ALBANY - The Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, under pressure from Gov. David Paterson's Office, voted Tuesday to approve the nomination of Peter Hornbeck to the state Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners, over the objections of Sen. Betty Little and other senators.
The controversial appointment still has to be approved by the Finance Committee and the full Senate before it becomes final. If he's approved to the APA board, Hornbeck would replace Commissioner Art Lussi, a Lake Placid hotelier.
As she had done at the Environmental Conservation Committee meeting earlier this month, Little, R-Queensbury, asked chairman Sen. Antoine Thompson, D-Buffalo, to put the Hornbeck nomination on hold. She said local government officials and organizations in the Park are concerned about Hornbeck's ties to Adirondack environmental groups.
An Olmsteadville boat-builder, Hornbeck is the former chairman of the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and a current board member of Protect the Adirondacks!
Little, who had talked with Hornbeck on Monday, said she's opposed to his nomination "because of his affiliations, not as a person."
"He's a fine person," Little said. "But his past positions with two environmental organizations has raised a lot of concern."
Little said Hornbeck has opposed the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort project in Tupper Lake, and referred specifically to comments he made about the project in 2006, while he was serving as chairman of the Residents Committee.
"I think this project is way too big and I don't want it to happen," Hornbeck said at a Hamilton College forum on development in the Adirondacks.
Little noted that Protect the Adirondacks! filed a lawsuit against the Park Agency just last month to try and force the APA to classify the lakebed and waters of Lows Lake.
Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Long Island, called that a conflict of interest.
"The man is suing the board he's going to be a voting member of," Marcellino said. "I don't have any particular objection to him. I don't know him from a whole in the wall. But I think it's a mistake to make that appointment."
Little said its "critical" for the five in-Park appointees to the APA board to represent the balance between the environment and the economy. Lately, "the balance has definitely tilted more towards preservation than economics," she said.
Little also argued that Lussi should be allowed to remain on the APA board.
"He has demonstrated a true balance between the economics and environment in the Park," she said.
But Thompson said the Governor's staff has called him repeatedly, asking for the Hornbeck appointment to be advanced. He said that doesn't happen often.
"I don't want to get into a thing with the governor about his appointment," Thompson said. "If (Hornbeck) came in and smacked me going to the bathroom I wouldn't know who he is. But he must be somebody important if they asked me to advance the nomination."
Thompson also acknowledged that the appointment has generated a tremendous amount of interest.
"Out of all the things we've done over the last year and two months, we've received more calls, e-mails and written letters on this than we have on more hot button legislative issues," he said, noting that most of the letters were in support of Hornbeck's nomination.
Although the Republican senators asked for the nomination to be held, it was put on the table for a vote and approved by the committee's Democratic majority. The appointment now moves on to the senate Finance Committee.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.