Posts Tagged ‘Political History’

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Phil Terrie: ‘Forever Wild’ Isn’t Forever

NYCO Minerals Wollastonite Mine (Nancie B Photo)The “Forever Wild” provision of the New York State constitution has protected the Forest Preserve since the first day of January 1895. On that day a new constitution, drafted during the summer of 1894 and approved by New York voters in November, took effect. But over the ensuing years, we have learned that “forever” doesn’t mean exactly what it seems to mean.

It’s not easy, but the constitution can be amended, and land that appeared to be protected in perpetuity can be alienated from the Forest Preserve and become anything but wild. The reasons may seem sound, and the process may be difficult, but the Forest Preserve is forever wild only to the extent that we want it to be. (An invaluable source on this history is The Adirondack Forest Preserve by Norman VanValkenburgh.) » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dave Gibson: The State’s Environmental Protection Fund

Forest Preserve - Conservation Easement TableIt’s state budget time, and the members of regional advisory committees on open space conservation from the Adirondacks to Niagara and Long Island will be watching that fraction of one percent of the state budget called the Environmental Protection Fund. Will the EPF continue to recover from the recessionary influenza it caught in 2009?

New York State’s extraordinary three million acre Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and its extensive State Park and Historic area system (330,000 acres) outside of these Parks are two big reasons why the state has been a national leader in conserving forests and open space since the 19th century.

Another is nearly million acres conserved through the use of conservation easements on private lands. The EPF and spending from the 1996 $1.75 billion Clean Water/Air Bond Act (expended years ago) has funded this growth: 85% growth in conservation easements since 1992, 5% growth in the Forest Preserve during that time span. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 6, 2014

The Lake Placid Legacy of Willis Wells

Willis WellsAmong the folks who played an important role in regional history and personified the traditional Christmas spirit was Willis Wells of Lake Placid. Long before Willis gained attention, his father, Duran, a Peru, New York, native, had become a North Country fixture, operating a peddler’s cart in the post-Civil War years. From the shores of Lake Champlain to the Paul Smith’s area, he supplied homes and farms with the daily needs of life, an important function in those early days when stores visited many of their customers.

Duran was somewhat of a showman, adding to his popularity. His arrival at large hotels like Smith’s, or the Stevens House at Lake Placid, was greeted by requests for his famous team of gray horses to perform. Wells had taught them several tricks (playing ball, standing on their hind legs, etc.). Guests loved it, and it was a great advertising gimmick to boot.

Success as a peddler led to Duran settling down and operating a store in Lake Placid in the late 1870s. The business flourished, but the onset of rheumatism eventually left him crippled and unable to work, forcing him to retire by the age of 50. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

William Almon Wheeler: North Country Political Star

Wheeler cover designA new biography is shedding light on an overshadowed North Country political figure, the Nineteenth Vice President of the United States. In William Almon Wheeler: Political Star of the North Country (2013, SUNY Press), author Herbert C. Hallas leaves no doubt that Wheeler was a more significant political figure than the existing literature may lead one to believe.

The book is the first and only complete biography of Wheeler, a man referred to as “the New York Lincoln,” who helped to found the Republican Party and build it into a formidable political force during the Gilded Age. Wheeler’s life is an American success story about how a poor boy from Malone achieved fame and fortune as a lawyer, banker, railroad president, state legislator, five-time congressman, and vice president of the United States. » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 6, 2013

NYCO Mining Amendment: Fact And Fiction

800px-2013_Adirondack_Land_Exchange_MapLast month, voters in New York State approved Proposition 5, which amends Article 14 of the New York Constitution to potentially allow exploratory drilling and mining by a private mining company, NYCO, on two hundred acres of Forest Preserve lands (Lot 8) in the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area.  The amendment authorizes a potential land swap from NYCO that, in theory, will compensate the people of the state for the loss of two hundred wilderness acres, and further requires that Lot 8 ultimately be “remediated” and returned to state ownership.

In the months leading up to the vote and in the weeks since its passage, Prop 5 has stirred intense and at times acrimonious debate.  Unfortunately, the debate has tended to obscure rather than shed light on what Prop 5 really authorizes and what this novel amendment might mean for the future of “forever wild.” Here is some fact and fiction about Prop 5: » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Dave Gibson:
Whiteface Memorial Highway and the Forest Preserve

Copy of Whiteface SummitThe late, extraordinary forest educator, Dr. Edwin H. Ketchledge, started an exhibit of native Adirondack trees at the base of the Whiteface Memorial Highway in Wilmington, and wrote to all who would listen how important it would be to properly interpret the natural history of the mountain from the base of the road to the mountain’s summit. Of course, Dr. Ketchledge had interpreted this route in hundreds of ways during his career as a teacher, and was hopeful that his legacy would continue.

Governor Andrew Cuomo just made it a lot safer to accomplish Dr. Ketchledge’s vision as a result of the state’s commitment to expend $12 million to rehabilitate the road and the summit’s facilities. This is welcome news indeed for Wilmington, the Olympic Authority and many Adirondack residents and visitors who marvel at what they feel, see and learn from this mountain road. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Bill Bray: Standing Strong to the End

03A BrayAfter years of loyal service to his party and resisting against the most powerful men in American politics, M. William Bray was unceremoniously dumped from the New York State Democratic ticket in 1938. The strategy was questionable at best, considering the support he enjoyed in 40 upstate counties.

It was Bray’s growing influence that they feared. For years, Roosevelt, Farley, and others had tried to erode his power base but were unable to do so. In fact, by all measures, Bray was more popular than ever. In 1936, during his third run for lieutenant governor, he had outpolled Governor Lehman by nearly 60,000 votes (3,028,191 to 2,970,595).

It was embarrassing to party leaders that he was favored over the state’s chief executive, and galling to Farley in particular. But dropping a candidate who attracted three million voters seemed akin to political suicide. What could the Democratic Party leaders have been thinking? » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Political History: Northern NY’s Native Son Bill Bray

02A MWBrayBill Bray’s rise to power in New York State politics was an impressive feat. From a poor farm life within a few miles of the Canadian border, he worked hard at becoming a successful attorney. By the age of 39, he was chairman of the state’s Democratic Party and a close confidant of Governor Franklin Roosevelt. Bray was running the show and FDR was a happy man, reaping the benefits of Bray’s solid connections in upstate New York.

Ironically, his following across central and northern New York is what eventually drove a wedge between Bray and the governor, souring their relationship. The falling out was over patronage, a common political practice. Roosevelt balked at Bray’s request to replace the Conservation Commissioner (a Republican) with a deserving upstate Democrat. It was, after all, the payoff for supporting FDR and helping win the election. A month or so later, Roosevelt finally acceded to Bray’s wishes, but the conflict hurt Bill’s standing within the inner circle. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Brown Tract: The Hamilton – Burr Duel Connection

Browns Tract 1802Adirondack historians routinely state that Rhode Island merchant John Brown obtained clear title to a 210,000 acre tract of land when he paid $33,000 at a Court of Chancery mortgage foreclosure sale in December 1798.  However, this transaction was not recorded in the Lewis County Clerk’s Office until February 22, 1804, more than five years later and five months after Brown’s death.

Two days later on February 24, the Assembly enacted Chapter 6, Laws of 1804 which affirmed that the Brown estate’s title to the tract could not be extinguished in any way “by reason or pretext of the alienism of any person to whom the said lands may have been conveyed” or “ by any conveyance prior to“ Brown’s 1798 payment.

John Brown’s anxiety over his title and his efforts to obtain this legislation while he was developing the tract at significant expense are evidence that his title was not perfected until 1804, the same year that two of his legal advisers fought a deadly duel. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Peter Bauer: Homage to the 1924 Sign Law

billboards-AAThe 1924 sign law that effectively banned billboards throughout the Adirondack Park shows how our forbearers were braver, wiser, and more prescient than we are today.

It was a bold decision that resulted, by some accounts, in the removal of over 1,400 billboards. In the Adirondack Park this law largely prevented an assault of rooftop and roadside billboards that dominate broad stretches of the U.S. – the cluttered strips of Anywhere USA. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Founding Moment of the Adirondack Park:
The 1894 Constitutional Convention

Log sluice and stripped mountainside, near Elizabethtown, 1880s1894 had been a hot summer. 119 years ago this week the most important question before the Constitutional Convention of 1894 came to a head. What, if any, amendments to the State Constitution should be adopted for the preservation of the State forests?

The scene was the Assembly chamber in the Capitol at Albany, the date was Saturday, September 8, 1894, and the speaker was a New York City lawyer by the name of David McClure, the chairman of the convention’s five-man special committee on forest preservation. The topic was, according to the man with the gavel, Convention Chairman Joseph Choate, “further consideration of a general order relating to the forest preserves.” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Renewing the Two Row Wampum

Leaders w Anrust_b“We need a global solution. We need to set aside our differences. Our leaders are not paying attention. Washington is filled with millionaires. What the hell do they care? They are out of touch. We are losing time. Now is the time for people to come together and act to protect and heal our environment. If we do not act now no matter what we do it will be too late.” said Oren Lyons, a member of the National Council of Chiefs and the Faith Keeper of the Onondaga, standing on the shores of the Hudson River on a overcast Sunday morning to the hundreds of people gathered.

Four hundred years ago the Dutch and the Iroquois, the Haunensaunee or the “People of the Long House”, the league of five nations of indigenous people known as the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca, made an agreement to live and trade in harmony, and to respect and care for the natural environment, an agreement symbolized by a two row wampum belt. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 22, 2013

New State Lands: Proposed Upper Hudson River Dams

Gooley-Kettle19Like many readers of the Adirondack Almanack, I have been closely following the public meetings, discussions, editorials, and position statements concerning the land use proposals for the former Finch-Pruyn lands encompassing the Essex Chain of Lakes and the Upper Hudson River. I do have my favored position, as does everyone who loves and appreciates the Adirondacks.  But my intent here is to talk about the “near losses”. That is to say the geographic area of our concern, over the many years, would have been very different, if a few politicians, and engineers had their way.

Of course a near loss would have been if the State of New York had not purchased the land from the Nature Conservancy. Another near loss would have been if the Nature Conservancy had not purchased the property form the Finch-Pruyn Paper Company in the first place.  The citizens of New York State could have lost it all.

But there was another potential loss, in the mid-to-late 1960’s that would have mooted all of the present discussions.  There was a plan to dam the Upper Hudson in order to supply water and hydro-electric power to the parched, urban, metropolitan area of New York City.  » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 24, 2013

A Short History of Local KKK Activities

KKK hdline 1924Last week in this space, I addressed the subject of cross-burnings in the North Country, which became common in the 1920s during a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. Throughout the region, meetings were conducted by Klan leaders, and thousands of followers were added to their ranks. For many of us, it’s an uncomfortable part of Adirondack history, but there is another side to the story. Despite widespread intimidation spawned by secret meetings, robed figures, and fiery crosses, New York’s citizenry rose in opposition to the Klan policies of bigotry and exclusion. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dave Gibson: Fighting For A Wild Upper Hudson, 1968-2013

Proposed Gooley Dam Reservoir c 1968This week’s Adirondack Park Agency public hearings in Minerva and Newcomb about the classification of new Forest Preserve land along the Upper Hudson River, Essex Chain of Lakes, Cedar and Indian Rivers were well attended and informative. At Minerva Central School, there was no applause, no heckling. Folks listened to differing viewpoints respectfully, and several speakers noted a fair amount of common interests.

While most speakers favored a Wild Forest classification which would allow motorized access through an area long closed to public use, one former Finch, Pruyn manager noted the damage done to the roads by all-terrain vehicles. There was only one speaker in Minerva who favored unrestricted, unregulated, all-out motorized use from the Goodnow Flow to the Cedar River. Most appreciate the havoc this would cause to a region they know, or wish to get to know.
» Continue Reading.


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