Senate Contest in 39th District Battle Lines Drawn
By Edie Johnson
Candidates for the 89th Senate District tossed some angry barbs at each other this week. It began with spokesperson Jon Heppner for James Skoufis saying that the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) declared Tom Basile delinquent in filing his required Statement of Financial Disclosure.
“Albany corruption has hurt no one more than the taxpayers of this state. The fact that Tom Basile won’t even comply with the most basic ethics requirements to run for office is proof that he is not fit to serve. ” He supported the claim with the following jcope link:
Basile’s spokesperson, Bob Driscoll, shot back saying “Another day, another attack from James Skoufis’ angry, negative campaign. He’s so desperate to get voters to forget that New York’s most corrupt politician bankrolled him for years, he’ll take any occasion to smear Mr. Basile.” He added, “Mr. Skoufis didn’t have the facts straight. Tom Basile’s Financial Disclosure Statement was delivered to staff at the NYS Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) earlier this week. Sorry your hit piece didn’t quite work out Mr. Skoufis. We’re sure you’ll have another baseless attack out there soon.”
But within hours of Driscoll’s explanation, Skoufis spokesperson retorted that Basile’s statement was an admission of guilt that he broke state law and concealed his financial disclosure forms for 24 days past the deadline, landing him on the state’s “delinquent” list.
“If Tom Basile doesn’t take his ethics filings seriously now, how can we possibly trust him to fight corruption in Albany and protect taxpayers as a State Senator? His bizarre defense to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics calling him out for a delinquent financial disclosure was effectively: ‘nothing to see here, I handed it in yesterday!’ The only problem being that “yesterday” was still 24 days late. “While it was in his typical roundabout, deceiving manner, we are glad that Mr. Basile at least admits he broke state law. Hudson Valley voters cannot afford his fly-by-night ethics in the State Senate.”
Skoufis is currently an Assemblyman in the 99th District. Basile is a Councilman from Stony Point. They are both seeking the senate seat being vacated by Senator Bill Larkin who is retiring.
Cases Made Over Lake Anne/Clovewood as Parkland or Development
The verbal battle continued throughout the week with Basile saying he will urge the State to acquire property that would expand Schunemunk State Park by purchasing the controversial Lake Anne property in Blooming Grove now adjacent to the parkland. Basile said “Acquisition would preserve natural viewshed, protect important component of region’s ecotourism from development. Schunnemunk Mountain, a staple of Orange County’s ecotourism, is the location of rare rock formations called Megaliths frequented by hikers and climbers from across the Northeast. It is geologically unique from other mountains in the Hudson Highlands, consisting of sedimentary rock deposits including conglomerate. The 3000 acre park draws thousands of visitors per year the area.” He added that “Section 11-9 of the Town of Blooming Grove Master Plan states that viewsheds from a number of locations in the town “deserve additional protection…[and] development within these viewsheds should be required to minimize clearing of natural vegetation and site any proposed buildings or structures in a way that minimizes visual impact. Additionally, several threatened or endangered species also in the area, according to DEC, are found along Schunnemunk Mountain. Having the state assume control of the property would protect property owners’ investments in the community, said Basile.
The more than 800 acres of Lake Anne property has long been proposed for development, first as a Golf Course/Country Club, then its owners in bankruptcy, and now in proposal for a massive high density housing development called “Clovewood” that has met obstacle after obstacle in the approval process with regard to impact on protected viewshed, availability of water and sewer disposal. Planners highly discourage remote sites from high density building, and rather encourage them at or near walkable communities with stores and services available. Some efforts at it becoming parkland have in the past been blocked by policies that prevent acquisition of land already in a legal tangle.
With the area being a prime eco-tourism site along the Appalachian Trail, Highland Trail and Long Path, Basile said “People aren’t going to come here to hike this beautiful mountain to look out at a massive residential subdivision right next to it,”
Asked what they thought of the proposal, reports say that the current owners of the beleaguered property, Keene Equities, have not sold because they have not at this time been made any offers. This suggests that the door might be open to a sale as parkland if the right offer was made.
The clock is ticking on any offers since a DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) has already been presented to the Village of South Blooming Grove, where the property sits. It’s a very hot topic in the area, as could be seen by the hundreds of residents posting on the press releases by both candidates.
Skoufis shot back “While I’m thrilled to see Tom Basile supports legislation that I authored which would put state parkland in Blooming Grove on the local tax rolls – a bill that the Assembly passed but was blocked in the State Senate – his ‘proposal’ is a transparent attempt to score cheap political points as he rolls around in a gas-guzzling RV.
“As Mr. Basile tries to learn the ropes in Orange County, I’ve spoken to the Open Space Institute, the Orange County Land Trust, and other conservancy groups who would be the local partner for the state in a transaction like the one Mr. Basile is proposing. Furthermore, the state is only legally allowed to purchase land at a fairly-appraised value, something the current property owners have given no indication they’re willing to entertain.
“So, while Mr. Basile continues to throw press releases against a wall to see what sticks, I’ll continue working with Preserve Blooming Grove on ways to protect the integrity of the community and support South Blooming Grove’s successful efforts to prohibit the reckless development of Lake Anne.”