Developer sues critic for $2.5M, claiming libel and slander
BALLSTON SPA Prominent land developer Bruce Tanski is suing one of his outspoken critics for $2.5 million, claiming he was libeled and slandered in a letter and an appearance before the Halfmoon Town Board.
Tanski, who has built numerous apartment and townhouse complexes over the past two decades, filed the lawsuit against town resident Bruce Rischert on Dec. 20 in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa.
Rischert has been highly critical of Tanski and is connected to Future Halfmoon, a citizen group that has spoken against the fast pace of development in Halfmoon, the population of which has grown from 14,000 residents to nearly 22,000 over the past 20 years.
In the lawsuit, Tanski, owner of Bruce Tanski Construction and Development, alleges he was libeled in a letter titled “Gold Rush” that Rischert submitted to the Halfmoon Town Board in August. The letter calls for a moratorium on development in Halfmoon and for town policies favoring single-family home construction over apartments. It includes criticisms of Tanski and quotes from numerous anonymous emails in which Tanski’s apartment management is criticized by tenants.
The lawsuit contends that the letter contains false statements about Tanski or information and quotes taken out of context.
Tanski also claims damages for verbal statements Rischert allegedly made at an Oct. 3 Town Board meeting.
“Generally, [Rischert] has a history of harassment and has not hidden his hatred, spite and ill-will toward [Tanski], having repeatedly sought to damage [Tanski’s] individual professional reputation in addition to [his] business and trade,” states the complaint, filed on Tanski’s behalf by attorney Richard Miller of Clifton Park.
Tanski currently has pending before the town a zoning change request to allow a 165-unit apartment complex that would be called Anna’s Place. It would not be far from the residential neighborhood where Rischert lives off of Werner Road, in an area currently zoned residential-agricultural.
Tanski has built more than 1,100 apartment units and 300 single-family homes in the Halfmoon area over the past 40 years and has recently called for the town to allow more apartments because of the difficulty builders currently have selling single-family housing.
Tanski’s projects have been a particular target of Future Halfmoon, which contends that the pace of growth in town has been too fast and has noted that Tanski is a regular contributor to the election campaigns of the Republicans who have a lock on town government.
Efforts to reach Rischert, who does not have a listed telephone number, were unsuccessful Wednesday.