Article 14, Section 1 — the “Forever Wild” clause of New York’s constitution — has been amended 16 times since 1938, and talks have been under way about three new amendments that could be put before voters.
In the Almanack, Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks, has been working on a five-part series about these proposed amendments.
Protect the Adirondacks has reviewed the options for the future of the Camp Gabriels complex, a former state prison in the Town of Brighton in Franklin County in the northern Adirondack Park. The site is located between Saranac Lake and Paul Smith’s just outside of Gabriels. The land that the prison complex was built upon is Forest Preserve, protected under NYS Constitution Article 14, Section 1. The prison complex was part of a state purchase in 1982 of over 224 acres. This facility has been dormant since 2009 when the state closed the prison camp.
Legislation in the form of a constitutional amendment has been introduced in Albany this session which would “convey certain Forest Preserve that was never intended to be included in the Forest Preserve.” That land is the 92-acre former Camp Gabriels prison in the Town of Brighton, formerly part of Paul Smith’s College, and before that a tubercular sanitarium. How this property and those interested in its conversion from a prison to another use came to this stage is a bit of a long story.
Given that this legislative session has just five days remaining, this 11th hour introduction of a constitutional amendment to Article XIV, the forever wild clause, should be viewed as both very surprising and controversial. It is neither. It’s a lesson learned, I trust, for the State of New York which turned a deaf ear in 2011 to the warning and recommendation of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Protect the Adirondacks and the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club. » Continue Reading.
Joe Hackett has spent time in prison. Yes, the well known local guide, columnist, and scout for Seventh Avenue has spent years in jail, not as a inmate, but as a recreation coordinator at Camp Gabriels, a former New York State Minimum Security prison shuttered a few years ago by the state.
Once a tuberculosis sanatorium, the 92-acre facility was sold to the state in 1982, which operated it as a 336 bed-prison until 2009. There many of the prisoners worked on forestry and community service-related, projects, yet not-withstanding, it was prison far, far from home and family for the men housed there. For them the “Dacks” was a cold, hostile and distant place.
The prison was built, as were most in the North Country, as an outcome of the ‘War of Drugs’ and in particular Rockefeller Drugs laws that resulted in mass incarceration and a resultant building boom here because most urban and suburban voters did not want prisons located in ‘their back yards.’ Under the leadership of the late Senator Ron Stafford, such projects were welcomed for the many solid salaries they offered and, as a result, New York Corrections is the largest employer in the North Country.
Of all the recent press about the State’s attempted sale of 92-acre former minimum security prison known as Camp Gabriels in the town of Brighton, nothing has yet been written about the small problem of the NYS Constitution which says that the lands of the state now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve, as now fixed by law…shall not be leased, sold or exchanged” (Article 14, Section 1).
Are the 92-acres of Camp Gabriels, in fact, Forest Preserve lands which the State unconstitutionally used for purposes of a minimum security prison? And, despite their developed condition, can the State now simply dispose of them like any other “surplus” property? » Continue Reading.
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