By Gwendolyn Craig
The Adirondack Park Agency has a new and full board.
The New York State Senate confirmed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s seven appointments on Wednesday mere minutes after the Senate’s Finance Committee approved them over a virtual video chat meeting.
Four members are new and three are reappointed. New members include:
- Zoe Smith, deputy director of Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute;
- Andrea Hogan, supervisor of the Town of Johnsburg in Warren County;
- Mark Hall, former supervisor of the Town of Fine in St. Lawrence County; and
- Ken Lynch, former counsel to the state Department of Environmental Conservation from Onondaga County in central New York.
The reappointed members, who have been serving on expired terms, are:
- Art Lussi, president of the Lake Placid Vacation Corp.;
- Dan Wilt, former supervisor of the Town of Lake Pleasant and president of Wilt Industries; and
- John Ernst, owner of Elk Lake Lodge in North Hudson.
“I congratulate all of the reappointed and the newly appointed APA board members,” state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, said in a statement to Adirondack Explorer. “With all things in life, balance is so important. I am confident we have a really good blend of local government and environmental perspectives and thank Governor Cuomo and his staff for their thoughtful nominations. We have some long-term experience on the board and now some new faces, which is great. ”
The APA is in charge of protecting the state forest preserve and permitting private development in the nearly 6 million-acre Adirondack Park. The board has been incomplete for more than a year, and various advocacy groups in the Adirondacks have butted heads over its makeup.
Cuomo made appointments to the board in 2019, but received pushback from Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Island, who chairs the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee and other members of the Senate. Environmental groups were concerned that there were not enough environmental conservation voices among those nominees, and the governor had not proposed nominees for all the vacancies. The Senate did not pass the 2019 nominations.
But Cuomo’s latest nominees, which were privately announced on Monday and publicly announced on Tuesday by the administration, may be giving people deja vu. The board is essentially the same, with the exception of Smith, who replaced Brian McDonnell. McDonnell is a member of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board and an Adirondack region guide.
While the Adirondack Council and the Adirondack Mountain Club said it was pleased with the governor’s picks and with his filling all of the seats, Protect the Adirondacks and Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve were not as enthusiastic. The latter two organizations say the board is still local government- and development-heavy.
In an interview on Tuesday night, Kaminsky anticipated the governor’s nominees would be voted through.
“I think the slate does represent a good balance,” Kaminsky said. “I choose not to look at this as sides, environment versus development. I think that reduces things to basic levels, and it’s more complicated than that. I think there are very qualified people on this panel and take all views into account.”
Photo credits: Featured photo of Zoe Smith by Jason Smith. Mug shots: Ken Lynch/DEC photo; Andrea Hogan/Town of Johnsburg; Mark Hall/LinkedIn; Zoe Smith/Adirondack Watershed Institute.