Harold Hochschild’s big score
This is the fifth in a nine-part series that tells the story of the at-times contentious campaign to create the Adirondack Park Agency, which marks its 50th anniversary in June. Adapted from the new book “A Wild Idea: How the Environmental Movement Tamed the Adirondacks,” the author interviewed more than 50 people who fought for and against the APA, some of whom have since died.
By Brad Edmondson
The APA bill gave the new agency interim authority to regulate development on 3.5 million acres of private land in the park, and a year and a half to deliver a permanent land-use plan for approval by the Legislature. Assemblyman Glenn Harris, Sen. Ron Stafford, and other upstate legislators were dead-set against the APA. They fought an uphill battle against it, and managed to pass a bill delaying its consideration for one year. But Gov. Nelson Rockefeller was convinced that any delay might doom the bill, so he vetoed the delay and then strong-armed legislators into voting the APA into law. On June 7, as the session approached its end, it was decision time.
Fifty years ago, on June 7, 1971, Harold Hochschild, chairman of the Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks, met Perry Duryea, speaker of the New York State Assembly, in Duryea’s office around midnight. The meeting was the capstone on three years of intense work. In December, the commission had released a report recommending 181 specific changes in the management of the Adirondack Park. The recommendations had produced eight bills, but as the legislative session ended in its usual rush, only one of them—the bill that created the Adirondack Park Agency—had a chance to pass.
Harold Hochschild had used all of his wealth, cunning, connections, and diplomatic skill to keep the most important parts of the TSC’s plan intact. In March 1970, he had won a political duel with the Rockefeller brothers. A year later, he mustered a statewide lobbying campaign by environmental groups that brought legislators around. Now he would use his influence with the New York Times to persuade Duryea, the Assembly leader, to allow the bill to pass with no further changes.
At age 50, “Duryea was a big, tall, handsome man with a shock of silver hair, and he had three or four people with him,” said Peter Paine, who was in the room that night. Hochschild, 79, was 5-foot-2, soft-spoken and extremely near-sighted. Duryea started the meeting. In a booming voice, he tried to persuade Hochschild to delay the APA’s authority by just a few months, so developers could have one more unregulated building season. “He went on and on, and finally, he stopped,” Paine said. “And I remember this moment so clearly. Harold waited two beats and then said, ‘No. I would rather have no bill than that bill.’
“Of course, Duryea knew that if the bill did not pass, the Times editorial page would immediately name the person who was responsible for the failure of this great scheme. I remember Perry’s shoulders slumped, and he was just looking around. ‘Dammit,’ he said. ‘OK, Mr. Hochschild. You win.’”
Duryea asked Paine to fill in the effective date, and he made sure that Hochschild approved. “Then he gave the bill to one of his minions and said, ‘All right. Pass the fucking thing.’
“So now it’s about 1 in the morning. As we’re walking back to the car, Harold says, ‘I would like to be in New York City tomorrow morning. I have a meeting. Would you mind driving me down?’ Well, I wasn’t going to say no. When we got to the Thruway, Harold said, ‘I’m going to go to sleep. If I don’t wake up at the George Washington Bridge tollbooths, please wake me.’
“It takes about two and a half hours to drive from Albany to New York City. Somehow, I got us to the George Washington Bridge at some ungodly hour. Harold woke up, just like that, at the tollbooths. He looked at me and smiled, and he said, ‘I rather liked the look on the face of the speaker when I told him no.’”
After that night, Hochschild stepped aside and let Paine and Richard Lawrence take over. He knew that passing the APA Act was easy, compared with what would happen next.
In case you missed the, here are links to the other parts so far:
Part 1: Abbie Verner’s head-on collision
Part 2: Clarence Petty’s surveys
Part 3: Harold Jerry takes on a Rockefeller
Part 4: George Davis’s lucky break
About the author: Journalist Brad Edmondson, of Ithaca, is the author of several books, including “A Wild Idea: How the Environmental Movement Tamed the Adirondacks.”
CORRECTION: The caption in a photo of the Adirondack Park Agency Act’s signing ceremony previously misidentified Stewart Kilbourne.