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The Fraud and Double Standard

By Carol W. LaGrasse

The New York State Appellate Division hit the Adirondack Park Agency with a ruling on July 16 that the Lewis Family Farm in Essex County has the right to build high quality worker housing without APA jurisdiction. A few days later, local columnist Will Doolittle wrote a broadside in the Glens Falls Post-Star laying out the hard reality of the "bully" agency.

"They employ a strategy of bureaucratic rope-a-dope, which allows them to pretend to work with local communities while pleasing their real constituencythe environmental lobby. This lobby includes rich people who summer in the Adirondacks and support advocacy groups like the Adirondack Council, and political operatives like Judith Enck, Gov. Paterson's deputy secretary for the environment.

"This lobby decided, long ago, that sacrificing the economies of places like Elizabethtown and Au Sable Forks was an acceptable price for preserving and expanding the Adirondack wilderness."

The APA's prosecution of a family farm under the pretext that it has jurisdiction was a double fraud. First, the state's Right to Farm law exempts farm worker housing from the jurisdiction of zoning. In addition, the Adirondack Park Agency Act exempts farms from the APA's jurisdiction.

However, a bully exerts its weight wherever it goes unchallenged.

Local officials yammer about "common ground," a term bandied about originally by the environmental groups. The officials fall all over the environmentalists, whose only commonality with the local people was when they realized that the idea of more state land acquisition might not seem so sweet to the local officials when state payment of taxes to localities was threatened by Gov. Paterson's budget cutbacks last winter. The environmentalists therefore announced a "common ground" with locals to fight the proposed governor's cap on state tax payments. When the governor dropped the idea, the environmentalists and some local officials were all hugs.

It's all part of the fraud. The central theme is a pretext of being motivated by a vision of protecting the environment.

It reminds me of prohibition. Who were the proponents and who were the victims? I am of German extraction and my forbears were the victims of the prohibitionists. Often the people in the community where I grew up would speak of the German beer gardens, the summer festivals where people ferried to our village from Manhattan to enjoy the Sunday festivals of beer and clam bakes; the heartfelt singing, bands and parades; and the white sand beaches. But, according to Don Heinrich Tolzmann in The German-American Experience (Humanity Books, 2000), long before the Prohibition movement "Anglo-American evangelicals" attacked German-Americans for their "foreign" customs. The New York Times criticized German-Americans for their deficient "Sunday-keeping," turning Sunday into a pleasure-seeking "Saturnia." Other newspapers complained of "lager beer loafers" who were wrongly transforming Sunday.

By the time I was a little girl, only one German restaurant and several reopened bars with few unused side-yards remained of the beer gardens, which were, of course, closed by Prohibition.

When I moved to the Adirondacks 36 years ago, I faced another agenda where the common culture was to be the victim. This time the culture was not facing Prohibition, but instead environmentalism. Once again, it is high-sounding, as was the history that I learned many years ago about Prohibition. But, as with Prohibition, the hate-driven side agenda gives the environmental movement its force.

We, the people of the Adirondacks, are not unintended victims.

The great "environmental" vision for the Adirondacks is a farce. Put into full gear by Laurence and Nelson Rockefeller, the vision is a tool of the New York City wealth to take the land, to eradicate the local people except to the extent they are needed to keep house for the rich. The land is prohibitively expensive because the supply has been artificially reduced by the state's expanding forest preserve and the extreme land use restrictions.

A repeated pretense is the denial of access to supposedly environmentally sensitive lands. But the access is only denied to the local people and those who share their tastes. The constituency of hikers and paddlers is coddled, to the detriment of the ordinary working class who prefer family camping, hunting, pickup trucks, four wheelers, ATV's, and snowmobiles. Interpretation of APA/DEC land classification law is stretched beyond reason so that Lows Lake cannot experience the pretended desecration of seaplane landings, while unrestricted numbers of paddlers, hikers and portagers can overuse and wear down trails and camp along the shore.

Early this summer, Curtis Stiles, the chairman of the APA Board of Commissioners, disregarded the prohibition on motor vehicle use imposed on us commoners, and opened a locked gate to drive to Lake Lila in the Whitney Wilderness area of the forest preserve. By contrast, in August, I had to hike in 1-1/2 miles to view the beauty of the lake that enticed Mr. Stiles to water's edge, where he had been discovered camping by a forest ranger. No DEC violation was issued to Mr. Stiles, who is an uncompromising opponent of motorized access to the back country of the forest preserve, but I could not use my vehicle to deface the so-called "wilderness" highway. It is the same double standard that facilitates the construction of new residents in the Adirondacks by the wealthy.

People at the upper strata who wield power over Adirondack policy think that the people who make their livings and raise their children in the Adirondacks have no right to a place here. The rubric of "environmentalism" is an effective pretense to displace these ordinary people and reserve the vast region for the urban wealthy and their constituency; except that there will remain hamlets where ordinary folk can live who'll still clean the hotel rooms, make the beds, and maintain the estates. Couched in idealism, it is systematic cultural eradication.

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© 2009 Carol W. LaGrasse
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