Call It Progress. . .
of families along the Mohawk River may lose their homes to
a development project, because they dont own the land
By Joe Putrock
what the units will look like,” Gail Krause says, pointing
a manicured finger at the easel at other end of a conference
table cluttered with environmental impact statements and project
narratives. On display is a poster-sized mock-up portraying
the interior of a luxury condominium unit, one of many Krause
is hoping to bring to the town of Halfmoon as part of a major
The pencil-and-marker drawing offers a colorful view of a
spacious condo from its front door: Transom lighting crowns
the wall opposite a large kitchen, which is bordered by a
snaking, wraparound counter. Deeper into the unit, armless
high-back chairs are clustered around the center of the living
room, adjacent to the fireplace. Bedroom and library doors
dot the opposite wall. A view of the Mohawk River is visible
through two tall windows at the far end of the room. This
unit doesn’t have access to a veranda, but others will.
like it?” Krause asks, smiling, beaming really. “I’m very
And what ambitious businesswoman wouldn’t be? The project
is huge: Thirty-two acres, 254 luxury waterfront condominiums,
24 units available for overnight stays, an expanded version
of the restaurant she currently runs, a meeting facility,
parking for 761 automobiles, expansion of the town’s municipal
sewer, natural gas and water lines. That huge.
The project would also reinvent a once-thriving recreational
spot that the town lost years ago: Halfmoon Beach, which is
currently under water. Over the years, as barge traffic from
Erie Canal steadily declined, so did the state’s annual upkeep
of the Mohawk’s silt deposits, town officials say. The lack
of dredging, coupled with generations of unchecked milfoil
and water chestnuts, backed up the river and turned the beach
into something that today more resembles a swamp. Krause’s
plan, titled the Northshore Revitalization Project, would
undertake a massive dredging operation to clear out the muck,
refill the area and re-create the beach where Krause’s father-in-law
turned a successful hotdog stand into the restaurant and clam-steam
pavilion that the family operates today.
Krause also wants to add a marina with docking for 50 to 60
boats, which surely would pique the interest of recreational
boaters along the Mohawk River, she says. Ed Esposito, a landscape
architect for Bast-Hatfield, the region’s second largest general-contract
construction company, began working with Krause toward the
end of last summer to develop this resort- condominium-marina
it’ll be a nice addition to a Thruway billboard to see that
we have an improved, regrowth version of Krause’s Restaurant
that has this public-gathering element,” Esposito says. “The
true benefit of this project to everyone is to just say ‘Out
with the old and in with the new’. . . . ‘And I think the
town needs to accept this plan in its entirety to see its
Krause wholeheartedly agrees.
think Halfmoon needs something like this,” she says. “I drive
down the road [to my restaurant] every day and I see that
it’s just so beautiful, but this property is being destroyed.
. . . I’m not doing the property justice.”
But when Krause speaks of her property’s destruction, she
has more on her mind than silt or invasive species. Krause
is talking about the nearly 40 families that live on her property
and have done so, in some cases, for the last quarter-century.
These are families that will have to go for this project to
be realized, and Krause says that she is ready to evict. But
she took her sweet time telling her tenants.
was a typical mail run that Saturday late last November, Nancy
Glaser thought. And the score didn’t seem too out of the ordinary
at first—mostly junk mail, as usual. But there was that one
letter, the one from the New York State Canal Corporation.
Glaser had no idea what it could be about and was even less
sure after she opened it.
letter said that as of Jan. 1, 2004, she no longer could have
use of the slice of land connecting the lot that she rented
from the Krauses—on which sits the home that she owns—with
the shoreline of the Mohawk River, which is owned by Canal
Corp. This didn’t make sense at all. Glaser and her husband
had been granted access to that land ever since they purchased
their house and started renting lot space, currently at $300
a month, from the Krauses in 1985. Glaser and her husband
had maintained the strip of land all those years, too, mowing
and weeding. To lose use of it without a given reason seemed
more than a little strange. And Glaser had the rest of the
weekend to stew on it. First thing Monday morning, she placed
a call to Canal Corp. for some answers.
said my state permit was canceled because the Krauses were
developing the land. I said, ‘The Krauses are developing the
land! Oh, really,’” remembers Glaser, 57, a retired insurance
Glaser and a friend made a trip to Town Hall later that day
and, sure enough, filed in the clerk’s office was a multipage
booklet describing the Krause’s Northshore Revitalization
Project. The report didn’t even mention the 40 families living
on the Krause’s land, and referred only in passing to “40
assorted 1200 SF –1600 SF Camp structures.” “Camp structures,”
Glaser thought? This seemed a bit insulting to someone who’d
called her “camp structure” “home” for the past 20 years.
These camp structures existed at Halfmoon Beach long before
the town of Halfmoon began recording things like building
permits and tax parcels, back when the town was strictly farm
country. The cottages had already been constructed back when
W.D. Ryan owned the land in the 1930s. They remained when
the Carlsons bought it from him, stayed put when the Sicko
family purchased it years later and were still standing when
Stephen Krause—Gail’s father-in-law—purchased the 17-acre
plot in 1959. What scant evidence of these cottages exists
at Town Hall estimates that many were built during the 1910s
and 1920s. The camps changed hands from private owner to private
owner, and the cottage owners paid lot rent to whoever owned
Though the camps were mostly used for seasonal lodging, that
changed over time, say Glaser and a half-dozen other year-round
residents on the Krauses’ land. In the early- to mid-1980s,
Stephen Krause started letting families winterize the summer
cottages and convert them to year-round residences, Glaser
and others say.
was a handshake agreement with the father and a 99-year lease.
You had to pay annual lot rent and that was it,” Glaser says.
Krause vociferously disputes this point.
father-in-law wouldn’t have said that, ‘a 99-year lease,’
” Krause mocks. “He wouldn’t have even used those terms.”
has no idea what she is talking about,” Glaser says, shaking
her head in disbelief, and questioning whether Krause had
even met her father-in-law. Glaser says it’s easy for Krause
to deny their previous rental agreement because there was
never a written contract drawn up between Stephen and his
When Stephen Krause died in 1990, his wife Helen kept the
property. When she died in 1996, the property went to all
their children. In 1999, Gary, Gail’s husband, and Gail bought
out all the other siblings. Gary has since transferred ownership
to a limited liability company, Krause Properties, LLC. Gary
Krause elected not to speak to Metroland for this story;
Gail says that she is in charge of the Northshore Revitalization
After leafing through the copy of the Northshore Project at
the town clerk’s office that Monday, Glaser paid for a copy
and took it to her house, a single-story with a wooden deck
facing the Mohawk. Once home, Glaser scanned the report into
her computer and printed up copies for her neighbors. For
a few weeks prior, there had been chatter in a few local watering
holes about a development project of some sort, but no one
was certain about the Krause’s plans until Glaser made her
people living down here have a right to know what’s going
on,” Glaser says, raising her voice. “People are going to
Krause says she didn’t want to tell the people renting land
from her what she was planning until it was moving ahead for
was not going to inform everybody of what we were doing because
at that point we didn’t know what we were doing,” Krause says.
“Did I think I should have came to them early and told them?
No, no. The project, when they found out about it, it was
just a plan at the town. . . . It wasn’t a project at that
But it sure looked like a project to the people renting from
James Pratt, 50, has owned his home on the Krauses’ land for
the past 12 years. Pratt says he sank nearly $15,000 into
his home over the past few years redoing his bathroom, kitchen,
living area and bedroom and feels especially slighted by Krause’s
decision not to inform her tenants of her plan considering
a chance interaction the two had last fall.
Pratt says he was mowing his lawn last October when Krause,
driving by on a golf cart, stopped to pay him a compliment
on the upgrades he’d made to his home.
said, ‘Boy, the windows look beautiful. When are you putting
the siding on your house?’ ” he remembers. “This was in October.
Next thing you know, boom.
house is going to be a parking lot,” Pratt barks. “It sucks.”
situation at first smacks of an old-fashioned landlord-tenant
dispute, which typically ends up in small claims court where
allegations are sorted and settlements are reached. Disputes
like that don’t usually warrant this much ink, but in the
case of Krause’s property, “dispute” seems like an oversimplification
and a “settlement” doesn’t appear to be anywhere in sight.
At stake here are people’s homes, the homes of families who’ve
called this land home for decades, under threat from a $60
million real-estate-development project.
Not that the homeowners aren’t partly responsible for the
mess they find themselves in; in the eyes of the law the tenants
never had anything more than a 30-day lease. Krause says since
she took over in 1999 she has required signatures on written
30-day leases every year, and in 2003 she added a reminder
to those leases about not making building improvements and
not transferring property to others without her approval.
Does it make sense to sink thousands of dollars into renovating
your home when you don’t own the land underneath it?
is a pretty unusual case,” says Ted Wimpey of the Champlain
Valley Office of Economic opportunity in Vermont. Wimpey works
with the Vermont Mobile Home Park Program, which educates
mobile-homeowners of their rights. “The best advice I could
give would precede where things are now,” he says. “[My advice]
would be, from the very start, get documentation. If you’re
going to invest money in improvements beyond superficial ordinary
stuff that people do as tenants, you need to get some kind
of legal document that protects you from displacement, or
But Glaser, Pratt and others didn’t think they needed a legal
document stating that this was their home. Because families
had been living on Krauses’ property before them, Glaser,
Pratt and others thought they had some assurance that this
was more than a temporary living situation. Glaser says there
were six other families already living on the Krauses’ property
year-round when she purchased her home in 1985.
of the new folks that have moved in here over the past two
or three years asked me, ‘Is this a safe place to live?’ and
I’d tell them, ‘I’ve lived here 20 years, I’ve never had any
problems and I plan on living here another 20,’ ” Glaser says.
“I’m just so guilt-ridden, but how was I supposed to know
something like this would happen? I feel like they set a precedent
by letting people live down here for so long.”
Glaser and others say they would like some kind of compensation
for their homes, but Krause hasn’t offered any. Glaser says
she has spoken to a number of lawyers, all of whom have told
her that without a document describing the initial rental
agreement she doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Wimpey says
the lack of an older lease may allow the Krauses’ decision
to pass legal muster, but doesn’t account for Krauses’ moral
responsibilities as landowners.
an advocate for tenants I would say that the landowner should
have more consideration and respect,” he says, “but that is
just not necessarily the way some people are—they’re out to
make a buck.”
only are the Krauses’ pockets likely to see a few extra bucks
from this plan, but the town of Halfmoon could see major benefits
should this project go ahead. Halfmoon also could be eligible
for New York state improvement funds for dredging the Mohawk,
and money from Saratoga County for expanding the gas, sewer
and water lines, according to the project.
certainly an economic development project,” says Halfmoon
town supervisor Ken DeCerce. “It’s certainly a change for
the better for the waterfront area in this town.
at this plan from every perspective, excluding the perspective
where people are going to be displaced, it’s a good project,”
DeCerce adds. “To try to waltz your way through that one element
is very difficult. . . . On the other hand, we don’t have
a right to tell someone he or she can’t bring a project in.
We don’t have a right to tell a landlord that he or she can’t
tell their tenants that they have to leave.”
Before Krause can formally submit the plan to the town (the
Northshore Revitalization Project is considered only a concept
at this point), she must await approval from Canal Corp. on
an easement for roughly 10 acres of contiguous land that would
help her meet the town’s density requirement for new development.
That land is currently occupied, too. Four separate houses
sit on Canal Corp.’s land, three of which are occupied.
and Jean Mayo, who live on the Canal Corp.’s land, received
an eviction notice last December saying that they were to
abandon their property by Jan. 1, 2004. “Oh, we just had a
real nice Christmas this year,” Jean Mayo says.
I want to know is, why didn’t Canal Corp. ask us if we wanted
to purchase the land? We’ve been here for 25 years,” John
The Krauses actually filed for the land from Canal Corp. first,
but the Mayos have since submitted a letter stating their
intent to place a counter offer. Canal Corp. did not return
multiple calls to comment for this story.
And as far as the planning process is concerned, this project
is still in its infancy. The plan needs clearance from the
state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers for the dredging project, and the
state Health Department for the sewer-line expansion, to name
a few. After all that, the project has to go before the town’s
zoning board, which will include public comment. Krause and
her developers have filed the necessary paperwork to get things
under way, and all parties involved acknowledge that there
might not be a groundbreaking on this project for at least
we spoke in mid-March, Krause said she hadn’t made any formal
announcement to her tenants yet, but this sure sounded like
an eviction notice:
this project doesn’t happen, which I’m sure it will, I’m not
going to have tenants down there anymore. I’m out of that,”
Krause says. Indeed, shortly thereafter she sent eviction
notices for nonpayment of rent to about half her tenants.
Then last Friday (March 26), she mailed 30-day notices to
Krause stops short of calling her last few years as a landlord
a nightmare. She says she has had difficulty keeping track
of who is living on her property. Homes have been bought and
sold right under her nose and she isn’t even given the courtesy
of an introduction (or a signed lease). There have been drug
and alcohol problems, she says. Her tenants also have taken
to building additions on their homes without asking Krause
for permission or filing for the proper permits with the town.
A few weeks back, Krause says she shot 20 rolls of film to
document her tenants’ unwillingness to maintain their lots.
A visit to the Halfmoon Beach will find that her concerns
are not unjustified. Loose and bagged trash, appliances and
old tires line the shoreline facing Canal Road behind a number
of homes on Krause’s property. Krause says she has repeatedly
asked her tenants to maintain their lots, but not everyone
has been compliant. “I’m not doing this anymore, destroying
this land, I’m saving it,” she says.
Krause admits that not all of her tenants are so troublesome,
but says no longer cares to act as a landlord in such a high-maintenance
I have five good ones, it doesn’t make up for the rest who
are destroying the property, and there probably are about
five good ones down there,” Krause says. “The free ride is
over,” she later adds.
While Glaser doesn’t exactly consider her 20-year stay on
Krause’s property a free ride, her tenure at Halfmoon Beach
is definitely over. Glaser and her husband recently bought
a house in Rotterdam, along with the land underneath. That’s
not to say that Glaser is exactly thrilled about moving.
I am at a time in my life when things are supposed to be getting
easier, and they’re going to get harder. I’m not 20 or 30
years old,” she says, throwing her hands up in the air. “I
wasn’t anticipating taking out a 30-year mortgage I’ll be
paying till I’m 90 years old,” she adds, laughing at the ridiculousness
of it all.
Glaser is not alone in her path to the exit door; a number
of houses on the Krauses’ land were already vacated before
she closed on her new home. All that’s left on one lot is
a pile of insulation and wiring atop a bare concrete-slab
foundation: Whoever lived here totally dismantled his or her
home and took it away. (Glaser says she looked into moving
her home but balked at the estimated $20,000-per-mile cost.)
“For Sale” signs dot the front lawns of a few homes, but these
just seem like cruel jokes.
But Glaser isn’t exactly the leader of a mass exodus from
the Krauses’ land; Krause estimates that 25 or more families
are still living on her property.
Mike, who asked that his last name not be used in this story,
is in the sedentary crowd. Following his retirement three
years ago, Mike moved from New York City to Halfmoon Beach
for its rustic, outdoorsy splendor. Mike believes there are
too many planning and zoning clearances the plan needs to
pass before he’s ready to pack up and leave.
the project going forward or isn’t it? That’s the question
right now. Until there are answers coming from them . . .”
he says, pausing. “Where is this project? It could be alive
and well, or it could be as dead as a doornail. Nobody knows.”
James Pratt isn’t ready to shove off either. He’s invested
too much in his home over the past few years to call it quits
just yet. Prior to hearing about the Northshore Plan, Pratt
was one room away from finishing a complete interior renovation
of his home.
Some of the residents who want to stay have also hired a lawyer,
Carolyn Snyder Lemmon. In late February, she filed a petition
on their behalf against the development project with the Thruway
Authority, Canal Corp., Canal Recreation Way Corp., the DEC,
the state comptroller, the state attorney general’s office,
and the Halfmoon town board.
The petition makes three major arguments: First, the residents
should have some rights to their homes because they made substantial
improvements to them with the knowledge of the Krauses. “To
fall back on ‘You can’t have any permanent structures’ when
you were aware of what was going on” is questionable, says
Lemmon. Second, the petition argues that there has been “lack
of public notice, hearing, or competitive bidding for sale
of public land, which we believe the statute requires,” according
to Lemmon. And third, it says that the potential environmental
impacts of the project, including effects on migrating birds
and wildlife along the shoreline, have not been taken into
a lot of people there, their homes are their only significant
investment; they don’t have the ability to go out and buy
another home,” says Lemmon. “If there are evictions, where
do they go? Some of them are single mothers, a number are
retirees, they’ve put their savings into these homes, with
the Krauses’ full knowledge might I add.” Lemmon would like
to see “public hearings by the town and the state, to figure
out this development proposal, what it means and where it’s
But for now, it’s a matter of wait and see, she says. She
has gotten no response to the petition, and said recently
that she would deal with the eviction notices when they arrive.
She believes the residents will have legal recourse even if
the evictions are not related to the development.
Pratt and his girl- friend have been looking to buy another
house, but aren’t having much luck. In the past few weeks,
tensions have been running high in the Pratt household as
he and his girlfriend have lost a couple of bids on homes
they were looking at. But after a conversation one day, they
decided to just say fuck it. “We’re not going to let her [Krause]
control our lives anymore,” Pratt says. He went out and bought
a new Ford pickup, and he’s going to go ahead and remodel
that last room. If an eviction notice comes in the mail, Pratt
says he’ll gut the place.
be damned if I’m going to leave this here for anybody,” he
Pratt’s decision to wait for the process to go ahead and
continue to invest money into his home was no surprise
just shows you the kind of people I’m dealing with,” Krause
says. “I can talk to them till I’m blue in the face and they
don’t listen to me. What I have to say is just not what they
want to hear.”
or 463-2500 ext. 144.