March 29, 2011

Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor

Executive Chamber

The Capitol

Albany, NY 12224

Re: Forest Preserve status of Camp Gabriels

Dear Governor Cuomo:

Protect the Adirondacks, Inc! has watched with mounting concern the thus-far inconclusive efforts of the State Office of General Services (OGS) to sell the 92-acre Camp Gabriels in the Town of Brighton in Franklin County, in the Adirondack Park, as surplus State property, through a bidding process. We are also aware of correspondence from the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to OGS concerning the prospective disposition of this former State prison to private parties. APA, treating the proposed sale as a routine matter, has offered OGS the possibility of reclassification of the land under the authority of the State Land Master Plan (ASLMP), from State Administrative Use to private land in the Moderate Intensity Use classification. The latter classification would allow development of 71 residential lots if the land is sold to a private developer. APA has  apparently also given standard advice to OGS about its project review and permitting requirements in the event of a sale by OGS to a private party for development.

What greatly concerns us is that by this time OGS, APA and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) should have identified the Forest Preserve status of this State-owned property. The inconvenient truth is that it became Forest Preserve the instant that the State Corrections Department bought the land in 1987 from Paul Smiths College, regardless of the purpose for which it was purchased and regardless of its intensively developed character. State-owned land in Adirondack Forest Preserve counties, and the Catskill Forest Preserve counties as well, cannot be treated like surplus State-owned land throughout the rest of the state. It is past the time for understanding that this is constitutionally protected land.

Rather than conducting a bidding process and preparing to reclassify the land for development, OGS and APA (and DEC as well) should be concerned with the fact that State law, originating in 1893, provides that all State-owned land in sixteen (16) Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve counties, which are named in law (ECL 9-0101(6), is Forest Preserve land that is protected by Section 1 of Article 14, the “forever wild” provision of the New York State Constitution. There are a few exceptions in the law that exclude certain State-owned parcels from the Forest Preserve, but none of them apply to Camp Gabriels.  Several agencies and staff in the Executive Chamber and Attorney General’s office were reminded about this definition of the Forest Preserve in a somewhat recent situation involving Moreau Lake State Park and its being State-owned land in a Forest Preserve county.

As to the developed condition of Camp Gabriels, an Appellate Division decision in People v. Patenaude , 286 A.D. 140, (3d Dept. 1955) addressed the fact that even developed State land is part of the Forest Preserve.

               Section 1 of Article 14 states that: "The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed."

               For OGS to continue to try to auction Camp Gabriels or for APA to reclassify this parcel to Moderate Intensity Use for development would in itself be a violation of Article 14. Protect requests immediate suspension of all such activity. In no case should OGS and APA continue with disposition and reclassification of the land in direct violation of Section 1 of Article 14.

In some situations an amendment of Article 14 to change the status of Forest Preserve land is desirable. A number of such amendments have been made since 1894; they are all listed in Section 1 of Article 14.   However, it remains to be seen as to whether or not such an amendment is supportable in the case of Camp Gabriels.

               Thank you very much for considering these facts and concerns, and we look forward to hearing from you.


John W. Caffry, Co-Chair

Conservation Advocacy Committee

Protect the Adirondacks!

c/o Caffry & Flower, 100 Bay Street, Glens Falls, NY 12801


Hon.  Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General, State of New York

Lisa Burianek, Acting Chief, Bureau of Environmental Protection, OAG

Hon. Thomas DiNapoli, Comptroller, State of New York

Hon. Dean Skelos, Majority Leader, NYS Senate

Hon. Mark Grisanti, Chairman, Environmental Conservation

Committee, NYS Senate

Hon. Sheldon Silver, Speaker, NYS Assembly

Hon. Robert Sweeny, Chairman, Environmental Conservation Committee,

NYS Assembly

Carla Chiaro, Acting Commissioner, OGS

Richard W. Bennett, Bureau of Land Management, OGS

Joe Martens, Commissioner, NYS DEC

Curtis Stiles, Chairman APA

Terry Martino, Executive Director, APA