Influential group draws top elected leaders to Lake Placid for first meeting outside of Albany
By James M. Odato
For the first time, a key group of state lawmakers toured the High Peaks in a groundbreaking retreat to discuss priorities for their work in Albany.
The Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus arrived Sunday for closed door sessions over three days and their gathering drew New York’s senior U.S. senator, Charles Schumer on Monday while Gov. Kathy Hochul, made plans to attend the Lake Placid summit on Tuesday.
Schumer, who flew from Washington, D.C., discussed national environmental and infrastructure initiatives, according to one participant.
Hochul, expected to huddle with members Tuesday, joined a group that included influential lawmakers of the state Assembly, including Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) recorded a message for the event to appear virtually.
In her remarks advocating for measures to address climate change, Stewart-Cousins described the park as a place where people of color don’t often get a chance to meet. She called the “great outdoors” spaces for the most privileged. “We must make justice, inclusivity and equity our guiding principles,” she said. “Not only has it been kept away from our most vulnerable, but it was denied from its rightful inhabitants in the process. Environmental justice is about rectifying these past grievances.”
Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, a Democrat from Nassau County serving as chair of the group, led 30 of the 66-member caucus in workshops, said Executive Director Joshua Joseph. He said the gathering was the only time the caucus has met outside Albany.
Besides meeting in sessions at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, members hiked at a trail at nearby Heaven Hill, took scenic flights and planned an outing to the John Brown Farm State Historic Site where the abolitionist shared farming skills with African Americans residents.
“The Adirondack Council appreciates the Caucus for choosing to visit the Adirondacks,” said Adirondack Council’s Government Relations Director Kevin Chlad. “It was a pleasure to see so many members of the Legislature and their families enjoying a roaring campfire and sitting by the lake as the sun goes down, making memories that will last a lifetime. We were grateful for the opportunity to address the caucus on Monday. Forever Adirondack Campaign Director Aaron Mair told the story of the park’s suffrage settlements in the 1840’s, where free Black New Yorkers established at least eight settlements, including Timbuctoo – where abolitionist John Brown also settled – as the first ever means to secure suffrage. He described the histories of communities such as Blacksville, Bloomingdale (Vermontville), Ray Brook, Freeman’s Home, Township 9, St. Armand, and Negrow Brook/Negro Hill. The history of the Adirondacks has underrepresented the ties of communities of color to this incredible landscape. We hope everyone had a great time and we hope to see them here again soon.”
Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake) welcomed the visitors on Sunday during an Adirondack Council opening reception.
“It’s helpful and important that all of us get out and see this beautiful state and get a deeper understanding of all of the issues,” he said. He added that he did not plan to advocate for any set of legislative priorities but only to network. He said the Adirondack Park “is everyone’s land; we certainly want to showcase it. It’s theirs to enjoy and recreate as well.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include photos and details of the caucus’s visit to John Brown Farm.
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