The New York Post gets the Adirondacks wrong, again

On Tuesday, the New York Post published a commentary about the Adirondacks by Karen Moreau, with the Foundation for Land and Liberty, a property rights group.

Titled Adirondack Blues, Moreau’s essay lays out an argument for widespread reforms of management in the Park, arguing that current rules and regulations result in a “de facto ban on development in the Adirondack Park.”

Anyone who reads the In Box regularly knows that I think changes are needed to the way that the Park is managed, including some significant legislative tweaks in Albany.

And I’m convinced that community and economic development should be priorities during the next decade or so, for everyone who cares about the “great experiment” of the Adirondacks.

But essays like this one, which are full of flat-out factual errors, unsupportable claims, and deceptive omissions don’t help the case for responsible reform.

The silliest assertion made in Moreau’s commentary is that first one, the claim that development has been banned in the Park.

Over the last decade, in-Park communities have seen a massive influx of private capital, investment and development to the tune of billions of dollars.

Investors have built and bought their way to one of the most robust second-home markets in the US.

Literally thousands of homes have been built, many with APA permits and many more in parts of the Park where no permits are required.

Moreau goes on to claim that an “alliance” of state agencies and environmental groups stalled development of the Adirondack Club and Resort project in Tupper Lake “for seven years.”

The truth is that the review of the Big Tupper project has gone on far too long.

But a significant part of that delay (not all, to be sure) was caused by the developers, who asked repeatedly for the permitting process to be delayed, took long periods to respond to requests for information, and then asked that the process be diverted into alternative mediation.

The article makes no mention of these facts.

Moreau then wanders into truly goofy territory, blaming the lack of a sale of Camp Gabriels, the former prison near Saranac Lake, on the APA.

The article suggests that the 90-acre camp would be a prize for a resort developer because it sits “only 15 miles from Lake Placid, a first-class tourist destination,” and would be snapped up if not for the threat of the “APA’s wrath.”

In fact, the camp is a mess of old and dilapidated buildings and the state itself has been scrambling to find a buyer.  No one I’ve seen quoted, or talked to directly, has blamed the Agency for the lack of a buyer.

(The truth is that in this sour real estate market, there are plenty of properties located in Lake Placid that aren’t finding buyers.)

Obviously, the Adirondack Park’s economy is struggling.  And the APA should be doing more to help communities plan and innovate so that they find a future for themselves.

But Moreau fails to note that the state of New York spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year in the Adirondacks — far more per capita than in any other part of the state — funding prisons, making property tax payments, and investing in facilities such as the new ORDA convention center.

The state is wrapping up construction of a new ski lift in Johnsburg, which was specifically built to help foster construction of a large new resort development which the APA permitted speedily.

Moreau also omits mention of the fact that the APA has helped to create shovel-ready light industry Parks — one of them a short distance from Camp Gabriels — which are latchkey ready and yet sit empty.

The article does raise some reasonable points that deserve debate, including the selection process for APA commissioners, and the state’s plans for buying more land in the Park.

We also need a realistic conversation about all the factors that are limiting the Park’s economy.  And we need to be clear that many of these changes will need to be made in Albany, not in Ray Brook where the APA is headquartered.

But these APA-as-villain caricatures don’t help with any of that.

Unfortunately, we’ve been here before with the Post.  Back in April, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise chastised Post columnist Fred Dicker in a lead editorial, responding to his fact-challenged piece on the Adirondacks.

We’re not big fans of Mr. Dicker’s reporting quality. For one thing, Clinton County Real Property Services Director James Gonyo told us Mr. Dicker misquoted him.

For another, we dislike the way Mr. Dicker used an anonymous source, one who apparently had no direct knowledge of state land deals, to suggest that this was an intentional reward to the Conservancy by our last three governors.

That smacks of gossip; if it’s true, prove it…

By getting so many factual details wrong, and by leaving out crucial information and context, the Post and its columnists discredit those who want a serious discussion of reform, and those want a greater focus on community prosperity in the Park.

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29 Responses to “The New York Post gets the Adirondacks wrong, again”

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  1. Myown says:

    What a surprise an overtly biased, misleading and inaccurate article would in appear in the NY Post. The absence of facts has never been an issue with any of Murdock’s conservative media empire, including Fox Broadcasting, Wall Street Journal, NY Post, etc. For the Austrailian-born Murdock promoting conservative ideology is way more important than letting the facts get in the way.

    If they say the piece was commentary, not reporting, then they should be receptive to publishing a counter response.

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  2. Paul says:

    Maybe many of the people in the Adirondacks agree with her assessment, even if it is factually inaccurate? In that case maybe she got the “Adirondacks right”?

    Seriously, I think that the booming second home market that Brian describes is seriously enhanced by APA policies.

    Several examples.
    1. When the APA put in shoreline setback regulations in the 70s the days of building camps right on the water immediately came to an end. This caused the value of these existing structures to begin the steady climb in value that we have seen over the past decades.

    2. The recent APA regulations barring the expansion (more than 25%) of shoreline structures built prior to 1973 will also cause the larger existing structures to again quickly gain in value.

    3. The recent changes to boat house regulations will make the value of older larger boat houses soar.

    In my opinion all of these things (and others) have had a profound impact on the value of Adirondack real estate. These are positive changes for many second home owners, and some Adirondack residents. But I doubt that these are positive developments for most other Adirondack residents.

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  3. Brian says:

    The Post got it wrong? Inconceivable!

    Paul, if there’s a factual case to be made to support her vision of the Adirondacks, then why didn’t she, you know, make it? Though I don’t think the Park wants people from NYC imposing their vision on them.

    Furthermore, even the anti-APA Post-Star reports that the Agency rejected less than 1% of projects* in its 37 year history. That’s hardly a “de facto ban on development in the Adirondack Park,” … though I’m guessing this fact didn’t make its way into the Post’s piece.

    (*-http://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2010/07/commentary-apa-almost-never-rejects.html)

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  4. Paul says:

    “Though I don’t think the Park wants people from NYC imposing their vision on them.”

    Brian, they have no choice right? This is a unique situation where folks who don’t live in the area are supposed to have a voice (perhaps a strong voice) in how things will be run. That is the whole point of setting up a state zoning agency to manage local zoning in the Adirondacks.

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  5. Pete Klein says:

    I think the Post story is very simple. It was probably meant to secure more readership in the Adirondacks. It certainly wasn’t meant for most readers in NYC.
    I guess the New York Post wants to compete with the Glens Falls Post Star for the same readers.
    Goofy!

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  6. Jack says:

    Brian,
    I hope that you’ll write to the NYP and have a chance to rebut the claims in the aforementioned piece.

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  7. Myown says:

    That should be Murdoch.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Murdoch

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  8. Notinthevillage says:

    The silliest assertion made in Moreau’s commentary is that first one, the claim that development has been banned in the Park.

    Moreau’s commentary said “de facto ban”. Do you know what “de facto” means? I’ll give you an example. The original approval for 38 foot cell towers along the Northway was a “de facto” ban since they would have been useless for the intended purpose.

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  9. Bret4207 says:

    The Park itself has caused part of the “de facto” ban in at least a couple of ways.

    The more land the State buys, the less there is available for residents to purchase and build on. In a sense that becomes a ban since the remaining land gets priced out of sight.

    The same thing follows with those who find the area appealing for second (or 3rd or 4th) homes. They pay the often relatively outrageous prices and drive up land values, appraisals and assessments. That causes more local residents to become unable to remain or to purchase in the Park.

    The Park has it’s pros and cons. I doubt the Park regulations or APA will ever change much.

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  10. Brian says:

    Notinthevillage -

    Your cell phone point is an illustrative one in the context of this conversation.

    Yes, it took the APA awhile to figure out how to properly regulate cell towers in the Park.

    (Some would argue that more tweaking is needed; and that process continues.)

    But the fact is that many parts of the Adirondacks now have better cell phone coverage that comparable rural areas in other parts of upstate New York — and the towers are “substantially” invisible.

    Was it a bureaucratic process and more than a little frustrating? Yes.

    Is it kind of cool that we don’t have big cell phone towers everywhere, as they do on the Thruway and the Taconic? Also yes.

    Did that represent a “de facto” ban? Clearly not.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  11. Myown says:

    Bret4207 said
    “The more land the State buys, the less there is available for residents to purchase and build on. In a sense that becomes a ban since the remaining land gets priced out of sight.

    The same thing follows with those who find the area appealing for second (or 3rd or 4th) homes. They pay the often relatively outrageous prices and drive up land values, appraisals and assessments. That causes more local residents to become unable to remain or to purchase in the Park.”

    There is no data that supports your claim. If you are already a resident how can you not remain a resident? If you are unable to purchase in the Park, it means by definition you are not a resident. Nonsensical strawman arguments.

    And Duh, it is a STATE PARK. Think about it. Why shouldn’t there be APA restrictions on development. Local govenments have been AWOL with regards to zoning and development regulaltions that are common throughout the the rest of the state.

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  12. Notinthevillage says:

    But the fact is that many parts of the Adirondacks now have better cell phone coverage that comparable rural areas in other parts of upstate New York.

    Care to support that assertion? I can drive from Plattsburg to Watertown and have cell service almost the entire way. If I go from St. Lawrence county to Albany (as I did this past weekend) via Tupper Lake … Long Lake … Blue Mountain Lake … to Warrensburg and not have cell service for significant if not most of the trip. You are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own facts.

    Is it kind of cool that we don’t have big cell phone towers everywhere, as they do on the Thruway and the Taconic? Also yes.

    Did that represent a “de facto” ban? Clearly not.

    Without the highly publicized tragedy of the death on the Northway and the resulting political pressure I very much doubt that would have changed.

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  13. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    In my town which has virtually no cell phone coverage there is an APA approved site. We have been waiting for years with promises that we will have cell service soon. Still nothing. Not the APA’s fault.

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  14. Myown says:

    Notinthevillage, Take a look at the coverage maps of cell phone providers. There are plenty of no service areas in other parts of NY, VT and PA – where there is no APA. The lack of cell service is more related to topography and sparse population (ie, customers) than regulatory issues or permits.

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  15. scratchy says:

    The NY Post is not a credible newspaper. Why pay any attention to it?

    As as cell coverage goes, here’s a radical thought: let local governments regulate the placing of cell towers instead of having the APA do it. Why should Albany be interfering in a strictly local perogative? And it is well documented that the APA has several times obstructed the construction of cell towers, placing unreasonable height restrictions, for example. I’ve done a lot of driving on the Thruway and I never notice cell towers. They’re not the huge obstructions people think they are.

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  16. Notinthevillage says:

    Take a look at the coverage maps of cell phone providers. There are plenty of no service areas in other parts of NY, VT and PA – where there is no APA.

    Not where there are Interstate highways.

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  17. Bret4207 says:

    Myown, Duh, the law of supply and demand changes inside the Blue Line genius? I lived in the Park from ’59-’95. You want data? Go back in the pages here and see the reports on the lack of “affordable housing” that come up time after time.

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  18. Pete Klein says:

    I wonder if people who drive through the Adirondacks and complain about cell phone service are breaking the law. Isn’t there a law against using a cell phone while driving? How would they know the cell phone service is poor unless they are breaking the law?

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  19. Bret4207 says:

    I’m sure they’re using hands free devices Pete or having their co-pilot do it. Actually, more likely their kids are complaining loudly form the back seat that they can’t text their BFFs.

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  20. Myown says:

    Bret,
    The issue of affordable housing is not exclusive to the Adirondack Park and occurs many other places where there is no State Park or APA. The issue was overall development in the Park and there is plenty of development happening – in fact, more so than similar rural areas outside the Park.

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  21. Paul says:

    If local towns were so out to lunch on zoning, and the APA approves all its permits (you have seen the stories) than why is the Adirondacks such a beautiful and popular place for folks to buy second and third homes?? Given this logic shouldn’t the whole place be overdeveloped and not worth much??

    What am I missing? Most parts of the Adirondacks I travel in seem to be less developed than they were a few decades ago. I think much of this is hype.

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  22. Myown says:

    Paul, you may be seeing the intended effect of the Park’s Land Use and Development Plan and associated zoning. The goal is to keep economic development activity concentrated around the existing villages and hamlets, rather than spread out all over. And to concentrate residential development into areas that can absorb the impacts. As a result, along many miles of highway in the Park there are no signs of development, billboards, etc. – and I think that is a good thing. On the other hand, I go thru Old Forge all the time and it seems much more busy than 20 or 30 years ago with many new businesses – and I think that is a good thing.

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  23. Paul says:

    Myown, I think that we see different things. In Saranac Lake, where I grew up, I see much less commercial activity. I don’t see any real growth in town, even residential growth. The only thing that has changed really is the home prices, they have gone through the roof. On the lakes I have seen some building, but not much given all the years I have been watching. Yet I constantly hear about a landscape under pressure of being ruined. I just don’t see it.

    My opinion is that, given the differences that we see from one area to the next, that a more “local” approach is called for. The APA was a bridge. I know that some people think that the local folks don’t care, or can’t handle it but I am sure they can. No one cares more about Saranac Lake and the surrounding areas than the folks that I know that live there. I assume the same is true in and around Old Forge. I think it is time for a change.

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  24. Pete Klein says:

    Bret,
    I have to admit I’m a bit old fashioned. Although I do admit to owning a cell phone, I hardly ever use it – even when out of the area I seldom even carry it.
    It took years for my family to convince me we needed to dump the BW TV for color and I was late in getting a computer.
    I know I will never ever buy 3D TV. 3D is mostly for junk. It would never do anything for a classic movie like “12 Angry Men,” which by the way was BW and even color wouldn’t have added a thing to it.

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  25. Betty says:

    Bret says; “Myown, Duh, the law of supply and demand changes inside the Blue Line genius?” Typical of you Bret.

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  26. Paul says:

    Pete,

    The black and white TV was once the 3D TV of today! You may come around!

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  27. Myown says:

    hey Pete, you are not alone. We just bought a color flat screen. Our first TV bigger than 19″ and one that wasn’t a 20 year old hand me down. Of course I don’t have cable or a dish so there isn’t much to watch anyways. Thank goodness for the internets and DSL!

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  28. Bret4207 says:

    Betty, did you read the response to my post that included the “DUH” to me? Rude posts beget rude responses ma’am. Treat me like a moron and I’ll return the favor. I believe the Golden Rule applies.

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  29. Actually, Brian, it took a man dying because of the lack of cell phone coverage along the Northway to ratchet up political pressure to the point where effective towers could be built. I wouldn’t call that cool.

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