A bi-partisan vote of the New York State Senate this week rebuffed the Bloomberg Administration’s management of New York City owned lands in its upstate watershed. "The City’s arrogant behavior in managing the watershed is putting the 1997 watershed agreement at risk," said two Republican Senators - John Bonacic and James Seward.
Under the 1997 agreement, the City of New York was required to open up its lands for "historic recreational uses". Instead of opening those lands to historic recreational uses, however, the City has failed to open them, or has opened them only for highly limited purposes.
Bonacic, of Orange County, and Seward, of Otsego County, represent the New York City Watershed counties of Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan, and Ulster. They developed and sponsored legislation which would require City owned lands to be open for recreational uses currently allowed on State lands.
The bill does not require the City to open its land for uses which pose water quality, safety, or security concerns. "The watershed agreement required historic recreational uses be allowed on City owned lands - this is something the City agreed to. They have broken their word and this legislation is needed to restore balance to the watershed agreement," Bonacic said.
The bill does not require the lands be opened up for uses which would affect water quality - such as ATV use, or pose a homeland security risk - such as allowing access to sensitive waterways. The bill only requires that land uses be similar to the land uses on State lands which are topographically similar to the City owned lands and geographically nearby.
"Contary to the misinformation put out by some, this is not about driving ATV’s on the City’s land or allowing swimming in reservoirs. This is about using the 101 year history of the Catskill Park as a model for recreational opportunities when those opportunities are consistent with water quality and security issues," Seward said.
The Senators called on the Assembly to pass the legislation as well. "If the Assembly does not act, and if the City does not clean up how it has been dealing with upstate communities, we foresee litigation as the likely solution. That does not serve anyone’s interests. The City should honor the original watershed agreement by following the example of the DEC whenever possible," concluded Senators Seward and Bonacic.