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My Blood Runs Cold – My Memory Has Just Been Sold

Future of Empire State Landscapes and Waters “All Fracked Up”

My blood runs cold, my memory has just been sold
My angel is a centerfold
Angel is a centerfold  
~~~ J Geils Band

Growing up in New York’s Hudson Valley, there was no doubt in my young mind that I was living in the center of the universe.

As I’ve aged and seen much of the country, that perspective has only grown.

But now I weep in despair over the future of the State I still love.

The things I most treasured about my home state of NY are rapidly vanishing – or already gone.

So lets take a step back and examine my youthful foundational myths and illusions, to explore how present developments are betraying them.

One’s home is always special, not only in absolute terms, but in relative terms too.

So, to start off with the relative perspective, I have to say that NY’s neighboring states were pathetic.

I still recall that Pennsylvania had pinkish red pavement and highways with potholes so huge they gave our crappy 62 Plymouth Valiant flat tires. The best the state could offer was musty Pocono cabins, with mosquito’s, mice, and red mud I had to wash off the tires, fenders and half way up the doors of the car.

Connecticut was a featureless suburb you had to drive through to get to cool places, like Boston and the coast of Maine.

And Jersey was a terrifying industrial nightmare. After running the gauntlet of oil refineries, chemical plants, and reeking landfills, you arrived among baby oil coated, tatooed hordes, packed like sardines onto filthy beaches wedged between a polluted ocean and stinky bathrooms and funky boardwalks. And that was the BEST Jersey had to offer.

But even the best of the Jersey shore  experience couldn’t come close to Bob Moses’ spectacular Jones Beach, which was where our family went when we wanted salt water.

Montauk lighthouse

Montauk lighthouse

But mostly, on weekend outings we went to sparkling freshwater, like Welch Lake in Harriman State Park or Bear Mountain. There you could swim, hike in the woods, and picnic with a modicum of privacy and tranquility, amidst the grandeur of nature, not assaulted by tar balls and pinball arcades.

New York had the majestic Adirondack Mountains, the mysterious Catskills, the grand Hudson River, and the lovely Finger Lakes region.

rainbow over Catskills

rainbow over Catskills

We had real red blooded indians, who would crack your head open and take your scalp (and your wife and daughter too). These indians were not like the pussies up in Massachusetts, who shared corn with the Pilgrims, or the docile farmers who smoked peace pipes with the likes of rich lazy landowners in Philly.

We had frontiersmen, like Natty Bumpo who would hunt, trap, and portage canoes between frozen Adirondack lakes to Canadien St. Lawrence waters to feed the fur trade.  These were real hard core manly men, not urban elites in Boston and Philadelphia, who invented stuff, read books, and sat around writing documents.

Sunset over Storm King Mountain and an icy Hudson River. The 1965 victorious battle against a Con Edison pump storage project was part of the founding of the modern envrionmental movement.

Sunset over Storm King Mountain and an icy Hudson River. The 1965 victorious battle against a Con Edison pump storage project was part of the founding of the modern environmental movement.

Our literary legends were the terrifying Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow; the adventurous brave explorer Natty Bumpo; and the laid back Rip Van Winkle.

Non local heroes like Tom Sawyer just couldn’t compete either – Tom rafted the narrow muddy waters of the Mississippi, surrounded by tame, flat farmlands, catching sluggish catfish.

But I navigated the 3 mile wide wild Hudson in a 12 foot wooden craft in the shadows on the steep, rocky Palisades and the forests and forts around Bear Mountain, trolling for the spectacular wild striped bass!  Get back Tom Sawyer!

hudson3

Our Guilded Age capitalists were far superior to the feudal slave owning wicked southern plantation owners; the greedy California gold rushers and slimy Texas oil men; the midwestern railroad robber barrons who ripped off farmers; and the land raping western mining and timber monopolists.

Our capitalists were sophisticated public spirited intellectual industrialists and philanthropists! They created not only private wealth, but other equally important things – public assetslike parks, libraries, museums, and schools.

Lyndhurst, built in 1838 for railroad tyycoon Jay Gould

Lyndhurst, Tarrytown, NY. Built 1838 for railroad tycoon Jay Gould

Our universities were founded in the egalitarian public spirit of the Morrill land Grant program, created by Congress, and dedicated to progress in science and technology.

Just compare egalitarian Cornell (motto:”I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study,”) with elite Yale (founded in the 1640’s by clergymen) or Princeton (chartered in 1746 by British King George  and led by reverends), both institutions founded in a religious tradition, dedicated to and long serving private interests.

Once called “the first American university” by educational historian Frederick Rudolph, Cornell University represents a distinctive mix of eminent scholarship and democratic ideals. Adding practical subjects to the classics and admitting qualified students regardless of nationality, race, social circumstance, gender, or religion was quite a departure when Cornell was founded in 1865.

Sibley Hall, Cornell - regional planners and architects were housed under the dome when I was there (1983-1985).

Sibley Hall, Cornell – regional planners and architects were housed under the dome when I was there (1983-1985).

Even the Red Coat Torries were better in NY – brave guys like Major Andre and Benedict Arnold, not those effete white whigged elites who hung with the Hessians in Trenton.

But perhaps most significant for our tale today is NY’s rich tradition in progressive government and land conservation.

NY is the home of the likes of Horace Greeley, a leader of a free press who used it to oppose slavery.

Many others created a rich progressive tradition of strong government, from Teddy Roosevelt, to Gifford Pinchot (who was the first Dean of the School of Forestry at Cornell before he later became the first Chief of the US Forest Service), to FDR, to Nelson Rockefeller. Old School!

In 1825, with the opening of the 363 mile long Erie Canal, NY created the model for government public works and transportation infrastructure investments to promote economic development.

Bear Mountain bride was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was built in the 1920's

Bear Mountain bride was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was built in the 1920’s

In 1885, NY established the nation’s first and largest park in the continental US, Adirondack park., followed in 1904 by Catskill Park.

wild Adirondack stream - headwaters of the Hudson

wild Adirondack stream – headwaters of the Hudson

The intellectual roots of the Adirondack Park go back to the founding of modern ecological science, forestry and landscape planning, by George Perkins Marsh’s 1864 work “Man and Nature“.

Those scientific developments came in the wake of the Hudson River School of landscape art – again, NY was at the forefront of science, art, culture and economic development.

Kaateskills Falls - scene of Hudson River School's most famous painting "Kindred Spirits", by Asher Brown Durand.

Kaaterskills Falls – scene of Hudson River School’s most famous painting “Kindred Spirits”, by Asher Brown Durand.

Government in NY always worked effectively and for the people.

Most importantly, a land conservation ethic was a noble tradition and key responsibility of government.

But where has the rich progressive government and land and water conservation tradition I was spoon fed as a boy gone?

Where is that groundbreaking conservation cum powerful environmental movement?

winter on Lake Minneaska. Proposed development spawned a movement that made it a State Park.

winter on Lake Minnewaska. Proposed development spawned a movement that made it a State Park.

Why has NY rolled over for the gas industry?

Thousands of gas fracking well will industrialize some of NY’s premier and still largelyl rural landscapes and wild regions, including  large portions of the Catskills, Southern  Tier, and Finger Lakes.

western gas well - coming to NY soon.

western gas well – coming to NY soon.

Heres’ what those western landscapes look like without the gas industry:

no gas wells on this landscape - which do you prefer?

no gas wells on this landscape – which do you prefer?

Fracking will pollute NY’s most precious natural resources, its pristine waters and forests.

What the frack is wrong with NY?

Capitol, Albany NY - Has the gas industry taken over the people's house?

Capitol, Albany NY – Has the gas industry taken over the people’s house?

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