In the News  Archive

Late Governor Mario Cuomo Remembered in the North Country

By Pat Bradley

As New York mourns the 52nd governor, Mario Cuomo, who died Thursday at 82, people in the North Country are remembering his love of the Adirondacks and his efforts to protect the region.

In 1892, the New York State Legislature established the Adirondack Park. One hundred years later, then-Governor Mario Cuomo spoke at the Centennial Celebration of the Adirondack Park, heard here courtesy the New York State Archives. “It has been such a high privilege to be governor that I doubt that I will ever live long enough to earn the privilege or be able to find the words to express my gratitude. You feel it in a very special way when you come to the Adirondacks. And every time you come to the Adirondacks you are impacted again by what an incredibly beautiful thing it is. What a treasure. What a gift from God to instruct us, to delight us, to inspire us. And you’re reminded that’s part of your mission too as governor to share in that great gift and to see to it that the people of the state are not allowed through inadvertence or oversight to ignore it or, God forbid, to abuse it.”

“He was so supportive of the Adirondacks during a time when there was really an awful lot of turmoil taking place here.” Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan. “There was a national movement opposing environmental protection and favoring property rights. That movement got violent eventually in the Adirondacks and it took the Governor’s intercession essentially to bring that to a halt. And we’ll always be grateful to him for that.”

Sheehan notes that Cuomo’s environmental advocacy made him the first politician to win the Adirondack Council’s Conservationist of the Year Award. “He was an extremely important figure to the Adirondack region. The first acid rain laws in the country were passed during his tenure as governor. In addition to that he championed the Environmental Protection Fund.”

Current Saranac Lake mayor Clyde Rabideau was mayor of Plattsburgh during Cuomo’s tenure, and faced the closure of the Plattsburgh Air Force base. “I was really impressed as a young mayor when then Mario Cuomo, the governor and presidential aspirant, spent so much time in Plattsburgh and helped us get through the base closure process. He was tremendously instrumental in helping us get Bombardier to Plattsburgh which triggered the area into a transportation fabrication hub. He was a gracious personal guy and I remember him walking up the steps at City Hall and tickling my one year old daughter at the time and just playing the big grandpa. That was the human side of Mario Cuomo that I’ll always remember.”

Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas has worked closely with and is a friend of Governor Andrew Cuomo and was sad to hear about the elder Cuomo’s death. “He was an icon. He was a treasure. He was a friend of the North Country.”

Douglas says Cuomo helped revitalize the region’s economy. “At the time when the North Country was in desperate need, after mills closing and businesses shutting down, the governor worked with Senator Stafford and came up with a plan to put many correctional facilities in upstate New York. He was very instrumental in many water and sewer infrastructure projects back then, as his son Andrew is today.”

In 1989, Governor Cuomo formed the Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century, which published a controversial report in 1990. It included more than 200 recommendations to protect the park and prevent land speculation.

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