Hudson Valley on group's site list

Development threatens area, National Trust for Historic Preservation says

July 16, 2000|By Winnie Hu | Winnie Hu,NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - The Hudson River Valley, with its lush views and rich cultural landscape, has become one of the most endangered historic sites in the country because of encroaching development by electrical utilities and other industries, the nation's largest privately run preservation group has warned.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit group based in Washington, chose the verdant, 125-mile stretch from New York City to Albany for its annual list of most endangered places for the first time since it began compiling it in 1988.

"It was the fact that there was such a large threat," said Richard Moe, president of the trust. "This could amount to a reindustrialization of the Hudson Valley and undo a lot of the progress that has been made if development isn't checked."

A total of 11 historic sites were chosen for this year's list, culled from more than 100 nominated by environmentalists and local government officials.

The preservation group said recently that several proposed power plants, along with growing suburban sprawl along the Hudson River, threatened to pockmark the serene landscape made famous by the 19th-century painters of the Hudson River School.

A power plant in Athens, for instance, would tower over Olana, the home of the painter Frederic Edwin Church. Gov. George Pataki approved plans recently for the $500 million plant.

Another half-dozen power plants have been proposed for the region in the next few years, as well as a growing number of superstores and several factories, including a $300 million cement plant in Greenport.

A Wal-Mart superstore has been proposed for a site across from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's home in Hyde Park.

While some environmentalists and advocacy groups have opposed these projects, Pataki and many business leaders have argued that development will bring economic relief to a region that has been struggling since the 1960s.

Edward Reinfurt, vice president of the Business Council of New York State, a lobbying group that represents 5,000 companies, dismissed the suggestion that the Hudson Valley has become endangered.

"In our minds, industry is indeed part of the heritage of the Hudson Valley, and quite frankly, we're delighted to see the return of the steel cranes in Albany and elsewhere," he said. "There is a modest growth, but certainly not growth that threatens, in any way, our communities."

Michael McKeon, a spokesman for Pataki, said the governor has worked to protect the natural resources of the Hudson Valley at the same time that he has pushed economic development.

For instance, he said, the state has spent more than $256 million to clean and protect the Hudson River since Pataki took office in 1995.

In January, McKeon said, the governor appointed a task force to study development issues in the valley and elsewhere around the state. But several environmentalists and advocacy groups said the state had not done enough to limit development along the river.

"Our farmland is being consumed at an alarming rate, urban sprawl is moving up the Hudson like a wave, and big-box retail stores are being built on the outskirts of towns and sapping the vitality of our villages and urban centers," said Ned Sullivan, executive director of Scenic Hudson, an advocacy group.

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