Albany, NY – New York's parks now have the dubious distinction of a listing on a
national preservation group's register of endangered sites, due to
mandatory closings of several dozen parks and historic sites by
Governor David Paterson.
Wendy Nicholas, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation,
says state parks and historic sites have been placed on the list of
America's Most Endangered Historic Places. While the listing refers
to all state parks in the nation, Nicholas says it was Governor
Paterson's decision to close 41 parks and 14 historic sites in New
York that convinced the group to act.
"It's the prime example of the dire threat to America's treasured
heritage," Nicholas said.
Nicholas says it makes no sense, given the small amount of money that
will be saved- $11 million dollars in an over $130 billion dollar
state budget. She says, in the long term, the total cost might be
more than the savings. She says sites can rapidly deteriorate from
"The heat and water get turned off, people aren't around," said
Nicholas " Security is a problem, vandalism is a problem."
Among the historic sites on the closure list- the abolitionist John
Brown's farm outside Lake Placid, and Philipse Manor in Yonkers.
Assemblyman Jack McEneny, of Albany, considered the unofficial
historian of the Capitol, says he's also concerned about the closure
of Thacher Park, outside Albany, a large tract of land that is
bisected by a main road, and that features escarpment cliffs hundreds
of feet high.
"I don't want to be the one to figure out how to clean off the
graffiti from the cliffs," said McEneny, who says he also worries
about what to do with all of the artifacts at closed historic sites.
Robyn Dropkin, with the advocacy group Parks and Trails New York says
even if being listed on the national endangered historic places list
is negative attention, at least it's attention, and may help to
further mobilize the public who have already formed Facebook pages
and have written letters protesting the closure of the parks.
"I hope it sheds some light on this crisis," said Dropkin, who said
parks are among the most "beloved" of public services.
Governor Paterson, as recently as Tuesday, said he would not be
swayed by public opinion, and would not include money for the parks
in any emergency spending measures.
"It's irresponsible of me, even if I'm the most unpopular person in
the state," said Paterson.
Paterson says there'll be no funds for the parks until the state
budget is settled, and that's not likely to happen anytime soon.
State lawmakers next week say they plan to attempt an end run around
the governor. They are not allowed to pass laws demanding that the
money for the parks be allocated, but they believe that they can pass
a law requiring that all state parks keep the same hours in 2010 as
they did in the 2009 season. That bill is believed to have a veto
proof majority in the Assembly, but might not have enough backers in
the State Senate to override a veto by the governor.