For many years, it seemed those of us living in Northern New York could not catch a break.
It’s hard enough when we leave the area and people ask us where we are from. The response, “Northern New York,” is always followed by, “Albany?” “Syracuse?” “Buffalo?” “?” Seriously, there actually was a national television reporter who would refer to Weschester County as Northern New York.
It felt lawmakers saw the state in the same light. Millions and billions of dollars would flow like honey to everywhere but here, the Adirondacks. The rest of the state would evolve while the Adirondacks remained sheltered to all but a select few.
Fortunately, one of those select few now wears the mantle of Governor, Andrew Cuomo. Since his election just over three years ago, the state funding pipeline has been expanded to include the North Country and the Adirondacks.
The most recent example is the North Country Economic Development Council receiving $81.3 million in state funding to help with projects that will drive the economy of the region.
Saranac Lake, which has been an Adirondack playground for Cuomo, received a generous share of the funding, with $5 million for the renovation of the Hotel Saranac and $2 million for the construction of a new resort and waterfront restaurant at the former Lake Flower Hotel. Bionique Testing Laboratories received $650,000 for expansion at its Lake Clear facility, adding 10,000 square feet for laboratories, storage and conference rooms; and the Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake received $3,360 for the hiring of a seasonal intern.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau said Cuomo spoke highly of the area: “He really grew to love the area, knows what we are about and knows what we need.”
It wasn’t just Saranac Lake. In Tupper Lake, the Wild Center received $250,000 to support Phase 2 of its Wild Walk. A pair of North Country movie theaters in Indian Lake and Au Sable Forks received funding necessary to make the transition to digital projection technology in order to stay in business. The Adirondack North Country Association received $59,200 for the Adirondack Regional Arts Trail. Towns and municipalities received funding for infrastructure projects and green energy alternatives.
Two days later, the towns of Indian Lake, Long Lake, Minerva, Newcomb and North Hudson celebrated the land classification decisions made by the Adirondack Park Agency which would allow for snowmobile and hiking trail connectivity between the five towns and chances for economic growth. Cuomo was also at the forefront of this movement, bringing parties on the government, conservation and environmental sides of the issue to the table to come up with a land classification that would be acceptable to all sides.
The state also showed strong support for the passage of Propositions 4 and 5, which both benefit the economy of the Adirondack Park.
These are the most recent examples, but the biggest may still be the Governor’s reaction to the North Country following Tropical Storm Irene. Cuomo was in the North Country two days after the storm cut its way through our region, devastating towns, destroying homes and uprooting families. His message remained constant: “We will rebuild better than before.”
Since, the Cuomo administration has helped to fill the gap for the North Country, securing funding to rebuild both the Keene and Upper Jay Fire Houses and covering the remaining 25 percent in funding for FEMA property buyouts.
We can sit here and hope that if it were any other governor, things would have been the same. But, we never saw David Patterson or Eliot Spitzer in the North Country. George Pataki, now an Essex resident, was the last governor before Cuomo to come to the area with any frequency, but not like this.
Not all of his decisions have found favor here. The SAFE Act is a real bone of contention with a majority of North Country residents, many of whom are dependent upon or are themselves sportsmen. Local political leaders are split on the tax levy cap. Conservative groups find his push for equal marriage rights upsetting.
However, with Andrew Cuomo in office, the state has often smiled upon the people of the North Country and the Adirondacks. As he prepares for what will most likely be a re-election bid as whispers of higher office float around him, we can only hope it remains this way for a long time to come.