Press Releases

State Creates Adirondack Diversity Program

Budget Includes $250,000 for Adirondack North Country Association Diversity Initiative

Park Advocates Thank Legislative Leaders, Senator Serrano, Governor Cuomo

ALBANY, N.Y. – The new State Budget announced on Sunday (March 31) includes $250,000 in new funding for the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, as part of the $300-million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).

Since 2015, the Adirondack Diversity Initiative has been a volunteer-run coalition of organizations and individuals who develop and promote strategies to help the Adirondack Park become more welcoming and inclusive for all New Yorkers, whether they are visitors, seasonal residents or permanent residents.  The grant funding from the EPF will allow ADI to hire a coordinator and expand outreach and programming.

“This funding will be a big boost for the diversity initiative,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, which co-founded ADI and funded an Albany based advocacy effort that educated people about the importance of this investment. “ADI knows that a more inclusive Adirondack Park will benefit everyone. The Park was created for the benefit of all New Yorkers. Everyone should feel like they belong here and see this park as part of their legacy.”

Janeway said he and ADI are grateful to Sen. Jose M. Serrano, D-Bronx, who chairs the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation, for his leadership. He also thanked Environmental Conservation Committee Chairs Assemblyman Steven Englebright, D-Setauket, and Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Beach, as well as Sen. Elizabeth O’C. Little, R-Queensbury, and Assemblymen William Jones, D-Chateaugay, and Daniel Stec, R-Queensbury, for their support. He praised legislative and executive staff for recognizing the need to build a welcoming inclusive Adirondack Park.

“Long-term support for the Adirondack Park – political, environmental and economic – depends on the continuing support of voters from Long Island to Buffalo, from places as different as Brooklyn and Tupper Lake,” said Pete Nelson from Keene, a co-founder of ADI.  “This is already the most politically inclusive place in America. With a little effort, we can find other paths to peace and harmony as well.”

Assemblyman Robert C. Carroll, D-Brooklyn, wrote to his colleagues a letter of  support for Adirondack Diversity Initiative funding, along with fellow NYS Assemblymembers Carmen E. Arroyo, D-Bronx, Joseph P. DeStefano, R-Medford, Nathalia Fernandez, D-Bronx, Deborah J. Glick, D-Manhattan, Billy Jones, Brian D. Manktelow, R-Lyons, Karen M. McMahon, D-Amherst, Félix Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, John J. Salka, R- Brookfield, Robert Smullen, R-Johnstown, and Dan Stec.

The Adirondack Diversity Initiative’s original co-founders included the Adirondack Council’s Janeway and Rocci Aguirre, Pete Nelson of Keene, Martha Swan from John Brown Lives!, Paul Hai from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) in Newcomb, and the Adirondack Foundation’s Chris Morris.

“ADI's long-term vision for change is based upon three cornerstones essential in diversity work: building experience, developing allies, and increasing competence,” said Rocci Aguirre, Adirondack Council Conservation Director. “Each of these needs the other two; thus all three must be addressed simultaneously in any diversity effort. Competence comes largely with experience of others. Therefore ADI supports shared experiences through its education, marketing, and youth exchange initiatives.”

Increasing competence fosters an environment where we can all become allies to each other regardless of perceived differences,” said Cali Brooks, President & CEO Adirondack Foundation. “ADI's membership and Advisory Board have expertise and diversity themselves, and ADI offers education, training, and supports diverse offerings in the arts. The Adirondack Foundation looks forward to partnering with and supporting ADI.”

"We join with our North Country colleagues to acknowledge and thank Gov. Cuomo and state legislative leaders for including $250,000 in this year's budget for the Adirondack Diversity Initiative," said Martha Swan, director of John Brown Lives! and a co-founder of the ADI. "The Adirondack Park is a global model of citizens, local and state governments and businesses working together to build the economy, promote justice and protect the environment. Unfortunately, there is work to be done to strengthen our region's commitment to letting everyone know they are welcome and safe here. We look forward to working with colleagues across the North Country, including educators, the media, local and state officials and partner organizations to grasp this historic opportunity."

John Brown Lives! is a freedom education and climate justice project based in Lake Placid, and is the official friends group of the John Brown Farm State Historic Site.

“Alliances build shared experience, strength and understanding,” said Paul Hai of SUNY-ESF, another ADI co-founder. “Therefore ADI's entire governance structure and operational model is built upon alliances and cooperative action. Allies working together can build a more just and beautiful Adirondack community.”

"We are proud to be the home for ADI’s important work," said Adirondack North Country Association Executive Director Kate Fish. "We are looking forward to working with our communities and businesses to support them as they become more welcoming to diverse populations of visitors and potential residents from across the state and nation. This is a central part of creating a resilient regional economy."    

“Diversity and inclusion work always starts at the personal and community level--change happens with commitment and intention,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director, The Wild Center. “This funding allows leaders from all sectors across the Park to work toward a more inclusive and equitable future. Connections to the natural world are essential for all our well-being and all people should feel welcome to find that connection in the Adirondacks.”

“Today the future of the world-class Adirondack Park looks brighter because the State’s leaders have made a generous commitment to invest in the Adirondack Diversity Initiative,” said David Kahn, Executive Director of the Adirondack Experience, the Museum on Blue Mt. Lake.

Additional ADI core team members include:                  

  • James McKenna, Executive Director Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism
  • Donathan Brown, Ph.D., CEO and Co-Founder Adirondack Diversity Solutions
  • Kim Irland, Chief Diversity Officer North Country Community College

Advocates believe the Diversity Initiative will now be able to hire or contract for an Adirondack Diversity Coordinator to help focus on:

  1. Offering diversity training sessions for businesses and organizations;
  2. Growing the number of Adirondack Diversity Initiative affiliate groups;
  3. Programming to increase visitation and diversity of visitors;
  4. Conducting and delivering presentations on diversity and economics to interested stakeholders, including local Chambers of Commerce;
  5. Developing an alliance between North Country colleges that works to integrate college diversity efforts with their surrounding communities;
  6. Working with Adirondack cultural institutions to promote diversity and inclusion through arts and culture; and,
  7. Holding a fifth annual “Towards a More Diverse Adirondacks” themed symposium;

"We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to develop the ADI business plan alongside many of our great partners,” said Donathan and Cindy Brown, CEO, Co-Founder Adirondack Diversity Solutions. “We look forward to continued partnerships and collaborations toward executing the transformative programs outlined in the ADI business plan. Our collective efforts to make the Adirondacks more welcoming and inclusive are stronger and more pronounced as a result." 

“After speaking with Governor Cuomo in Saranac Lake this year about the importance of ensuring that the Adirondack Park is inclusive and welcoming to all,” said Naj Wikoff, founder of Creative Healing Connections, “I am very pleased with the Governor and Legislature are supporting programs that will encourage more people to come to the Adirondacks for the healing and the recreational benefits we have to offer.”

More information on the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, partners, and advisory board is available at https://www.diverseadks.org.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sunday, March 31, 2020

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