Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2020 State of the State speech included two big pieces of good news for the Adirondack Park.
The first major highlight was his proposal for a $3 Billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act that will support a variety of pressing environmental and climate change challenges across New York. This proposal is the first listed in the 2020 State of the State book that accompanied the speech.
In order to cut a lot more trees on the Forest Preserve for new snowmobile corridors, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the Attorney General’s Office have announced that they will appeal July’s court ruling against the State and in favor of Protect the Adirondacks.
That ruling by a 4-1 court majority declared that the extent of tree cutting for snowmobile trail construction, when considered cumulatively, violated our state’s constitutional limit on destruction of timber on the Forest Preserve “to a material degree” (Article XIV, Section 1, NYS Constitution, and court interpretations). » Continue Reading.
The State Senate gaveled-out its historic 2019 Legislative Session on June 21st without acting on any of the four people that Governor Cuomo had nominated for the Board of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). These were among dozens of nominees to various state boards that were left unconfirmed, but the message from the State Senate was clear: changes were needed in many of the individuals and slates of nominees submitted by the Governor. » Continue Reading.
Having been nominated and confirmed to the NYS Adirondack Park Agency five years earlier, Karen Feldman was named by Governor Cuomo as APA’s acting chair following the resignation of Sherman Craig in summer 2018. In Ms. Feldman the Governor had an experienced board member chairing APA and one interested in continuing on as permanent chair of the eleven-member board. Ms. Feldman appeared energetic, communicative with board, staff and the public, engaged in APA matters, politically astute and well connected.
She seemed prepared and ready to lead. One would think she would be a shoe-in to be named APA chair at any time. Instead, she resigned last month and the consequences of that decision are serious ones for the APA and for the Adirondack Park. » Continue Reading.
While applauding the state’s efforts to boost tourism, protect clean water and fight climate change, on Wednesday the Adirondack Council called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature to protect the Adirondack Forest Preserve against overuse, all-terrain vehicle trespass and other threats. » Continue Reading.
Major issues across the Adirondacks, such as increased funding for the High Peaks Wilderness to build a sustainable trail network, more Forest Rangers, or a larger Environmental Protection Fund to meet major challenges of climate change, were all ignored in this budget. » Continue Reading.
On Election Day in November 2018, voters across New York State voted for a new direction for the 63-member New York State Senate. With some races remaining close and needing to be finalized based on a count of absentee and provisional ballots, it appears that Democrats have elected 40 Senators and Republicans just 23. There is no way to overstate just what a sea change this is for New York State politics.
There is also no way to overstate the questions that this sea change raise for the Adirondack Park, which is cut up into four State Senate districts, each steadfastly represented by a Republican. These four Senators – Betty Little, Joe Griffo, Patti Ritchie and Jim Tedisco – led by Little whose 45th Senate District has the majority of the Adirondack Park, were members in excellent standing in the exclusive club of the Republican Senate Majority. With a membership of around three dozen they unrelentingly, efficiently and ruthlessly wielded power and thoroughly enjoyed their political spoils. » Continue Reading.
The Cuomo Administration is searching for a new Chair for the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The Governor appointed Karen Feldman, an attorney from Columbia County, who also has a home on Schroon Lake, as a Temporary Chair in July at the time the APA Chair Sherman Craig (Wanakena) resigned. Feldman is campaigning for her temporary status to be made permanent and she is currently Team Cuomo’s top candidate for the job.
The APA Chair is one of eight appointed Board seats where an individual is nominated by the Governor and approved by the State Senate. Under state law, five APA Board members must be full-time Park residents and three must reside in counties outside the Adirondack Park Blue Line. There can only be a maximum of five Board members from one political party and Board members serve 4 year terms, two of which expire each year and run in a continuous cycle. Under NYS law Board members can continue to serve in “expired” terms. New Board members are often appointed to partial terms. » Continue Reading.
Having spent more than a decade as an aide to an upstate New York senator, the late Ron Stafford, I retain some residual habits, one of which is flipping through the Governor’s budget proposals as soon as they’re released, alert, I would hope, to anything that might have an impact on our region, positive or negative.
That’s how I happened to become aware of a proposal in this year’s budget to remove Forest Preserve lands from the real property tax standard and authorize New York State to send Adirondack communities “payments in lieu of taxes.”
I gave it more than a cursory glance because in 1989, when I worked for Senator Stafford, the current governor’s father, Mario Cuomo, proposed something very similar. » Continue Reading.
A major new program in Governor Andrew’s Cuomo’s 2018-19 state budget is the Empire Forests of the Future Initiative, referred to as “EFFI.”
This new program seeks to overhaul and modernize two longstanding “Preferential Forest Tax Law Programs” known by the shorthands “480” and “480a” for their respective parts of the Real Property Tax Law. These programs provide tax exemptions for forestland owners who enroll their lands and manage them for long-term for forestry purposes. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo from the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Executive Director and Counsel Neil Woodworth.
Dear Governor Cuomo,
We write to ask that you amend your proposed State Budget and legislative proposals in order to restore existing provisions of Real Property Tax law 534 and 542 that annually authorize the payment of ad valorem taxes to Adirondack and Catskill taxing districts hosting the NYS Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.
Recent Adirondack Almanack posts by Anthony Hall and Peter Bauer broke the news that Governor Andrew Cuomo has stuck a provision in his 2018-19 State budget to cap the annual State Land taxes we all share with towns and school districts in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Furthermore, the Governor proposes to convert the long tradition of full payment of taxes on the Forest Preserve into (capped) payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT).
The approximately three-million acre, publicly-owned and “forever wild” NYS Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks (and a small amount outside the Parks) is taxable for all purposes. Since 1886 the law has required that Forest Preserve lands must be valued for tax purposes as if privately owned (today’s Section 532a of the Real Property Tax Law, or RPTL). » Continue Reading.
The Cuomo Administration has proposed to cap Forest Preserve property tax assessments and change state law from the current system of locally assessed property taxes to a system of Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) with a rate set by the State Comptroller.
The state is doing this to save money because Forest Preserve assessments and the PILOT for tax payments would be centrally controlled. This proposal raises issues about a likely decrease in state lands tax payments over time and subsequent tax shift to private lands in Forest Preserve communities in the Adirondacks and Catskills. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Council offers our praise to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for declaring that New York would lead the response to the “federal assault” on environmental protection and a host of other progressive issues in his State of the State Address.
We are pleased that the Governor proposed a strong environmental response to the policy changes enacted by the Trump administration. He also made it clear that he views the Adirondack Park as a national treasure and a legacy we hold in trust for future generations. His recent work to remove an oil train junkyard from the park is one recent example. » Continue Reading.
The best information to trickle out so far is that the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will take up the Boreas Ponds classification deliberations starting at the October 2017 meeting in Ray Brook, but that it could be delayed until November. The APA has, apparently completed much of the paper work on the Environmental Impact Statement and organized its response to public comments. The APA has also organized various options for consideration by the APA Board; mostly they are similar to those taken to public hearing last fall. The missing piece is final layout of the classification of the Boreas Ponds tract that will be used as the APA’s “Preferred Option.” For that, the APA is waiting on Governor Cuomo to make the final call and tell the APA what his, and their, “Preferred Option” will be.
Governor Cuomo’s preferred option faces a number of questions, which will affect the process and timing of the APA’s final decision. For instance, if the Governor decides he wants a new Intensive Use area on any of the lands in question this will necessitate a change to the EIS and a new round of public hearings. If the Governor decides to leave a blank 5-acre cutout that remains unclassified “pending classification,” the decisions on the surrounding classifications will limit what can eventually be authorized in the unclassified tract. » Continue Reading.
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