By James M. Odato
Acting Adirondack Park Agency Chair Karen Feldman resigned her post this month after unsuccessful attempts to get paid for the full-time work she was doing at the Ray Brook-based state agency, she told the Adirondack Explorer.
“I’m done. I have other things to do with my life,” she said. “I’m not upset. I’m not bitter.”
Many people who follow the agency had expected the 61-year-old attorney to be appointed to the top job earlier this year. Her candidacy was somewhat controversial because her appointment by the governor would have broken an unwritten understanding that the APA chair must be an Adirondack Park resident.
Feldman, who lives in Columbia County, said executive staff members for Gov. Andrew Cuomo had tried to help her get appointed as chair to make her eligible for the post’s $30,000 salary. Instead, she has served as acting chair since last July, limited to the $5,000 in per diem payments available for APA board members each year.
She said she submitted her resignation letter 10 days ago after repeated attempts to rectify her lack of compensation, and while trying to get reimbursed for work she had completed. “I said I’m not going forward unless you take care of the past,” she said.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise first reported Feldman’s departure on Tuesday.
Feldman began leading the agency that oversees public and private land uses in the 6 million-acre park last summer, after Sherman Craig resigned as chair. During nearly 10 months without pay, she said, she had been told that her appointment papers were on the governor’s desk. With no assurance that her status would change, she decided it was time to go.
She was absent at last week’s board meeting.
“Principle means a lot to me,” she said. “It’s important to be respected.”
Feldman said she has grown to respect the APA staff and regrets not being able to continue working with them.
The APA now has the fewest members serving in its history, noted Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks. The 11-member board includes three state agency commissioners and just five of the eight citizen members it should have. Of the five, four are serving in expired terms.
“The governor has struggled to find independent people who have a broad range of experience in environmental law and park management,” Bauer said.
A Cuomo spokesman had no immediate comment.
Cuomo appointed Feldman to the agency in 2013. She previously served as head of its State Land Committee. A retired lawyer, she has worked for several not-for-profit organizations, including the New York Invasive Species Research Institute and the Adirondack Lakes Alliance.
She is also a volunteer ski and a golf instructor with the Adaptive Sports Foundation at Windham Mountain, and has instructed post-9/11 veterans. She and her companion, Tom Williams, organize Adirondack outdoor activities for wounded veterans.
Who takes a new job or a promotion without a clear understanding of pay and benefits? Seems strange that the expected appointment paperwork was caught in the Governor’s office. Maybe he didn’t want her even as interim and intentionally withheld her temporary authority to act as chairperson.
I can’t believe they paid he 5k! She did nothing. Was horrible at that position. If anything she should give the 5k back!