Thursday, December 15, 2011

Locally Funded Albany Ice Rink Draws Fire

A plan to spend $100,000 to fund free ice skating in the City of Albany is drawing the ire of a local Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) workers who have been without a contract for nearly three years.

“CSEA workers at Gore, Whiteface, and the other Olympic facilities have spent the last three years without a contract making wages commensurate to the working poor,” says a mailing that arrived in local mailboxes this week from the Civil Service Employees’ Association (CSEA), the union that represents ORDA workers. “As they struggle to support their families here in the North Country the ORDA CEO Ted Blazer is spending $100,000 for an ice skating rink in the City of Albany!”

In Albany, the reopening of the Empire State Plaza ice skating rink, which has been closed since 2007, is being celebrated. The rink will open in early January for free skating in the afternoons and evenings, 7 days per week. According to a press release issued by the New York State Office of General Services (OGS) the funding is a result of a partnership between OGS and ORDA and will be underwritten by the Lake Placid Regional Winter Sports Committee (LPRWSC). LPRWSC, a 501C3 corporation, was founded in 2006. Dave Catalfamo serves as Executive Director; the board of directors is chaired by Serge Lussi; former State Senator Ron Stafford’s widow Kay Stafford serves as Secretary; the board also includes Betsy Lack, Betty Little, Ed Weibrecht, and Tammy Venditti.

“The funds will support the mission of the organization to enhance New York State’s economy, quality of life, image and development of regional, national and international sports and will be used at the Empire State Plaza to sponsor skating clinics for inner-city youth to promote an active lifestyle and as a recruitment tool for potential world-class athletes,” the statement reads. “Funding will also be used to attract visitors to events and activities in the Lake Placid region including world-class bobsledding, professional figure skating, the Empire State Games, and skiing and snowboarding at Whiteface Mountain and Gore Mountain.”

ORDA’s collective bargaining agreement with CSEA, which represented about 135 ORDA workers, expired on March 2, 2009. ORDA fired Kevin Kleffman, who was a carpentry and building maintenance department supervisor and CSEA local president in May of 2009 after Kleffman called WNBZ‘s “Talk of Town” radio show and said “from the comments that I am currently hearing from our members, they are more than willing to go from being hard working and friendly to being indolent and surly.” ORDA officials said Kleffman violated the 1967 Taylor Law.

Both sides began meeting with a mediator appointed by the state Public Employment Relations Board in 2010. ORDA can not legally discuss the details of negotiations, but workers and the union say ORDA is dragging its feet. The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported on the failed contract negotiations back in September 2010. This June ORDA reported higher than expected revenues and in December 2010 the paper editorialized on the subject. There has been no reporting since then.

The Albany ice rink originally opened on December 17, 1976, when OGS held the first holiday festival at the Empire State Plaza. The three-day event drew over 60,000 people to see the lighting of the tree, fireworks, and the dedication of rink.

Photo: Empire State Plaza Ice Skating Rink (Courtesy All Over Albany).


John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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