Legislators debate halting state land purchases, cuts to environmental fund

"The last thing we need to do is have our parks become a big neon billboard that says New York is collapsing, run for your lives," he said.

State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Carol Ash told legislators that Paterson's proposed cuts would result in the closure of dozens of parks throughout the state.

And although legislators said that they are hoping to restore at least some of the EPF funding, they were less resolute in their opposition to the land acquisition moratorium.

According to DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis, the current EPF proposal would allow procuring state easements, but not outright fee acquisitions.

Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Farber and Adirondack Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe also testified before the joint committee.

Farber argued that in-park land acquisitions have been made hastily.

"We need to make sure that we have done sufficient planning, that we are confident that when we spent millions of dollars on land in the Adirondacks, it's the right thing to do," Farber said. "We have to know the economic impacts, the impacts on affordable housing."

For Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, the implications of continued state land acquisitions are clear.

"Our communities are struggling - Economic development is almost nothing other than tourism," Sayward said. Sayward serves as ranking Republican on the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee. "Unless you own the motel, hotel or store, you are making minimum wage and as a result, we are losing families."

Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill argued the Legislature isn't always the enemy of Adirondack residents.

"The Governor's decisions to offer a moratorium on land acquisition will prevent us from being able to acquire very fragile lands in other places across the state," Cahill said. "While I sympathize with the plight of the North Country communities and recognize that this has been an ongoing struggle for many years, I think it is important to remember that there are friends here in the Legislature."

Wrangling over Paterson's proposed budget is expected to increase substantially in the coming weeks.

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