Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Open Letter to the Governor Concerning the Relocation of the APA

APA Building in Ray Brook NY

Dear Governor Hochul, 

The undersigned former Board members and former employees of the Adirondack Park Agency  are writing to express our opposition to the proposed relocation of the Agency’s headquarters to  a new location in the Village of Saranac Lake. Our reasons for taking this position are detailed  below.  

The Park Agency is a regional agency which regulates land use and development throughout the  Adirondack Park. It makes little sense to us for the Agency to choose a new location in one  community without any outreach to other potentially interested communities and a careful  consideration of alternatives.  

There appears to have been no evaluation of other alternatives to the Village of Saranac Lake  including and especially locations in such nearby Adirondack communities as Tupper Lake and Gabriels which both have existing State buildings in need of improvements which would be  suitable for an Agency headquarters. It does not serve the public well to propose only one  location beyond the State Office Campus in Ray Brook with no consideration of alternatives. 

Choosing Saranac Lake as the “preferred location” for a new headquarters without a detailed and  fully transparent alternatives analysis has an appearance of impropriety. Saranac Lake is where  the Agency’s Executive Director was raised, where her highly respected family runs a  longstanding anchor Main Street business, and where she ably served as a Village Trustee. The  Executive Director has stated that New York’s $29 Million investment will be  “transformational.” Advancing the proposal will require negotiations with the Village of  Saranac Lake at the same time that the Village is considering building a new emergency services  building on a site which will at least require a Freshwater Wetlands Act permit from the APA.  To even a casual observer, the proposal therefore raises ethical concerns for the Agency, the  Village and ultimately, the Hochul Administration.  

Again, on the issue of transparency, no analysis has been made available to the public which focuses on the cost or feasibility of constructing a new Agency headquarters at the APA’s current Ray Brook location. Portions of the Agency’s current complex that were constructed  within the past 20 years could potentially be used in the development of a new Agency headquarters. It is reasonable to assume that construction costs would be much lower if relatively new elements of the Agency’s current structure could be reused. Cost savings will be  especially important at this time since the NY State Budget Office is projecting significant  deficits in the current and future fiscal years.  

The proposed Village of Saranac Lake location is heavily used for local parking throughout the  day, especially during the summer months, its use by the Agency will therefore impact local  citizens. It will also increase traffic on an important and busy school bus route leading to the  nearby Petrova Elementary School.  

Other major concerns include the age and condition of the Power & Light Building, its  incorporated power generation infrastructure, and the condition of the Lake Flower Dam which is located at the side of the building. By moving the Agency to Saranac Lake, the State will be  encumbered with a long-term lease with the Village for a 96 year old building in need of major  renovations and it will assume responsibility and liability for dam maintenance. There are major  concerns regarding the safety of the Power & Light structure as well as the dam which is  attached just below the retaining wall of the building. The presence of and need for asbestos  remediation also needs to be considered. There may also be issues related to adequate setbacks  for the new structures proposed for the site by the Agency.  

Further, there are questions regarding whether there can truly be adequate parking for State  vehicles, private staff vehicles and visitor vehicles on this relatively small parcel in the Village.  The current State campus location has more than adequate parking and there is never a question  whether the public can be accommodated at Agency meetings, public hearings and other  programs. In addition, the fairly new vehicle maintenance garage at the existing Agency  headquarters could be included in the design of a new Agency building in Ray Brook and could  continue to serve the same purpose. 

The State Office Campus in Ray Brook was set aside in the State Land Master Plan  to house State government offices. If alternative sites away from Ray Brook were to be  identified, first consideration should have been given to other Stateowned properties. But the  question must be asked, why leave the Ray Brook location? 

Important security concerns are also met in Ray Brook through the presence of the New York  State Police and Department of Environmental Conservation’s law enforcement staff. And, the  NYS/DEC’s location across the parking lot from the APA provides the public with easy access  to DEC and APA staff for consultations and joint meetings on permit applications and other  important matters. 

Residents of Saranac Lake recognize that a critical need in the Village is and will continue to be  affordable housing. The section of the existing parking lot on which the Agency proposes to  construct its new office building will consume what could otherwise, with current zoning, be  developed for a multi-family housing project. 

In conclusion, we are simply looking for a transparent, common-sense approach for siting a new  Agency headquarters which will be more in line with the priorities and sound thinking that are  important to your Administration. An approach that is respectful of public input, which takes into  account the clear guidance of the State Land Master Plan and which seeks to ensure a proper  balance of costs and benefits. The site selection process should also be respectful of the history  of the Adirondack Park Agency. It should take into account what the Agency will require to best  serve the people of the Adirondacks in the future. Frankly, the current proposal to move the  Agency headquarters is not in the best interest of the Agency, its staff, other State agencies or the  public which we have long served. It is also not in keeping with the strong ethical standards and  transparency that have characterized your administration. 

We hope that you will seriously consider these comments prior to any further decisions being  made.  


Former Agency Board Members, Executive Staff and Staff Members: 

Richard Lefebvre, Board Member, Board Chair & Executive Director 

Sherman Craig, Board Member & Board Chair 

Katherine Roberts, Board Member  

Chad Dawson, Board Member 

James Connolly, Deputy Director Planning 

Mark Sengenberger, Deputy Director Regulatory Programs 

Steve Erman, Special Assistant for Economic Affairs 

Dan Spada, Director of Resource Analysis & Scientific Services 

John Quinn, Regulatory Programs 

Mike Hannon, Regulatory Programs 

Suzanne McSherry, Regulatory Programs 

Sunita Halasz, Resource Analysis & Scientific Services 

Mark Rooks, Resource Analysis & Scientific Services  

Rita Quinn, Jurisdictional Inquiries 

Doug Miller, Jurisdictional Inquiries  

Ellen George, Attorney 

Susan Streiff, Secretary to the Executive Director 

Betty-Jane Forester, Secretary/Receptionist 

Stevie Summers, Secretary/Receptionist

Photo at top: A rendering shows the Paul Smith’s Power and Light Building at 1-3 Main St. in the village of Saranac Lake as the Adirondack Park Agency’s new headquarters. In the plan, the agency would build a 19,000-square-foot addition behind it and a new parking lot. Rendering provided by the Adirondack Park Agency

Related Stories

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

22 Responses

  1. The Agency approved the Olympic Ski Jump, ACR, and the fragmentation of many pristine Adirondack lakes. It has forfeited its right to exist. Who cares where it lives?

    But P. S.: I LOVE the present headquarters, consisting of logs unconstitutionally harvested by the State after the 1950 Blowdown, and situated unconstitutionally on Forest Preserve.

  2. Bob Meyer says:

    These signatures have a very valid point!

  3. Annette Scheuer says:

    Bravo Bravo Bravo!
    I never understood this deal and these are my thoughts exactly – coupled with the fact that the current Mayor of Saranac Lake has his own agenda for pushing this deal. Nice to have the State of New York pay Village taxes while we construct a sparkly new “Public Safety Complex” that we do not need, in a dumb location that is not only environmentally ill-conceived, and not only a waste of money, but would take first responders out of the center of the community they are supposed to serve.

    The Governor should assist in renovating the APA building in Ray Brook and let it remain in its current location on what is already a NYS Office campus. Or, consider renovating Camp Gabriels for this purpose.

    The Village is constantly chasing grant money resulting in unnecessary, silly projects that don’t improve the quality of life for residents. Let them apply for grants to upgrade the current Village Police facilities and keep them where they belong.

    • Paul says:

      The police would not be leaving that location, that is inaccurate. I don’t have a dog in the fight but this isn’t true.

      • Annette Scheuer says:

        From ADE – April 26, 2023:

        “The Saranac Lake Police Department is currently housed in that building, but the village is considering moving it to a proposed $27 million emergency services building on Petrova Avenue, combining the department with the village fire and rescue squads.”

        In any case, the reasons to NOT build a brand new public safety complex (and to make sure the police stay in the center of the Village) have been well laid out over the last several months. It’s a bad idea and everyone knows it. Perhaps the Village doesn’t want to have to clean more contaminated soil on the plot that was originally purchased for the fire station expansion (after all, if contamination was found under the former tire shop, surely there is contaminated soil on the adjacent property). Maybe that’s why they are bagging the original plan.

      • Annette Scheuer says:

        Today’s paper (July 27):

        “At the same time as the Saranac Lake Police Department plans to leave its space at the village-owned building at 1-3 Main St., the APA is looking at leasing and renovating the historic structure, which also houses several Franklin County offices…”

    • Paul says:

      Also NYS does not pay things like village taxes. They are tax exempt.

  4. Boreas says:

    I had a few environmental issues with the potential new location, but now I have a several more reservations. Thanks for posting this!

  5. Todd Miller says:

    I share the well-spelled out concerns of the distinguished group of signatories calling on the Governor to rethink the proposal to move the APA facility from the State Office Campus in Ray Brook to the old Paul Smiths Power and Light Building in Saranac Lake. Where is the cost analysis comparing renovation of the existing facility in Ray Brook vs renovating the old Paul Smith’s Building (including building another addition and additional parking lot)? The old Paul Smith’s Power & Light parcel is pretty small and if construction would entail excavating into the hillside to build the addition and additional parking, then that excavation would add significantly to the costs.

  6. Rob says:

    So there are people worried about all the costs for this project but they are not worried about the cost to build bridges along road ways for animals cross so they don’t get hit by vehicles?? Yeah that just doesn’t make sense.

  7. john mccormick says:

    Political SPIN is nothing exempt?? It is all FREE $$

  8. David Brooks says:

    While too long and in need of editing, glad to see in this letter hands raised about what clearly is a waste of taxpayer money. What’s the basis for a facility of any size with remote work options at hand? And Saranac Lake? Really? A lovely spot of the Park but wouldn’t it make more sense to locate the agency in a place more accessible to constituencies such as lawmakers upon whom park interests depend? And of course, with this amount of money, plenty of justification for staff to focus entirely on the big move to the new HDQ at the expense of working on less glamorous park projects.

  9. Judson Witham says:

    Abolish the APA as it is nothing more than a BUSY BODY HOA. I see the entirety of APA to be nothing short of Communism. Freedom and Liberty are NOT what APA stands for …. Very UnAmerican I would argue.

    • Annette Scheuer says:

      We’re getting off topic here, but please do learn what Communism actually is and get off the “Merkuh Freedom and Liberty” crack. This has nothing to do with your freedom or with Communism. We live in a democratic republic under the rule of law. Civil societies have government regulatory agencies to maintain order and public safety. This isn’t the Wild West. Can these agencies and governments be corrupt and make bad decisions? Yes. But they provide necessary checks and balances. We have mechanisms for protesting, petitioning, and voting out people we disapprove of (when armed insurrectionists aren’t having a tantrum). That’s not Communism. No system is perfect. Should we get rid of public health and traffic laws too? If you want to live in a place where unbridled sprawl is allowed, move to a strip-mall lined suburb with no downtown. If you prefer to not have a government “taking away your freedom,” move to a place without a functioning government and see how you enjoy that. How about Afghanistan? Please, make your argument and loudly disagree with the agency but don’t start with the communism and freedom and “regulation is unAmerican” garbage.

  10. Bob Meyer says:

    Communism?? As Annette says above, some education is in order here.

  11. Sean says:

    Soooooo many things wrong with this plan, besides just being put in the Executive Director’s hometown.

  12. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Rob says: “they are not worried about the cost to build bridges along road ways for animals to cross so they don’t get hit by vehicles?? Yeah that just doesn’t make sense.

    It makes sense to me Rob. Values! What some see as unmerited, other see as having sufficient worth. War is a good example. Some are all for the misery which comes with such, while others abhor it.

    • Sean says:

      So WW2 should have been avoided because of the cost & misery etc. Some wars like it or not need to be fought, like the one in Ukraine.

  13. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Unfortunately I agree with you on the Ukraine war Sean, but this war didn’t just happen, it happened, as all wars do….. due to events preceding it, and in some large degree by our own passive reaction to the Iraq invasion and War, supported by many of us Americans. War is horrible and if we begin to feed into the psyche of society that they’re necessary, then they will never end. Diplomacy and getting-along would be far less costly! Education would improve matters greatly also; and I’m all for blood and guts and missing limbs, and all of the suffering which come with wars, to be displayed so that we see clearly what we support if we support war! Its not like we’ve never seen all the gore anyway what with the way Hollywood has most of us spellbound.

    “Some wars like it or not need to be fought.”

    Okay! So let those who choose to start them fight them themselves, or let them send their own children off to fight them. I am all for conscription, and also I’m all for all of those whom support war to be the first in line to fight them! That’s fair! Conscription just might get people to change their minds about supporting war, especially if their own sons and daughters had to go fight them. And of course there are those who would gladly send their own children off because it’s all about “love of country” to them, which is too often the same thing as “love of materialism.”

    We’re on a precipice Sean what with all of the degrees of turbulence the world over, and when you come to realize all of the nuclear warheads, knowing all’s it will take is just one….. Ere long, the way things are going, Earth will be one insignificant wee dark dot in the cosmos, a floating orb devoid of all lifeforms. All of the good… the art, the music, the wonderful souls who came and went, and who are still with us, who contributed greatly, unselfishly, to the betterment of all….gone in an instant! How sad is that!

    • Bob Meyer says:

      RIGHT ON Charlie Stehlin!!!!

    • Sean says:

      That is making an assumption that humans are stuck repeating the past. The last 70+ years show that thought pattern is bullshit. Bullshit because we as a species and the rest of Mama Gaia’s creations ARE STILL HERE,DESPITE the bluster and threats it hasn’t happened and was/is a longshot of happening. The precipice we stand on now, just like in Ukraine, unfortunately too many other countries and this country too, is do we let the bully win, do we stand back and do nothing while the bully does their thing while we do nothing. THAT is the clear and present danger. Yes, war and the rest of the bad shit that happens sucks but is better to just throw your hands up and say F#@K IT, not to me and millions of others. That is a bad idea, just as this deal to move the APA to Saranac Lake is.

  14. Susan says:

    I do not see any reason to abandon their offices in Ray Brook, and spend tax payer money to renovate a very old structure, and build additional structures, when their current digs are perfectly adequate! Why the move? Stay where you are and save the taxpayer the unwanted expense! And it makes sense to be in the state office complex!

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox