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Wachs responds to Gray’s comments, shares supervisor’s enthusiasm for bringing Dick’s to Masena

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MASSENA - The owner of Massena’s Harte Haven Shopping Center said he shares supervisor Joseph D. Grays enthusiasm for bringing a Dick’s Sporting Goods store to Massena, but said he took issue with other comments by the supervisor including a list of things Mr. Gray said he wanted to see before moving forward with the 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,” Mr. Gray said in comments appearing in Friday’s Daily Courier-Observer. “If he does those things then we’ll have something to talk about.”

Other comments in the story included accusations that Mr. Wachs was acting in a “child-like manner,” as well as having a “penchant for exaggeration and bloviation.”

Mr. Gray, though, did say he would be happy to welcome Dick’s Sporting Goods to the Massena community.

“I was delighted to read that Supervisor Gray shares my desire and commitment to welcome Dick’s Sporting Goods to Massena,” Mr. Wachs said in a letter to the editor submitted after reading Mr. Gray’s comments. (The letter appears on page A-4.)

Mr. Wachs, noting that he is an optimist, said rather than engaging in a public argument with Mr. Gray, he would view the supervisor’s comments “in a positive light.”

“I have always tried to look at things positively and will therefore try to take Joseph’s statements in a positive light,” he said. “I am unashamed at the way I have expressed the benefits of locating retail establishments in Massena to the many prospective tenants I have reached out to over the years. Has it been easy? Quite to the contrary. It’s been an incredible challenge.”

That being said, Mr. Wachs said he is pleased to have the center currently running at 100 percent capacity.

“I hope the residents of Massena are pleased with this as well,” he said.

Mr. Wachs acknowledged there are some capital improvements that could be made at the center, but he said that’s too be expected. He also said the town and village expect to be paying for capital expenses at the arena in the future.

“Are there further capital improvements to make? Of course, there is the center was built in 1957,” he said. “Even the ‘iconic’ Massena Arena, which was built in 1975 will be in need of capital improvements over time to protect and ensure it’s future viability and well being.”

Mr. Wachs said he finds the suggestion that he’s not paying his “fair share of taxes” reprehensible and given recent budget increases by both municipalities, not something he feels like town or village officials should be talking about.

“This sounds exactly like what is being asked of Massena’s residents,” he said.

Mr. Wachs also said he is not prepared to make an offer on the property until an appraisal has been completed, something that would have to be authorized by both the town and village board.

“It is not for Supervisor Gray nor myself to determine the value of the land next to the Massena Arena, as this is not Joseph’s nor my expertise,” he said. “Hopefully an independent appraiser has been hired by Massena to take this next step and this is not simply being talked about by Supervisor Gray and Mayor (James) Hidy.”

As for whether Mr. Wachs has already spoken with representatives of Dick’s Sporting Goods, Mr. Wachs continues to assert that he has.

“Does anyone in Massena really believe Mr. Gray when he states publicly that, ‘I don’t believe Mr. Wachs is truly in contact with Dick’s Sporting Goods?’” he asked.

Mr. Wachs said if Mr. Gray and Mr. Hidy are both truly committed to helping to bring business to Massena, they would authorize the hiring of an appraiser to take a look at the property.

“If Supervisor Gray and Mayor Hidy truly ‘want it to be very clear that we would welcome them (Dick’s) to our community and would take any practical steps to help them locate here,’ then authorize the appraisal and do what you have stated will be the next step in this process.”

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