Belleayre Mountain layoffs earlier, heavier than usual

By Jay Braman Jr.
No fewer than 59 people lost their jobs at Belleayre Mountain Ski Center Sunday, the state-owned facility at Highmount in the Ulster County Town of Shandaken. On Monday Belleayre’s Superintendent Tony Lanza attempted to downplay the layoffs, saying they happen every year late in the ski season.
But he did admit that, this year, those layoffs came sooner and there are more of them.
“We might have done it a little earlier and we might have done a few more, but we do this every year,” he said.
Those let go, Lanza said, were seasonal employees. Most years the layoffs begin in March and continue through the end of the season, which runs until mid-April. The rest of the time Belleayre is manned by a skeleton crew of full-time employees.
“In eight weeks we’re gonna lay off 400 more,” Lanza said.
But one cannot view the recent layoffs without wondering what lies ahead for the ski center.
In the news last week was an announcement that New York State plans on closing or drastically reducing the operation of many of its parks this year. Belleayre does not fall within the state park system, but beginning last year it suffered from budget cuts of its own. Belleayre’s operating budget is funded through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation while its revenues go directly into the state’s general fund.
Asked what is in store for Belleayre in 2010, Lanza said only that nothing has been decided.
“The next fiscal year begins on April first,” he noted.
In question will be whether or not the DEC will open the popular Belleayre Beach this summer, a warm weather facility at the base of the mountain in Pine Hill. Then there is the equally popular Fall Festival, which two years ago suffered under the budget axe and had to be moved to Arkville. That same year Belleayre opened late in the season, and then closed early. It remains unclear whether DEC will issue a similar directive for the 2010-2011 ski season.
The following list indicates the number of state park proposed to be closed within specific regions of the state: six parks on Long Island, one park in the New York City Region, two parks in the Palisades Region, two parks in Taconic Region, four parks in Capital Region, eight parks in Central Region, six parks in Finger Lakes Region, seven parks in Thousand Islands Region, one park in the Genesee Region, four parks in the Niagara Region and one park in the Allegany Region.
In addition to the park closings, there are numerous historic site closings as well as reduced park hours, closures of public swimming pools and beach areas as the state grapples with a budget deficit nearing $9 billion.