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New hotel great for Saranac Lake

This aerial photo was shot by William Kollecker sometime in the 1920s. On River Street from the left: The first building is the armory (then a Boys Club), next the bleachers for the skating races and other activities held in Pontiac Bay in the winter months. As one turns the corner onto Lake Flower Avenue, the white, square building was a home owned by the Curran family — it was still there in the 1940s when I attended St. Bernard’s School with Ed Curran. So that entire area where the house stood with the open field pictured next to it is where the new hotel will stand. The next building with the circular driveway was Baker’s Boat Livery at 33 Lake Flower Ave., now owned by the Fogarty family dynasty. Mr. Baker was the builder of the then famous one- and two-man paddle-wheel boats. (Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library)

Now that the new hotel is under construction on Lake Flower, the naysayers have come out of the woodwork again, commenting on social media about the elevator shaft … hello!

The comment that bothers me the most, however, is the suggestion that the area should have been made into a park.

Here is why the park suggestion gets to me most — never mind the nonsense about the congestion at the intersection, the view of the lake being blocked — it was always blocked by the three motels — or that it will never be successful. I am sure the investors came along and said, “Why don’t we spend a few million bucks and built a hotel there. If it doesn’t make a go of it, so what? What’s a few million?” I am also guessing that perhaps they did some diligent research on the project.

River Street, as one leaves Main Street, connects with Lake Flower. The south side of River Street is all park. We — Mayors John Campion, Howard Riley and Charles Keough — were the guys who would oversee the demolition of 13 businesses along River Street to make that one long park.

Saranac Lake lost the beach, a 12-apartment building, homes and cabins on the lake, two restaurants and the handsome old wooden armory … among other businesses. The only reason there is a state boat launch site — the state owned the armory, so the state owned the land.

For better or for worse, that is how we got one long park with a great view of the lake.

So let us all praise Mayor Clyde Rabideau and the village board and previous board members Barbara Rice, Allie Pelletieri and Tom Catillaz, who did the heavy lifting on that project, took all the criticism, obtained the proper permits and waited patiently until it was approved by the Adirondack Park Agency.

But wait — there’s more

How about the 10 million bucks or so that came through from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo based on the work of the Downtown Revitalization committee?

Two-and-a-half million for Pendragon, nearly $2 million to “enhance the Woodruff Street streetscape,” $949,378 for a children’s museum on Depot Street, and connecting the parks and transforming downtown Saranac Lake to the tune of more than $2 million.

Many of us have probably not yet been able to process what the $10 million is going to mean to the future of Saranac Lake. But believe me, it’s going to be bigly.

It probably didn’t hurt our chances at getting the big bucks since the governor and the mayor are personal friends.

My family knows I love C&W songs, so to end this commentary I paraphrase one of my favorites: We got the gold mine, they got the shaft.

Howard Riley lives in the town of Harrietstown north of Saranac Lake, is a Harrietstown town councilman and writes a local history column in the Enterprise every Saturday called “You Know What…?”