The “Adding Value Open Space Conservation” study done by SUNY-New Paltz for the Mid Hudson Valley lobbies in favor of off the tax rolls acquisition, and conservation and limited development as an economic benefit. What is the analysis of how the taxes for real property taxpayers have been affected by virtue of the substantial increases over the past 10 years of government acquisitions, not-for-profit purchases, grants of conservation and environmental easements. The report claims the area has saved $3.46 billion.
What were the calculations of the economic effect of loss of population in the state with resulting loss of consumer purchasing, loss of sales tax, depression of real property values, loss of businesses and their jobs, etc.
It is reasonable to expect that a complete analysis by recognized experts has considered these substantial impacts as part of the evaluation analysis?
The logic of the thesis would justify a restriction on economic events that happened 10 years ago, even 20 or to the time of the Indians.
Admittedly there are no tax revenues from tax exempt property. So there is no actual real revenue into the public treasuries.
The suggestion to reduce infrastructure costs means fewer highways. Reducing carbon emissions means fewer cars.
To ascribe open space as a draw for tourism is a gross overstatement. First the number of non-open space attractions here that attract tourism are the overwhelming source of tourism. They are here irrespective of open space. West Point, Woodbury Commons, Dia:Beacon, Hudson Walkway, CIA, Marist, Mount St. Mary’s, Vassar, Temple Hill, Washington Headquarters, to mention a few.
Major open space attractions are here as part of geological history and not because of open space policies. The Hudson River, Delaware River, Wallkill River, Breakneck Mountain, Route 44-55 rapelling, Route 52 over the Shawangunk Mountains.
The report encourages more municipal debt and brags it is a way to circumvent the tax cap. How much more debt can we carry? What social programs need to compete and lose against the open space lobbying? Do we need another 1,000 acres of open space or do we need homeless programs? Do we need more vistas or rehabilitated housing? Opiate abatement or more scenic views?
How many people come to our valley as tourists for the open space we have invested in these past 20 years? What is the capital investment in those open space attractions?
The open space campaign is to protect what we have for us the residents. It is misleading to try to ascribe these efforts as some economic boon. We want to enjoy open space when we drive to the supermarket or take a Sunday drive close to home. Let’s not try to cloak our own personal self-interest with the claim that there is some dollars and cents big benefit to the region that justifies spending more money on a luxury while Rome is burning.
The study is flawed from both a scientific and public policy misdirection.
Gerald N. Jacobowitz is a partner in the law firm of Jacobowitz and Gubitz in Walden.