Catskill Interpretive Center in Budget Finally

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Suddenly, it's 'critical'

All hail the state Legislature. Its members really know a "critical" need when they see one.


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Or, put another way, even if it takes a little time - like, say, 20 years - you can depend on state legislators to get around to finding even the pork that is hiding way down at the bottom of the hogshead barrel.


It was announced last week that the 2008-09 state budget will include $1 million for the long-forsaken Catskill Interpretive Center, a visitors' facility that first was planned 20 years ago for a site off state Route 28 in Mount Tremper. The center would showcase the region's natural, historic and cultural assets.


The funding was announced by John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, who sits on the state Senate's Budget Subcommittee.


We don't doubt that such a center could be a valuable educational resource for the region. There's a lot to celebrate about the Catskills.


But it is particularly ironic that this project, first proposed under Gov. Mario Cuomo but stalled under Gov. George Pataki as of arguable value for the money, has been approved now that the state budget is wallowing in red ink ... with a national economic crisis deepening by the day ... and with no bottom in sight.


The project was resurrected shortly after Gov. Eliot Spitzer took office in January 2007 and apparently survived his rapid departure last month.


Bonacic, we suppose, is doing his job as state legislators define their jobs and altogether too many constituents apparently agree. He is bringing home the bacon, even if that errand is part of a greater legislative pathology of reckless spending that helps make New York a place where it is more expensive to live and do business than is healthy.


Thus, the senator is able to declare, with apparently no sense of irony, that the funding of the Catskill Interpretive Center, after 20 years of languishing, is a "critical project." Imagine how long it would have taken if the center were not "critical," but, rather, discretionary.


And imagine if the same sense of legislative urgency attached to, say, a finding that the Ashokan Reservoir spillway were about to collapse. Puts a whole different spin on the concept of "critical," wouldn't you say?


As it is, the "critical project" will still be $6 million short of the money needed to complete it, estimated by the Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center to cost about $7 million. That group has pledged to raise $1.75 million, meaning someone, somehow will have to come up with another $4.25 million to bring the project to fruition.


We suspect another decade or more of delays are in the offing for this "critical project."


As for the state budget process? It's on the critical list.

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