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Republicans in New York state Assembly urge investments in tourism

Republican members of the state Assembly are touring New York as part of efforts to revive the tourism industry after the pandemic.

Speaking Wednesday at the Historic Hotel Broadalbin near the Great Sacandaga Lake, Assemblyman Robert Smullen, a Republican whose 118th district includes Hamilton, Oneida, Herkimer, Fulton, and Montgomery Counties, says the goal is to support tourism destinations that were harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not only the summer tourism community that’s just ending here just after Labor Day, but it’s also having to do with winter sports, whether it’s skiing and snowmobiling and all the recreational activities that go along with Sacandaga Lake,” Smullen said.

Assemblyman Scott Gray, whose district includes the Thousand Islands, says his fellow Republicans are seeking support for local ventures.

“We're not, you know, going putting all of our IDA efforts in locating a big factory in there. It's a mix of a lot of different venues, but it's a mix of a lot of different small businesses and small businesses. I'm a small business owner myself, small businesses are a major portion of job creation, they create over 60 percent of jobs,” Gray said.

Ron Peters, President and CEO of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth, says infrastructure development is needed.

“The things that come up are workforce housing, access to Sacandaga is very, very important. And water and sewer lines going up Route 30. They're very key ingredients from our perspective to make additional tourism happen in Fulton County,” Peters said.

Smullen says protecting tourism ensures livelihoods.

“We have to do our very best to make sure that the state has a level playing field for all of those businesses to be able to succeed, to be able to support not only the people that come in to recreate in this area, but the families that go to our schools and that belong in our communities,” Smullen said.

Gray stresses there is a need for more housing.

“A lot of the real estate market has been consumed with short term rentals now, which is also putting the pressure, downward pressure on housing availability. So what's important, I think we all support, you know, adding additional affordable housing, well one thing we won't support is usurping local control,” Gray said.

Housing remains one of the key areas of disagreement between the Democratic-controlled legislature and Governor Kathy Hochul. Her ambitious plan to add 800,000 new housing units around the state faced fierce local opposition during this year’s legislative session, and lawmakers left Albany until January without a deal.

Matt Simpson, a Republican whose 114th District includes Warren County and parts of Washington, Saratoga, and Essex Counties, including Lake George, says the interests of the tourism industry need to be balanced against residents’ needs.

“The history of our tourism has evolved so much over the last 10 years with the I Love New York program. It's been very successful; the state has done a great job. But along with that become challenges and things that we've learned along the way and things that we need to address going forward to make sure it's sustainable, sustainable for the people who live here year-round. And, and families that that raise their families. And as well as making this a four-season destination, not just a winter or a summer, but also including the shoulder seasons,” Simpson said.

A spokesperson for Hochul says the Democrat “recognizes the critical importance of the tourism industry to every region of New York, which is why she launched a major $450 million investment to help the tourism industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued investing in the sector throughout her time in office."

Smullen also pointed to spotty cellphone coverage as a need for the region.

“There's areas in the Adirondacks for that coverage is not good enough for emergency services. We had recently had an accident where a woman had broken her leg, and it took a law enforcement official 40 minutes to be able to get help to that individual once they had actually arrived on the scene. So we more cell phone towers, and we need to make sure that all the broadband money that's coming from the FCC, and from New York State really gets down into the rural communities,” Smullen said.

David and Zoe Thompson, who own the Historic Hotel Broadalbin, say they hope more development comes to the area.

“We can do more on the south end of the lake. We have guests that come here from all over the world, all over the state and the country. And they want they want to go to the lake. And unfortunately, we have to direct them up north because the lake access down on the south end is very limited,” David Thompson said.

Smullen says the task force will issue a report detailing its findings.

“When we go into the next legislative session, all these ideas will get inputted directly into the legislative process. So it's a tried and true way to make sure that our voice and our values are represented in Albany,” Smullen said.

Lawmakers were planning five more visits across New York.

A 2022 Siena College graduate, Alexander began his journalism career as a sports writer for Siena College's student paper The Promethean, and as a host for Siena's school radio station, WVCR-FM "The Saint." A Cubs fan, Alexander hosts the morning Sports Report in addition to producing Morning Edition. You can hear the sports reports over-the-air at 6:19 and 7:19 AM, and online on WAMC.org. He also speaks Spanish as a second language. To reach him, email ababbie@wamc.org, or call (518)-465-5233 x 190. You can also find him on Twitter/X: @ABabbieWAMC.