5:30 am on a Sunday, just in time to attend Church after the deed was done.
For archived stories on sprawl in upstate New York, search this database by “Bethlehem” or “Nigro”, “East Greenbush”, or “New York”.