Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Ways and Means Committee Chair Herman D. Farrell, Jr., Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert K. Sweeney and Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development Chair Steve Englebright announced today the passage of legislation to reopen state parks and historic sites closed for budgetary reasons by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). The legislation (A.11308) would also reopen several campgrounds operated by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
In February, the OPRHP announced the closure of 41 state parks and 14 historic sites due to the state's financial crisis. This legislation would provide $11 million to ensure that these areas remain open from Memorial Day weekend through the end of the season.
"These are tough times and many families are still struggling to make ends meet and can't afford lavish vacations," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "Our parks give them the opportunity to stay close to home and enjoy all that our state has to offer. It is time to resolve this issue immediately and give the people of New York State their parks back."
"Despite the state's fiscal problems, there are some areas that we simply cannot cut," said Farrell (D-Manhattan). "The measure passed by the Assembly today will nsure that some of New York's greatest assets - our state parks - remain open for our families to enjoy throughout the summer season. Constituents deserve to have continued access to these beautiful, outdoor recreational areas."
"As Chair of the Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development, I feel very strongly that these parks are vital to the livelihood of our state," said Englebright (D-Setauket). "They provide countless summer activities for New Yorkers, and they help promote tourism within the state, which is especially important given the current fiscal uncertainty. I applaud my colleagues for recognizing the devastation that would ensue if state parks were closed for the summer."
Legislation passed today would also establish an electronic waste recycling program which would require manufacturers that sell certain electronic equipment - including computers, televisions, and digital music players - to establish and implement methods for taking back and recycling such waste. This will help to reduce the amount of hazardous substances contaminating landfills.
"This legislation will ensure that the Environmental Protection Fund is not drained, while simultaneously making for a greener, cleaner Empire State through electronic waste recycling," said Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst). "The benefit to New Yorkers, the environment and the local economy of keeping these state parks in operation far outweighs any perceived savings from keeping them closed. It's critical that people are able to continue utilizing our state parks and historic sites, especially with Memorial Day weekend approaching."
The legislation would also change the way fees are calculated for hazardous waste generators by updating a fee system based on tonnage of hazardous waste produced. Instead of the current system, which charges an unfair higher fee per ton produced by smaller generators, the new system caps fees on larger generators, reduces costs to smaller generators, and provides an incentive for companies to reduce production of toxic chemicals that are harmful to the environment.