By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
COEYMANS — Carver Companies owns the Port of Coeymans and is one of the area’s largest employers, but the company’s growth and impact on the town have drawn opposition from some in the community.
Issues such as truck traffic generated by the companies that do business in the port and Carver Companies’ impact on the environment are some of the concerns that have been raised over the years.
Two women in the community are also now claiming they have been targeted for “harassment and bullying” following issuance of a summons and a charge of trespassing while allegedly on property owned by Carver Companies.
Sara Pruiksma, of Coeymans, and Barbara Heinzen, of New Baltimore, were arrested in June and charged with trespassing on property owned by Carver Companies on Bronk Road in the town. Earlier this year, roughly 25 acres of land at the site were clearcut by the company, drawing opposition from numerous local residents.
Pruiksma and Heinzen were outspoken critics of Carver Companies when the site was cleared of trees, as well as on other issues, including the company’s expansion of the port.
The two were charged with trespassing but claim they were on a public road and did not enter Carver Companies’ property, and say they were identifying plants on the side of the road.
They were stopped by two company employees and say one of the employees took a photo of them.
A photo of the women was later circulated on social media; it is not known who initially posted the picture or how it was obtained.
The women denied they were on land owned by the company and say the conversation with the company employees at the time was “cordial.”
The next day, Pruiksma says she received a phone call from the Coeymans Police Department and was notified that she was receiving a summons for alleged trespassing.
“I was in utter disbelief. I actually asked if it was a joke,” Pruiksma said. “The sergeant was aggressive on the phone. I felt attacked and bullied.”
Heinzen later received a similar summons.
Heinzen said the arrest was used to intimidate them.
“As I see it, this was a clear case of using the Coeymans police to harass two local residents who oppose Carver Laraway’s wish to industrialize the Hudson River shoreline,” Heinzen said. “This intimidation will not work and our opposition is needed now more than ever.”
Carver Companies said in a statement Pruiksma and Heinzen were found on the company’s property, which has “No Trespassing” signs posted.
“Carver Security, while on routine patrol, observed Pruiksma and Heinzen walking on property owned by Carver. At the time they were observed they were in the brush with pruners and shears,” according to the company. “When approached, security asked them what they were doing, and they advised that they were taking samples of trees and shrubs to identify native species.”
“Pruiksma and Heinzen acknowledged that they saw the NO TRESPASSING signs,” the statement continues. “The police were contacted, and they took it from there.”
Pruiksma called the trespassing charge an “abuse of power” and questioned why the arrest was made when it was witnessed by company employees and not a police officer.
Police Chief Marc Tryon said the department applied the law fairly and lawfully.
“The arrest for simple trespass was done after a complaint was received from Carver Companies, a statement was provided by the Carver employee and a photo was shared of the two subjects on the property,” Tryon said. “It is not an abuse of power to follow the Penal Law statutes and Criminal Procedure Law process to summon people to court. Trespass is a violation within the Penal Law and does not have to be witnessed by a police officer in order for an arrest to be made.”
Tryon said he met with Pruiksma and Heinzen to discuss their concerns. He contended the sergeant who summoned the two women to the police department dealt with them fairly.
“The subjects were resistant to coming to the station to receive a summons for the court, which may have led them to believe they were being bullied,” Tryon said.
The trespassing charge for both Pruiksma and Heinzen was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal and has since been dismissed.
The Port of Coeymans and their tenants currently employ more than 500 workers on the 450-acre site along the Hudson River. New tenants that will manufacture offshore wind components could add hundreds more jobs. With that growth, however, has come opposition from some in the community concerned with issues such as environmental impacts, traffic and industrialization of the riverfront.