The following was printed in the August 17, 2011 edition of the Poughkeepsie Journal:

HYDE PARK — The removal of the 29-acre Hyde Park Drive-in land from the tax rolls is drawing protest from Town Supervisor Tom Martino, who sees acquisition of the parcel by the National Park Service as a further dwindling of the tax base.

"How much more can this town sustain with land coming off the tax rolls?" he said.

The National Park Service announced July 20 that Scenic Hudson had transfered ownership of the parcel to the Franklin Roosevelt National Historic Site, which is directly across Route 9.

The transfer reserves rights for Scenic Hudson, the Poughkeepsie-based land preservation organization, to continue operation of the drive-in and to develop a regional tourism center.

The Park Service plans to build a new, enlarged trailhead for the Farm Lane walking path between routes 9 and 9G and to install a four-way traffic light on Route 9 at the entrances to the FDR site and the new trail head.

In similar fashion, Scenic Hudson in 2007 transfered the 334-acre Farm Lane parcel, which it purchased in 2004 as part of a 336-acre parcel for $1.6 million, to the Park Service.

Since purchasing the 29-acre drive-in parcel in 2000, Scenic Hudson has continued to pay the full property tax bill on the land, even though the nonprofit was legally entitled to apply for a tax exemption in 2000, said Steven Rosenberg, senior vice president of Scenic Hudson and executive director of the Scenic Hudson Land Trust.

"Scenic Hudson has paid a total of $525,000 in taxes to the Town of Hyde Park and the Hyde Park Central School District — or an average of almost $48,000 per year — while continuing to subsidize the ongoing operation of the drive-in because we recognize that this is important to the community," Rosenberg said.

In lieu of taxes As it does on all its federal parkland in Hyde Park, the Park Service will pay an annual payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, to the school district and the town on the drive-in parcel, said Sarah Olson, superintendent of the Roosevelt and Vanderbilt historic sites.

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Those payments vary from year to year, she said, based on what Congress funds.

The PILOT is not likely to provide to the town and the school district the same, or close to the same, amount of tax revenue that Scenic Hudson has been paying, which is what Martino, a Republican, objects to.

"What I'm really concerned about is our shrinking tax base," he said.

Based on what the school district has received in annual PILOT payments on the approximately 1,184 acres of Park Service land in Hyde Park, the payments provide less revenue than taxes would.

In the 2009-10 school year, the school district received a $137,629 PILOT payment for that federal parkland.

The school district in 2009-10 received $37,889 in tax revenue on the 29-acre drive-in parcel, said Wayne Kurlander, Hyde Park school district assistant superintendent for business.

In addition to the annual PILOT payment on the Park Service land, the school district gets Federal Impact Aid through the U.S. Department of Education to help compensate for federal land not on the tax rolls, Olson said.

The amount varies on an annual basis from just under $200,000 to $400,000.

The aid applies to other federal land not owned by the Park Service, such as the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, which is owned by the National Archives.

Economy, tourism Olson said she understands Martino's concern about loss of tax revenue but pointed out that in addition to the compensation provided by the PILOT and the Federal Impact Aid, the historic sites draw tourists to Hyde Park, who spend money at the restaurants, shops and inns.

"We contribute substantially to the local economy," she said.

Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, said the transfer of the drive-in parcel, which was once part of the 1,500-acre FDR estate, to the Park Service will benefit the economy.

"This property transfer will enable the Park Service to continue enhancing the experience people have at the Roosevelt and Vanderbilt historic sites," he said. "Scenic Hudson pursues our campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most, realizing that preserving land provides the cornerstone of a sustainable economy for the region.

Besides contributing to tourism revenue and jobs, protected lands also help with general economic development," he added. Martino said he doesn't believe the tourists who visit the historic sites spend much money at the businesses in town, especially during the winter months.

Businesses react John Coppola, owner of Coppola's Hyde Park Restaurant, though, said visitors to the Roosevelt and Vanderbilt sites frequently eat at his restaurant on Route 9, including those traveling on chartered buses.

But he said he shares Martino's concern about the Hyde Park Drive-in land coming off the tax rolls.

"My concern is the tax base," said Coppola, the president of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce. "We are taking real estate off the tax rolls. And the tax burden becomes heavier on the merchants here."

Diane DiNapoli, co-proprietor of Journey Inn Bed & Breakfast in Hyde Park, said she depends on visitors to the historical sites for her livelihood.

"Hyde Park is a tourist town," DiNapoli said.

"People come from all over the world because of the tourists sites," she said. "Our business would be definitely adversely affected if the National Park Service sites were not here in Hyde Park."

Let's discuss some this article:

1) A seach of Scenic Hudson and the name Delafield on Google yielded the following: Margi Delafield (his wife) and Pompey are involved with Scenic Hudson. His four years as a Supervisor can be said to be servitude to this organization.

More interesting is the following 2006 article in the NY Times concerning Pompey's vision for Hyde Park which did not come to be fruitful:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/13/realestate/13hyde.html

Noted in this article is the plan to build the regional visitor center at the drive-in location (in 2006!) So plans to have the drive-in property transferred over to the NPS has been in place for almost five years now. 

2) This regional visitor center will cater to the the visitors coming to the area. Concerning the need for this visitor center is:

a. How many visitors visit the National Park Service in Hyde Park on a yearly basis? Is the building of a center warranted based up those numbers?

The Rooselvelt home already has a visitor center, the Henry A. Wallace center, named for FDR's 3rd vice president who in an interesting note in history was duped by the Soviets into believing that the Gulag system was a Utopia when he made a visit to the Kolyma in 1944.  We now know that millions of people persished (including U.S citizens who were interrned at that very camp he visited) in one of the greatest human rights tradegies in modern history.

b. What purpose will this visitor center serve? There already is a visitor center on NPS property across the streeet at the FDR home, so what additional features would this site have? This will be a NPS center, so most likely it will not include commercial space.

2. Ned Sullivan stated that, 'This property transfer will enable the Park Service to continue enhancing the experience people have at the Roosevelt and Vanderbilt historic sites.' 

Ned, how about the people that live and work in Hyde Park? To be brutally honest, most people that are residents don't particulary care about the historic sites in town and feel that they don't benefit the town's growth, but hinder it. 

Based upon the town'scommercial tax rate of 3%, the vision of Hyde Park of being a tourism giant that brings in the big bucks is absurd. Scenic Hudson and the NPS is not only robbing the area residents of an icon, the drive-in, that was one of only a handful left in the country that was still operating, but of tax dollars as well. As you drive-by on Route 9, you knew summer would soon be arriving with the posting of the first movie of the summer and residents from surrounding areas would flock to the drive-in during the season to see a double feature. Well, that will be gone, because the NPS doesn't particulary care about this town and the local residen 


3. Sarah Olson also put her two cents in about the NPS. Economy, tourism Olson said she understands Martino's concern about loss of tax revenue but pointed out that in addition to the compensation provided by the PILOT and the Federal Impact Aid, the historic sites draw tourists to Hyde Park, who spend money at the restaurants, shops and inns.

"We contribute substantially to the local economy," she said.

Does she have numbers to substantiate this? Probably not because it cannot be proven. Without asking every customer that shops at local stores, eats at the restaurants and stays at the lodging facilities in town if they are indeed they are a visitor to the Park Service, there is no way that her statement can be confirmed.  For all we know, the visitors may stop at the park sites, do a tour and then high tail it up to Rhinebeck. 

4. Currently approximately 30%  of the land located in Hyde Park, is tax exempt that is divided between the NPS, the Winakee Land Trust, Scenic Hudson and other special interest, tax exempt groups.  Given Hyde Park's pitiful commercial tax rate, that means that you, the taxpayer, is paying their share!
 


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