By JAMES M. ODATO
Environmental groups on Thursday were dismayed that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had failed to fill vacancies on the Adirondack Park Agency board with independent voices expert in law and land-use planning.
Cuomo’s picks for the agency, while fine as individuals, did not make up a team with the credentials to forge strong stewardship of the Adirondacks, the groups said. As the session wound to its close early Friday, the Senate had not acted on the nominations.
Leaders of the Adirondack Council, the Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Wild and Protect the Adirondacks released a statement urging Cuomo to appoint a balanced slate to the APA, which oversees land uses on private and public lands in the 6 million-acre park. Names that had been proposed for the board, they said, would make the APA too heavy with business and local government agendas.
According to a spokesman for the governor, Cuomo has proposed appointing retired Department of Environmental Conservation lawyer Ken Lynch, now with O’Brien & Gere, an engineering firm in Syracuse; Johnsburg Supervisor Andrea Hogan, a Democrat; Republican Mark Hall, who has served as Town of Fine supervisor and is a member of the local industrial development agency; and Brian McDonnell, a Paul Smiths outdoor recreation organizer and canoe outfitter.
Several other people with environmental backgrounds have been approached but have turned down opportunities, according to a person who has worked closely with the APA for years.
Willie Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said Cuomo didn’t “offer a full, balanced and diverse slate of new and returning board members to ensure a strong, independent agency.”
Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau said the slate named by the governor’s office is terrific and has his full endorsement. He said he also likes that Cuomo intends to reappoint three current board members: Dan Wilt of Hamilton County, Arthur Lussi of Essex County and John Ernst of New York City.
“It’s a balanced slate not beholden to any special interest,” said Rabideau, a Democrat. He called it a pro-Adirondacks group.
Cuomo’s spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, confirmed the proposed appointees and intended reappointments. “Our nominees have expertise, they have a love for the region, and to know the North County is to love the North County. We are focused on the best to move the park forward.”
The Executive Chamber always has an open door to discuss preferred candidates, he said, and added that some of the groups seem to want “their own clubhouse.”
He said he is not aware of who the governor may have in mind to become chairman of the agency. Karen Feldman, the acting chairman the past year, resigned the post this spring because she was not being paid for the work she was doing.
“The agency’s board is not only rudderless at this moment, it lacks people with backgrounds in environmental law, ecological sciences and land-use planning,” said David Gibson, Managing Partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.
The governor’s failure to install such expertise has the agency “at the weakest point in its history,” said Peter Bauer, Protect’s executive director.