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.