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Hopes, dreams and fairy tales

January 10, 2009 - John Stack
I was recently at a class in Albany taught by Tom Frey, Executive Director of the NYS Assessor’s Association. I’ve known Tom for at least 15 years, and we both worked in downstate. One topic was all of the hare brained schemes to reinvigorate the Catskills: theme parks, NASCAR tracks and the golden goose, GAMBLING! None have yet to come to fruition. The Borscht Belt ruled in the 50’s, but there currently are no going interests in the big resort hotels of years past like Kutshers or Grossingers (the class was on hotel valuation). I got to thinking of local schemes, both good and bad.
            First the good. First Night seems like a real keeper. The summer block party is great. Can you imagine not trick or treating the businesses on Halloween? The Fun Runs in the summer are as good as ever, with sometimes in excess of 100 runners. Bill Peer resurrected this back in about 2000. The concerts at Berkely Green are well attended.
            But, there are some that I think the people pushing the idea have bigger dreams than reality holds. I think the carousel is not a BAD idea, I just don’t think it’s a real GOOD idea. They need $1.5 million to get this going! They’ve gotten a $250,000 grant, and $300,000 in donations (according to the ADE article). This means they are about $1 million short. The locality has spoken. Its not what we are willing to spend our charitable money on. (As an aside- placing this at ‘Stewart’s Park, while seemingly the only option, seems ripe for disaster. How soon would this become covered with graffiti and the like?). I don’t know how much the skatepark would cost, but I like this idea, if its not too much, as long as there is a way to keep it clean (I remember when it was down behind the police station – it was always full of trash). The Community Store? I can’t see this either. What exactly will they sell there that we can’t get elsewhere? We already have the Dollar Store, Dollar Tree, Aldi’s and our 2 chain drug stores that cover a lot of low cost items. The PR for this brings up a number of Community Stores in Montana and Wyoming – remoteness that makes us seem Urban! Their problem was no chain retailer would come to town no matter how much the town wanted it, the exact opposite of us! The closest big town is Cody Wy, population 8700 20 some miles away. We don’t have the same demographic and economic problems they do.
            The railroad is another bugaboo. The conductors will tell you it costs the public zero dollars for the train – if you disregard the millions the State paid to redo the tracks. I personally wish the tracks had been made ‘rails to trails’. This could have been done for a fraction of the estimated $2 million dollar cost of the bike trail from Placid to here. When I moved here in 200, I could bike or run from my house to Ray Brook. Now, its impossible with all the stones and such needed for the tracks. The Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce has the refurshment of the line from SL to Tupper on their wish list (as well as another 10-20 million to go to Utica). How about wishing to get funding for the bike trail?
            Finally, the conference center in Placid. I still can’t see the reason for spending $23 million on the center (or more?) Do we taxpayers have to continue to ‘keep up with the Joneses?’. How much money would the Center have to take in in ADDITIONAL tourism to repay just the initial 23 million (not to mention the added yearly maintenance costs)
Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. The Adirondack Museum and their LP annex. Mayor Jamie Rogers said at the time 'Everyone wants this museum' - maybe everybody who wants it also doesn't think tax dollars should be spent on it. I love the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain, but I'll drive the 53 miles rather than pay more for it here. (Don't even get me started on the Wild Center...)


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