July 9, 2008: Belleayre Mountain will be big loser


To The Editor:
Poor Belleayre Mountain Ski Center (BMSC)! It has become the rope in a tug-of-war between the operators of Greene County’s private ski facilities at Hunter and Windham and the would-be operators of a private ski resort on Belleayre Mountain. The former felt no competitive threat from the publicly owned BMSC in the past, even during the recent impressive growth it enjoyed, thanks to astute management and infusions of state money. That’s surely because even as it grew, the BMSC remained a decidedly public facility that catered to a different market and had a different “personality”— affordable, family-friendly, laid-back, “country-ish” versus the hot-shot, singles-attracting, ski-village atmosphere of Hunter and Windham, where après-ski counts as much as the day on the slopes. But the Agreement In Principle (AIP) engineered by then Governor Spitzer with Crossroads Ventures, which has proposed a mega-resort for the west slope of the mountain, rightly has the Greene County folks worried.
For what the AIP would do is simply fold BMSC into the private, commercial time-share resort for which it would serve as a marketing inducement. In fact, the publicly-funded ski center would likely be the jewel in the crown of attractions advertised to would-be time-share residents. That is no doubt why the AIP actually commits public funds to create some ski-in/ski-out facilities to be available to commercial resort guests only, their own personal and private pathway to the slopes. What this blurring of public into private will do to the price of lift tickets and the down-home character of BMSC is anybody’s guess.
Even leaving aside this particular use of public money for private profit, it is hard to see how the public-private partnership benefits those who fund the public part of the partnership at all. Unfortunately, the rather shrill recent mailing from the mega-resort’s booster club, Partners for Progress (although the postage apparently was paid by a nonprofit group and was possibly taxpayer-subsidized), throws no light on the issue. The promise of jobs is only that, with no penalty or recourse if the promise goes unfulfilled, and Congressman Hinchey himself has declared the number and quality of the promised jobs “not real.” The suggestion that taxes will go down is a lie; time and time and time again, it has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that large-scale development like this increases the tax burden on existing residents, who must pay for expanded infrastructure. The rule of thumb is that tax rates quadruple in the short term. What seems to be left as benefit for the public partner, namely, the people of New York, is what the mailing calls “the bright side of traffic.”
The proposed mega-resort is simply another real estate speculation, and the PFP acronym of “Partners for Progress” should more properly stand for “Profits for the Partners.” The hysteria their mailing tries to engender is exceeded only by the fear-mongering and bigotry it perpetuates, with its dark hint that opponents of the mega-resort are people “from places far away from here”— the old blame-the-stranger tactic that has proven so toxic in human history — and its cheap attempt to whip up fears that our economic survival is at stake. What is at stake are private investments, which the AIP directs that we, the people, should subsidize.
The big losers here are the folks who have long relied on BMSC as “their” ski facility, accessible, affordable, owned by the public and focused on the public’s recreation, not the private profit of a few.

Susanna Margolis,