New York Gov. David Paterson rebuked officials at the National Parks Service for threatening to cut off billions in federal funding to New York, according to the Albany Times Union.
“Let me state from the outset that New York is not going to convert any parks or historic sites. We will maintain all areas as public outdoor recreation use in perpetuity,” Paterson wrote in a letter to NPS officials. “New York, like all states, faces an historic fiscal crisis of unprecedented magnitude. It has demanded many difficult but necessary decisions to help ensure the fiscal integrity of our state.”
In a letter from the NPS to Paterson — as first reported in Friday’s Times Union — Northeast Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach said New York would be in “non-compliance” with the terms under which it accepted federal money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund is scheduled to pay $1.9 million to the state this year, but Reidenbach threatened “debarment” from other federal funding streams, including billions the state receives for transportation and education.
Paterson proposed the closure of 41 parks and 14 historic sites — the majority of which have received federal funds — to save $6.3 million in his budget proposal. The state faces a $9.2 billion deficit, and a spending plan is now 10 days overdue.
Legislators, in response to considerable public outcry over the proposed closures, restored funding taken from parks. Budget negotiations remain fluid, however, and some of Paterson’s top staffers saw Reidenbach’s letter as an “overreaction.”
“What they’re asking of us is short-sighted and inappropriate,” said one Paterson administration source. “It seems to us that they’re micromanaging our budget process from Washington while they’re mismanaging their own funding stream.”
Paterson wrote in his letter that Carol Ash, commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, would be delighted to meet soon with Reidenbach.
“I trust you will agree that this discussion should include how we can work together to ensure New York receives its fair share of LWCF funding,” Paterson wrote. “In the late 1970s New York was receiving $20 million annually from the LWCF. If funding remained at this level, New York would be receiving more than triple that in current dollars. Instead, we are receiving less than $2 million.”
Phil Sheridan, an NPS spokesman, was not immediately available for comment.