Hochul’s nomination awaits official confirmation
By Gwendolyn Craig
Gov. Kathy Hochul nominated Benita Law-Diao to be a member of the Adirondack Park Agency. If confirmed by the state Senate, Law-Diao would be the agency’s first Black board member.
Her appointment was approved by the state Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday morning, along with the reappointment of APA board member Art Lussi. Law-Diao would replace former board member Chad Dawson, who resigned in December 2020, APA spokesman Keith McKeever confirmed. Lussi’s appointment had expired in June last year.
A spokesperson for Hochul responded to the Adirondack Explorer Wednesday morning calling the nomination “historic.” Law-Diao “will help advance the preservation of this natural gem, while balancing long-term public and private land use to address the critical need for affordable housing, support tourism and boost small businesses across the region creating a more diverse and inclusive experience,” the spokesperson wrote.
Law-Diao declined comment on Tuesday until Hochul’s office made an official announcement.
Law-Diao, 62, originally hails from Queens but has lived in the Capital District since the late 1980s. For 32 years she worked for the state Health Department and is a dietician by training. Law-Diao has worked with food banks and food pantries across the state, including in the Adirondacks.
“I came to hike, and I fell in love,” she said, of her first experience hiking in the Adirondacks years ago.
David Gibson, managing partner of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, was glad to see Law-Diao’s appointment confirmed in committee and he expected it would pass the Senate. Gibson highlighted Law-Diao’s leadership in Outdoor Afro and her service on boards like John Brown Lives!, an organization that honors the abolitionist John Brown and promotes “social justice and human rights.” The group also preserves and promotes John Brown Farm State Historic Site in the Town of North Elba.
“Her professional, science-based, nutritional health background should also serve her and the agency’s responsibilities for Park planning, resource analysis and protection very well,” Gibson said. “We thank Governor Hochul for nominating her and the State Senate for the wisdom of confirming her nomination.”
Gibson said in a phone call that he was sure the Senate would make the confirmation, though they had not yet officially done so.
“John Brown Lives! applauds Governor Hochul’s pick of our dear friend and JBL! board member Benita Law-Diao to serve on the APA,” said Martha Swan, executive director of John Brown Lives! “This historic nomination is an acknowledgment that Benita’s love of the outdoors, her commitment to stewardship, sustainability, and inclusivity, and her experience and worldview as a Black woman matter. It’s an important step forward for New York State, the Park Agency, for all of us and for future generations.”
If the Senate confirms Law-Diao and Lussi, the only board member to still be serving on an expired term would be APA Chairman John Ernst. The Adirondack Explorer has asked Hochul’s office why Ernst was not included in her next round of nominations.
“From my experience serving with Art and from what I have heard about Benita Law-Diao, these are excellent choices,” Ernst said. He did not know the status of his own appointment.
Two other board members’ terms are also coming close to their expiration dates. Mark Hall and Ken Lynch have terms expiring on June 30.