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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Gray says Massena would welcome Dick’s, calls Wachs’s actions ‘child-like’

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MASSENA - Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said the town of Massena would be happy to welcome a Dick’s Sporting Goods store to its community, whether or not it is located at the Harte Haven Shopping Center.

“If there is any question, of course we want Dick’s to come to Massena. I feel like we need to clarify that, because of Mr. Wachs’s (Harte Haven Shopping Center owner Michael Wachs) penchant for exaggeration and bloviation,” Mr. Gray said, adding he felt compelled to respond to recent comments made by Mr. Wachs that hinted the town and village weren’t doing their jobs to help recruit the sporting good retailer to the area.

Mr. Gray said his involvement in this process dates back several months to when Mr. Wachs first approached the town about locating a store at the current site of Massena arena.

“He first approached the town and village and asked us to give him the property on which Massena Arena was built,” Mr. Gray said. “He wanted us to give him the land and the arena which would be torn down, and in return he would give us a much less desirable, potential wetland, property behind Tractor Supply on which the community could have built a new arena at its own cost.”

Mr. Gray said he asked Mr. Wachs how much he believed the arena property to be worth.

“He kind of danced around the question and then I asked him how much it was worth to him and he said $150,000,” Mr. Gray recalled. “After harassing phone calls and non-stop pestering he was told the arena option was off the table, to come back to us with a Plan B, which is the current proposal.”

Shortly after that, Mr. Gray said he received an email from Mr. Wachs stating that a contractor whom Mr. Gray was led to believe was a preferred contractor for the company said Plan B was no good.

“We said, ‘Oh gees that’s too bad. Come back with a Plan C,”’ Mr. Gray said.

Rather than coming back with a Plan C though, Mr. Wachs responded by saying that Plan B would work after all.

“Whether we have acted in a fast enough manner or not, he has acted in a child-like manner. He’s started pressing on people, including some of his own tenants to try and get them to do the same,” Mr. Gray alleged. “One tenant said to me, ‘You’re probably right. That land is too valuable, you shouldn’t just give it to him.’”

That same tenant, Mr. Gray said, told him that he pays Mr. Wachs $2,000 each month for rent.

“People need to look at all the tenants and multiply the number of tenants by at least $2,000 and then look at the number of anchor tenants and multiply that number by many times $2,000 to see what Mr. Wachs is pulling in from Massena every month,” he said. “My guess would be it’s at least $100,000.”

Based on conversations Mr. Gray said he’s had with others in the retail industry, he understands that if Dick’s Sporting Goods were to open in the plaza, they would pay between $20,000 and $25,000 in rent each month.

“At $20,000 per month that’s $240,000 per year for just that one store,” Mr. Gray said. “In exchange for that huge windfall the generous Michael Wachs was willing to give us $150,000 to tear down the iconic Massena Arena. Quite honestly, it’s a joke.”

Mr. Gray added that he doesn’t even believe that Mr. Wachs has truly spoken with officials from Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“I don’t believe Mr. Wachs is truly in contact with Dick’s Sporting Goods. I’ve seen no evidence of that,” he said. “From what I’m told the ‘meeting in May’ will happen at a booth at a retail show in Denver or some other western city.”

Mr. Gray offered up a list of things he would like to see from Mr. Wachs to show that he is serious about this proposal.

“In order to take Mr. Wachs seriously this is what I need to see. I need to see a commitment letter from Dick’s. I need to see a real dollar value offer for the property. I need to see Mr. Wachs invest some money into improving the abysmal conditions of the Grove Street extension, which runs behind the plaza, as well as the equally treacherous entrance to Price Chopper off of East Hatfield Street. And lastly, he needs to drop the lawsuit against the town of Massena and pay his fair share of taxes, rather than passing the buck onto the other property owners in the township,” he said. “If he does those things then we’ll have something to talk about. Until then, I think this is all a figment of his imagination.”

Mr. Gray said that he doesn’t typically engage in back and forth debate through the media, but he was hoping his statement given on Thursday would lessen the pressure Mr. Wachs is putting on the Massena community.

“I don’t like all the back and forth in the paper and I know it’s not good for business,” he said. “The only reason I’m speaking now is to try and get Mr. Wachs to end this verbal assault against public officials and the media in Massena.”

Mr. Gray also said he’s hoping that if officials from Dick’s Sporting Goods happen to see his comments, it doesn’t discourage them from locating a store somewhere in Massena.

“If Dick’s Sporting Goods or representatives from Dick’s Sporting Goods are reading this article I want it to be very clear to them that we would love to welcome them to our community and we would take any practical or realistic steps to help locate them here,” he said. “There are numerous other locations in Massena other than the Harte Haven plaza.”

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