State lawmakers OK unfair competition commission

By Jay Braman Jr.
The New York State Legislature on Thursday authorized the creation of a commission that will evaluate whether state-owned recreational facilities constitute unfair competition to privately run golf courses, ski centers and camping sites.
The state operates such facilities all over the place. There are Jones Beach and the Bethpage Black Golf Course, both on Long Island, there’s the Twin Lakes Campground over in Greene County. There are facilities in the Lake George region like Eagle Point and the Lake George Battleground campsites just to name a few.
The legislation passed last week would enable the yet-to-be-appointed commission to take a look at all these, but some local critics of the plan don’t think that’s really going to happen.
“Make no mistake. This is all about Belleayre,” said Joe Kelly, chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre.
Belleayre is a state-run ski center atop Highmount in Ulster County, right on the Ulster/Delaware county border.
Kelly said the legislation passed last week was generated by nearby Greene County, where two private ski centers, Hunter and Windham, have been crying foul over Belleayre’s small share of the regional ski market.
Kelly, who describes the legislation as “preposterous,” notes that now it has passed, low- and moderate-income families might need to brace themselves.
“Get ready for higher prices,” he said.
Passage of the bill was announced by state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, whose district includes Greene County. Officials in that county have complained that Belleayre takes away business from the privately run Windham and Hunter ski centers, both of which are in Greene.
They say Belleayre and similar facilities have an unfair advantage because they can charge lower prices than private businesses and, thanks to taxpayer funding, not have to worry about losing money.
Seward, in a statement faxed to the media, quoted Hunter’s manager, Russ Coloton, saying: “I’m very excited about the passage of this legislation. ... We see this as the first step for helping to level the playing field between the privately owned outdoor recreation facilities and those operated by the state.”
The legislation authorizing the creation of the study commission still must be signed by Gov. David Paterson. Then the commission would be named.
The blue-ribbon commission will include appointed members that represent the interests of both privately and publicly owned outdoor recreational facilities.
It remains unclear, however, who those people would be.