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By Ariel Zangla
KINGSTON — An area state assemblyman has called on the governor to rescind a state budget proposal that would merge the Hudson River Valley Greenway Communities Council and Conservancy with the state Department of State.
Assemblyman Marc Molinaro, R-Red Hook, said in a letter to Gov. David Paterson that merging the Hudson River Valley Greenway with the Department of State would not result in significant savings to New York. Instead, he said, the merger would significantly limit the state’s ability to work with local partners and hamper economic development and environmental stewardship in the valley. It would also “signal the state’s abandonment of seeking consensus in order to confront the myriad challenges throughout the Hudson River Valley,” Molinaro said.
Paterson’s executive budget for the coming year would merge the Northeastern Queens Nature and Historical Preserve Commission and the Hudson River Valley Greenway Communities Council and Conservancy into the Department of State. According to a press release from the governor’s office, the mergers would save the state $1.1 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year.
The Greenway is a state agency created to facilitate development of a voluntary regional strategy for preserving scenic, natural, historic, cultural and recreational resources while encouraging compatible economic development and maintaining the tradition of home rule for land-use decision-making, according to the organization’s Web site. Through voluntary participation in Greenway, communities in 13 counties including Ulster, Dutchess, Columbia and Greene, can receive technical assistance and funding for local land-use planning projects that support the goals of the Greenway program.
Mark Castiglione, acting executive director of the Greenway Communities Council and Conservancy, referred all questions about the merger to the state Division of the Budget.
Division of the Budget spokesman Matt Anderson said the state is looking for greater efficiencies to deal with the current difficult fiscal times. He said the merger would result in seven employees being laid off, but their work would be handled by the Department of State.
Anderson added that the state would ensure the “important work of the Greenway will continue uninterrupted during the merger.” He also said the goals of the Greenway would remain unchanged.
Molinaro said the merger would actually save the state less than $100,000. He said $600,000 in funding for the Greenway comes from the federal government, so merging the organization with the Department of State would result in a loss of aid. Molinaro said the remainder of the proposed savings from the merger is salary for staff who would be reassigned.
The assemblyman added that he realized the state was facing difficult fiscal times and hard choices would need to be made. He said, though, the proposed merger would not result in real savings.